Whats the Difference Between Calendered and Cast Vinyl?

Choosing the Right Vinyl:

Vinyl is one of the most widely used materials for graphics, signage, and surface applications across industries. From advertising and promotion to architectural signage and vehicle wraps, vinyl brings many benefits in versatility, cost-effectiveness, and visual impact. With advanced printing technologies, almost any graphic can be printed onto a vinyl substrate.

There are two main types: calendared and cast. While they share some similarities and uses, there are key differences in how they are manufactured, their properties, cost, and ideal applications. Understanding the distinction between calendared and cast vinyl is important for matching the material to the usage and getting the most value.

Orafol Vinyl

This guide will dive into the differences between these two primary vinyl types. We'll look at how calendared and cast vinyl are produced, key attributes like durability and thickness, ideal usage scenarios, and factors to consider when deciding which to choose for your specific needs. With the right knowledge, you can select the optimal vinyl film for any graphics application.

Vinyl Manufacturing Process

Vinyl begins its life as small pellets of plastic resin. These pellets are heated and melted down into a thick liquid that can then be manipulated into different forms through various manufacturing processes. This is where calendared and cast vinyl diverge.

  • Calendared vinyl is produced by pouring the heated vinyl liquid through a series of rollers that press and flatten it into thin uniform sheets. The vinyl is squeezed between large, polished chrome rollers under high pressure, spreading the vinyl and calibrating it to a specific thickness. This manufacturing method results in vinyl with a consistent gauge and smooth matte finish on both sides.
  • Cast vinyl uses a different approach. The liquid vinyl is poured or "cast" onto a paper or polyester backing material before being run through an oven to cure and solidify.
  • This allows the vinyl to be produced in thicker gauges with a wider range of textures and finishes. The backing gives the vinyl enhanced dimensional stability. Cast vinyl can have textures and glossy finishes on one side, while the backside adheres to the substrate.

The different production methods result in vinyl films with unique properties optimized for certain applications and performance requirements. Understanding the manufacturing process provides insight into why calendared and cast vinyl behave differently in use.

Calendared Vinyl

Calendared vinyl, sometimes referred to as economy or standard vinyl, is one of the two main types of vinyl film used in graphics and signage applications. Manufactured through a process called calendaring, which involves pressing the vinyl resin between large, heated rollers to form thin, uniform sheets.

The main advantages of calendared vinyl are that it is inexpensive and versatile. Here are some key details about calendared vinyl:

Manufacturing Process

  • Made by pressing heated vinyl resin between large rollers.
  • Produces uniform thin sheets, usually around 2-3 mm thick.
  • Highly automated processes allow for mass production.

Typical Uses

  • Short-term outdoor signage
  • Decals and graphics for flat surfaces
  • Promotional graphics that will be discarded after events.
  • Cost-effective option for simple graphics

Oracal 651


  • Economical and affordable vinyl option
  • Suitable for short-term flat surface applications
  • Easy to cut and apply in basic shapes.
  • Wide range of colors and finishes available.


  • Less durable with shorter lifespan than cast vinyl.
  • Not designed for complex surfaces or 3D applications
  • More prone to shrinking and cracking over time.
  • Lacks conformability needed for curved surfaces.
  • Lower performance in extreme weather conditions

Cast Vinyl

Cast vinyl, also known as premium film vinyl, is considered a higher-performance vinyl option compared to calendared vinyl. Manufactured through an extrusion process, where PVC is melted into a thick liquid and cast onto a chilled roll. The PVC then solidifies into a uniform sheet.

Cast vinyl tends to be more durable and have better dimensional stability than calendared vinyl. It can be produced in thicker gauges, allowing it to better withstand the rigors of outdoor use. Cast vinyl is also able to conform well to complex, curved, or irregular surfaces.

