Category Archives: Informational Articles

Informational articles on Retro-Reflective tape

Enclosed Lens versus Encapsulated Lens Reflective Tape / Sheeting – Definition

Enclosed Lens versus Encapsulated Lens – Retro Reflective Sheeting  (enclosed=engineer grade / encapsulated=high intensity)

Reflective Sheeting comes in several types, colors, brightnesses, etc.. Some of the terminology that describes the different types of reflective sheeting can be confusing. This article is going to define the terms enclosed lens and encapsulated lens reflective sheeting. These terms have to do with the construction of the reflective film. These 2 methods of construction also define the look and feel of the tape. In other words you can look at a reflective tape sample and tell which type of construction was used. (In a separate article I will be discussing metallized and non metallized prismatic sheeting.)

Enclosed Lens Retro Reflective Sheeting

This method of construction applies only to glass bead type reflective films. Enclosed lens is also known as engineer grade (type 1) or super engineer grade (type 2) reflective sheeting. The glass beads provide the reflectivity by bouncing light back to the source. Each glass bead is like a lens. In an enclosed lens film the glass beads are completely surrounded by the flexible polymer that makes up the film. Nothing is able to get to the beads except light. The polymer that surrounds the beads is often tinted which is what creates the different colors. The top part of the image below shows how this works. With this type film you can cut it anywhere you wish and not affect the integrity of the beads. This is why this type film is often used for graphics applications such as letters and numbers on vehicles. Enclosed lens films generally have no visible pattern. Just a smooth color like white, red, green, blue, black, yellow, brown, gold or orange.

Enclosed Lens versus Encapsulated Lens Reflective Tape / Sheeting

Encapsulated Lens Retro Reflective Sheeting

Encapsulated lens reflective sheeting also refers to glass bead type films. Specifically a type 3 high intensity film. In this type of construction the glass beads are encapsulated in cells. As long as the cell is intact, water and the elements cannot get to the actual bead. However, when the film is cut the cells on the edge are exposed and water intrusion can occur if the cell is not sealed using a clear coat. (only the cells on the edge would be affected) In other words, the beads are only protected within the cell. Because the beads are not completely surrounded by a polymer, they reflect more brightly. The top of the cell they are in is either clear or tinted to create a colored film. The bottom of the image above shows this type of construction. If you look at an encapsulated film you will be able to see the cells as either a honeycomb pattern or diamond pattern. If you look very close you will see the small beads. (If you see prisms within the cell then you are looking at a non metallized prismatic film which we will discuss in a different article.)

Reflectivity Specifications on the Different Types of Reflective Sheeting

There are several types of reflective sheeting.  Engineer grade is the most common and is known as a type 1 film.  Super engineer grade is a type 2.  High intensity is the brightest glass bead film and is a type 3.  The first prismatic film is a type 5.  The brightest film is a type 8 and is often called crystal or diamond grade.  We have charts on each of the films below.  Exact intensities will vary by manufacturer but the charts below are a good guide.  Also, please note that the Type 3 High Intensity chart also defines observation and entrance angles.

Type 1 Engineer Grade Reflectivity Chart

Type 2 Super Engineer Grade Reflectivity Chart

Type 3 High Intensity Reflectivity Chart

Type 4 High Intensity Prismatic (HIP)

High Intensity Prismatic Reflectivity

Type 5 V82 Prismatic Tape (thin tape)

Type 5 Reflective Tape Specs

V98 Oralite Conformable Prismatic (slightly thicker than V92/V82)

orate v98 reflectivity specifications

Type 8 Crystal / Diamond Grade Reflectivity Chart (thick stiff tape)

How to Install Reflective Tape – Troubleshooting, Removing

Installing reflective tape is a very simple process.

It is basically a peel, stick and press process.  However, some preparation must be done beforehand to insure a long lasting application. Adhesive performance depends almost entirely on surface preparation.

Before beginning an installation there are a few factors to consider.

