How to Install a Window Tint Film

Window tint films can help protect your possessions from fading, improve the thermal performance of your windows and provide you with more privacy. Varying types of filters in different films increase or decrease these three aspects to provide you just the type of window enhancement you’re looking for. Installing the film might seem a daunting task, but with a little preparation, it’s a simple project anyone can tackle.

Things You'll Need

  • Window tint film
  • Application solution
  • Window cleaner
  • Single-edged razor blade
  • Squeegee
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Snap-point utility knife
  • Drop cloth
  • Specialized film knife (optional)
  • Specialized mini-squeegee (optional)
  • Specialized lint-free disposable cloth (optional)
Window film can help prevent your artwork from fading.
Window film can help prevent your artwork from fading. (Image: Jeff Farris)

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Applying Window Tint Film

Step 1

Gather needed materials and supplies and read instructions included with the film you purchased well in advance to make sure your project runs smoothly. Please see the last slide for an itemized list of tools and materials.

Materials and supplies for window tinting.
Materials and supplies for window tinting. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 2

Unroll the film on a work surface larger than the window you’re tinting. In the case of large casement windows, you might find your kitchen counter is the best option. A coffee cup on each corner keeps the film from rolling back up.

Spread out the film to ease the process of trimming the film to your window's exact size.
Spread out the film to ease the process of trimming the film to your window's exact size. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 3

Measure your window for width and length. Add one inch to both dimensions. Working on the protective backing, measure and mark the film to the calculated size. Maintain one factory edge on the film. This will cut down on the trimming you have to do later.

Mark dimensions on the protective backing.
Mark dimensions on the protective backing. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 4

Cut along the marked lines with a pair of scissors. If your scissors are relatively sharp, the material cuts in a “run” very easily. Close your scissors enough to start the cut and push forward. The material will cut cleanly and quickly.

Cut the film to size.
Cut the film to size. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 5

Place a drop cloth or old beach towel below the window to catch over-spray. Clean the window surface thoroughly with household window cleaner. Pay particular attention to corners and edges. Clean the outside of the window, as well. It will make it easier to find small smudges on the inside.

First, clean the window with household window cleaner.
First, clean the window with household window cleaner. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 6

Use a single-edged razor blade to remove any stubborn bits or paint splatters from the glass. Anything left on the window will be trapped by the film and becomes much more visible.

Trapped specks magnify under the film. Clean thoroughly.
Trapped specks magnify under the film. Clean thoroughly. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 7

Clean the window again, this time using the film application solution and a lint free cloth. Some manufacturers sell an application kit that includes a special material for this step. If you choose not to buy the application kit, a microfiber towel will work. Avoid normal paper towels. They will leave lint that will be trapped under the film.

Clean the window again with film application solution.
Clean the window again with film application solution. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 8

Inspect the window carefully to be sure it's perfectly clean, then thoroughly wet the window surface with the application solution. Peel the liner paper from the film and place the film on the window. The film will float on the application solution, allowing you to nudge it into place. Align the factory edge 1/16 inch away from one edge of the window. Make sure the film overlaps the other three edges.

Peel and place.
Peel and place. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 9

Wet the outside of the film with application solution. Make one light pass with your squeegee from top to bottom. Starting at the top, push your squeegee from the center of the window toward each edge, working the application solution out of the middle. Stop about 2 inches from the edges. Work down the window, overlapping your squeegee passes and moving visible air and solution bubbles out to the edges.

Push, rather than pull, the squeegee.
Push, rather than pull, the squeegee. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 10

Work in the last 2 inches along the edge once the middle is laying flat and the bubbles have been worked out. When the perimeter is also laying flat, trim the film 1/16 inch inside the edge of the window frame. This small gap allows for expansion and contraction. Your straight edge is likely the correct thickness. Press it into the corner and use a snap-point utility knife to cut the film.

Leave 1/16 border around film.
Leave 1/16 border around film. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 11

The trimming knife that comes in the application kit has a built in spacing guide, making it very easy to use, but the blade is not replaceable and lasts only a little longer than a snap-point knife. It’s great if you’re doing just one or two windows.

Trimming with the kit knife requires no guide.
Trimming with the kit knife requires no guide. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Step 12

Make a final squeegee pass along the edges, keeping the outside of the film moistened with application solution. The small, hard squeegee supplied in the application kit is ideal for this final pass. When all bubbles are gone and the expansion gap is uniform all around the window, wipe up the application solution from around the window frame and you’re done!

Final squeegee after trimming.
Final squeegee after trimming. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Tips & Warnings

  • Having a helper makes the job easier, particularly on large windows. Peeling the backing paper off by yourself is doable, but challenging.
  • Use caution when using and handling utility knives and razor blades.
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