Some of the most common applications of cast vinyl include:

  • Vehicle graphics and wraps - The thicker cast vinyl films are ideal for contouring over automotive body panels and surfaces. The films are designed to be removable without leaving behind adhesive residue.
  • Outdoor and marine signage - Thanks to UV-resistance and durability, cast vinyl stands up well to sun, rain, snow, and other outdoor elements. This makes it a popular choice for exterior business signage, billboards, boat/marine applications.
  • Perforated window films - Cast vinyl can be perforated with small holes while retaining dimensional stability. This allows for two-way visibility on windows, glass doors, etc.

Oracal 951

The advantages of cast vinyl include higher durability, dimensional stability, ability to stretch over contours, and suitability for long-term outdoor graphics. The downside is that it tends to be more expensive than calendared vinyl. It also requires more specialized tools and training to print and apply successfully.

Key Differences Between Calendared and Cast Vinyl

When deciding between calendared and cast vinyl, it's important to understand the key differences between these two materials. This includes factors like durability, manufacturing techniques, applications, and cost.


Cast vinyl is significantly more durable and long-lasting than calendared vinyl. Cast vinyl films are thicker, usually around 2-3 mils compared to 1-1.5 mils for calendared. This added thickness makes cast vinyl more tear resistant and better able to withstand exposure to weather, UV rays, and other environmental factors over time. Calendared vinyl tends to shrink and crack more readily when exposed to heat and sun.

Manufacturing Techniques

The production process differs considerably between calendared and casts vinyl. Calendared vinyl is made by squeezing vinyl between heated rollers to fuse the material into sheets. This limits the thickness that can be achieved.

Cast vinyl uses a process called extrusion coating to create a thicker and more consistent film. The vinyl is cast onto a sheet and then heated to bond with the backing material. This allows greater customization of thickness and properties.


Its lower cost and thinner films, calendared vinyl works best for short-term flat surface applications like indoor signs, decals, and basic lettering. It should be avoided for outdoor use where durability is needed.

Cast vinyl is ideal for vehicle wraps, outdoor signage, banners, window graphics, and applications on complex, curved, or textured surfaces. The thicker cast films are more flexible and conformable.


Not surprisingly, cast vinyl comes at a higher cost than calendared. The more complex manufacturing process and thicker, high-performance films result in cast vinyl costing 2-3 times more than calendared in most cases. However, cast vinyl lasts much longer, making it more cost effective over the lifetime of the application.


Vinyl has become a versatile material used across many industries for a wide variety of applications. Understanding the strengths and limitations of calendared vs cast vinyl helps determine which is better suited for specific uses.

Outdoor Uses

Outdoor applications, cast vinyl is generally the preferred choice. Its thicker caliber and more durable top coating allow it to withstand exposure to sun, rain, snow, and temperature swings. Cast vinyl films often come with warranties of 5-10 years for outdoor usage.

Calendared vinyl, with its thinner gauge, is more prone to shrinking and cracking when used outside. It may be suitable for short-term outdoor banners, signs, or decorations measured in months rather than years. The lower cost makes it attractive for temporary outdoor uses.

Vehicle Graphics

For vehicle graphics like decals, wraps, and lettering, cast vinyl’s ability to contour and adhere to curved surfaces. Its conformability allows it to stretch and shape around compound curves without lifting or bubbles. Cast vinyl's outdoor durability also suits the driving conditions vehicles face.

While cheaper, calendared vinyl cannot match the versatility of cast vinyl for vehicles. It may work for simple flat decals but lacks the pliability for wrapping. Graphics printed on calendared vinyl are more likely to lift or peel when exposed to road friction.


For indoor business signage with simple, flat surfaces like walls, windows, or doors, calendared vinyl can offer an affordable solution. Where more shaping or contouring is required, cast vinyl makes the better choice.

Outdoor business signage exposed to weather will benefit from the thicker cast film construction. Dimensional lettering or sign graphics see improved performance and longevity with cast over calendared vinyl.

Performance and Durability

When selecting vinyl, it's crucial to consider how well each type will perform and endure environmental stresses over time. Two key factors to examine are weather resistance and shrinkage.

