According to’s History of Vinyl, German chemist Eugen Baumann invented polyvinyl chloride, aka PVC, in 1872. Since then it’s become the 2nd most produced type of plastic in the world, and it’s become a boon for the sign industry and businesses alike. Vinyl has a great many applications, whether it be for car wraps, exterior signage, interior signage, or first or second surface printing. Today we discuss how we at Ortwein Sign use vinyl, the uses of vinyl, how it’s applied, and how it’s already likely impacting your business signage.

As we and many other sign companies moved away from our origins as a hand-painting sign company, we began to embrace vinyl as a faster, cheaper option for applying logos and designs to a myriad of sign types. Though the materials and initial infrastructure to have a vinyl shop costs some investment, compared to the type and costs of hand painting over time, the move has saved companies and customers money. The advancements in computers and digital printers helped speed up this transformation even faster.

Now vinyl is perhaps the most ubiquitous material used in signage.

What are the Different Types of Vinyl?

1. Wrap

A wrap vinyl is used for applying graphics to vehicles, whether that be personal cars or entire commercial fleets.

Chattanooga Red Wolves bus newly wrapped in parking lot on bright summer day

2. Cast

Cast vinyl has more polyester, and is more stretchable.

3. Translucent

Tenant signs on a pylon sign with transparent vinyl lit up at night

Translucent vinyl is used for backlit signs, where the light needs to shine through the vinyl.

4. Opaque

Southern Star Opaque Vinyl

Opaque can be used for a variety of functions, except where you might want light to shine through the vinyl.

What is the Difference between First Surface and Second Surface Vinyl?

1st Surface Vinyl beside 2nd Surface Vinyl for Comparison

First surface is vinyl that is applied on to the face or front of the material, for example vinyl that’s applied on the front of a glass window or door. First surface is the most common application of vinyl, and its use can help prevent glares that would otherwise reflect on the shines through the glass.

Second surface is vinyl that is applied to the back or underneath of glass. Though it is less frequently used than first surface, when applied to an outside window or door it does have the advantage of separation from the outside elements and any external interference or any vandalism.

How Long Does Vinyl Last?

Vinyl’s age differs depending on where it’s placed, the elements, and if it comes into frequent contact with people or weather.

How Can I Increase the Age of My Vinyl?

While it’s not applicable for all scenarios, lamination will help preserve vinyl.