It is surprising how much joy a good sticker can bring to our lives, even long into adulthood. We used to get loads of them in sticker albums as children or as little signs that we had done well at school. A good sticker can brighten up everything from a notebook to an envelope for a greetings card or a decorative household item. You could buy stickers from independent artists online – and this is great if you find someone that taps into a fandom or has a great art style. But, you could always make your own vinyl stickers at home.
Making monochrome text stickers and decals.
One option when learning how to make vinyl stickers at home is to get an adhesive vinyl sheet and use this material to create some interesting shapes and text. You can program your cutting machine, whether you have a Cricut or a Silhouette, to cut out vinyl with great precision. You can then end up with some stylish typography to add mantras, names, and more to items in your home.
It does time some practice to get the best results with these machines, as it is too easy to cut too far into the material. You need to adjust the dials just right for a clean cut through the vinyl and not the backing. Then you can weed out the pieces and use them on your items. The weeding process also requires some care and patience. Get a good pair of tweezers.
Making multi-colored and detailed vinyl stickers.
These text decals are great for decorating lots of items and home furnishings in a stylish way. There is a good chance that you will get pretty good at it and be able to create lots of interesting slogans and nice text for personalized items. However, this approach isn’t so great if you want to make multiples of multi-colored stickers.
Perhaps you have a campaign running or a charity event where you want to give everyone a sticker for their support. Perhaps you are just getting the word out about your brand and want to add some fun stickers to people’s orders as an easy way of marketing yourself and getting some attention. You may also decide that you want something a little more high-end and detailed for a personal item and you just can’t find what you are looking for in an online store. Some of those designs are cute, but they just aren’t good enough to sit on the lid of your laptop or the back of your phone where you are going to see it all day.
Print an image of your choice with an inkjet printer.
Ideally, you want a system where you can print a custom image of your own design onto vinyl and create precisely what you need. You can do this with the right design and equipment. Using a standard inkjet printer is a great way to get some great images transferred onto stickers and to allow for a repeated image for multiple stickers. This means that you can design or find something that you love on your computer, send that information to the printer, and then print it out as many times as you need.
You need to start by getting some printable vinyl.
The first step in how to make vinyl stickers is to get the right vinyl. Printable vinyl is the easiest way to get some brilliant images on your stickers. This is so much easier than trying to use different layers of heat transfer vinyl and getting them onto an adhesive surface. You can’t just use any old vinyl here as the ink from the printer needs to sink in and hold the same form as the original image. You can get special printable vinyl that has the perfect surface for this.
Be aware that not all printers are suitable for use with printable vinyl. This is a stiffer material that doesn’t bend as well as paper. So, consider the way that your printer feeds the paper through the machine. Those that follow a U-shaped path can develop jams. Older, slower systems may also struggle to keep up with your needs.
Then you need to figure out what design you want for your stickers.
You can print out a pre-existing image after transferring it from your computer to the printer. Or, you can design something yourself. It is great fun to spend some time playing around with digital software to create a graphic design that really means something. Take as long as you need on this step to be sure that you have something perfect for your needs. It might also help to measure out the area of your sticker – such as the dimensions of your laptop – on a piece of paper. You can then use this to sketch out ideas and play with colors before moving onto the digital software. You could also take some photographs and use those by transferring the file to the printer. This is perfect if you want a specific landscape or a picture of your pet on your stickers.
If this is for personal use, I encourage you to go as crazy with the design as you want. After all, this process is meant to help you out when other designers and retailers can’t offer precisely what you had in mind. If this is for your business, however, you need to be more careful with your image. Not only does it need to be clean and recognizable for future brand recognition, but it also needs to be unique without encroaching on the copy-written material of intellectual property of other people. For example, you can’t start using the Disney font or adding in well-known characters from popular franchises.
If you have a cutting machine at home, such as a Silhouette or Cricut machine, you may have some helpful software there that can help you add images to a sheet and get them all lined up nicely. The software should also help you if you want a margin around the image.
Printing your vinyl stickers.
Once you have the perfect design ready to go, you can print it off using the ink from the printer onto a sheet of that printable vinyl. It is just like using normal paper. You merely substitute the material and let the machine get to work. I do want to point out here that you could end up using a lot of ink if you plan to go for these multicolored designs in large quantities. Still, another benefit of using this printable vinyl with an inkjet printer is that you can get a much wider range of colors, tones, and greater detail. The process of adding and weeding colored vinyl onto designs on a Cricut machine is time-consuming and only allows for a small range of block colors. Every red is the same no matter the design because there is one red vinyl in your collection. On a printer, the reds have different tones and realistic looks.
I also advise adding some clear vinyl laminate to your work.
A laminate material adds a nice shine to the stickers and gives them more durability. I have read that if you make a normal sticker, it will wear away in about a year. This is fine for short-term campaigns and projects, but not for quality items for personal use. Adding the laminate could extend that life by around 4 years. By that point, it is probably time to rethink your décor or get a new laptop anyway.
Be very careful with this process to gradually press down the vinyl over the top of your sheet of printed images. I recommend getting a little six-inch ruler and using them to burnish the laminate and get rid of any air bubbles. An old store card works great too. I have seen some people say to use a credit card, but that’s a bit too precious to be left lying around in the craft room.
The alternative to this would be to use a laser printer instead of an inkjet one. However, inkjet printers are more common and you may already have one of these in your home office.
Then you need to cut the stickers out.
Right now, all you have is one big laminated sticker with repeated images on it. You need to send the file back to your Silhouette or Cricut machine so that it can neatly cut out the individual stickers. Now you should have a sheet where you can peel the vinyl sticker away from the backing ready for use.
Your stickers are now complete!
Now you have a series of stickers all ready for personal use, for branding, or for cutting into individual pieces to ship to your customers. Peel them off the backing, stick them wherever you plan on using them, give them to friends and family. If you find that they work well and last, you can go on to trying some different designs, more complicated shapes, or some other interesting project. Most importantly, have fun while learning how to make vinyl stickers!