Welcome to Part 3B of How to Design Your Own Car Wrap!! Normally at this point in time I’d write some smarmy comment, but given you’ve toughed it out with me for this long, I’ll cut the crap and jump right into this.
In Part 3A, we learned how to lock/create/rename layers, how to manage and modify the stroke/fill color boxes, how to trace out our template, and how to size it accordingly. Now we’re ready to finalize our template so we can start throwing art on it by adding Bleed!!
Adding what? A Bleed? What’s a Bleed? What does a Bleed do? A “Bleed” is a printing term.
It means any sort of printed items such as posters, flyers, banners, etc are given an extra amount of image space on the edges, making it slightly larger than the desired finished size, so once it’s cut down to size, it gives the appearance that the image itself ends right on the edge of the paper/material. The excess amount of image space that ends up being cut is called the “Bleed”.
Why do we need a Bleed on a car template? Well, as a Graphic Artist, when I receive a template that’s been created by a client or an outside designer, one of the biggest mistakes I commonly experience when I sort through their art is that they design the template with the art stopping right at the edge of the car. Heres an example to better illustrate this point…
Now, to the untrained eye, this looks completely fine. But to a frustrated Graphic Artist with a pile of work on his desk, this looks like a good reason to hunt down your client and punch him in the face. Why? Because the only way this wrap layout would work is if the side of the car being wrapped was completely 2-Dimensional.
Given the fact that the side of the car has a multitude of curves, printing the art in the shape of the car doesn’t include enough printed material to wrap the car correctly. Keep in mind that when your wrap is being installed, it has to wrap around the edges of the side it’s being applied to by an extra 3 inches around the top, bottom, left, and right side to hug the car creating an airtight seal helping prolong it’s life and look smooth. It also helps limit the amount of seams on a wrap. If a printed side of a wrap is too short, it may have to be stretched which could distress the color/image as well as challenging the integrity of the wrap itself, or result in printing a patch to cover up the exposed area the wrap couldn’t
cover, adding additional seams to the wrap.
This is when a Bleed comes in and saves the day. It gives just the right amount of slack needed to shimmy the design if necessary incase everything doesn’t line up correctly, and allows the installer enough material to predetermine where/how many seams the vehicle will have.
To address the Customer Face Punching (I call dibs on this band name) mentioned earlier, when a wrap is designed to cut off at the shape of the car, the Graphic Artist working on the wrap has to either play phone tag and send an endless amount of emails to have the client re-supply the artwork with the necessary amount of extra bleed needed to print the wrap correctly (which could push back the deadline of your project significantly), or the most dreadful option of all… having to recreate the art from scratch!!! *GASP*
So now that we’ve addressed the pitfalls of failing to provide the necessary amount of bleed, lets get started on learning how to adjust our template to account for bleed when designing your wrap. This step will help you avoid any unnecessary delays (or punches to the face from surly Graphic Artists).
Lets open up our template from last week, if you remember, we left off with the template scaled to it’s correct size.
For review purposes, click on the template and make sure it’s dimensions are still 156″w x 54″h. Now right click your mouse with the template is selected, this should prompt a menu window to appear, scroll down and click UNGROUP so that all the lines can be selected individually.
Now select the outer most line, this is the line that creates the outline of the car itself. With the car’s outline selected, navigate through the menu at the top of the screen to go to OBJECT > PATH > OFFSET PATH. If executed correctly, the OFFSET PATH window should appear.
The OFFSET PATH option in Illustrator allows you to create an object of a similar shape to the one selected, allowing you to make it bigger or smaller depending on the settings you input.
In the “OFFSET:” box, type in “3 in”. This will tell illustrator that you want to create an object that is 3 inches wider all the way around than the selected car outline.
In the “JOINS:” box, make sure “ROUND” is selected. This will help create a smoother offset that will be true to the 3 inches needed to go around the entire outline to create our bleed.
The “MITER LIMIT:” box can be set to “4”. Clicking on the empty box next to PREVIEW will show you how your offset will look once executed.
After all these fields have been completed, click OK.
Now that we have our offset path created, lets switch the stroke color so that we don’t mix it up with the template we’re creating. Once this has been done, with the new colored outline selected, direct your attention to the W (width) & H (height) boxes that appear at the top right of the screen.
