Retail businesses have been using their storefront windows as a prime way to advertise and entice potential customers for a couple hundred years. Window Graphics are just one of the most common retail applications for Pressure Sensitive Vinyl; PSV for short. In this educational piece we’ll discuss additional applications, how to decipher which PSV material is best for your application, and give you some installation tips. Lastly, we’ll review 6 of the most popular types of PSV that we use at KDM for most point-of-purchase (P.O.P.) applications. You can Request a KDM PSV Graphic Sample Kit as well.
PSV Graphics are also called Decals, Stickers, Labels, or Clings. Basically, PSV is a print substrate that has an adhesive on the back. The printed decal requires pressure to apply to a surface once the release liner (or backing) is peeled off to expose the adhesive. While the acronym includes the word Vinyl (a thin, flexible film) it’s not always a vinyl, it can also be synthetic paper or other.
Most Common Retail PSV Graphic Applications
- Window Graphics
- Push/Pull Door Decals
- Cold Case Decals
- Wall Graphics and Murals
- Floor Graphics
- Counter/Table Graphics
- Product Labels
[PSV Graphics pictured from left: window graphic, product label/wrap, floor graphic, wall graphics]
There are literally hundreds of PSV print materials to choose from. It’s our experience that the average print buyer is not sure which particular PSV they need for their intended application. Application, as in where do you plan to peel and stick it, and for how long?
How to Decipher the Right PSV for the Job
Here are some basic considerations you’ll want to address to help you determine the best PSV material for your needs.
- Will the quantity and size you need be more cost effective to print screen, offset, digital or flexo?
- Do you want permanent, temporary, or removable adhesive?
- Do you want no adhesive? Like a Static Cling or a neat new product we call “No-Tack”?
- Will the graphic be displayed indoors or outdoors?
- Exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures like a freezer case?
- Will the decal be applied to a smooth flat surface like glass, a painted wall, a rough surface, or wrapped around a contoured surface such as a tea urn wrap at a restaurant or a larger scale vehicle wrap?
- Do you want a clear or a white substrate? (note about clear: if applied to clear glass, a 4-C process print will be washed out and it should have white printed behind it, which makes it a 5-Color print job.)
- Overwhelmed? You can always just ask the P.O.P. experts (that would be us)
By far, the majority of the PSV Graphics we print at KDM are intended to be applied to a window or glass surface; whether it’s a cold case in a grocery or the outside facing window in a quick-serve restaurant. Things to consider about your window graphics:
- Will it be applied to the inside or outside of a glass window?
- Does it need to be read from both sides? (2-sided)
- If one-side, does it need to be applied on the inside facing out (called 2nd surface) in order to be protected from the elements?
- Is the window tinted? That’s a biggie that often gets overlooked. In that case the graphic should go on the outside.
- Do the employees need to be able to see out?
[Window Graphics pictured from left: static cling. 2nd surface decals, window perf PSV, lo-tak PSV]
Installation & Removal Considerations
Some decals are much easier to install and remove and others require an expert graphics installer. The larger the graphic, the harder it is for one person to install. If installing outdoors, most PSV’s have an application temperature requirement of above 30°F.
There are several installation techniques that folks swear to. Some employ a “wet” install using a solution that helps them slide it into place before it sticks and others use a “dry” method. Either way, it’s all in the squeegee! Here is a video that demonstrates both: Wet vs. Dry Installation Method
One thing to keep in mind on the temporary, and removable types of PSV is that any adhesive is harder to remove the longer it’s on the surface (ever try to remove a piece of scotch tape that has sat on your desk surface a really long time?) If you plan to remove it at some point- consider the adhesive residue that will inevitably be left behind. There are products like Goo Gone and others made for this, but you’ll want to test the surface as it could damage a painted surface.
6 Common PSV Substrates for Most Retail Applications
At KDM we produce tens of thousands PSV graphics, in one form or the other, monthly. It is one of our biggest product groups. These are the 6 types of PSV print materials that are most commonly used in our world of P.O.P. graphics for the retail industry.
1. STATIC CLING: A flexible vinyl with no adhesive, available in white or clear
- Adheres to most smooth, glossy surfaces
- Self-clinging, re-positionable, easy to apply and remove
- Short term applications
- Printed decals can be re-used as long as stored properly. Note: if it touches the ground it lessens the static properties.
- Minimum window temperature application is +40°
2. NO-TACK: Pressure sensitive synthetic paper with no adhesive
- Grips to any smooth, flat surface
- Easy to install and remove- no bubbles, no messy residue
- Can be re-used and cleaned with a damp cloth
- Long wear and shelf life, and no shrinkage
- Waterproof and tear resistant
- This product is pretty cool
3. LO-TAC PSV: white flexible vinyl with low tack adhesive
- Indoor and outdoor applications
- Adhesive is optically clear if needed for a 2nd surface application
- Easy to remove with no residue up to 6 months
- We recommend this for cold case decals
4. SUB-SURFACE (or 2nd SURFACE) WINDOW DECAL: clear vinyl film with clear adhesive
- Best for graphics that are applied to the inside of the glass facing out
- Graphics are printed in reverse, solid white is printed behind that for best viewing
- Best choice when the outside elements are an issue or difficult to install from the outside
5. 2-SIDED WINDOW GRAPHIC: Note: there are a few ways to accomplish- this is our most cost effective method
- Graphic is printed on all-weather block-out (opaque) material for 2-sided viewing with no see-thru
- Re-positional, clear, low tack adhesive applied to one side
- Can adhere to either side of the window
- Commonly used for Push/Pull door decals
6. WINDOW PERF: perforated PSV film
- The film is perforated with holes, designed for one-way visibility
- Avoid any small type or detailed logos because the holes make for poor readability
- Great if you are covering an outside facing window but you still need visibility from the inside, but not vice-versa