Upside-Down Thinking by Patric Fransko
by Patric Fransko
January 22nd, 2014

The Window Tint Dot Matrix Dilemma

Fransko_headshotEditor’s Note: In a new blog called Upside-Down Thinking, Patric Fransko will begin writing a series of pieces dedicated to thinking outside the box in the window film industry.Fransko has been in the window film industry for nearly 15 years. In that time, he has founded and run several succesful companies that continue today and is the current chief marketing officer at Interwest Distribution Co. and Interwest Tools. Additionally, Fransko is the founder and president of the Window Film Professionals Group on Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. For his first installment he discusses dot matrix dilemmas.

dotmatrixAnyone who has installed window film on a car is familiar with the dilemma of how to get the dot matrix areas to look good and consistent. Installers have tried everything from sanding the matrix to using glue sticks to combat the issue. Some have given up completely and just install solid black vinyl over the matrix area and but seam the window film to the vinyl.

Why is this issue so difficult to overcome? Well, with the exception of installing vinyl, one strategy will not work for all situations. In an effort to add some clarity to this issue, I wanted to detail out the various issues with dot matrix and the primary ways that installers are currently addressing the dot matrix dilemma.

To begin with, there are two main issues that installers deal with regarding dot matrix during a window film installation. The first is getting window film to stick properly in the matrix area. Often the film will want to peel back and not stick in this area. After discussing this with people in the glass industry, this issue stems from the fact that many of the materials that matrix is comprised of are designed to be resistant to things adhering to them. As a result, we are fighting the natural tendency of the material by trying to adhere something to it. As an illustration, think of trying to get things to stick to the inside of a Teflon-coated pan. Try as you might, things just do not want to adhere.

The second issue is that the installer can get the film to adhere to the dots, but the film appears to have a “silvering” in the matrix area when viewed from the outside. (See Picture) To make matters worse, this “silvering is often not uniform or consistent across the window drawing even more attention to this problem.

So, what can we do to combat these issues? Let’s tackle the first issue of the film not wanting to adhere to the matrix. The most common strategy for this is to use something to scuff the surface of the matrix area knocking off the top coat and creating a rougher surface that the film has an easier time adhering to. This method is often used in combination with a adhesive promoting solution. The idea is to make the material more conducive to the film adhering and then giving the adhesive the added boost of an adhesion promoter. This tends to work well at getting the film to stick to the glass, but the issue of “silvering” might still be present.

What causes the silvering? The basic explanation is that the profile of the dots serve to keep the film floating above the actual surface of the glass. The dots are spaced too closely together and the film rides on the top of the dots unable to deflect into the valleys between the dots to stick to the actual glass. The resulting gap between the glass and the film in these areas is what you are seeing when “silvering” is present. This is not an adhesion problem as the film is adhering to the matrix. This is a problem of the film not being able to deflect into the small areas between the dots, so it rides along the tops. You may notice that as the film cures that you can push down in these areas and reduce or eliminate the silvering. This is because once the mounting solution is completely dried out you can often push the film into these valleys and get it to stick to the glass. Often, even you are successful getting this to occur, the “silvering” will return to these areas again as the film cannot maintain adhesion in these valleys.

Other techniques to try and solve this problem would be sanding the dots down so the film can deflect into the channels easier. Also the use of a glue stick that essentially fills in the channels with glue so that you do not see the silvering. The film is still riding along the top of the dots, but the glue has been forced to flood the channels so there is no gap between the glass and film to cause the silvering. This technique can work, but it can be messy if the glue is over applied, and the glue can turn color with exposure to the sun creating a bigger eyesore down the road.

So, I am not sure that I have helped solve the problem in this blog post, but I hope I at least shed some light on the issue and several techniques to tackle the problem. I would love to hear back from you regarding successful strategies you have to deal with this pesky problem of our industry.

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  1. If the dots are at the top of the back window then the answer is not to tint at all. The answer is to paint the area on the inside and wallla the doted area looks perfect inside and out. I will last longer than the film and is very durable for cleaning. I have 31 years of exp. and have been using this technique for at least 20 yrs. The field testing has been done! It’s proven that there is a way to make dots look better than factory. This technique requires a certain prep for glass. Also a certain paint. Drop clothes for interior. And a masking skill above average. This is the basic principle, there is a lot more to it. This comes to you from

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I do know some people that use the method that you describe, but it does require time and prep that many installers do not want to take. Many use the black vinyl to give the same effect you are describing without the mess and prep of paint. They simply butt seam black vinyl to the window film so that the black vinyl covers all the dot area at the top and then the film covers everything else.

