Tips and Tricks

Decals – A Definition

The what, the who, the where, and the why of a decal.

What is a decal exactly?

A decal is a design or image that is created on or cut out of a specific type of paper, commonly vinyl.  Decals are able to transfer onto a variety of surfaces including glass, metal, porcelain, and more.

So, it sounds like decals are stickers. 

Are decals and stickers the same?

While the two terms are often used interchangeably, decals and stickers are not the same.  Decals are very similar to stickers, but there are differences.  The main distinction between a decal and a sticker is that a decal must be transferred.  It is not peel and stick like a sticker.  In order to install a decal, one must remove the decal from what is called backing paper, apply to the desired surface, and then remove the transfer paper.  Decals also tend to be more durable and last longer than a sticker.

Who would choose a decal?

Decals are a popular preference among many types of people for a variety of reasons. 

Business owners frequently use decals as a way to help establish and maintain a company’s name and imprint.  Being able to design custom logos in custom sizes allows a professional to stand out and be seen.  It takes advertising to a whole new level. 

Being so readily available at the moment, the use of decals has also peaked the interest of the everyday consumer.  From personalizing just about anything to creating vinyl works of art, a decal may just be the way to go for that unique style!

Where can decals be placed?

Decals are commonly used outdoors because of their durability, but they can actually be placed just about anywhere.  As long as the surface that the decal is being applied to is clean, dry, and smooth, a decal can usually adhere to it.  From windows to walls, inside to outside, there are not many spots a decal can’t go!

Why use a decal?

Professionals typically choose decals when looking for a way to establish and promote their company and ideas.  Decals are an ideal option for use on outdoor logo signs and window designs as they come in a wide variety of colors, are very durable, and are affordable to boot!  In addition, using vinyl on banners, lawn signs, and other promotional items make a great marketing tool.

Decals are a wonderful way to add a touch of personalization to a favorite piece, as well.  Whether it’s a custom made design for a project, license plate for a vehicle or an address for a mailbox, vinyl decals are extremely versatile. 

Where can decals be purchased?

Check out our eBay store, Green Hill Graphics, to purchase awesome decals!  We’re always excited to try new things, so feel free to contact us for a special request!

Decal Samples
Tips and Tricks

How Do You Install A Decal? Decal Application Instructions

How do I apply this decal?

So you got your new sticker in the mail or you picked it up from your local shop, and you just want to make sure you’re putting it on right.  We all remember the sticker packs we got as children.  The small sheet with about 15 to 20 different stickers printed on.  I know, they were great. You would just simply use your nail to grab the corner of the sticker and peel it off. Then you’d haphazardly put them all over your furniture, tv, brother, or moms car windows.  So, why do you need to know how to install a sticker?

Vinyl decals are similar in most respects to those stickers we knew as kids. The same basic principle is there, one side is sticky and the other isn’t. However, most single color vinyl decals are what is called “die cut”.  Die-cut just means the image is cut out of a solid roll of vinyl, using a machine that has a small blade attached.  The design is sent from the computer using design software and the vinyl cutter cuts it out.  Then the excess or waste vinyl is removed leaving behind the cut design.

Since there are usually smaller pieces within the design, simply trying to apply them individually would be next to impossible.  This is where masking application tape comes into play.  The tape is similar to typical masking tape but with much less adhesive and specifically made for vinyl.  It is applied to the entire design then trimmed to cover just a little more.

Now your decal is sandwiched between the masking application tape and the backing paper.  This is usually how you will receive a die cut vinyl decal.  So to install from this point, just follow these simple instructions!

Single Color Die Cut Decal Installation

1. You’re going to want to test fit the placement of your new decal before continuing.  After you’ve picked the spot you’re going to place it, clean it thoroughly of any grease, grime, dirt, salt, or wax.  You can use some solvents but be sure to clean those off with regular soap and water afterward.

2. Depending on the vinyl used your backing paper will most likely be a white or blue shiny paper material.  You’ll want to slowly peel that away from the decal.  Go slowly and be mindful of any smaller pieces that may not be sticking properly.  (If you notice the decal isn’t sticking to the application tape, stop.  Flip it over, and using a credit card or squeegee, apply firm even pressure to the entire decal working from the inside out.  This should help re-stick the vinyl to the tape.)

3. Now you should be holding the decal that is stuck to the application tape.  Carefully place the decal where you’ve just cleaned and prepped.  I find it easier to place one edge down first in the correct spot, then slowly work my way to the other edge using a squeegee or credit card.  Once it’s completely down and in place, use your squeegee or credit card to again apply pressure to the entire decal.  This will work out any air bubbles that may be trapped between the decal the surface.  (Don’t be overly concerned with smaller air bubbles that may be present.  Exposure to the sun will help dissipate and shrink the vinyl into place.)

4. Last step.  Slowly peel back the application tape leaving the decal to stick on whatever surface you chose.  I try to peel the tape back over itself, keeping it as close to the surface as possible.  This really helps keep the vinyl from coming off with the tape.  Once the tape is completely off just use your finger to push down all edges and corners to secure them.  That’s it!

Printed Full-Color Die Cut Decal Installation

Printed full-color decals use the same principle as one color vinyl does.  The difference being, the design is printed on a sheet of vinyl, then it is cut out.  The process after is identical.  The excess vinyl is removed and you’re left with your printed design.

However, some printed decals are a single piece and sometimes they do not use the application tape.  For these, you would simply remove the backing paper and stick the decal where you want.  Using the same concept as mentioned above, lay one edge down first and slowly work it down towards the opposite edge.

Caring For Your New Decal

You’ll want to treat your new vinyl decal as you would your paint job.

Wash regularly if dirt appears.  If dirt and grime remain on the decal for an extended time, it will be more difficult to remove without staining.

Brushless and touchless car washes are preferred to keep the decal from being rubbed or lifted off.  Scratch marks can be seen in vinyl so try your best to avoid stiff brushes.

The use of a pressure washer isn’t recommended for smaller decals.  If you do, avoid spraying decal directly and keep at least a foot away and perpendicular to the decal.

If you happen to spill fuel onto your decal, wipe off immediately.  Then wash as you normally would with soap and water.

*Note: You don’t ever want to use a solvent or any product with ammonia on your decals.  The chemicals will cause the adhesive to break down quickly and in turn shortening the lifespan of the decal tremendously.

Are you a decal maker and supplier?  Do you ship decals?  Here’s a free printable pdf for you to include with your orders!  Just print them out and cut them up.  Tiny instructions make it easy to include with every order.