Updated: Aug 27, 2022
We get it, wrapping a car is expensive! Not everyone is able to shell out thousands of dollars to have a professional wrap their car. We have a solution for everyone, even if your budget is limited. You can try it for yourself!
1. Decide on a color
We need to find the perfect color for you! Normally when a customer gets in touch, I ask them a few questions to feel out if they have any ideas in mind for their car. Or, if they are starting completely from scratch and want me to point them in a direction or give some options, I do my best to help them that way by sending them some pictures of wrapped cars similar to theirs.
Many times, a customer will send pictures of a car they've seen on social media or possibly a YouTube video with a particular color or look. Or they might just have a vague idea of a color. I will either use my best judgement to match that to a color I already know or used previously, or I take a look at the catalog on Metrorestyling.com to see if we can find something similar. Anything I find that might be a match is sent to the customer for review and feedback.
Tip: you can also use Google Images or Instagram hashtags to search for your exact model car (Ex: "Wrapped Ram 1500" or #wrappedtrucks) or use the search with the exact name of the color wrap, (Ex: "3M Cosmic Blue").
2. Buy the material
Anyone can buy material from sites such as metrorestyling.com and no special licenses or dealer accounts are needed. I like to use Metro as they have super fast shipping and absolutely amazing customer support. Usually rolls will arrive in as little as 2-3 days after placing an order.
One thing to keep in mind is MetroRestyling generally does not accept returns! This means it is very important to take the proper amount of time in Step 1 to make sure you decide on the right color the first time!!
I highly recommend purchasing samples or even a swatch book from Metro if you think you will have second thoughts or if you have more than one color in mind and are having a hard time deciding. Also make sure to use the tip in Step 1 and find as many pictures of the color you want online. Definitely take the time to look through google images, forum pages, youtube videos, websites of wrap shops, and social media. You should be able to find tons of pictures of the color you have in mind, this is unless you chose a relatively new color that was just introduced.
How much material do you need?
Here are some basic guidelines Metro recommends to use when choosing the amount of material you need to wrap a vehicle:
• 60 inches by 45 feet for compact cars (Volkswagen GTI, Honda Civic, Mazda3)
• 60 inches by 60 feet for standard cars (Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata)
• 60 inches by 75 feet for trucks (Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevy Silverado)
Pro Tip: I highly recommend purchasing a full roll of 75 feet if this is your first time ever attempting this project. This will allow you some room for errors and will be much cheaper and more convenient to buy up front!
3. Get the tools you need
Luckily for you, wrapping a car does not require many tools. Although there are some specialty tools made to help speed up production in high volume shops, those are only a luxury to the average weekend-warrior or someone who is only going to wrap one car.
Some basic tools that I personally started my business with are
A small mechanic's toolset - A basic tool set should be all you need for basic disassembly of most vehicles. Something basic such as this should get you through most of the screws and bolts you will encounter: Some cars may require special tools, but for the most part, a basic socket set, some screwdrivers with different heads and possibly some pliers.
Basic wrap kit with squeegees, felts, and magnets - A basic wrap kit is definitely a must to get you started. A basic kit such as this has pretty much everything you will need to get started, and it is handy to have multiples of small tools such as squeegees as these often will get misplaced as you're working, they just disappear and then magically reappear later! I Highly recommend getting a better quality knife however as the knives in these kits are generally extremely flimsy and dull and you will have a horrible time trying to use one. I will link to an Olfa knife which I use all the time.
Olfa Knife and 30 degree blades - A quality blade is detrimental to a quality wrap job, and any pro will attest to this. It seems like such a small aspect to the job but it is an important one! Thus I created an entire section for this. I swear by Olfa brand knives for every job I do as every industry professional knows that a dull knife is the most dangerous one. Dull blades will require you to push harder to score film and will most definitely result in tons of permanent deep scratches in your paint and the metal of your vehicle. Trust me, save yourself the trouble and get a quality pack of blades, you will never want to use a cheap generic blade again. Remember to grab extra blades too!
A quality heat gun - You'll want a cheap but quality heat gun that can withstand extended periods of operation and maybe even take a few falls! Here is the exact heat gun I used to wrap my first car, I still have a few of them in use at the shop!
70% Isopropyl alcohol - Many wrappers use Alcohol in a spray bottle to clean and degrease the entire work surface before wrapping. This is a crucial step for proper application! You should only really need one bottle of alcohol which can generally be found at any drug store or grocery store for a few bucks.
Lots of lint-free microfiber towels - Maintaining cleanliness is one of the most important and time-consuming parts of the wrap process. Make sure to have lots of microfiber towels handy and to switch sides and replace towels often!
Miscellanious supplies - Zip ties, double sided tape, braided fishing line for removing badges, polish, clay bar kit, and a spray bottle for alcohol are all optional supplies that are really useful to help your job go smoothly and to finish with a tidy reassembly.
4. Learn the basics
Now it's time to learn the art. This step requires some patience and willingness to learn, but I strongly believe that anyone can learn tis and it does not take a special type of human to learn this skill. I am not some magical person and neither is any person that can do this. It is a skill that you can learn just like anything else! Remember you did not know how to drive a car the second you were born, but you learned it over time and with practice. Vinyl wrapping is the same exact way. You can learn it too! And there are many free resources to help you with it.
the first thing you can do is take advantage of free resources without paying a single dime. I'm talking about youtube. I came across CK Wraps on Youtube years ago and have learned many of the tips he teaches in his videos and still implement them daily! Obviously you will not become a pro wrapper just by watching a few of his videos, but he does a great job of showing the basics of how the film works. Enough for you to be able to know what mistakes to avoid, and what techniques to be sure to use in order to execute a long-lasting wrap!
While we're on the topic of youtube, you can also find almost any video of disassembly of nearly any part of your car on youtube. If you have some basic search skills you should be able to find instructional videos for your exact model of vehicle without too much issue. In some rare instances, there may not be a video on it yet, so you can search online for some help from users on forums for your vehicle type, or even reference a repair manual such as a Hanes manual for your vehicle!
There are also courses you can take through manufacturers of the specific vinyl brands, but these get costly and are generally not worth the time and cost for someone who is just looking to do this once on their personal car. These courses are mostly useful however for people seeking instruction on how to start their own wrapping business and earn a certification from the manufacturer.
Once again this is a process which requires some patience and willingness to learn, but it's definitely something I encourage DIYers to try! Stay focused and keep the end goal in sight! Your car will stand out from everyone else's and the best part is you did it yourself and saved thousands rather than taking it to a shop!