Adding Graphics to Powder Coated Wood

For nearly a decade our sister company RedLine Garagegear has been providing powder coat wood garage cabinets to homeowners. We also provide wood powder coating services to other manufacturers around the country.

Supplying for various companies selling in direct to consumer markets gives GCC Coatings the opportunity to research and test various branding methods. We have worked with a few that can easily add a graphic to a part after it has been sprayed with powder.

We would like to share with you some of the things we have learned while testing and using some of the branding options for powder coated wood. There are many ways to apply some sort of branding image or wording to powdered parts. We will cover five of those methods below.

Ink Transfers

Ink Transfer ExampleInk transfers are set up to be a “do it yourself” method of applying a brand to a part. An ink transfer is basically an image or wording printed on carrier paper. After the transfer is “activated” only the image on the paper will be applied to the surface of the part.

There are many benefits to ink transfers aside from how easy it is to use. One of the biggest advantages to this method is that it will not require a capital investment in equipment or products. It’s nearly impossible to find the edge or seam of an ink transfer. Transfers can be applied to textured or smooth parts; as well as curved, cylindrical, and flat parts. Plus, you can’t scratch or scrape the transfer off. It will be indelibly applied to your part.

Here’s a quick video that shows how an ink transfer is applied to a powder coated wood part:

The Bottom Line: Ink transfers are a great branding tool but this one method may not fit every need. As you saw in the video, the process for applying the ink transfer is fairly simple, however, there may be some things required by the service provider that are not so easy to come by. Particularly, you will need to provide a Photoshop document file (.PSD) for printing the transfers. Ink transfers are cost effective at lower quantities but are most cost effective when dealing with large volume orders (somewhere in the 2,000+ range). Finally, you may not be able to find someone in your immediate local area to create ink transfers for you. Thanks to today’s global logistics and economy, however, it should be fairly simple to find a service provider for this job.

Screen Printing

Screen printing has been around for years. Its earliest uses were mostly for applying ink to t-shirts, canvas, and other “cloth-like” materials.

Technology improvements have made it possible to use this method for applying an image to powder coated wood. Some of the major improvements include: the development of automatic presses (previously everything is done using hand operated presses), drying systems have improved, improved U.V. curable ink, and the development of rotary screen presses.

There are roughly four elements needed to use the screen printing method: the screen printing press, the screen (the screen is just a porous mesh stretched over a frame with a stencil or the image to be printed a part of it also), the squeegee, and the ink.

To apply an image to the substrate, the screen is placed over the surface of the substrate receiving the image. The ink is then placed at the top of the screen. And using a squeegee the ink is drawn across the screen and forced through the openings in the mesh. Ink will pass through the areas where there is no stencil applied to produce the image on the substrate.

The Bottom Line: Screen printing definitely has it’s place but it is not the most ideal method for applying a graphic to wood that has been powder coated.  You will definitely need to find a service provider to complete this job. Screen printing is not as high a quality as Digital or Ink Transfer because it cannot be done in full color.  Although if you are looking for 1-4 color simple printing, this may be a good option.  

Digital Printing

The digital print method is another option available for applying an image or any sort of branding to a piece of powder coat wood. The image to the left shows an example of a digital print for a RedLine Garagegear marketing campaign.

A digital printer works much like a regular printer only on a much larger scale. The printer takes high resolution images sent to it and recreates the image onto the substrate line by line. The end result is a very high resolution image.

The Bottom Line: A digital print will require a professional service provider in order for it to be applied to a part. Digital printers are able to print in full color, however, you will need to find a service provider who is able to print a white overlay on the part prior to adding an image. This is done so that the color of the image will not be adversely affected by the color of the part. Not every digital printing company is capable of doing this step. In fact, just a fraction of digital printers in the U.S. have the capabilities. Be sure to ask the question prior to striking a deal or placing an order. Digital printing gives you excellent quality comparable to ink transfers.  The cost on short runs in our experience is slightly less than ink transfers and slightly more for large runs.

Domed Labels

Domed labels are used widely for branding by businesses in markets from clothing to cars. The labels offer a three dimensional appearance, are quite durable, and are also able to “self-heal” from minor cuts and scratches. A domed label is basically an image printed onto a high print quality piece of paper or plastic with a polyurethane coating. The polyurethane coating is applied in liquid form and hardens as it cures. The back of the label is a very strong adhesive so that it will stick properly to just about any surface.

Domed labels are ideal for products that must endure extreme situations. They have been tested to stand up to direct sunlight, high temperatures, and various chemicals as well. Domed labels are an eye catching yet subtle way to apply branding to your parts.

The Bottom Line: Domed labels are available in full color from multiple makers around the country. The labels are pretty simple to apply as the back is adhesive and sticks right on to the surface of the part. The cost of a domed label will vary depending on the volume. The more you order at one time the cheaper each individual tag will be. There may not be a domed label manufacturer in your area, however, this is something that can easily be shipped across the country or even around the world.

Vinyl Signage & Decals

The final branding method we will discuss here is vinyl signage and decals. Vinyl is the shorthand name for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). When a plasticizer is added to the PVC it creates a much softer and flexible material ideal for creating outdoor signage. Vinyl is most commonly used for banners, billboards, and stadium flags. Vinyl can also be seen on vehicles for advertising or aesthetic/decorative purposes.

In its use as a branding method for powder coated wood, vinyl will generally be clear and have an adhesive back for applying it to a part. Vinyl is perfectly suited for extreme weather and temperature conditions. It is also a very affordable option.

The Bottom Line: While not something that can easily be done yourself vinyl signs and decals are easily accessible. More than likely you will be able to find someone in your local area who is able to do this sort of work. Vinyl signs will be applied to a part much like a sticker is applied to any surface (peel and stick). These signs can be printed in full color and are probably the most option for short runs.

There are definitely a lot of things to think about when creating a new product or improving an existing one. Branding is a very important part of presenting your product to consumers. We hope that this tutorial will help you in developing your product so that it makes a great impression on your customers.

For more information, answers to lingering questions, or if you would like us to put you in contact with a service provider please give us a call (815-628-0288) or send us an email (info@powdercoatmdf.com).