  • First, it is up to the installer to determine whether the surface that the tape will be applied to is able to accept adhesive type tapes.  For example, some plastics are non stick and difficult to apply to.  Also, rough surfaces are difficult to apply to because the tape does not touch the entire surface.
  • Second, newly painted surfaces should fully cure before tape is applied.  Otherwise the gases from the curing paint will deteriorate the adhesive and cause the application to fail.
  • Third, do not apply tape in freezing weather or allow the tape to freeze.  This will damage the adhesive.  Once installed, the tape needs to cure for at least 48 hours before it is subjected to sub zero temperatures.
  • Fourth, when installing “Flexible Engineer Grade Tape” keep in mind that it is temperature sensitive during installation.  (after installation the temperature does not affect it) When the tape is cold it is stiff.  When it is hot it is very flexible.  The recommended temperature for applying is 59 – 77 degrees.  (see special instructions for this tape at the bottom of this page)

Instructions for Applying Reflective Tapes

The surface should be clean and dry and it should be dry outside.  Do not apply in the rain or moist environments. A sunny day is optimal. Air temperature should be between 32 and 100 degrees. Also, it helps to apply a small piece first as practice.


The surface that the tape will be placed on needs to be clean, dry and free of any contaminants such as dirt, grease, oil, etc.. Hand washing the application area with soap and water will accomplish this.

Also, to insure that the area is clean, a cloth soaked in isopropol alcohol can be used to wipe the surface down. Before the alcohol dries wipe it down again with a separate rag. This will also help dry the surface and will insure that the adhesive on the tape is able to penetrate the surface and form a good bond.


Peel the backing off the the material as you apply it. Do not peel off more than you can work with at one time and do not let it stick to itself.  Also, avoid touching the adhesive side of the tape since the oils on your hands can contaminate the adhesive and reduce its effectiveness.

Lay the material down using your fingers to press it onto the surface. Try to avoid laying the tape down and then pulling it up and laying it down again since this tends to degrade the adhesive.  TIP- We have a picture below of a hinge application method that can help keep the tape straight during application.

Using a squeegee or similar object, press the tape onto the surface. Gently at first and then with more pressure. This will force the adhesive into the pores of the surface. If neccessary, wrap the squeegee in cloth to keep from scratching the material. If a squeegee is not available use a cloth to press the tape firmly to the surface. When you come to a seam, cut the material with a razor blade. Go over rivets and then after application cut around the rivets with a razor blade or exacto so that the material lays flat all the way around the rivet.  NOTE – Our flexible engineer grade will conform over the rivets in most cases.

Our Flexible Engineer Grade and Flexible High Intensity tapes WILL go around corners and fold around the edges of doors, however, our other reflective tapes are stiffer and WILL NOT stretch and are not designed to wrap around sharp corners or be folded over 90 degree edges. If you go around a sharp corner cut the tape and begin a new piece around the corner. The edges of the tape should be kept about 1/4″ from the edge of the surface that you are working on. If you bend the stiff tapes around a sharp corner they will stick at first but will eventually come up. The material is designed to be applied to generally flat surfaces.  As stated before, for complex curves use our Flexible Engineer Grade or Flexible High Intensity Grade Tapes.

Special Instructions for Flexible Engineer Grade tape – Application Temperature – 59 – 77 degrees fahrenheit. In this range the tape performs like standard adhesive vinyl.  When the temperature is above this range the flexible engineer grade material becomes very soft and pliable. When the temperature is below this range the material becomes stiffer. (The material is designed this way so that if necessary it can be heated with a hair dryer during application to make it conform to complex curves, rivets, etc..) The material can be installed in temperatures above and below the recommended range, however, it is easier to install in the recommended temperature range.

If installing outside in hot or cold temperatures it helps to keep the tape inside an air conditioned or heated vehicle until you are ready to install it. In the summer, installing in the shade is helpful and in the winter, installing in direct sun is preferable. Also, we have posted some pictures of how a masking tape hinge can be used to position the tape and apply it. In warmer weather this method will help in the installation of the flexible engineer grade tapes.

Service Temperature – Once installed the tape can handle temperatures from -22 to +176 degrees fahrenheit.