  3. Hi Patric this is TintWizard. A method I’ve used with great success is to drop dry the top portion of the tint where the dots are ( nothing new learned there) but my trade secret thereafter is to heat the outside of the glass with a dual heatgun , then go back inside with a head card wrapped with a new white scrubbie to smooth it out. With this combo, you’ve created a 3 dimensional squeegee capable of making contact through all the “valleys” of the dots and thereby sticking on contact (thanks to heating the outside and sanding the dots with 600 grit)
    Does not work all the time but many times with long term success)

  4. Great feedback Brad! Interesting strategy that makes sense with the 3D squeegee part.Thanks for sharing! I have not seen that technique used myself, but if it is working for you that is awesome.

  5. Soy partidario de calentar el vidrio y presionar inmediatamente despues … Y advertir al usuario que esa zona, ( y según el coche ) puede quedar con un aspecto derivado de la serigrafia del vidrio en cuestión.

  6. Thanks for the feedback Jose. That seems to be a popular method, but can still result is some inconsistent, splotchy areas in the dots that the customers often complain about.

  7. You noted that “with the exception of installing vinyl” there is no universal solution to this problem. What technique are you referring to with the vinyl?

  8. All of this has been well know by the professional installers for over 20 years so I’m trying to wrap my head around what is learned by this blog? If its to help newcomers I get it but there is still no solid method. Paint, tape, dotrix, sandpaper, felt wrapped card, heat, double heat, vinyl etc. Pick your poison.

  9. we at Solartint use the black vinyl method – but re-reading the comments as I have thousands of times on this subject – I am picking up on the “Teflon coated frying pan comment ” I understand about the valleys between the matrix but if its a Teflon issue has any one prepped the glass with alcohol or lacquer thinner or acrasol with any success ?

  10. As of now I would only recommend using the “Black Vinyl Method” installing a 10 year warranty Vinyl. Watch out using the cheap stuff, will have the same problem as film. It’s fast and easy, works almost every time except on vehicles with vary small dots, like on older Infiniti. Great way to up sell the customer!

    In the old days we used a product called Dot Mate, it was a chemical that would take off some of the coating of the Dot Matrix helping the film to stick like normal. Used to work great, but to bad Film Suppliers had to stop selling it because of restrictions to shipping product by Air. If anyone knows where to find it, please let me know.

    Glad to see newer Mustangs and few other car makers are starting to less dots around their windows.

  11. Here at Tint Masters in Evans, Ga we have tried just about every method and it slways seems to be hit and miss.
    We always prep the same way. Reg glass cleaner and a # 3 steel wool pad. We try to give the same amount of pressure evenly across all of the dots.
    My preferred choice is 3m scotch print wrap material. I recently have been using a method that Chris Robinson of The Tint Guy Window tinting put out there in a post recently. It’s simple but very effective. I prep my way install the film and squeegee the whole window. I pull the film off the dots and flush with straight water and reapply. It flushes the slip out and allows it to stick evenly.

  12. OK, I will try to answer the questions or address comments below:

    Rvinyl: Many installers have chosen to seam in black vinyl over the matrix area. They stop the window film at the start of the matrix and seam the vinyl over the matrix area with a product like Dotrix or other black vinyl products. This works to give the matrix area a uniform look, but that area is blacked out from the inside of the vehicle also.
    John Roades: I agree that much of this has been known for some time, but I still get many questions about this topic after 15 years that I have been in the business. There are many new people entering our industry each year and them having an understanding of this topic and some of the methods to address it was the purpose of the blog.
    Mark: You can knock the top surface a bit and be successful getting the film to stick to the matrix area as I mentioned in the blog, but you still might be dealing with non-uniformity because of the silvering. I think the, for lack of a better word, splotchiness of this area because of the silvering is what most people complain about.
    Fred: Thanks for the comments. Your knowledge of installation is immense and we appreciate you weighing in.
    Jay: Thanks for the feedback.