Weather Resistance

Weather resistance refers to how well vinyl stands up to sun, rain, snow, and temperature swings throughout the year. Cast vinyl is generally much more weather resistant compared to calendared vinyl because of its thicker mil and ability to flex without damage.

Cast vinyl films typically have a protective layer and UV inhibitors to prevent color fading, cracking, and other damage from UV rays. Premium cast vinyl are designed to last 5-12 years outdoors, while economy grades last 3-5 years.

In contrast, calendared vinyl lacks a thick protective layer and tends to degrade faster in outdoor environments, with an average lifespan of only 1-2 years. It becomes brittle when exposed to sun and heat and can crack or peel.


Over time, vinyl graphics are prone to shrinking, especially in high heat. Cast vinyl's superior durability makes it more resistant to shrinkage versus calendared.

Calendared vinyl can shrink up to 1/32" over 24" after just one year outdoors. This shrinkage intensifies over time, resulting in edge lifting or complete vinyl failure.

Premium cast vinyl films shrink far less, around 1/64" over 24" annually. This gives cast vinyl exceptional dimensional stability for the long haul.

For outdoor applications or graphics needing longevity, cast vinyl is the clear choice. For short-term indoor signage, calendared vinyl may suffice depending on the expected lifespan. Carefully weigh longevity needs when selecting between vinyl types.

Choosing the Right Vinyl for Your Needs

When selecting between calendared and cast vinyl, you'll want to consider a few key factors:

  • Your budget and project duration - Calendared vinyl is more affordable, making it ideal for short-term signage, decals, and graphics. The price difference becomes negligible for long-term applications where cast vinyl's durability provides more value.
  • Surface complexity - Cast vinyl is better suited for corrugated, textured, curved, or irregular surfaces. The flexible and conformable nature of cast vinyl allows it to adhere smoothly to complex shapes. Calendared vinyl works best on flat, smooth surfaces.
  • Exposure to elements - Cast vinyl stands up to UV rays, heat, cold, and moisture much better than calendared. For vehicle wraps or outdoor signage with prolonged exposure, cast is the way to go.
  • Printing and cutting requirements - The softness of cast vinyl makes it easier to plot intricate cuts and layered graphics. But calendared vinyl yields sharper printing results for high-resolution images with fine detail.
  • Removability needs - In general, cast vinyl is more removable from painted surfaces while leaving less adhesive residue behind. Consider removability if graphics will need to be swapped out.
  • Regulations and certifications - Building codes, vehicle requirements, fire codes, and other regulations may dictate the grade of vinyl needed. Double check that the vinyl meets necessary criteria.

By taking stock of your unique situation and requirements, you can determine if the advantages of cast vinyl justify the added cost over calendared. While cast vinyl is higher performing and more versatile, calendared vinyl works well for many straightforward applications. Consult with a vinyl supplier if unsure which route to take.


In summary, the key differences between calendared and cast vinyl center around their manufacturing process, durability, applications, and cost efficiency.

Calendared vinyl is produced by pressing vinyl through calendar rollers to form sheets. It's more economical and works well for short-term flat surface applications like basic signs or decals. However, it's less durable than cast vinyl.

Cast vinyl is made by casting the vinyl into sheets during production for greater durability. A premium vinyl film perfect for long-term vehicle wraps, outdoor signage, or applications on complex surfaces. But it comes at a higher price point than calendared.

When selecting between the two main types of vinyl, it's important to consider your project's budget, longevity needs, the surface it will adhere to, and exposure to environmental factors. Calendared vinyl can provide an affordable option for temporary flat surface graphics. Cast vinyl is ideal for durable vehicle graphics or signs that will face weathering.

Choosing the right vinyl for your specific needs and application will ensure you get great performance and avoid unnecessary costs from using the wrong vinyl film. Consider both immediate project requirements as well as desired longevity when deciding between calendared or cast vinyl.