With today’s technological advances, there are many ways to tackle the task of designing and producing boat graphics.
Back in the day, and I mean about 15 years ago, the most common ways to have graphics applied to your boat was via plotter-cut vinyl or by hand painting them on.
The biggest problem is that most boat owners that are looking for graphics for their boat don’t realize that designing the graphics is as important as the actual production of them. They go hand in hand, but they belong in 2 different steps.
Boat vinyl graphics alternatives
Most of the time, a boat owner will say, “Ok, I want to put the name Easy Living on the side of my boat.” So, they go out to a sign shop, choose a font, and the guy at the shop cuts out the lettering in whatever vinyl color the boat owner chooses. However, that is VERY limiting. If only the boat owner knew that he has at his disposal many more tools for a more unique set of graphics for his boat.
First of all let’s talk about the most common methods of producing boat graphics in use today:
- Cut Vinyl – This is the tried and true method talked about above. A design is cut in a solid color sheet of vinyl. Individual colors are then combined and layered to create more layers of color. It’s simple, durable and works well. However, due to the lack of print you can’t easily get away with doing gradients or fades in the design. Yes, there are things you can do to achieve those effects, but they are not easy or cost effective.
- Printed Vinyl – This is one of the most exciting ways of creating boat vinyl graphics these days. Similar to standard cut vinyl, the designs are cut into sticky-back vinyl. But, the main difference is that there is no layering necessary to achieve complex colors. Instead, the base vinyl is white and the design is printed onto it allowing for more flexibility in design than with standard cut vinyl. Recently I had some graphics cut for the official FloatWays RC racing boat. A sign shop quoted me $100 for the decal set using the traditional process of layering 3 sets of cut colored vinyl to achieve a 3-color design. The shop that ended up doing the graphics made me all the stickers I needed using printed and cut vinyl for only $40.
- Paint and Airbrush – Of course, this is another tried and true method of creating boat graphics – painting those graphics on. There are many way of painting graphics onto a boat, such as by brush, airbrush, stencils or masking. The downside is, it’s really expensive and you have to get a hold of a painter that knows what he or she is doing. Plus, due to the expense of such paint job, you’ll need to clear coat the design to preserve it, adding hundreds more to the cost.
No matter the medium you choose for the production of your boat, yacht or sailboat graphics it’s important you separate the design method from the production method.
Next time you want to create a sticker with the name of your boat, don’t simply go to the sign shop and select a font.
Next time you want to create a sticker with the name of your boat, don’t simply go to the sign shop and select a font. No, be more original. The fact is you can hire a graphic designer to create an original piece for you. This means you can have exactly what you want, or the designer can suggest a custom design just for you. If the designer is good, you’ll end up with something more unique and better looking than anything the design shop would’ve offered in standard fonts. It’s important that the graphic designer know what the final medium will be. The designer needs to prepare the artwork so it will work with whatever method is chosen for the final production. Be sure to ask the sign shop about how the stickers will be made, then relay that info to your designer. Otherwise, you could have your designer communicate with the sign shop.
If you choose to go the route of printed graphics, your designer can go nuts on color and everything should be fine. Note though that colors on the printed boat vinyl graphics are not as crisp as they are in standard cut-colored vinyl. But it’s the price you pay for the flexibility of design. Also, make sure that the sign shop can guarantee the ink they will use is UV and fade resistant. Otherwise, you’ll end up with cool boat graphics that will disappear in a matter of months. You definitely don’t want that.