Example of window lettering

Which should you use, calendered or cast vinyl?

To the naked eye, applied to the company vehicle or to the storefront window, calendered and cast vinyl may look the same, but there are some distinct differences between the two. And, when determining which you may need for your particular application, it's best you know the qualities of both. You're in luck – we're going to serve it up to you simply, without all the fuss!

The terms "calendered" and "cast" refers to the way the vinyl was manufactured. Cast vinyl is mixed and then spread in thin sheets to dry. Calendered vinyl, on the other hand, is extruded, or stretched into sheets between rollers. This production process makes all the difference – along with a few other variables, it makes the two types of vinyl very distinctive in their applications.

Here are the basics of calendered vs. cast:

When it comes to durability…

Cast vinyl is thinner – usually only 2mm thick, compared to calendered which can' t be rolled that thin. Its sheets are typically 4-10mm thick. You would think the thickness makes calendered vinyl better, but not necessarily. Because cast is thinner, it is more pliable and more durable. It can be better applied to contoured surfaces, like vehicle doors and hoods. It's also more heat resistant than its counterpart – making it better for outdoor application, particularly in extreme weather conditions. The thicker calendered vinyl, which can be handled, manipulated and re-applied better, is ideal for indoor applications – like indoor signs, stickers, wall lettering, etc. Calendered vinyl can be used outdoors, however it doesn't last nearly as long! It will last outdoors up to about 5 years, but will begin to crack and peel over time. The fact that it's stretched in production gives it a "memory" – so at some point it will want to revert back to its orginal shape and begin to shrink. Cast vinyl will last typically 10 years or more outdoors – remember, it wasn't stretched in production, it was spread thin and allowed to dry – so it has no need to retract. It will hold its shape beautifully over time – even in extreme temperatures.

When it comes to color…

Cast vinyl is pigmented all the way through and comes in a plethora of colors – literally 100 or more! If color matching is important for your specific application – like in instances of corporate branding – then cast vinyl is going to be the perfect choice. It comes in solid primary colors, neons, transparent and even metallic colors. Your color choices are limitless! And, the high performance vinyl will not fade much over time. But, if you are working with a simple color scheme and matching is less of a concern, or your application is temporary, calendered vinyl may be the better choice. It doesn't provide as many options and will ultimately begin to fade over time and in harsh environments.

When it comes to cost…

As expected, the thicker, less pigmented, vinyl with poor heat tolerance and high shrinkage would be more affordable. Calendered vinyl is the more economical option – and is ideal for short-term projects and simple applications. Cast vinyl is more expensive, and better suited for long-term projects and applications exposed to extreme weathering.

Finally, when it comes to removal…

When applied to vehicles, windows, walls and flooring, calendered vinyl will produce what is refered to as "ghosting". The adhesive will separate from the vinyl, leaving torn, cracked vinyl pieces and a residue on the surface that can be difficult to remove. Using alcohol based removers may help, but usually buffing will do the trick. The removal process can be quite time-consuming – so be patient! This is less of an issue with the high performance cast vinyl – the adhesive hardly separates over time, making it easier to remove from most surfaces.

In short, your vinyl answer really depends on your particular situation. If you are simply applying vinyl to indoor walls for a few years, calendered is economical and quite effective. But, if you are applying vinyl lettering to your boat, which will be exposed over time to water and extreme heat, cast vinyl will be the longest lasting and better investment. Knowing the features and benefits of the two will allow you to make an informed decision for your special projects. So, really, "it depends" should probably be your vinyl answer ;)