Creating Custom Number Plates

Feb. 4 2016

Customers often call us asking for custom work. We're more than happy to help you out - Mr. Jones from Wisconsin is looking for some obscure Pontiac logo from the 1950s, Ms. Farriss needs a replica logo from a drag bike, Tom needs an 899 Panigale decal - but there are materials we need to make these decals.

Usually we can make designs from a few high-resolution pictures taken with a ruler. A low-res photo with no dimensions on it makes it nearly impossible to figure out what it is we need to make.

Other times can we make designs from scratch, using photos as a guide and working with the customer to reach the product that he or she wants. It's a time-intensive process that involves a lot of trial and error, and can often result in an expensive end result.

Because of this time and cost, we often have customers say "It's just a decal, how come it costs so much?"

The easy answer, of course, being that the vinyl is not the biggest part of the cost.


Our Custom-Design Process is outlined below:

Click on each picture to expand.


Jon's seat cowl was a relatively straightforward job. He had a photo example of exactly what he wanted and he gave us the piece to work with, so we knew what the end goal was and what surface it was going on. This is critical information that we need in order for us to produce custom decals like this - if you send us an email and ask us if we can make ______ from a ____-year ______ without any pictures at all, the answer is going to be no.

We welcome any vector artwork you have for us, but be aware that vinyl does have its physical limitations.

How We Did It:


The first step with any job is to work with the customer to determine what they want.

In this case Jon brought in his Triumph Thruxton seat cowl and a picture of what he was trying to replicate.
The colors were to be white / black / and green-gold to closely match the OEM racing stripe.The number needed to be 07 and it needed to extend above and below the number plate.

We showed him the number 07 in a number of fonts until he saw the one he liked. Past this point we have a minimum of another 4-5 days before this job reaches completion.


Now the real work begins.

We lay some 1/8” pinstriping on the seat cowl and play with the size and shape until we get something that looks right to the eye and that we know is not too complex to be installed without wrinkling at the outer edges.


Next we take an oversize section of white car wrap vinyl and install it over the number plate shape.

A fine point Sharpie was used to trace the profile along the edge of the pinstriping that is underneath. Now we know exactly how the shape needs to be. You cannot do this any other way if you want it right (a pic may you get close but we have found that a test cut and install always needs correcting. And that means more time, effort, and cost.


The pattern is removed from the seat cowl, trimmed down a bit with scissors, then adhered to a big piece of paper.

The design on the piece of vinyl on the sheet of paper is scanned 1:1, then brought into Adobe Illustrator, where we create the vector lines that we use to create the design in the computer. We use Adobe Illustrator to make all of our decals, including those standard die-cut decals - the vector lines become cut lines.

In this case, Jon wanted an outline stripe, so a .125" inward offset is chosen.


The 07 is brought into the art and scaled so that it overhangs as Jon wanted.

Two versions were sent to the customer to choose from. Jon chose proof 1 with white border around the 07. Notice that the left-side and right-side decals differ in design.


Before printing the job we need to match up the OEM Racing stripe color.

Color swatches were printed in four separate attempts to get the color as close as possible to the OEM stripe.
This is often a hit or miss, trial and error ordeal as the colors under fluorescent lights are completely different than under sunlight plus the overlaminate will also cause a slight color shift. We eventually found the winner, which was applied to the artwork.


Next we set up, print, and laminate the vinyl.

Setting up for digital print requires an alignment box and crop marks be added and set up for efficient printing
on 54” wide digital print vinyl. The print file is sent over to the digital printer computer, where it is opened in the print program, oriented, settings adjusted for type of material and print quality, and then we hit Print. Digital printed decals typically require 3 days in production (after the artwork has been produced).

Day 1: Print

Day 2: Let the solvents in the ink evaporate

Day 3: Apply high-gloss laminate for protection and durability.


Now we set up the profile cut of the printed decal, optical align the crop marks on a special vinyl cutter, and cut the profile.


Now we prepare for installation.

Remove (weed) the waste vinyl away from decal and trim away some of the excess. We trimmed to within about 1/4-inch of the decal for easier handling.


The seat cowl gets cleaned to remove all grease, dirt, oil and then we take a few strips of masking tape to determine exactly where it will look best.


The decal gets installed. Our install direction was from front to back.

Not familiar with our recommended installation techniques? Check Out the Instructions!