Window films are a budget-friendly, versatile alternative to curtains and blinds. Some provide a degree of privacy while letting in light, while others ensure complete one-way or two-way privacy. Some options offer energy-saving benefits as well. Films usually are quite easy to install, and they come in an array of colors, designs, and styles.
Keep reading to learn more about this form of window tinting, important features to look for, and factors to consider while shopping, so you can find the best window film to suit your specific needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Coavas Window Film Privacy Frosted Window Sticker
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: rabbitgoo 3D Decorative Window Vinyl
- BEST BLACKOUT: VELIMAX Static Cling Total Blackout Window Film
- BEST ONE-WAY MIRROR: WPCTEV Window Film One Way Mirror
- BEST NON-ADHESIVE: Gila Privacy Black Static Cling Window Film
- BEST DECORATIVE: LEMON CLOUD 3D Window Film
Types of Window Films for Privacy
Selecting the best type of window film depends both on its function and the desired look. Be creative and add a splash of color and fun patterns, or go for simple, practical films that provide privacy, protection from UV rays, and light control. Explore the following options to decide which style suits your needs best.
Solar window films shield the home’s occupants and their furniture from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. These films block the amount of UV rays that could otherwise enter the environment, protecting the skin from damage and guarding the furniture from fading and aging.
While glass windows alone only block 40 percent of UV rays, some window films can block up to 99.9 percent. Solar films also regulate indoor temperatures, so rooms stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This in turn can improve the energy efficiency of the home and help save money. Finally, solar films combat harsh glare, a benefit when watching TV or working on the computer.
Blackout, Translucent, and Whiteout
Window films vary in the level of opacity they provide.
- A blackout film blocks all or nearly all of the light that would otherwise enter the room and provide two-way privacy. From the outside, the film gives a reflective appearance, while from the inside, the film looks black. Because they completely darken the room, these films are a good option for night-shift workers and others who sleep in the daytime. They’re also popular with folks whose windows face a busy street or who have overly inquisitive neighbors.
- A translucent film offers a middle ground between light and privacy, letting in soft light in and brightening up the space while still providing a visual barrier. Typically, translucent film gives the effect of blurred images when looking in from the outside. Translucent films are available in different patterns, colors, and shapes, such as birds or flowers. They can be used on exterior windows or interior glass windows and doors.
- Whiteout film is often used to create separation within interior spaces with the same opacity and privacy of blackout film. Instead of black, the glass looks white from both the inside and outside, providing a somewhat softer, less somber mood in the room. Apply this kind of film in meeting rooms, bathrooms, and retail environments to create a partition or to exterior windows.
One-way mirror window films provide daytime privacy protection. Anyone trying to sneak a peek inside will see themselves reflected in the window instead, while those in the room see who’s on the other side.
At night, when the lights inside are brighter than the light on the reflective side, the home’s occupants can see through the film. That’s why residences that use one-way mirror film also have curtains or blinds, which can be closed at night for privacy. Owners of commercial properties, however, sometimes opt for one-way mirror film without curtains or blinds, so after business hours at night, an intruder can be seen inside by passersby, security, or police.
Window films don’t have to be boring. Vibrant window films can function like art glass by playing with the light in the room. Select from different decorative styles, designs, and patterns to customize the space. Use fun prints on kitchen glass cabinets, shower doors, or as a focal attraction in the front entrance. While many decorative films are translucent, they still provide UV protection and reduce glare. Some are also reusable, so they can be moved to different locations.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Window Film
A significant consideration when shopping for the best window film is functionality. Determine what’s important in terms of privacy, decor, light/darkness, UV blocking, and energy saving. Then decide which of these features to combine to achieve the best result.
Most window films use a polyester film, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), as the base material. Depending on type (solar, decorative, blackout), the film uses a different number of PET layers to create the desired result. The polyester materials are strong, and they hold up well when exposed to different temperatures, moisture levels, and solvents in cleaners.
Some films are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a thermoplastic material made by polymerizing vinyl chloride. PVC contains dangerous chemical additives that, over time, can leach out and pose unnecessary health risks, especially to children. Fortunately for anyone concerned about these risks, plenty of PVC-free window films are available.
Decorative films let users add style to enhance the exterior and interior appearance of the home. If older windows look rundown but budget is a concern, adding a decorative film can spruce them up. Inside the home, the wide selection of prints, patterns, and colors can complement the interior design and even brighten the mood of a space with colors that filter the sunlight.
Consider using decorative films on kitchen cabinet glass doors, bathroom shower doors, and French doors. For a unique, custom look, combine different patterns. Choose from 3-D designs, frosted film, “etched glass” film, modern patterns and designs, and bright-colored film. Transform the space and have fun!
Degree of Privacy
Not all films provide the same amount of privacy. Blackout films provide nearly 100 percent privacy at all times, while translucent films simply obscure the shapes behind the window. Mirror films reflect during the day but are transparent at night. Some decorative films don’t provide much privacy at all, but they do offer other benefits, such as standard UV protection. Choose the desired degree of opacity for your space.
Film reflects the heat from the sun away from the window, and it blocks or rejects up to 99 percent of UV rays from entering. This is an important quality, as the sun’s UV rays can cause premature skin aging and damage in the form of wrinkles, dark spots, and skin cancer. Window film also can help keep ultraviolet rays from causing furniture to fade and age quickly.
Moreover, window film can defer the sun’s heat to help keep utility bills down, regulating internal temperatures while still allowing in some natural light. The film will deflect most of the heat, keeping the temperature cooler inside and preventing the air conditioner from kicking in unnecessarily.