Removing Reflective Tape

Some reflective tapes are easier to remove than others.  However, the process for removing them is the same.  First, heat the tape with a hair dryer or heat gun.  If you use a heat gun be careful not to use so much heat that you damage the substrate.  As you heat, try to gently peel the tape off.  Some tapes will come off whole and some will come off in pieces.  You can use a razor blade if you wish but just be careful not to dig into the substrate.  If you use a razor blade I recommend you lubricate the area with WD40.  Once the tape is removed coat the area with an adhesive remover like Goo Gone or Goof Off.  Wipe or scrape off all residue.  Then clean with soap and water or any other cleaner.

How to Reduce Rear End Collisions – Fleets and Utility Vehicles

Reducing Rear End Collisions for Commercial and Utility Vehicle Fleets.  (click here to see our reflective rear panel products)

In the US alone there are approximately 137,500 accidents that involve commercial vehicles. To bring this into perspective, every 16 minutes, one person is injured or killed in an accident involving a commercial vehicle.

Rear End Collision Utility TruckApproximately 50% of these accidents occur in daytime and about 50% occur at night.

About 1/3 of these accidents involve rear end collisions. These rear end collisions are what our product addresses. The reason for stressing this particular type of collision is that other types of collisions can be reduced through driver training. However, reducing rear end collisions is a different matter.

Rear end collisions occur when a driver does not see a slower or stopped vehicle in front of them in time to stop. Vehicles that make frequent stops in or around moving traffic are especially susceptible to this type of accident. Since most of these vehicles are commercial, the liability associated with collisions can be substantial.

Increasing vehicle conspicuity or visibility is the key to reducing these types of accidents. Increased visibility equates to more reaction time which in turn leads to a substantial reduction in collisions.

The use of bright, high visibility, reflective tape either in a chevron pattern or in an alternating pattern has been shown to reduce accidents by up to 41%.  The effectiveness of this method has been proven in the fire apparatus and emergency vehicle market.

(click here for a more detailed three part article on reducing rear end collisions)

Retro Reflective Tape / Sheeting Brightness or Reflectivity Comparison Chart

There are several types of reflective tape with each varying in brightness, flexibility and conform ability. Some have a type rating like “Type 1 or 3” and some do not.  Generally, tapes that are used as sign sheeting on DOT roads are known by a Type 1, 2, 3, 5 or 8 designation.  Tapes used in other applications are not rated by type.  SOLAS marine tape is an example of this.  The different reflective tapes vary in brightness but also have some other characteristics that should be considered.  The tape you choose will depend on your application, the surface, and how far away the tape needs to be seen.

The chart below lists the major types of reflective tape along with each tapes brightness and any special characteristics.

  • The reflectivity factors below are in candelas and are measured at a -4 degree entrance angle.  The factors are approximate and meant to be used as a comparison.  The factors below are for white tape.
  • To be CAD cut means that the material can or cannot be cut with a computer controlled vinyl cutter for the creation of letter, numbers, symbols, etc.
  • Flexible means that the tape bends easily.  Thin, flexible tape will bend around a radius easier.
  • Stretchable means it will stretch to conform around complex curves. Only the flexible engineer grade and flexible high intensity will do this.
Reflective Tape Type and Name Brightness (white) Special Characteristics
Engineer Grade Type I 80-100 Candelas Flexible but only stretches a little. Can be CAD cut.
Flexible Engineer Grade Type I 80-100 Candelas Flexible and will stretch. Especially when warmed.  Can be easily CAD cut.
Super Engineer Grade Type II 185 Candelas Flexible and will stretch a little. Can be CAD cut.
High Intensity Grade Type III 250 Candelas Flexible and does not stretch. Difficult to CAD cut.
Flexible High Intensity Type III 250 Candelas Flexible and will stretch. Can be CAD cut.
V92 Reflexite Prismatic 460 Candelas Flexible and will not stretch. Can be CAD cut.
V98 Reflexite Prismatic similar to v92 Flexible and will stretch slightly. Can be CAD cut.
Oralite 5900 High Intensity Prismatic Type IV 500 Candelas Flexible and will not stretch. Difficult to CAD cut.
V82 Reflexite Prismatic Type 5 700 Candelas Flexible and will not stretch. Can be CAD cut.
CRG Nikkalite Prismatic Type VIII 700+ Candelas Stiffer, Thicker Film. Will not stretch. Cannot be CAD cut. Very similar to a diamond grade tape.
Reflexite SOLAS Prismatic Tape 1000+ Candelas Thin and Flexible. Will not stretch. Extra aggressive adhesive. Also available in a sew on material.

