I'm sure there are a million ways to install graphics, but this is what has worked for me.
- Windex or other alcohol based window cleaner (Windex is the best)
- Simple Green or other light degreaser
- A few clean shop towels
- A plastic card, such as a credit card
- Hair Dryer (don't tell your wife)
Prepping the Plastic
The key here is clean, clean clean. If the plastic is new or close to new, spray on a little degreaser and wipe it dry with a towel. If the plastic has deeper scratches with embedded dirt, clean with degreaser and a soft bristle brush.
Installing the graphics
Some install graphics on the bike, some off. I think it's a matter of personal preference. However, it also depends upon what kind of graphics you're installing. For example, if you're installing a tank/shroud & seat cover kit, where the graphics from the tank/shrouds continue on into the seat, everything needs to line up properly to look good and installing on the bike makes this much, much easier. For these kits, install the seat cover first, then orient the graphics to line up with it. Don't worry, they only line up perfectly in the pictures on the manufacturer's web site.
Pick the panel you'd like to start with an give it a light to moderate coating of Windex. Fairly quickly, peel the entire backing off the graphic and gently place it about where it should stay. At this point, do NOT press down hard. Many graphics use pressure sensitive adhesive and the goal here is to use the Windex to allow you to slide the graphic on the plastic, making fine adjustments until everything is exactly where it should be. Since the Windex will evaporate slowly, you have some time to make these adjustments, but of course, not all day.
Once the graphic is where you want it, apply some downward pressure to set it place and begin the process of carefully removing the unevaporated Windex from underneath the graphic. This is done by wrapping the plastic credit card with a cotton towel and using it like a squeegee. Remember, Windex evaporates, so you don't need to get it completely dry.
Once there seems to be very little Windex left underneath the graphic, plug in your hair dryer and speed up the evaporation process, being careful to not get the graphic too hot, as the vinyl can melt. Usually just a minute of two per panel is enough.
Lastly, using a clean, dry towel over your hand, carefully apply downward pressure over the entire graphic, making sure it's firmly in contact with the panel. Be very careful to not push the graphic, screwing up your alignment.
Let the bike sit for 24 hours and you're ready to ride. If you find any bubbles in the graphics, welcome to the club. As far as I'm concerned, only the factory can get graphics on as perfect as they do. However, small air bubbles can be popped with a needle and improved visually.
Lastly, graphics on plastic fuel tanks, even though they are perforated will eventually bubble and there is really nothing you can do about it. Remember, it's a dirt bike not a show car and nothing in life is perfect.
Now go make that bike purdy!