Whenever you apply graphics over a recessed area, the straight edge of the panel often distorts into a curve. But there is a way to prevent edge distortion from happening.
First, let me demonstrate what I mean by edge distortion. As the film stretches when applied on a channel, the originally straight edge curves into the channel, leaving a distorted edge. When you apply overlapping panels, they each curve in opposing directions. This can result in poor graphic alignments and possibly a loss of overlap, with the paint of the vehicle showing through gaps.
The solution is a scrap piece of laminated film, we call a channel extension. It should be just large enough to cover the channel zone.
How to Eliminate Edge Distortion
To demonstrate, let’s imagine this sheet as part of a real application.
Create registration marks, including the channel zones, at the edge of the panels. Move the panel to a clean flat surface of the vehicle.
Apply the extension and the channel zone marks you made earlier, overlapping by about an inch. Remove the liner from the graphic and the extension and realign with the registration marks. Apply the film on the outer face of the vehicle.
Next, apply the film on the recessed area stopping a few inches short of the channel. Seal the outside edge of the bridge film where it meets the outer face. The remaining bridge film should be about the width of your squeegee.
Apply the bridged film by heating away from the channel and pressing on the non heated area. This may take several passes depending on the depth of the channel.
If done successfully, all the distortion was shifted to the extension. When the extension is removed, we are left with a perfect straight edge.
Applying a Channel Extension on an Overlapping Panel
When we apply the next overlapping panel, place an extension right along the seam. Apply this panel with the same techniques we used on the first panel, making sure to leave the same amount of ridged film as before. When we finish applying, we can see the unavoidable edge distortion, but it is once again shifted onto the extension.
Remove the extension and post heat the overlaps. When we’re done, we have a uniform straight overlap with perfect registration.
Edge distortion: Eliminated. Deep channel overlaps: Solved.