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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
New to the forums, and I have been doing some searches in the archives trying to find some more information on this subject, but keep getting conflicting information.

Basically I'm wanting to be able to print full color vinyl decals, that you could put on a car window. I'm not referring to using color vinyl and then weeding it, I'm talking about blank, white vinyl that can be printed on and then contour cut.

I am planning on buying a Graphtech 24" this week which does the contour cutting.

My (lack of) education at this point is leaving me stumbled on what I need to be looking for, and understanding the process.

I'm my mind it's as simple as buying 8x5x11 or 11x17 waterproof inkjet vinyl, printing it in a NICE quality inkjet with registration then cutting it on the plotter.

I'm reading conflicting posts, people saying you can't do it on inkjet, colors run etc.

I'd basically ask if anyone can point me to a tutorial, or provide info, links on what I need.

Is it as simple as buying a nice $500 epson?
Do I need specialty inks, or do the ones that come with work?

I also want these to look semi-professional or better, don't want to see color banding from the printer.

Any help, tips etc whatsoever would be incredibly appreciated!
 

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Epson 1100 or 1400 with pigment aftermarket inks (I prefer 1400 since the 1100 color gamut is much lower for bright blues), Sihl 3988 or other Sihl aqueous vinyls, overlaminated with Oraguard 210 or better. Sihl has a different brand they recommend as best for overlaminate but I have been unable to find it at reasonable prices.

Getting small quantities of these products is going to be your biggest issue as well as the time to cut it, they come in rolls, not sheets.

A lot of people will tell you that aqueous/inkjet decals aren't cost effective because you have to overlaminate them. Other people think you should overlaminate solvent prints so it doesn't matter one way or another. I have not had quality issues so far, but I am still in the testing phase. I need to go inspect the one that was put on the front of a pull behind lawn trailer this week. It's protected somewhat by the truck hauling it, but is still exposed enough to have some impact damage/sandblasting from road grit. I figure if that holds up, it'll be fine on the back of a regular car.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Question about the overlaminating, is that just a precaution for the stickers being used outdoors? If I were printing a sticker for indoor use, say stickers for a macbook cover, would I need to overlaminate that stock for that also, or is overlaminate something you do for all vinyl stickers?
 

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It provides some UV protection for outdoor stickers, and also adds abrasion/scratch resistance.

If I was going to make custom indoor sign, say "OFFICE" or "RESTROOM" or "MARSHMALLOW ZONE" where people aren't very likely to actually touch it, I'd probably leave it unlaminated. A sticker on something handled a lot like a laptop should probably have it. Also 3988 is matte finish, so you can make it glossy with 210. You can get 210 in satin and matte but I haven't been able to find small rolls of those types.

3988 is pretty thick, plus the overlaminate, may really be too thick for something like a laptop. You can try it, but I'd be worried about the edges nicking and getting pulled up when sliding it into a case.

It will also increase the water resistance but I've left Sihl in a cup of water overnight with no problems so that part of it is the least of my worries.
 

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Right now I just apply it with a piece of sheet metal with felt wrapped around the edge and then a rubber brayer/roller to make sure it's pressed down. If you do it right you won't get any air bubbles, but it takes some practice. I would definitely use an automatic laminator if I was doing 24" wide projects but the 1100 and 1400 only do 13" wide anyway.
 

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I also use Sihl vinyl with a protective cold laminate. It looks great and last a long time. You do need good ink. I use a Epson WF 1100 with the Cobra Ink System and inks. This past weekend I picked up a Epson Pro 7800. Its a 24" printer, so now I can just put the roll of Sihl in it and print with out cutting sheets. I have a bulk ink system coming for that as well.
Oh, and I finally found some clear inkjet pritable vinyl from Kapco. Its 24"x50' for $80. I will be trying it out this weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks guys, do any of the Epson printers you guys use also work with heat transfer sheets?
Do you have to have one kind of ink for the vinyl and one kind of ink for the heat transfers?

Can you link the cobra inks you use for the vinyl?

THe other question I had is if I buy that Sihl vinyl rolls, will the companies you buy from cut it down to printer sized sheets or do you have to do that on your own?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks, Im going to look more into the Epson WF 1100.
I looked up that Pro 7800 and it looks like the pricetag is about $2k, already dropping $1600+ on the plotter, so the 1100 may be more in my range.

So just for my understanding, what you are calling pigment inks, just meaning its a more pure, richer color? Or is there something about it being pigment that is made just for transfers and vinyls?

In other words you wouldn't print an 8x10 photo using those expensive inks on say, photo glossy paper, seems like it would be overkill, or are these just better inks for everything?

Hope that question makes sense. I'm just trying to see if the Cobras are just good overall inks for everything, and you pretty much use them over the standard Epson inks?
 

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Thanks, Im going to look more into the Epson WF 1100.
I looked up that Pro 7800 and it looks like the pricetag is about $2k, already dropping $1600+ on the plotter, so the 1100 may be more in my range.

So just for my understanding, what you are calling pigment inks, just meaning its a more pure, richer color? Or is there something about it being pigment that is made just for transfers and vinyls?

In other words you wouldn't print an 8x10 photo using those expensive inks on say, photo glossy paper, seems like it would be overkill, or are these just better inks for everything?

