At Vinyl Revolution, we specialise in making the best quality vinyl products possible. That’s why we want to make sure everyone can understand the differences between vinyl stickers and decals. It’s not rocket science. It’s just some simple vinyl science that everyone can wrap their heads around (excuse the pun – we just can’t help ourselves).

You might have heard the terms vinyl stickers and vinyl decals before and wondered what the difference is? It’s not surprising you might be confused. A lot of people seem to use the terms interchangeably. Or they think that hearing the word vinyl immediately means decal. But vinyl stickers and vinyl decals are very different and it’s important to understand the difference when buying online in our shop. You need to be sure you’re getting what you want!

What are vinyl decals?

Have a quick look at the products above. Do you notice any similarity between them? These are all vinyl decals. There’s a decal for a macbook, a vehicle and a wall. But the important thing is that they are all vinyl decals! You can get decals in lots of different colours and finishes but they are usually only in one single colour. Why? Because vinyl decals are physically cut from a roll of vinyl by a magical machine called a vinyl cutter or plotter. Here’s what our cutter looks like in our studio in Oxford.

vinyl revolution cutter

The vinyl cutter is connected to a computer which allows it to read our vector design files. The cutter uses a single, tiny blade to cut into the vinyl .The big roll of vinyl is moved back and forth as the blade cuts into the material. Most importantly, the blade only cuts deep enough to slice through the vinyl material, not the backing paper it is stuck to. The result looks almost exactly as before. One big sheet of vinyl. But there’s an important difference! Look closely and you’ll see tons of tiny little lines cut into the material.

Once the vinyl has been cut it’s removed from the machine and laid on a table for weedingWeeding is when the excess vinyl (the negative space in your decal) is removed by hand. This can be quite a time consuming process depending on the complexity of the design. Check out the video below for an example of what this looks like. Thankfully we can speed it up so you won’t be watching for hours!

Once the decal has been weeded, it’s ready for the taping machine. When the decal is pushed through the taping machine it rolls a layer of application tape onto the decal. This is what is then used to apply the decal to a surface. Voila! You’ve got yourself a vinyl decal.

Technically, you could make a vinyl decal with multiple colours. But to do this you’d have to cut each layer of vinyl separately and then do one of the following:

  1. Combine all the layers onto a single piece of backing paper before taping them. This leaves you with only one layer to apply when it comes to sticking it to your surface.
  2. Tape each layer separately. This means you then have to combine each layer separately when you try and stick it on your surface.

Weeding one vinyl decal is already quite a lot of work. Doing option 1 above is very time consuming to produce and would mean your decal would get very expensive. Doing option 2 above means you’d have to stick multiple layers on your surface, which can be a serious pain. While we do this sort of thing all the time for businesses that hire our professional services, we rarely include it in our products. Why? Because some customers already struggle with applying their decal. It can get a bit tricky with all the bits and pieces. Imagine trying to do multiple layers!

What are vinyl stickers?

Have a look at the products above. The similarity between these three stickers might be harder to notice than for the decals at the start of this post. But there is one thing they all have in common. Each of these vinyl stickers is printed onto vinyl using a wide-format printer. We load a roll of digital vinyl that absorbs the inks we use and keeps them looking great for ages. We use special repositionable vinyl for our stickers because it is much easier to apply and remove than other stickers while benefiting from all the long-lasting properties of vinyl. This is particularly important for wall stickers, when you don’t want to damage your wall upon removal. Here’s a photo of one of our printers in our studio in Oxford. Looks a little more complicated than the plotter doesn’t it?

vinyl revolution printer

You might wonder why the Alice Searching Behind the Curtains macbook sticker above is a vinyl sticker and not a decal. After all, it’s a single colour isn’t it? That’s absolutely right. The problem is that it’s a very complicated design. There’s no way you could get all the detail in the cross-hatching of that illustration in a small macbook decal. Our team would spend 10 hours to weed it and you would drive yourself crazy trying to keep all the little pieces on the application tape when you tried to stick it down. In cases where a single-colour design is too complicated to produce as a decal, we produce them as stickers that are printed onto transparent vinyl. The result is a product that looks a lot like a decal but has all the properties of a vinyl sticker.

Vinyl stickers can still have shapes cut out of them. In fact, most of our stickers have shapes cut out of them. They just look much better when stuck to your surface like that. We actually die-cut all of our stickers to make them look even better. That means that after your sticker is printed onto the roll of vinyl, the same machine goes back and cuts a contour for each sticker into the role. This cutting process is exactly the same as for decals with one important difference: the blade is set to cut all the way through the vinyl and backing paper (rather than just the vinyl). This creates a die-cut sticker that we pop out of the big vinyl roll and quality control before preparing it to be sent anywhere in the world.

You’re now officially a vinyl wizard

Ok. Maybe not quite a vinyl wizard. The vinyl wizards in our studio have been honing their craft for years to learn the best way to weed a decal and create design files for die-cut stickers. Their experience helps us to make the best vinyl stickers and decals around.

Wait a minute. Did you just understand all the terms in those last sentences? If you did than you just might be on your way to becoming a true wizard. Welcome to the club. Now use your newfound knowledge to impress your friends. Or head to our online shop and buy something knowing exactly what to expect. Want your own custom decal or sticker? Just contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

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5 thoughts on “The Difference Between Vinyl Stickers and Vinyl Decals

  1. Benjamin Gibert says:

    That’s right Jac. It really depends on the style you are looking for and what you’re using it for. Usually a lot more work goes into decals because they have to be weeded by hand!

  2. Benjamin Gibert says:

    Thanks for your comment. We use specialist wall vinyl for our wall stickers and high performance sign vinyl for our car decals. We use cast vinyl when wrapping highly contoured vehicles but we do not use it for simple decals. However, we can always create a custom order in cast vinyl if you’re looking for something specific?

  3. Daniela says:

    Hi this is a great explanation! I understood the process but still have one more doubt since I have been reading trying to find what I need… durable stickers. Which is the best vinyl to print polimeric or monomeric? I’ve done before and wouldn’t like them to shrink or that they lift in the corners and last as long as they could.

  4. Benjamin Gibert says:

    Hi Daniela,

    Thanks for your comment. That’s a great question! Polymeric vinyl is less prone to shrinking and more durable than monomeric vinyl due to the way it is produced. As far as the corners not lifting, this really depends on the strength of the adhesive and the surface you stick it to. The strength of the adhesive changes depending on the supplier. If you are trying to find the best vinyl for your particular application we’d be happy to walk you through your options. The best way is to send us a message via the contact page so that you get in touch directly with the production team. Hope this helps!

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