Specialty Reflective Tapes-
V97 Reflexite Fluorescent Yellow Tape – thicker than a V92 tape but still CAD cuttable. Reflects at about 325 candelas which is excellent for a yellow colored film.  Used for the backs of fire trucks as Chevron Striping.
R99 Railcar Tape – Schoolbus yellow color (golden yellow) or White. White reflects at 600 candelas and the yellow reflects at 400. Flexible but will not stretch. Used to mark rail cars.  Also known as FRA tape.

Reflective Tape For Snow Poles and Snowy Winter Conditions

Each year, as the weather turns colder, people in Northern States and Canada begin to gear up for snowy conditions.  Snow plow companies begin making snow poles to mark roads and driveways and snow mobile enthusiasts begin to prepare their trails and snowmobiles.  There are also a variety of other types of vehicles and objects that need to be seen at night and in the daytime in snowy conditions.  (i.e. dumpsters, roll off containers, fire hydrants, utility boxes, gates, fences, etc..)

Creating visibility in the snow is always a matter of CONTRAST.  The words in this article are only visible because they are black and the background is off white.  In northern states contrast in the summer time is going to be different than contrast in the snow for obvious reasons.  Also, you have to consider visibility in the daytime and at night.  You can see how this can be a bit of a challenge.

To keep this article simple I am going to list the different colors of prismatic tape along with their pros and cons for snow visibility.  Prismatic tapes are the brightest class of tape and are excellent for snow conditions.  I have a picture of the different tapes above.

White -This is the brightest tape by far.  White prismatic reflects any where from 500 for DOT white to  1000 candelas for SOLAS.  Against a dark background this is great but against a white background visibility drops.  In the daytime white is not very noticeable.

Fluorescent Lime Yellow – This tape is visible day and night.  It is also very bright although not as bright as white.  Roughly 325 candelas which is excellent.  It can be seen against almost any background.  The advantage to this film over white is that it reflects a color which is important when white is your background.

School Bus Yellow – This film reflects at about 310 candelas which is very good.  It is about as bright as the fluorescent yellow.  At night they look similar but in the daytime the fluorescent yellow is more visible. This tape reflects yellow making it visible against other colors.

Orange – This film reflects at 185 candelas.  This is actually very good for an orange tape.  Orange against other colors really stands out.  It normally designates a work zone so it is a good color for snow poles.  The darker shade stands out against white quite well.

Red – This film reflects at 75 candelas.  Don’t let the low number fool you.  Keep in mind you are sending out 75 candelas of a red color which really gets peoples attention and stands out against snow very well.  It is also very visible in the daytime.  Good film for snow poles.

Green – This reflects at the same rate as red.  Good color to mark areas that are ok to go into.  Green is a universal “GO” color.  Stands out well.  Use it where green is needed.

Blue –  This tape reflects at 35 candelas.  For blue that is very good.  Goes well mixed with other colors.  Good against light colored backgrounds.  35 candelas is plenty of light to see the film from several hundred feet away.

Keep in mind that you can mix colors to create any effect you wish.  You could do two stripes of red with white in between to get a good contrast.  You can use green to mark areas that are ok to enter and red to mark do not enter zones.  Blue is commonly used for fire hydrants.  Yellow is a work zone color and signifies caution.   As I stated before, I recommend the prismatic tapes over other types of reflective tapes because of the higher reflectivity.

