Designing a Vehicle Wrap Part 2


This is the finishing steps from a looong time ago (see Part 1) to fine tuning and file preparation before sending the file to the printers. I apologize for the delay.

We adjusted the design to minimize vinyl which meant removing the white from the back end.
After receiving thumbs up on the mock up prepared in Photoshop I transferred the design over to Illustrator. I couldn’t find a tutorial on how to properly set up the file in Illustrator, but I did find one for Corel Draw, and it served fine as a general guide.
Basically, you need to create a masking layer to sit on top of all of your other working layers.

This is what I did, step by step…

After some back and forth with the printer, I was instructed that in order to make the file print ready, I needed to create a cut line layer and a bleed layer for my design in Illustrator.

  • The cut line needed to work out to be 2″ at full size – that worked out to a 3 pt stroke on the scale I was working at.
  • I made the bleed colour black to match the colour of the truck. It seemed to make the most sense to me – and the simplest way to create a bleed without having to make a complicated outline that changes colour as it travels around the design.  If you have better way to do this, let me know in the comments.


  • I ran into trouble when trying to create a compound shape to outline because I hadn’t realized I had to “expand appearance” in order for the selection to include the stroke and drop shadows. Before expanding appearance (or in some places, simply the “expand” command sufficed – not sure why), the cut line ended up on the inside of the stroke, meaning it would cut it off altogether. Not ideal. If you run into this problem – expand, expand, expand!
  • For text, “outline type” first, then expand to be able to select everything, including stroke and fx.
  • You have to really get up close and personal with your design – make sure things are smooth and delete any run away points with the “-” pen tool.

I communicated a lot with the printer and confirmed pantone colours with him.  Make sure you have open communication with whoever your client is using to print the vinyl, and be prepared to make adjustments as necessary.

All in all, a new experience for me, but lots of fun. This client ran into some unforeseen business expenses(read, a really expensive machine required really expensive repairs) and had to put vinyl signage on hold so this never made it to print, sadly.

Happy vehicle wrapping!

More about Julie Prescesky

Julie spends much of her time paying attention to what's happening around her. At Design Inkarnation, she's head designer, illustrator, writer and creative problem solver.

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