  13. I would just like to say thanks great blog and the comments are a great help.

    Has anyone tried tinting over scratched glass? it has a few deep scratches which i am guessing will be more visible with the tint.

    i am going to try a glass scratch removal kit first and if that fails maybe some sort of epoxy to fill the scratches then polish the glass.

    any recommendations for an epoxy or other work around (replacing the glass i can not afford right now)

  14. @Chris…Thanks for the kind words on the blog. As far as tinting over scratches, my experience is that they will become more noticeable once the glass is tinted. Unfortunately, I do not have much expertise in scratch removal on glass. I know that is a common practice with commercial glass, but not sure on automotive. Hopefully someone else can chime in to help you on that part.

  15. Patrick,

    Tinting over scratched glass with dark film will always highlite the scratches. Try not to suggest a dark film if this is the case.
    My technique with Dot Matrix is similar to some others but i note nobody has pointed out the most important thing !
    I clean the rear window thoroughly with 0000 (very light grade) steel wool and run this across the entire window, dot matrix included, there were some alcohol based solutions iv tried over the years to assist with the cleaning, one of which from memory was X-100 (not sure if thats available as the same title over in the USA).
    This helps remove any silicon based residue etc which will greatly improve the “Tack” of the window film.
    Then the important part is you sand back all the dot matrix at the very end of cleaning process as this ensures any small abrasive particles you remove with the “wet & dry” fine sand paper does not get rubbed all through the glass if you were to scour it after this process. Use the fine sand paper on your finger tips and run across the bottom perimeter of the window as well as the sides being very careful not to place too much pressure on the side sections where the demister lines are so not to break through the conductor paint. ( very important, iv never broken a line in 27 years with the sand paper)
    Upon finishing the sanding carefully squeegie lightly or i just flush the whole rear screen with water so again not to drag small abrasive particles across glass with squeegie which will definitely scratch it.
    When heating the window after applying film its important not to put too much heat inside on the film direct, i prefer to heat from the outside only and run a card wrapped in cloth across the inside so to push the film through the dots and ensure it adheres to the glass.
    The dot matrix should not be visible with this method.. This is how i have prepared vehicles for Car Shows and exhibits for years with pleasing results.
    Hope this helps,

  16. Steve,

    Thanks for the insight into your method to prepare the dot matrix area. Sounds like you have a thorough plan that is working well for you.


  17. I’ve used a green scotchbrite scrub pad for the past few months with no problems at all. Just uniform strokes across the dot matrix, flush out , squeegee window, apply film, peel back dot matrix section, and flush with a 30 to 70% isopropyl alcohol and water solution. Re squeegee with turbo squeegee in upward motion. If your film is shrunk correctly at the top, it’s perfect every time.

  18. Guys, have you tried a film of tar spray (tar diluted with solvent then heating after film applied?

  19. Have you? Because if you have I’d like to know how it worked….

  20. Simple solution is to don’t bother tinting at all if you have large dot matrix anywhere on your car windows. It actually looks worse than no tints.
    Just put front and rear shades when car is parked and wear sunscreen in summer or get rid of the car and look for ones that have a small or no dot matrix on the glass.
    People should send negative feedback to the manufacturers and simply avoid that particular brand/model.
    This has been a massive ongoing issue that manufacturers of cars and glass do not care about window tinting.

  21. Hmmmm…. This is an interesting aproach. Thanks for writing this article! I will defintiely be loking into this and seeing if this is an approach I would also like to use.

  22. Definitely needed this information now. Thank you for posting and give me what I need to know.

  23. Hello everyone.
    I recently tinted my car and have same issue with dot matrix. Prior to tinting, I sanded dot matrix with 0000 steel wool but unsuccessful.
    I’m going to try vinyl route, but I’m not sure which brand and type of vinyl to buy. I read about dotrix, but it comes in 16in by 50ft, which is way too much. None of tinting shops around me have dotrix and online distributors don’t have smaller rolls.
    Please let me know what brands of vinyl are best/durable/etc.
    Thank you in advance for your responses.
    God bless.

  24. I try my best to find the best vinyl for my car and finally got a vinyl frog wraps perfect for my car and it make me crazy with color combinations

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