glossary terms
Vinyl expertise from Glyphics

Vinyl is a simple and thin self-adhesive film that can be used to transform your office, brighten your windows or give impact to your walls. You can create simple lettering or complex vinyl graphic illustrations to any size. It is the most creative of material and at Glyphics we love vinyl!
We know a lot about it and we’ve done a lot with it so we can help you with any project you’ve got in mind. If you’re just starting out, we’ve created a quick list of things you need to consider before planning any window vinyl project and once you’ve got that sorted, we’ve created a helpful guide that explains what you need to tell us to make sure we can give you a comprehensive quote.

Glossary of Terms

Acid etched effect:
The effect you get from certain vinyl films to give you privacy but let light through in varying degrees. Sometimes these films are called 'frosted' films. They have a self adhesive backing which gets applied to glass panels and can have simple patterns or a printed pattern on them for branding or decorative effects.

ai files:
This is an Adobe Illustrator acronym for producing outlines normally used for cutting of outlines in vinyl films or for producing printed graphics.

You need to be aware that virtually everything ages with time and this applies to vinyl self adhesive films.
Whether it is on rolls on the shelves or applied to glass or other panels, the film itself or the adhesive on the back will gradually degrade because of UV light where the colour can change or the effects of weather on the material.
Generally the more expensive vinyls have the longest life on adhesive or shrinkage of film.

Anti Grafitti Film:
This type of vinyl contains UV inhibitors that slows down the effect of sunlight and helps to prevent cut vinyl being 'picked off'. Certain cleaning materials are also helped by having a protective film applied over graphics.

Calendered vinyl films:
Like the vinyl film below calendered film gets it name from the manufacturing process. It uses similar materials but is made a different way like mixing bread and squeezed through large polished steel rollers which progressively squeeze the mixture. It is a slightly thicker film, quicker to produce and comes in different formulations to give you varying degrees of quality. From exhibition graphic quality (short term use) to higher qualities (longer term) it is the most widely used type of vinyl.
Calendered vinyls tend to have a limited colour palette and come in gloss and matt. The colour are always better in the gloss range however many designers like to use matt finishes.

Cast vinyl films:
This is the premium vinyl self adhesive film. The constituent parts in the making of these vinyls are added in a specific order, known as the formulation, to a mixing barrel which has a regulated speed and time to get a consistent mixture. This liquid mixture is called organasol. It looks like a shiny paint which is poured or 'cast' over a moving web of very smooth paper which then goes through a series of ovens to release vapours from solvents. As the solvents evaporate a solid vinyl film is formed onto the paper then wound onto a big roll before finally having the shiny backing paper stripped off and a high quality adhesive applied to the film.
This type of film has a longer life and is also highly conformable. It is very thin but and uses the best pigmentation ingredients and can therefore be costly.

This is a film that is generally made from a vinyl film that is cast. These films are of a high quality and have no 'memory' and will not shrink back to a remembered state which makes them the major choice for wrapping vinyl graphics around curved panels and over rivets.
Normally used for applying onto vehicles and the colour itself that would possibly have automotive grade pigments in the making, plus all aspects of the adhesive, the colours that reduce cracking make this a premium film for conformability. See cast.

Cut vinyl lettering and logos:
These are letters and logos that can be cut from rolls of self-adhesive vinyl films. The film has a silicone-backing sheet to stop the film sticking to it.
The lettering is cut with a very sharp blade in a plotter using the outline shapes. Once cut, the lettering has to be 'weeded'. This means taking all the surplus film away from the letters themselves. When this is done, application tape is applied over the whole area which then will hold all the lettering together. This application paper has a weaker adhesive than the adhesive present on the coloured film and can be easily removed when the lettering is in place, leaving no residue.

This is another term used for a group of letters or a logo held together. Sometimes a child's transfer is called a decal.

Digital printing:
This is the process of transferring an image or lettering held on a computer by a process that squirts minute drops of ink very, very precisely onto paper or onto self-adhesive films giving a high definition, depending on the quality of your original image.

Dots per inch. This is a measure of resolution. The higher the number the better the image quality.

eps file:
This is a file extension used in Adobe Illustrator for outlines and graphics. It is short for Encapsulated PostScript. This is normally required for printing of graphics and cutting of vinyl lettering in self-adhesive films.

Four colour printing CMYK:
This is made up of Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black(K). CMYK. It creates a huge range of colours from dots of the various four colours. It has its limitations and is not good for say orange or some greens but for the majority of colours it is fine.

Inkjet printing:
This is a process where we print from nozzles than squirt very fine droplets of ink very accurately onto the substrate that is going through the equipment to form the image. The accuracy is extremely high. Varying types of ink can be used to give the finished print the desired longevity or quality. Aqueous (water based) inks, solvent inks for an exterior quality, or Latex or Eco solvent inks exist, each offering different solutions. Metallic inks can also be used. They are primarily silver inks with the addition of colours from the CMYK range to form a metallic coloured effects.

