Any wrap designer and installer will tell you the most essential step in any auto wrap design is accurate measurement and assessment. You may think this is a no-brainer, but many wrap designers begin thinking that a template they downloaded online will suffice. Although vehicle templates (which we will discuss in more detail later on in this series) are great for layouts, they do not do much in terms of creating accurate dimensions of the vehicle.

Create a Measurement Template

Although you may use a 2D template to help you design a vehicle, you might want to create a standard form that allows you or any employees to fill out quickly and easily when out in the field.

Example of a vehicle measurement template for a standard pick-up truck.


It might be helpful to have a few standard templates to tackle the jobs you’ll have the most (for example, if you think you’ll be specializing in fleet vehicles, you’ll at least want a small sedan, a pick-up truck, and a van). Keep copies of these printed out and ready to go, so all you’ll need to do is grab a clipboard and measuring tape. Also, do not forget to measure windows if you will be doing any window graphics as a part of your design.

This may seem like a lot of measurements, and you may not use them all. But depending on how complex the design is, no amount of information is too much. You won’t want to go back and remeasure the vehicle twice, so get all the information you can before you begin designing the job.

Taking Photos of the Vehicle

You’ll want to photograph the vehicle from each side as a reference. Not only will this help you with design placement, but you can see much more clearly where deep curves and edges exist. Some things to consider when photographing a vehicle:

  1. You’ll want the photos to be “head on,” meaning the photo plane is parallel with the side of the vehicle you are shooting. Angles will skew your perception in the design process.
  2. You will need the entire view of the vehicle in the frame. It may mean moving it, but you’ll need to be far enough away from the vehicle to keep the whole side or front in view.
  3. Use natural lighting. That means you’ll want to take the photo outside. This will make sure you don’t have the glare of fluorescent lights or shadows obscuring the details of the vehicle.

You may wonder what type of camera to use, and you’ll be happy to know that your average smart phone takes pretty high resolution photos that will serve as a good reference. If you are using the photos as a template, then a high resolution digital camera will work best.

Assessing the Vehicle

It’s nice to have a handy checklist of things to look out for when assessing the vehicle. It’s important to do a pre-assessment so that you can be aware of any potential issues. For example, are there any issues with the paint such a chipping or sun spots? Are their any dents or damage to the vehicle? What sort of body accessories are there? Make note of all of these things before you even begin, and if you foresee issues with the installation process, communicate them to your client.

If you want accurate measurements and great photos without using the old fashioned method of measuring by hand, then the Spike measurement tool by IkeGPS is well worth an investment. It’s a laser measuring tool that connects to your smartphone or tablet, and takes photos with insanely accurate measurements of any structure (buildings or vehicles). You’re files are stored on the cloud, so you and your designer can access them anytime, anywhere. Forget to measure windows? Spike stores all the laser alignment information in the cloud, so you can use the original files to measure new parts of the vehicle. No more going back out into the field for a second assessment!

Spike laser measurement tool being used to measure dimensions of a building.

Once you’ve assessed and measured the vehicle, you’re ready to start the design process. Stay tuned for the second part of this series to learn best practices for designing a vehicle wrap.