Hope that question makes sense. I'm just trying to see if the Cobras are just good overall inks for everything, and you pretty much use them over the standard Epson inks?
The Pigment Inks are UV rated and fade less than Dye inks for outdoor applications and transfers. You would still need to laminate outdoor. But if you use dye ink and laminate the ink will fade fairly quick.

And getting a bulk ink system such as Cobra's will save you lots of money in Ink costs. These inks are a lot cheaper than the epson replacements.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks, but I think what I was trying to figure out, is will these inks work for just printing a photo, not a sticker....Like an 8x10 family photo that you will put in a frame.

Will these cobra inks be fine for just doing a normal color printout, or would you swap dye inks back in?
 

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Thanks, but I think what I was trying to figure out, is will these inks work for just printing a photo, not a sticker....Like an 8x10 family photo that you will put in a frame.

Will these cobra inks be fine for just doing a normal color printout, or would you swap dye inks back in?
I beleive the stock Epson Inks are a mixture of Dye and Pigment. Pigment inks print great on Matte and well on glossy. Dye is better on glossy. Thats about all I know on these different inks other than if your making stickers and transfers you want pigment.
 

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One thing you need to keep in mind in order to successfully pull off what you are trying to do is make sure your printer can print the registration marks your cutter needs in order to make the cut. Also, make sure that your cutter can read registration marks.

More than likely if your plan is to print on regular (cheap) vinyl, think again because your printer will not be able to dry the ink to the vinyl. Therefore you will be stuck with using high dollar "inkjet vinyl". Solvent vinyl is as cheap as $0.18 per square foot, whereas "inkjet vinyl" is upwards of more than $1.50 per square foot and isn't even as good of material. Also, if you are buying a pigment/dye printer and plotter to resell the finished product, keep in mind that the guys with solvent printers will blow your bottom dollar prices out of the water.

I don't know if you know or not, but you could also save yourself a huge headache and buy a solvent printer/cutter for around $8500. Roland makes a BN-20 which is a solvent printer that prints white and metallic ink on almost any kind of media and you really don't "need" a laminator with this type of ink. At least not if you are only planning on making window decals and such. I have a bigger version of the printer (SP-300V) and we have printed decals and banners without lamination that have been outside for more than four years and you still cannot tell if they have faded or not.

All you need is one machine that does it all, minus the laminating part which is unnecessary with a solvent printer (in your case).
:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
I understand a lot of what you are saying, but could you elaborate on a few things, I'm still trying to learn a lot of the terminology, which is my current hurdle :)

First I love the idea of the all in one solution, but at present my budget is around $3k. In my case this investment will not be a primary source of income, so I won't necessarily be competing with other print vendors on jobs. I basically do occasional design freelance and I'd like the ability to say "hey, I can also do some window stickers for your business also". Since the $3k was easy, fast money, I mainly want this for fun and learning, to be able to do my own stickers, and occasionally make some side cash.

The $3k was a quick payday off of a published shirt design I did, so I thought re-investing it in some equipment was a smart move.

So I'm trying to see if I can piece together a semi-professional setup that will allow me to cut vinyl, contour cut printed vinyl, and a nice printer to print said printed vinyl all for my budget, if thats even possible. Above all I don't want to put out a product that feels cheap, I don't want colors running, fading, or color banding on the printing. I'd rather not do it at all if I can't do it within my budget and have it look pretty good.

The plotter I was considering is the Graphtech CE5000, which does do the registration/contour cutting.


As far as the things I didn't fully understand are the grades of vinyl.

It sounds like you are saying cheap vinyl (like Avery paper from office supply stores) is the cheapest, the next best is inkjet vinyl, and then the best is Solvent vinyl?

The cheap avery vinyls can be printed with dye inks on an inkjet it sounds like?
The Inkjet Vinyl can be inkjet printed but you need pigment inks it wounds like?
The Solvent being the best needs a specialty solvent type printer, with presumably even more costly ink cartridges, but with this option you don't need to laminate?


Again, pardon my ignorance, I'm just trying to learn, we all have to start somewhere :)
 

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An over $8000 difference will buy a lot of vinyl and overlaminate. Also Sihl is not unreasonably priced.

Your personal choice is not to laminate your solvent prints. You will get very mixed suggestions about this. I have seen many sign makers on more sign-oriented forums state they won't let anything go out of their shop that's not laminated and edge sealed, no matter what the inks used were.

The bigger benefit to the solvent printer is to be able to print on a wide variety of materials and in large format/quantities. There is no reason someone can't start out with the smaller machine and aqueous vinyl.

I got the lawn trailer sample back today after three months on the road abuse. He removed the toolbox he had the print on, but there was zero fading, curling, or edge delamination. We had to use a heat gun to get it back off.

You will not find a printable vinyl in a retail/office supply store. Trust me, I went through a lot of testing. Sihl was the only product out there that was both cost effective (Papilio was so expensive I did not even test it) and actually worked ("waterproof" inkjet labels I found from Label retailers that are Online had zero abrasion resistance). Avery labels are just "labels", they're not any kind of vinyl with long-term adhesive. They do make weatherproof labels that are polyester film, and those are laser-only.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I was pointed to the Roland Vs-300, which does printing and cutting, it looks super nice, but literally Im seeing what looks like the same unit for $3k on some sites and $17k on others, so Im not sure what is what, it looks like the SAME unit with a $14k difference?
 
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