Floor Graphics

Written October 17, 2019

Floor graphics are a type of specialty advertising that can serve multiple purposes. They can be decorative for special events; they can be way finding or directional, and they may be in the form of advertising, commonly seen on supermarkets floors. Other uses include; basketball court logos, trade show booths, display marketing, car dealership showrooms, malls, etc. Floor graphics are adhesive backed prints with a slip resistant laminate that has been approved to be walked on.

Questions to Ask Clients

One of the most important questions to ask a client is about the anticipated foot traffic volume and how long the graphic needs to last? The answers to this question will help you choose the right set of materials for the intended purpose of the graphic. If an installation is to be performed after printing, then the floor site should be inspected prior to the job being run. This will give the graphic producer a better understanding of the scope of the project (graphic media, floor type, over laminate type, installation factors).

Ink Systems

Images printed on vinyl floor graphic materials can use water based pigmented inks, solvent-based inks, latex or UV curable inks. Water based inks have the least durability as they will fade in artificial and direct sunlight. Solvent, latex or UV curable inks will give the greatest longevity in an indoor or outdoor setting. These graphics can go up to two years indoors. Floor graphics are generally temporary in nature as they wear due to foot traffic on the over laminate.

Media Choices

The media choices are the same for both indoor and outdoor materials as these graphics are similarly constructed. The media choices range from paper-based products to films and vinyls. The most important choice about the media is that it has a smooth surface so that the over laminate can be applied evenly and have good clarity. The more important part of floor graphics is the over laminate or actual surface that will be walked upon. There are graphics that are embedded in floor epoxy or floor wax that is used to make a more permanent type of graphic.

These products should use a premium media, and a fade resistant ink (latex, solvent or UV) to enhance their longevity to light exposure. Other media for outdoor street graphics are available in the form of an imageable coated aluminum foil. This product is called Asphalt Art. This special media incorporates a glass bead non-slip texture that can be printed on and then immediately applied to a number of floor surfaces. The foil-base is thin enough to conform to rough, untreated surfaces like stone and cement and asphalt.

Over Laminates

Over laminates used for floor graphics need to have passed the ASTM C-1028 slip-resistance test. ASTM International (ASTM), originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.

This ensures that the graphic has the same traction qualities as manufactured floors do. Over laminates come in various thicknesses and with differing adhesives. They are usually rated as to their durability “outdoors floor”, “indoors floor”, and the maximum length of time they should remain affixed before removing, “removability”. The materials specifically could be either textured vinyl, textured polyolefin, or for the greatest durability, textured polycarbonate.

Floor Graphic Production

The production procedure is straightforward for floor graphics. Printing on the media that fits the job requirements at the resolution necessary is the first step. If you’re printing solvent-based prints, it's wise to let the graphic outgas overnight before laminating.

Print/Laminate/Cut Workflow

In the Print/Laminate/Cut workflow, printed graphics will be removed from the printer/cutter, laminated and reloaded for cutting. This two-step process can be performed either with an integrated plotter/cutter or a stand-alone cutter or cutting table system. Set up your artwork with print data and cut paths.

To assure full bleed on your image, you can add a 1 pt. bleed to the outside edges of your design. You need to print cutter registration marks when running the job. Apply a laminate film to the printed graphic. Reload the laminated print into the printer/cutter. Align the registration marks. Send CUT information only to contour-cut the graphics. Do not weed the graphic until ready to install, use pre-mask if needed for final application.

Print/Cut/Laminate/Cut Workflow

First, print the graphic and cut the graphic contour, and then make a separate contour cut in the laminate, making the final contour edge cut. Print as you normally would including the cutting registration marks. Weed the excess material but leave the registration marks on the material. Laminate as you would normally, this time the excess laminate will adhere to the release liner outside the perimeter of the weeded graphic.

The laminate only will be cut this time, adjusting the contour to be just outside the graphics edge (1/8-1/4 inch). This give an area to apply sealant on the edges if required, also if the graphic gets edge lift, it can be repaired as the graphic proper won’t have been damaged.

Floor Preparation

Once you’ve determined the most appropriate location for the floor graphic, you’ll need to go through similar steps as you would to install vinyl on any other substrate. In other words, you need to prepare the surface for the graphic application.  If you don’t prepare the floor surface, then you compromise the durability of the floor graphic. In short, the application surface needs to be clean, smooth, and dry.

Clean the Floor

Here is a manufacturers recommendation: first, spray the floor area where the graphic will be applied. Use a solution of 20 drops of detergent per pint (400 ml) of water. Do not use soaps or enzyme detergents. Next, clean an area that is 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) larger than the graphic. This gives you a margin for error for graphic placement. You may need to use tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) to get up all the grime, bubble gum and grease. If you are working with a painted floor, you have to do a paint test to make sure that if you have to reposition the graphic or when you remove the graphics, you are not also going to remove the paint with it.

Consider this: Most permanent style floor graphics are going to use a permanent style adhesive, which is extremely aggressive. You’ll need to wipe the floor again with a clean, lint-free towel that has been moistened with rubbing alcohol that contains no lotions. Again, to avoid leaving a residue, wipe the surface completely dry with a lint-free towel before the alcohol evaporates.

Graphic Application Notes

The graphic should only be applied on floors with temperatures between 60-100 degrees F. If floor heating is in place, it should be ensured that the heating does not exceed the stated temperature range. The graphic should be applied during periods when the material will be subjected to either no mechanical loads or as little as possible. As a result, it is recommended that application take place shortly before close of business, for example, and that the laminate be left to rest overnight.

Recommend is a “rest period” of at least 12 hours before carrying out the first mechanical cleaning procedure. However, it is possible to walk on the floor immediately. As is normal for floor coverings, the floor graphic becomes slippery when wet. To guarantee maximum safety, the floor graphic should not be applied to areas which may become wet as a result of exposure to rain or snow. The advice is to use doormats in entrance areas. Applying the material to carpeted floors is also not recommended.

Maintenance of Floor Graphics

Most graphic over laminates for floor use have been designed to withstand daily cleaning with mild soapy water. Commercial buffers can also be used, but it is recommended that 4-5 coats of the floor polish be manually applied to the graphic the first time before using a buffer. It is also recommended that the graphic not be cleaned in any capacity within the first 24 hours.

After the initial treatment of the graphic, treat the graphic as if it were part of the floor. •  For the best performance, it is recommended that water not dwell around the image and that the image not be exposed to oils and solvents for extended periods of time. •  Scuffmarks on the graphic can be removed using soap and water, citrus cleaning, and, as a last resort, a scratch-free cleaning pad.