Decals

After trying out Kinkos/FedEx for vinyl die-cut decals, I wanted an upgrade. The vinyl would tear pretty easy and is relatively thick. They just didn’t last that long.
After waiting too long and getting almost no response from the other bike decal company, Ryan of Smudgemo and I went in on an order to get some decals using SSSink.  Ryan had talked to Gary of SSSink and had worked out a great deal for us small type framebuilders. Gary was very accommodating and helpful and let us split a regular order size between the two of us. It was great to be able spend half of what it’d normally cost but get a professional job. Our order was for 50 sets (or pages) of decals — what is fit on one letter-sized page (8.5 x 11″) is up to the customer.  Using Adobe Illustrator I was able to fit a bunch of stuff I’ve been working on over the last year. I got help with design from a friend and the crew at Anthem Branding.

The decals took a very long time to get done. So long in fact that I made a fork and four frames that were waiting for decals by summer’s end. If you know me, you know that was at least 4 months. I let Russell’s frame go without the new decals but kept the other 3 hostage.  I’m glad I did because they turned out really well in my opinion.  I think because of the delay Gary threw in a few extra colors and combinations of red, gray, metallic silver, black, and white at no extra cost.

These decals are “top mount dry application” for use on powdercoated frames when you will NOT be putting a clear coat over the top of the decal.  There is another type of decal for painting or powdercoating a clear over the top. The ones we got are are the simplest type l think but also the first to scrape off because there is nothing protecting them from the elements.  The sheets came in air-tight ziplock freezer bags separated by their predominant color – silver in one bag, black in another, etc.  He sent great instructions on how to apply and with only one mess up I was good to go.

Even though these decals turned out great, there are definitely some things I’d do differently:

1) Mirror image the downtube decals on the page so that you can put BOTH on at once.  Having to line up and stick one per side is a pain in the butt and time consuming with more chance of user error.  Even though it’s close they’ll never be perfectly aligned.  Something only I may notice but it’d be way easier to lay both down at once.

2) Choose a font, or create your font, with all letters being of similar size.  The “M” and “t” and “h” of my name stick up too much and make the decal harder to apply. They wrap around the tube a lot even though I followed the advice to use the same font height as the average downtube diameter (I chose 35 mm).  On a cross bike with a 31.8 downtube it’ll wrap more, and on a 38mm downtube it’ll wrap less.  They look fine, but next run i’ll make the font height more around 1.125″ and I’ll shorten the three tall letters a bit.

Some advice:

1) Spend a lot of time with mocking up font and badge size before ordering any decals.  Do paper cutouts of different sizes and tape them onto your frame and take pictures to compare on the computer later.

2) Ask your friends’ advice on what they think of the font and badge, even if they give you conflicting answers with other friends because they will see things you do not.  Especially if you have a graphic designer friend or two. They can take an idea and do something about it and maybe even offer technical help with software you can’t spend the money to purchase.

3) If you’re computer-inclined and want to try your hand at design, try Inkscape (open source – free) and/or download a 30-day trial version of Adobe Illustrator.  I found Illustrator easier to use than Inkscape but when my trial ran out I was out of luck.

4) In the end it’s just a frame decal, not the frame or your work, and there are some that could give a dam about what font you use or if you have some kind of headbadge.  But it is your frame and brand you want to distinguish from the rest so it’s worth a bit of time and money to get it done right the first time in my opinion.  I wanted something that would be easily recognizable as mine.  No doubt it’ll get morphed a bit through time but the main idea is there.

5) Build in lots of time to when you need the decals and be extremely patient.  If I were Litespeed or Moots I think it’d have been a faster turnaround (I would hope at least).  But since we were only ordering 50 sheets between the 2 of us, we paid a bit more per sheet and no doubt were put on the backburner.

6) Think about whether you want an outline around the text. You could order fewer colors if you use a light color outline that makes the text pop even if the text is dark and the frame is dark.

2 Responses

  1. How have you found the durability of these decals. Are they proving quite tough. I have also seen these DuraTAG Ink Transfers. Check out the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfJeLc3ANJo

    Haven’t been able to get in contact with them yet but look good

    • Jon,
      The durability has been excellent for the decals so far. It’s not been very long of a test period though. I know SSSink does decals for some big bike companies though, so I imagine that the durability is very good. You really have to take a sharp object to scratch the decal and leave a mark. Getting them off once set is not a ‘peeling’ operation but a scratch-with-your-fingernail for a LONG time until you get every last piece off, then take acetone to get the rest of the residue off. These aren’t in the same ballpark as normal thin vinyl decals, they’re VERY thin and once on there are meant to stay on. But positioning them right is key. If you mess up and even dab the sticker onto the frame, it’ll separate and peel and then you have to start over with a new decal. I haven’t heard of DuraTAG but it looks really promising! I like how you can position the decal before sticking it down. That’s a really helpful feature in my opinion.

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