How to make vinyl stickers

Written by gail cohen
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People across the nation are not shy about letting others know where their opinions lie. Cruise a local car park and you'll see bumper stickers shouting political affiliations, car insurers, a statement from a non-profit or two and the stickers condo and apartment dwellers are required to display so they don't get towed. Add a few alumnae stickers and those mandated by your village or town and you'll see why most automobiles are billboards on wheels. Some stickers wind up on books, shirts and the windows of businesses. If you're looking to promote your cause or business by skipping the printer and making your own, this article will get you started.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Software programs and/or templates
  • Printer
  • Vinyl decal stock
  • Paper cutter

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  1. 1

    Choose a design. High-contrast images with clean edges and vibrant colours work best. Simple designs can be scanned and used for the stickers or invent your own if you have a draw program like Adobe Illustrator. Save the image as a "jpg."

  2. 2

    Experiment with colour. Vinyl stickers print well regardless of whether process (mixing percentages of the four colours in your printer) or spot colours (using a pre-mixed ink) are chosen. If your art requires PMS (Pantone Matching System) colours, remember that the finished image will only be as good as the printer you are using to output the stickers.

  3. 3

    Verify the size of the item to which you plan to attach the decal. Sheets of printable vinyl are only available in 8.5 by 11 inch so they fit into your printer's paper drawer. If you had a larger sticker in mind, you may have to take it to a quick printer for output.

  4. 4

    Size the sticker art accordingly. If you're making a vinyl bumper sticker, you won't be able to make it longer than 10.5 inches to account for the printer's grip rollers. Centring your art on a 10.5-inch horizontal line will keep it within that parameter. Lay out small stickers by setting up the page with appropriately-sized columns.

  5. 5

    Create one sticker and save it. Select the art and repeat or duplicate it as many times as the sheet of stock will allow. Make certain everything stays within the page boundaries.

  6. 6

    Load sheets of vinyl stock into the printer's paper tray. Run a test sheet to be certain the stock is correctly loaded and that you're satisfied with the quality of the colour output.

  7. 7

    To make large quantities of stickers, run multiple small batches to quality control the consistency of the ink and images as they come out of the ink bath.

  8. 8

    Use a paper cutter to separate the stickers if the stock you have chosen isn't already scored for separation.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are producing small vinyl stickers for plastic or wood model planes, cars or other such items, choose ultra-thin stock created just for this type of job.
  • You may wish to invest in a commercial grade printer if your stickers are to be used in a commercial enterprise. These machines are not inexpensive and require the use of commercial inks.
  • Find vinyl sticker stock at any office supply store.
  • Not all printers use inks that print on vinyl stock. Read the stock package carefully to make certain yours does before you buy it.
  • Be certain the software you choose for designing your stickers is compatible with your platform. There's nothing more exasperating than opening a CD to find it's programmed to work with a Mac and you own a PC!

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