Are stickers, decals, and labels the same thing? No. While they have a lot in common, they are not the same.
We will look at why, but first, to determine which type of paper or vinyl you need for your sticker, label, or decal, you must consider several factors:
- Will it portray a graphic? Several colors? Primary colors? Greyscale or tints?
- Will it need to adhere to a car? A wall? A signpost? Where will it stick and for how long?
- Will it be exposed to the elements? To water? Should it be waterproofed?
- Will it need to be small enough to fit in a certain location, like on a bumper?
After determining the application, you can decide if you will need a sticker, label, or decal.
What is a sticker?
Stickers are smaller types of adhesives that can be blank, black and white, or printed in color. Blank stickers are written on. For example, name tags are blank stickers – and this is why you can interchangeably call a label a sticker in some cases. For the most part, though, stickers are decorative while labels are informative. Printable sticker vinyl or paper has one side that presents a graphic or information, and another side that has the adhesive.
- Stickers can be easily made and are cheap to produce
- Printable paper or vinyl makes it easy to make stickers at home
- Stickers have hundreds of uses
- Stickers are bright, colorful, and cheerful
- Without the right type of printable vinyl or lamination, stickers can degrade quickly
- Stickers can be easily removed (which is a pro or a con depending on how long you need it to last!)
Common Sticker Uses
- Bullet journals
- Calendar reminders
- Chore charts
Examples: Most Commonly Recognized Stickers
The most common and most easily recognized stickers in the world include:
- The Apple company logo sticker that Apple gives away with its products
- The Chiquita® banana sticker created in 1963 for the brand
- The iconic Lisa Frank sticker collection
- The KISS band logo sticker
What is a label?
A label is used to convey information. Look around and you are likely to identify labels mere feet away. In fact, your clothing has a label; you are next to a label right now! The label on your electrical cord warns you not to drop the plug into water. The label on your laptop indicates the make and model of the unit. The label on your clothes let you know if you can throw your shirt in the wash or if you have to take it to the dry cleaners. As you can see, labels don’t have to be stickers. They can be etched or on cloth tags too. However, one of the most common type of labels is an adhesive label, because they are so versatile.
- Labels can be easily made and are cheap to produce
- A variety of ready-made options exist for labels, including blank printable label sheets, label makers, pre-made ones, and perforated blank labels sheets
- Labels can be removable or permanent – they are versatile
- Labels are a fast way to convey information
- Labels are easy to customize
- Adhesive labels do not last. Etched or cloth labels are required for more permanent applications
- Important information, such as safety details about a product, could be lost if the label is removed
Common Label Uses
- Name tags
- Product identification
- Prescription labels
Examples: Most Commonly Recognized Labels
It is impossible to attend an event without seeing a name tag, but surprisingly, these labels were introduced more recently than you may think. C-Line Products made the iconic “Hello My Name Is:” sticker in 1959, spawning a plethora of copycats in its wake.
Another common label is the recycling symbol. This label is universally recognized to depict if an item can be repurposed safely or not. The recycle label is in the public domain and a great example of how a simple label can be used around the world to convey important information.
What is a decal?
Think of decals as the toughest version of a sticker. Since decals are so durable, they are often used for outdoor applications. You can buy decals for things like car signs, but you can also make them yourself by using printable waterproof decal vinyl or by adding a laminating sheet to sticker paper.
- Very long lasting
- Eye-catching and attractive
- Easy to make small decals yourself or to have them designed
- Can be made in a wide variety of sizes
- Extremely versatile
- Can be reusable
- Great for promotional materials
- Difficult to remove unless magnetic
- Larger decals can be difficult to place or line up without extra tools such as levels or grids
- Larger or thicker decals are difficult to make at home
- Needs a non-porous surface to stick
Common Decal Uses
- Wall murals
- Car decals
- Personalization (often seen on guitars)
- Hobbies (decals on model vehicles, for example)
Examples: Most Commonly Recognized Decals
In the early 2000s, family stick figures started showing up on the back of minivans. This trend continues today with everything from “normal” families to families depicted as pop culture icons. Another common decal is the yellow and black Baby on Board graphic made for vehicles.
Conclusion: The Main Difference Between a Sticker, Label, or Decal – and What they Have in Common
As you can see, the main difference is basically one thing – application. All three are made from similar materials, such as paper or vinyl on one side and an adhesive on the other, but how you use each one determines if you need a sticker, label or decal.
Now that you know what makes a sticker different from a label or a label different from a decal, it is important to understand the one thing they have in common. All three have a side that conveys a message and the other side is a practical adhesive. When you choose which kind of application you need, you will have a choice for the message side (matte, glossy, waterproof, clear, white, printable, writeable, durable, wipe-free, laminated, vinyl, paper, etc.) as well as a range of adhesive options (glue, waterslide, magnetic, etc.). Again, your choice of what kind of materials you choose will come back to what function you need your sticker, decal, or label to fulfill.
There are many reasons why you may want to make or buy a sticker, decal or label. Before you do, think carefully about what you need it for. Are you looking for something decorative? Something promotional? Something to deliver information? Once you know what you need it for, you can determine what kind of product you need. Vinyl adhesive sticker paper is very durable. Paper or thinner sheets are good for children’s sticker crafts. If doing you own printing, check to see that the vinyl or paper is compatible with your printer (laser or inkjet).
Royal Elements sells high quality printing vinyl and our customer service is second-to-none. We bring you the best products and the information on how to get the most out of your projects. We would love to feature your projects; when posting online, show us your work by using the hashtag #royalelementsstickers. Visit https://www.amazon.com/royalelements today to see the many different kinds of vinyl you can use to make stickers, labels, decals.