Avoiding Edge Curling When Printing Full Bleeds

Why the Simplest Solutions are Generally the Best

Girl Truck Graphics

Printing heavy concentrations of ink to the edges of some films can result in edge curl. But there is a simple solution. 

As a solvent or ecosolvent ink dries, the coating contracts. That makes sense! The same thing happens with paint.  Usually the contraction of the ink is no big deal, unless you print to the edge of the graphic. (Printing to the edge of the graphic is also referred to as a full bleed.)

What can happen when printing edge-to-edge is that as the coating contracts, it can pull the edges of an applied graphic from the substrate. This is a common problem when print on RTape’s VinylEfx® films and on RTape’s EZ Erase film. It is also a problem with other films from other manufacturers.

To circumvent the potential problem of edge curling, we have recommended to printers to leave at least ¼” border all the way around the printed emblem. In some cases, you may need to increase the  size of the border for images with heavy concentrations of ink. We also caution printers and graphics installers to NEVER cut into the printed image. For some customers, allowing for a border is an acceptable solution. For others, this procedure may not satisfy the designer’s vision or practical considerations of the job.

As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat.  If you must print edge to edge, you might consider printing the job using a UV inkjet printer. This means that you may need to farm the job out. If this solution still isn’t sending a thrill up your leg, I have a few other solutions  that you might try.

Here’s one that the boys in the lab came up with. Before plotter cutting the printed graphic, they accelerated the drying process in an oven. After waiting 24 hours, they cut the graphic. Will this work all the time? That depends on the adhesive, the facestock, the ink density and the substrate to which the graphic is applied. Sometimes this solution will work. Sometimes it doesn’t. So much for certainty!  That’s why sign makers need to “Test, Don’t Guess”.

Certainly controlling the ink limits is a major factor in preventing edge curling. Heavy concentrations of ink, especially ecosolvent inks, will contribute to shrinking and edge curling of  printed VinylEfx® and other types of vinyl films.

Generally we had been telling RTape customers to print VinylEfx® using a profile for  White Intermediate High Gloss Vinyl at lower temperatures (35-40⁰C).  Settings, of course, will vary from one inkjet printer to another and from one ink system to another. Getting your printer dialed into the right settings may take time. For this reason, RTape has posted ICC profiles for the most popular printers in the sign industry for VinylEfx®  and other RTape products on their website at: http://www.rtape.com/icc-profiles.

Finally, I saved the best solution for last. Here goes. Don’t print the VinylEfx® at all. Instead, print the image on a clear vinyl overlaminating film and apply it to the VinylEfx®. That’s what my friend, Tom Zambito, did in producing the decal pictured above.

To avoid the problem of edge curling, Tom remembered the principle of Occum’s Razor, which advises us that the simplest solutions (i.e. those with the fewest number of steps, hence the least amount of complexity) are generally the best solutions.