Image size:
This is the width and height of the object to be printed given in millimetres. Make sure, when discussing the image with the printer there is no misunderstanding as to which is the width or height.

This is the file type normally used for digitally printing photographs and graphics.



This is a protective clear film applied over a printed self-adhesive vinyl film to give an extra protection from the environment. These come in Matt, Satin or Gloss normally.

This is another name for a film that is applied onto clear glass to stop people walking into it. It could be made in various way, either by cutting it out of an 'acid etch' look film (frosted), or coloured stripes etc. Either way it is a name for an applied piece of film onto glass.

All films have a degree of the amount of light that passes through them.The thinner they are, the more light goes through. Some films have a solid black inner layer to block all light going through whilst some films are transparent, translucent or just opaque allowing very little light through.

Optically clear films:
This is a range of clear films which an ultra clear adhesive that look almost transparent on glass. They are called optically clear films to differentiate them from 'clear films'. They cost more as a film to get the clarity.

PMS (Pantone Matching System)
This is the industry standard system used by printers whatever country you are in, to allow them to know what each other are talking about when referring to a colour.
They are normally printed by the litho printing process which uses very thick inks so that the 'colour' of the white paper they are printed on 'grins' through to give us the brightness of the colour. Paints and other thick pigments are more tricky because they use light in a different way though you can get an indication of the colour.
Pantone colours can be used for gloss or matt papers.
So, when referring to Pantone colours for a vinyl, because they are thick colours and not normally made for Pantone matching (though some are), it is best to use them primarily only for an indication of your required colour.

Sometimes referred to as the 'dots' of the printed image. The more pixels per square inch or ppi or dpi (dot per inch) the higher the resolution.

Photoluminecent film:
This is a film that 'gathers' light during the light from a chemical in the film mixture and releases it when the lights are off. It will glow for a certain period of time and is mainly used for safety signs.

Release liner:
This is normally known as the backing sheet which the self adhesive vinyl is applied to and acts purely as the carrier for the vinyl until it is released from the liner and discarded. It normally has a silicone coating that doesn't allow the vinyl to properly stick to it whilst in the cutting or printing process.

Reflective vinyls:
There are basically two types of film that are reflective. The main one has very small glass beads imbedded into the surface of the vinyl, the other has small prisms or pyramids in the surface. They are different at night compared to day. During the day, white looks greyish but at night it is white and sparkly because of light being shone on it. Black vinyl during the day does look black but at night looks more brown.
It is tricky to cut and needs special blades cut at different angles and pressures.

Reverse image or reverse print:
This is an image that will be applied behind glass to show through the face of the glass the image the correct way round.
As you can't apply ink to the sticky (adhesive side) of the film, the image is 'flipped' to print the other was round but when the adhesive face is stuck to the reverse of the glass it is the correct way round.

Self cling film:
This is a soft, limp film which can be printed on and stuck to a smooth surface, like glass. It is usually seen behind car tax discs, sticks by static and has no adhesive at all.

This is a flat plastic tool that pushes air along the film when applying vinyls to a surface.

This is the material you apply vinyl, paint and inkjet prints to. Plastic, wood, paper etc is a substrate.

Translucent film:
Translucent film is neither transparent nor opaque. In itself it looks fairly opaque but when applied to a lightbox the colour comes to life.

Transparent film:
Transparent film by its name explains itself. It is like a coloured gel with a clear adhesive backing that can be applied to glass. You can layer colours over each other to get interesting effects. It is though not a 'soft' film like some self-adhesive films and whilst quite thin has not the conformability of other vinyls.
You can print colours onto transparent self-adhesive films to get different shades but you never get the purity of colour as there would be an element of black from the printing inks.

Vehicle graphics:
Films used to provide graphics that can be applied to cars andother vehicles. It uses a thin and and highly conformable film to go around or into shapes.
Normally a level of heat is applied to the graphic during application to soften the film further. The adhesive put on the back of these types of vinyl has microscopic dots to allow the film to be lifted off and applied back down again until correctly positioned. Usually exact patterns of the vehicle outlines can be obtained so that the graphics can be correctly worked out.

This is a process where the material that is not required on cut vinyl graphics is removed by hand prior to the application tape being applied. This is an American term that got used for removing something not wanted.

Window graphics:
A term to describe any graphic applied to glass to decorate it.

Wide format printing:
Digital inkjet printing machines capable of printing self-adhesive vinyls approximately 2 metres in width and by 30 or 50 metres long rolls. They normally print using latex, solvent, eco solvent and water based inks.

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