I hope this helps.  We have these films available at and

Reflective Tape for Automatic and Manual Gates and Fences

Note – This article addresses ways to mark gates that are located on private property and do not open onto a DOT regulated road.  For gates that open onto a road see our other articles on this site about MUTCD or Army Corp of Engineer gate marking requirements.

Gates and fences are designed to block or limit access to certain areas.  Standard gates are expensive and automatic gates are very expensive.  Needless to say, no one wants their gate to be struck by a vehicle.  This is where reflective tape can help.  When marking your gate or fence you have several choices of reflective tape in varying intensities and colors.  You are going to want to make sure your gate is visible in the day, at night, close up and far away.

In the daytime color is the key.  You need a bright color that will get peoples attention.  Barricade tapes that are striped at angles are excellent in getting the attention of a driver.  These tapes are available in an engineer grade as well as a high intensity grade.  Also, they can be purchased in a red/white or orange/white combination. DOT tapes are also great for daytime visibility.  They alternate white and red.  You see these tapes used extensively on over the road trucks.  We also have a gate arm tape that looks similar but has 16″ alternating colors.  These striped tapes are like the barricade tapes but the stripes go up and down and not diagonally.  DOT tapes are only available in the prismatic grade.  (brightest) All of these tapes make your gate very conspicuous night and day.

If you prefer to use a single color and still want daytime visibility you can choose a colored engineer grade, high intensity or prismatic grade of tape.  Red, orange, yellow, blue and green are available.  Alternating colors is also an option.  Engineer grade is bright at night, high intensity is brighter and Prismatic is brightest.

For visibility at night you can use the options above.  However, you also have the option of using a tape that blends in with the gate.  If your gate is white or silver or grey then a white engineer, high intensity or prismatic tape will blend and also be the brightest at night.  White is always the brightest color.  If you have a bronze or black gate and want the tape to blend in the daytime then you only have one choice.  That is black engineer grade reflective tape.  This tape is black in the day but reflects a goldish color up to a white color depending on the brightness of the light hitting it.  Keep in mind that black reflective tape reflects at about 10 candela while a white engineer grade reflects at 75 candelas.  Compare this with a prismatic tape that can reflect from 500 – 1000 candelas depending on the type.  I have found that black is good for gates in very dark alleys where there is no competing light.  If you do use black then you would want to use as much as possible.

Of all the choices above the safest in my opinon is the DOT tape or RGA Rail Gate Arm reflective tape.  They get your attention in the day and are extremely bright at night.  They are visible from thousands instead of hundreds of feet away.

If you have a gate that is required by law to have alternating red and white tape on it then you will want to use our RGA (rail gate arm) reflective tape.  You can view an article on that tape by clicking here.  The picture below shows the basic requirements for a Corp Of Engineers Gate.

I hope this article is helpful.  If you have any questions you can email me or call me at 850-934-3157.

Chevron Striping NFPA 1901 – Reflective Diamond Plate Solutions – Article 2

Free V98 Sample Pack.  In 2009 the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) issued a recommendation known as NFPA 1901 that sets standards for reflective striping on fire trucks and fire apparatus.

In this article we will cover section of NFPA 1901 which covers the rear of the vehicle.  Specifically, we are going to cover how to make diamond treadplate reflective with chevron striping.  The NFPA requirement is summarized below.

REFLECTIVE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE REAR OF THE VEHICLE (summary) At least 50 percent of the rear-facing vertical surfaces, visible from the rear of the apparatus, excluding any pump panel areas not covered by a door, shall be equipped with retro-reflective striping in a chevron pattern sloping downward and away from the centerline of the vehicle at an angle of 45 degrees.  The stripes are to be alternating red and yellow.  Standard or Fluorescent yellow is accepted.   Each stripe should be 6″ wide and should be a minimum of type 1 (engineer grade).

(end summary)

As you know many fire trucks utilize diamond plate or treadplate on the rear of the vehicle.  This creates a challenge when trying to achieve a 50% coverage ratio.  If the amount of diamond plate is small then the area can simply be bypassed.  However, this often creates an unbalanced look.  If the diamond plate area is larger then some type of reflective treatment is necessary.