You’ll notice the dimensions are about 6 inches greater for both the width and height. This is because using the OFFSET PATH feature, we’ve added 3 inches to the top, bottom, left, and right side of the car’s outline. These dimensions (162″ x 60″) are the exact size our Bleed box needs to be. Use the SELECTION TOOL (black arrow) and click on any empty space to deselect the OFFSET we just created, this should cause a button to appear at the top of the screen that reads DOCUMENT SETUP.
Once we click on this button, the DOCUMENT SETUP menu should appear, at this point we want to click on the EDIT ARTBOARDS button near the top right of the menu.
After you click on this button, you notice the background of your file window turns grey, and there’s a white box in the middle with a dotted outline.
The white box with the dotted outline is the ART BOARD. This is the area of the file that will print, as well as being the area that will be seen when the file is opened in an image viewing program. The dark grey represents the area that is outside of the Art Board. The white boxes on the sides and corners of the Art Board are handles that you can drag in or out to adjust it’s size. Drag out the handles so that the outline of the Art Board touches the red offset that represents our bleed.
Once these steps have been completed, click on the Selection Tool on the left hand side of the screen to assign the new Art Board dimensions. Your screen should now look like this…
The white box seen here is our newly sized Art Board, the black line will not print, but everything inside this box will. The Art Boards dimensions now represent the Bleed area, this area should be completely filled when you’re at the design stage of your car wrap. Art or patterns that are going to be used with this design can now stop at the edge of the Art Board/Bleed area as opposed to the outline of the car.
If your Car Wrap will include Window Perf, your next step should be to set up a guide box that will represent the bleed needed when printing the Window Perf.
Window Perf is a special type of vinyl containing a perforated pattern comprised hundreds of tiny little dots that allow those riding inside the car to see out the window once wrapped, but does not let people outside see into the car… kind of like the one-way mirror you always see in cop dramas.
For legal reasons, Window Perf can only be installed on windows that are behind the driver, so we will only be setting up a Bleed guide for windows that fall into that category. To set up our Window Perf for the sides of the car, start by creating a new layer and naming it WINDOW PERF. Then using the pen tool (or manipulating the lines you’ve drawn already), trace the outline of the windows (including the frame) that will be wrapped.
Now that you have the outline of the windows that will include perf, select it and add a 3 inch offset using the steps you learned earlier in this post. Once the offset has been created, select the RECTANGLE TOOL by clicking on it’s icon in the toolbar on the left hand side of the screen or by hitting the M key on the keyboard.
With the Rectangle Tool selected, go to your Fill box and give it a transparent fill by hitting “/” (forward slash), then double click on the stroke box and give it any color you desire. Now use the Rectangle tool to draw a box the exact size of the windows offset.
This box now represents the bleed area needed for the Window Perf. You can delete the offset of the window so that only the bleed box is visible. Next click on the bleed box with the Selection Tool and hit ⌘+5 (COMMAND+5), this will transform your bleed box into a guide, which looks like an incredibly thin and faint turquoise line.
Much like the Art board, a guide will not be visible once printed. Since it’s on a different layer, you can toggle it’s visibility on and off when creating your design.
After completing the steps laid out in this blog post, you’re template should look like this…
HOORAY!!!! YOUR TEMPLATE FOR THE DRIVER’S SIDE IS NOW COMPLETE!!!!
Given the fact that the Passenger side of our car is an exact mirror image of the Driver’s side, we can just flip the template when setting up the art for our Car Wrap. Just take into account any difference that might be found on the opposite side of the car such as car doors or the gas tanks. If the Passenger side of the car is drastically different, just repeat the steps found in PART 3A & 3B of this series to create a new template.
By now you’re probably sick of Car Wraps, if you went to a Doctor to talk about this newfound illness he’d tell you to rest and take your mind off of Car Wraps for an entire week (he’d also telling you to stop bugging him about stupid non-life threatening crap), which works out perfectly because that’s when PART 3C in creating our own Car Wrap will be hot and ready…. CREATING TEMPLATES AND BLEED FOR THE BACK OF THE CAR!!!