Window graphics are a common feature of many shops, offices and business spaces, both internally and externally, and they are a key feature of many of the branding jobs we do here at Ad Bell. Alongside fascia signage and internal wayfinding signage solutions, window graphics add an attractive element to any internal or external branding scheme, and can be functional too.
There are many different ways to add window graphics, and many different materials that can be used to do the job. The techniques and materials can be used individually, or mixed to add more complexity and interest to the design. This blog will look at the different materials and how each can be used, both individually and in conjunction with others.
Before we get started on the different types of material available, it’s worth noting that if you have any full height glass in windows, partitions or doors, the law states that you must ensure that it is marked with some kind of manifestation (or graphic). This is to ensure that it is made apparent that there is some glass there, to prevent people from walking into the glass and injuring themselves, which can bring up legal issues that you really don’t want!
The Building Regulations 2000 : Part M states that glass entrance doors and glass screens will satisfy requirement M1 or M2 if:
- They are clearly defined with glass manifestation on the glass at two levels; between 850mm and 1000mm and between 1400mm and 1600mm above the floor, contrasting visually with the background seen through the glass (both inside and out) in all lighting conditions.
- Manifestation takes the form of logo or sign at least 150mm high (repeated if on a glazed screen), or a decorative feature such as broken lines or continuous bands, at least 50mm high.
If you’re looking to simply comply with the regulations and not have anything particularly creative then two rows of 50mm circles are quite common. Of course, if you’re having more substantial vinyls anyway, then you’ll automatically be covered as regards the law as long as the vinyls are big enough as per the rules above. If in doubt, check with the building regulations people.
This product goes by a few names – window frosting, etched frost, frosted vinyl etc, but these terms all refer to the same product. It’s a self-adhesive vinyl that’s designed to look like etched frosted glass once it’s applied to the window. It’s pale grey in colour and cannot be seen through at all, although it does let light through. This means that solid sheets of it can be used without blocking out all the light. It has a slightly textured finish so doesn’t show finger prints. As with many window graphics, frosting is fitted wet and requires the skills of a trained signage operative.
Window frosting (like all signage vinyls) comes on a roll in a variety of available width. Pieces can simply be cut from the roll ready to be applied to the glass, or they can be cut using a plotter. The cut can be reverse weed – where lettering etc is removed from a solid piece, or the opposite, where lettering and shapes are cut as stand-alone pieces. Typical applications for cutting are lettering, stripes, circles, shapes and as you can imagine, a lot more. Frosting can fill all or just a part of a window – the choice is yours. Frosting can also be used in conjunction with other window graphics… read on!
Contravision is a popular brand on one-way vinyl and is the name that gets used the most. It’s a printable vinyl that is full of very small holes, and is black on the sticky side. It is fitted to the outside of a window (where the daylight is) and offers a very special one-way vision effect. From the outside it looks like a solid printed image, but from the inside you can see straight through it as if it’s hardly there at all. It’s commonly used on buses and trains as part of their livery, but can also be used on any office or business window, ideally on an external window, rather than internal windows, doors or partitions, where the one-way effect would not work properly.
It’s typically used in solid rectangular pieces that fill the entire window pane as this gives the best effect, although it can be cut to only fill a portion of a glass panel if required. As it’s a printable vinyl, and design can be used – any combination of images, text and other graphics – if it can be designed, it can be printed on Contravision and applied to your window.
Transparent vinyls are used when you want a “stained glass” effect on your window graphics. This means that the vinyl lets light through, and can be seen through, too. To achieve this, two different kinds of vinyl can be used, both having a similar effect.
The first is transparent signwriting vinyl. This comes on a roll and is ready to use. It’s available in a wide variety of colours, with different grades available depending on whether the vinyl is going on an internal or external window, and how long it needs to last for. As with window frosting, transparent vinyl can be cut using a plotter into different shapes, so you can have solid shapes with text etc cut out of it, or lettering and shapes made from individual pieces of transparent vinyl (known as regular or reverse weed).
Again, as with all vinyls, they can be cut in such a way that they can be placed on either side of the glass, and be oriented so that they are readable from either side.
The second variant is printable transparent vinyl. As printing inks are transparent by nature, vinyl is usually white so as to offer solid colours. If clear vinyl is used to print on, then the light can pass through, again offering the “stained glass” effect. As the vinyl is printable, this means that any combination of images, text and graphics can be displayed. The graphics can be used in solid rectangular sheets, or as with other types can be cut out into outlines for text and other shapes.
Transparent vinyl is excellent for decorating interior or exterior glass where full through visibility needs to be retained. It offers an attractive look without making a room or interior area feel isolated.
Solid Cut Coloured Vinyl
When you don’t need frosting, Contravision or transparent vinyls, solid cut coloured signwriting vinyl is the most popular choice. Signwriting vinyl is available in a wide range of colours, metallic and mirror finishes, in both matt and gloss, and can be plotter-cut as with all of the different types of vinyl mentioned above. It is commonly used to add text and graphics to vehicles and signage, but of course works just as well on windows and other glass partitions.
As its name suggests, solid vinyl is not transparent, so a window that is fully covered with vinyl will not let any light pass, and cannot be seen through at all. It is possible to fully flood (totally cover) a glass panel, but it’s more commonly used as text or shapes, rather than filling a whole pane of glass. As the vinyl is coloured on both the sticky and non-sticky side, the graphics can be viewed from both sides of the glass. Text, of course, will only read the right way around on one side, although the graphics can be cut in such a way that you get to choose which side reads the right way around.
This type of vinyl is available in a wide range of grades too, so a perfect solution can be found for all areas – indoors and out, short term and long term. Solid vinyl is typically among the longest lasting type of vinyl, although that very much depends on the grade used.
Solid Printed Vinyl
The printable equivalent of solid cut coloured vinyl. This is the kind of printable vinyl used to make signs and to do vehicle wraps etc. We print onto solid white vinyl using our HP Latex 360 printer, add a protective clear laminate and then apply to the glass. The vinyl is solid so doesn’t let light through, and cannot be seen through at all. It can be cut into shapes like many of the vinyl types already discussed, but is often used to create stunning printed scenes that fill all of the glass available.
As it’s printed onto white vinyl, the image can only be seen from the side of the glass that it is applied to, and will just look plain white from the other side. This vinyl can be fully weather proof and rated for outdoor use, but it is not typically used on exterior windows as it is often desirable to have vinyl graphics on the inside of an external window pane where possible, as this protects the graphic from vandalism or extreme sunlight/weathering. For that application, we come to our final entry…
Solid White Reverse Printed Window Stickers
When you have an external window that you want to fully flood with printed graphics, we use this specialist product. It enables printed graphics to be applied from the inside, to be viewed from the outside. We print the image in reverse onto CLEAR vinyl, before covering the printed image with an additional layer of white vinyl. This means that the printed image can only be seen from the sticky side.
Once applied to the glass, the image is viewed from the outside. The adhesive is transparent so can be seen through to the image printed on its opposite side, and the white backing means that the graphic’s full colours are realised, along with making the graphic a full, solid piece that doesn’t let light through, and cannot be seen through.
Mixing the Vinyls
As many of the vinyls can be plotter cut into any shape, it’s common to use different types of vinyl from the list above to make up the full window graphic design. Cutout solid coloured lettering can be added into frosting designs as an interesting contrast. Areas of transparent vinyl can have solid vinyl lettering overlaid. Solid printed vinyl can have cutout sections of window frosting to allow some light to pass through. Transparent and solid vinyls can be mixed to add extra texture – you get the picture!
Need window graphics? Get in touch with Ad Bell today!