There are several very effective ways to make diamond treadplate reflective.  All of the materials can be purchase at our online store

Reflective DOTS for Treadplate – 3/4″ reflective dots can be placed onto the flat area between the diamonds to create a reflective surface.  Dots or circles are easy to apply and seem to be easier to line up.  When using dots or circles you should keep in mind that you are getting about a 44% coverage ratio on the treadplate.  To achieve a 50% overall coverage you would need to have some solid chevron striping on the back of the truck as well.  The image at the top of this page is a good example.  One secret to applying circles is to push each one into the same corner on the diamond plate pattern.  (versus trying to center each one.)  This will guarantee a perfect line.  We have more information on the reflective circles at this link.

Reflective Squares or Rounded Squares – squares or diamonds that are 3/4″ in size also work very well.  They give you a 65 – 75% coverage ratio which is much better than circles.  If the entire back of a truck was diamond plate then covering the area with squares or rounded squares would achieve the NFPA recommendation.  Apply the rounded squares is a peel and stick process.   To get them straight you can make a faint, straight line with a pencil and then apply.  You can click here for more information on the reflective rounded squares or standard squares.

Reflective Overlays – overlays cover even more than squares and are easier to line up.  With an overlay you can cover 4 spaces at once which makes application about 4 times faster.  A coverage ratio of plus 80% can be achieved with this method.  The ones shown to the left are cut from Reflexite V98 series film.  This is a conformable and repositionable tape which makes it very popular with fire departments and graphics companies.   It is a peel and stick application.  We have more information on the reflective overlays at this link.

NFPA 1917 1901 Chevron Strips

Reflective Chevron Strips (Style A or B) – our chevron strips are an easy way of creating 6 inch wide highly reflective stripes on diamond plate. They are custom cut to fit around the diamonds. It takes just seconds per decal to install. This is the fastest method that we know of for applying reflectivity to diamond plate.  We have two styles to fit two diamond plate layouts. Some diamonds are right at 1″ from tip to tip and some are 1/16″ less than an inch. We have these available at .

Reflexite V98 Conformable Chevron Striping – if you want 100% coverage you can simply use a conformable sheeting like the new Reflexite V98 material.  This material will conform over the diamond plate.  We have had good success with it, however, you may want to try a sample piece on your diamond plate to be sure you get the conformability you need.  One thing that we found effective was to lay the yellow down first and then overlap the yellow with the red.  (red on top) This seems to create a better seal since the red is a little more flexible.  We have the Reflexite Conformable V98 material on our main website.

Reflexite V98 Conformable Reflective Chevron Striping

Making Diamond Treadplate Reflective Using Dots, Circles, Squares or Panels – Article 1

Free Sample Pack.  Most firetruck manufacturers integrate diamond plate (treadplate) into their vehicles.  On horizontal surfaces this creates a nice non skid surface.  When applied vertically it does look good, however, it creates a problem when the fire department wants to make that area reflective.  This is especially relevant on the rear of the vehicle where the NFPA 1901 guideline states that 50% should be striped with reflective yellow and red chevrons.  On flat surfaces the chevrons are easily created using red and yellow Rolls of Reflective Striping. On tread plate or diamond plate reflective patterns or stripes can be created using 3/4″ dots, rounded squares or reflective appliques (panels).  The 3/4″ dots are applied to the flat area between the raised treads.  Specially designed reflective appliques/panels/overlays can be placed over the treads for more coverage.  Applying the dots, squares or overlays is a little time consuming but very simple.  Since the dots or overlays sit below the treads they are somewhat protected.  When using reflective dots or squares it is also easy to create numbers or letters within the diamond plate.

We carry the 3/4″ dots, 3/4″ rounded squares, 3/4″ squares and overlays in a highly reflective prismatic material called Reflexite V98.  All provide a viable solution to making diamond plate reflective so that it conforms to the NFPA 1901 standards.   They can be ordered at .  The pictures below show the 3/4″ dots installed on a fire truck.  As you can see, the result is amazing and as I stated before, very simple.  Just peel and stick.

Taken with a flash camera.