The History of Window Film

The History of Window Film

As a 25-year-old, I thought window film was a relatively new feature in the world of automotive customization. After getting into the industry and learning a lot more about the field I am in, I have learned that there is a deep history that is older than I had originally thought. The slick, shaded glass that we see on cars today is a result of centuries of development.

3000 BC

The earliest tinted glass we know about originated in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. Back then, they developed processes for tinting and coloring glass for decorative pots and beads. Later Romans began using clear glass for windows, and as we got to the medieval period in Europe, the process for coloring glass by adding metallic oxide powders was used everywhere to make stained glass windows for palaces, churches, and mosques.


With the invention of automobiles in the early 20th century, the face of transportation changed forever. As more people started owning and being in cars, they started noticing that the temperature and glare from the sun were more intense through the glass. Soon enough, EZ Eye, one of the first tinting manufacturers in the US, would introduce factory window tint in several car models, including the very popular 1958 Chevy Impala. Because window tinting started out only being available from auto manufacturers, a small group of DIY window tinting companies started to pop up. At the time, spray-on window tinting was the most common alternative. The result of this was a dark and often uneven shading that was hard to install and prone to streaks. There were some rudimentary dye-based window films that were introduced around this time, but these window films had a tendency to turn purple and bubble in the sun. They would often absorb heat into the car rather than reflect it away.

3M, then best known for Scotch Tape, discovered the key to sun control film in 1966. They created technology that added metallic coatings to clear polyester for a flexible film that blocked most of the sun’s harmful heat and UV rays. Three years later, 3M introduced clear security window film that held broken glass in place, which is a common feature of window film today.


In the 1970's and 1980's, film became popular in commercial building windows as well as in more popular automotive applications. At this time, tinted car windows became the top choice for privacy. Limousines all over started utilizing dark tints, some with shadings of 80% or more. The very dark tints were great for having privacy, but were not great for visibility. In the early 1980's, U.S. states developed their own laws regulating the tint level that was allowed on car windows to help reduce accidents. By the 1990's, a hybrid window film using metal that reflected the sun's rays and dyes had been introduced. The film components reduced heat by around 50%. As we got closer to the turn of the century, companies started to realize that the metallic tints often interfered with electronic devices such as GPS systems and radios. The window film industry had to think of a solution relatively quickly to combat this issue. They came up with a window film that uses ceramics rather than metals. The ceramic-based window tint rejects heat and UV rays more efficiently, lasts longer, and doesn't interfere with electronics at all.


In the 2000’s we were introduced to whats commonly known as “Smart Window Tint” or Electronic Window Tint. This film gives anyone the flexibility of enjoying an unobstructed view of the outside or workplace, to having instant privacy. The film is a liquid crystal in between two layers of film. When electricity is applied to it, it switches from a frosted state to a clear state, revealing everything behind it. This product is an amazing alternative to standard window treatment.

Whats next?

The future is looking bright for window film. Innovators are already approaching 100% UV and heat blocking technology. Even though we have tint that holds broken glass together, it would be interesting to see if in the future we can have film that will prevent glass from breaking at all. Window tints will always be in demand because of their scientifically proven benefits. Last year, I put window film on my Jeep. Sun Control did an amazing job and made my Jeep look more unique and stylish. The privacy it gives me while driving is by far my favorite perk. At the time, I didn't know the history behind window tint and film; after learning more about it, it's awesome to see how far the industry has come and how far we will continue to grow.