vinyl types
Types of vinyl films

There are many types of vinyl film and depending on your project, Glyphics can advise which is best to achieve the effect you want.

  • Gloss vinyls
  • Matt vinyls
  • Frosted vinyls
  • Translucent vinyls
  • Transparent vinyls
  • Metallic vinyls
  • Reflective vinyls
  • Photo luminescent vinyls
  • Blackboard vinyls
  • Stencil vinyls

To help you understand what your choices are, we have collated a quick list of the most popular vinyl films used for graphics on walls, windows and doors and have explained some of their benefits. If you can’t find answers to your questions in the list below, give us a ring on 020 7739 7818 and we’ll be happy to help.

What is vinyl?
Vinyl is a plastic film with a self-adhesive backing. It comes in a roll, like wallpaper, and you can use it to add graphic designs, words and colour to virtually any smooth surface you like, indoors and outdoors.

Vinyls are tested very extensively by their manufacturers in the harshest conditions: from Sahara heat to Arctic cold. Many are tested for marine conditions so that they can be used for graphics on boats. Others are robust enough for use on aircraft and trains.

And as we show here, it also comes in a fantastic range of finishes and effects for you to choose from for your vinyl graphic projects.

Types of vinyl explained
All types of vinyl

Gloss vinyls
Gloss vinyl – like gloss paint – has a shiny surface. It comes in a big range of colours – bigger than any other kind of vinyl – and it’s designed to last for 3-5 years. Some premium quality gloss vinyls have an even longer life depending on the colour: black and white vinyls last the longest.

You’ll find that gloss vinyl stands up to the weather better than other vinyls – matt vinyl for example - so it’s a good choice for your exterior vinyl graphic projects.

If you have a Pantone, RAL, BS or paint colour in mind for a project, we’ll do our best to supply you with the closest colour match we can in a gloss vinyl.

Matt vinyls
Matt vinyl – like matt paint – has a flat, non-reflective surface. Many designers and architects prefer this look to the shine of a gloss vinyl. But despite this, vinyl manufacturers produce more colours in gloss than they do in matt. Perhaps they know something we don't!

These have the same level of longevity as gloss vinyls – 3-5 years on average.

If you have a Pantone, RAL, BS or paint colour in mind for a project, we’ll do our best to supply you with the closest colour match we can in a matt vinyl.

Translucent vinyls
These vinyls look solid but they’re designed to let light through: for example, from fluorescent tubes or LEDs on a lightbox sign used externally.

There’s a good range of colours particularly in the 3M translucent range.
The face of the vinyl has a satin finish and you can normally expect it to last 7-9 years, even outdoors.

Transparent vinyl
Transparent vinyl is see-through. It comes in a range of colours so you can get really creative vinyl graphics. It tends to be a bit thicker than some other vinyls and it’s mainly used for interior projects on glass, not externally and so would be almost classed as ‘display vinyl’: a vinyl that’s ideal for temporary or short-term use, such as exhibitions.

You can get some great effects by overlapping different colours of transparent vinyls. And you can print transparent colours onto clear vinyl to give you a wider colour palette.

Blackboard/Chalkboard vinyl
This black vinyl with a textured surface is designed to be written on with chalk or chalkboard pens and then wiped clean again with a damp cloth.



It’s thick and easy to apply, making it a great option for menu boards, children’s playrooms, office noticeboards or even for tabletops at parties. It’s best used indoors but can also stand up to the weather reasonably well on a restaurant or café A-board.

Metallic vinyls
These come in gloss and matt finishes in silver, gold, copper and bronze and more unusual finishes such as pearlescent, galvanized and graphite. They are mainly used to create decorative effects on panels and glass indoors. There are, however, some that have added protection built in so that they can withstand the weather outdoors.

Most metallic vinyls have a silver back, no matter what the metallic colour on the front is. So if you are using your metallic vinyl on a window and want it to be the same colour when viewed from outside and inside, be sure to ask for a double-sided metallic vinyl.

Reflective vinyls
Reflective vinyls are mainly used for road or road safety signs and also emergency vehicles like ambulances and police vehicles. By day, they tend to look like white or black strips. But by night, as their name implies, they reflect any light shone on them, to attract attention or as a warning.

They are manufactured in only a small range of colours, white and black being the main ones.

Photo luminescent vinyls
These special vinyls are designed to 'gather' light during the day and release it at night or when lighting is switched off. They’re mainly used for safety signs in offices.

Frosted vinyls
These vinyls are designed to go on glass. They let light through but you can’t see through them so they help to protect your privacy and can also stop people from walking into glass panels and doors. They have the look of etched, sandblasted or textured glass.

There are many frosted effects to choose from: from dark and light silvers to some colours: blue, green, pink, yellow and gold, for example. And you can also get some patterned finishes, such as rice paper, chequer board and spots.

Stencil vinyls
Choose these if you want to paint stencil effects on walls. Graphics can be cut out of them in a 'negative' form to create the stencil shapes. You then stipple or spray coloured paints through them onto the wall surface. The stencil vinyl is then easily removed when the paint has dried.

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