Over time, UV rays can fade the furniture, floors, and window treatments. Although window film will not prevent fading altogether, it will drastically slow down the process and protect expensive furnishings. Fade-resistant films help protect against the discoloration and fading of expensive antiques, paintings, and/or cherished heirlooms in the room.
Fit and Installation
High-quality translucent sheets come in rolls and don’t use glue or other adhesives. Apply the film with just soapy water, a fairly simple DIY project. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and these guidelines:
- Measure the window prior to purchasing film and buy a little extra just in case.
- Apply window film only on flat, smooth surfaces.
- Make sure surfaces are clean and dry prior to application; then follow these steps:
- Fill a spray bottle with soapy water.
- Cut the film to the exact dimensions of the window. Remove the backing from the film.
- Spray soapy water generously onto the backside of the film and the window. Starting at the top of the window, place the wet film on the glass and allow the film to gently cover the glass, smoothing it with the hands.
- Adjust the film as necessary around the glass while still wet until it’s placed correctly.
- Spray the window again. Use a squeegee to remove extra water, moving outward from the center of the film. Make sure the four corners are adhered to the glass.
- Trim the margins and leave a 2- to 3-milimeter gap between the film and the edge of the glass.
- Rewet the surface and carefully remove any bubbles using a squeegee or the edge of a credit card.
- Wipe down the window with a lint-free towel; in a pinch, coffee filters also work well.
- Don’t clean the window for at least a month after installation.
Our Top Picks
The following window films not only meet all these criteria, but they also were selected with price and ease of application in mind.
For the peace of mind of almost complete privacy and a simple matte appearance that won’t interfere with decor, consider this Coavas frosted window film. It adds a clean look to the space and provides privacy protection while still letting light shine through. The window sticker is non-adhesive, blocks 96 percent of UV rays, and helps control glare. It’s removable and reusable.
This privacy film comes in four colors, ranging from a lighter frost to a darker frost. It offers different levels of privacy: Two colors achieve up to 99 percent privacy at more than 1½ feet from the glass.
Privacy doesn’t have to come at a high price. Rabbitgoo’s 3-D rainbow film has unique patterns that create pretty visual effects when the sunlight shines through. The irregular shapes give the window a stained-glass look. Note: The film itself is clear—its 3-D design creates the spectrum of hues when sunlight comes through.
This non-adhesive film is semi-private and obscures views only, so it’s not recommended for bathroom privacy. It blocks 84 percent of UVA rays and 99 percent of UVB rays, reduces glare, and is reusable.
VELIMAX’s Blackout Window Film prevents up to 99 percent of daylight from coming through, making it a good choice for shift workers sleeping during the day or toddlers taking a nap. The film provides two-way privacy: No one can see in, and no one can see out. The reusable film blocks UV rays, controls heat and glare, and protects furnishings from fading. It’s also reusable. Eco-conscious consumers will appreciate this film’s environmentally-friendly vinyl material.
Note: Apply it only to single panes of glass or on modern double-glazed units. It’s available in a range of standard sizes.
WPCTEV’s One Way Mirror Film has a reflective surface that prevents those outside from seeing in. As the skies begin to darken, the film no longer provides privacy. It’s available in four different reflective colors and an array of sizes. The film is non-adhesive for easy application and removal, and it’s reusable.
In addition to blocking 97 percent of UV rays, the film also blocks 85 percent of infrared rays, which carry more than half the heat from the sun, from entering the space. To reduce glare, the film allows 10 percent Visible Light Transmittance (VLT) through the film.
For versatility and ease of installation, it’s hard to beat this Gila film. Gila’s Privacy Black Static Cling film uses static cling for a hassle-free installation. Remove and reinstall the film as desired to change the atmosphere in the space. The black film darkens windows, provides privacy, rejects up to 58 percent of solar energy, blocks up to 99 percent of UV rays, and reduces up to 93 percent of glare.
The film is available in one size. The manufacturer recommends purchasing the entire window film installation kit to have all the supplies necessary for a smooth finish.
If the goal is to decorate and also provide privacy for a bathroom, office, kitchen, or other space, check out this LEMON CLOUD window film. Its elegant floral motif and rainbow-colored film clings to exterior windows, interior doors, cabinets, and glass partitions. The colors or patterns appear after installation when light pours through the film.
It’s reusable and constructed with a premium vinyl material that holds up well under heat and steam.
FAQs About Your New Window Film
For more information or to answer any remaining questions about window films, consider these answers to common queries.
Q. What are the benefits of window tinting?
Tinting can protect skin and furniture from UV rays, provide privacy, and reduce glare. Tinting with window film also controls the interior temperature to help decrease the cost of air conditioning and heating. The film can add style, and most are easily removed and reusable.
Q. What is a UV-resistant privacy window film used for?
UV film helps reduce damage to skin, and it protects furniture against fading and discoloration. It assists with temperature control, and it reduces glare.
Q. What can I put on my windows so I can see out, but no one can see in?
A one-way mirror film like WPCTEV Window Film One Way Mirror may be the best bet. Instead of seeing in, onlookers see a reflection of themselves.
Q. How do I apply window film to my windows?
For the most effective application of window film, follow these steps:
- Wash the window.
- Remove the backing.
- Spray the back of the film and the window very generously with soapy water.
- Place the film on the window.
- Remove excess water and bubbles.
- Use a lint-free towel to wipe it down.
Q. Does a window film provide privacy at night?
It depends on the film. Some films obscure visuals at night, offering some privacy, such as frosted films and some decorative films. Other films, like one-way mirror films, provide zero privacy at night. Blackout films provide complete privacy during the day and night.