Stickers are all the rage right now, as a fun hobby or business anyone can do from home. It’s no small wonder, either, since all you need is printable vinyl, a design program, and a printer. Even if you’ve never made a sticker before, you probably already have the perfect setup. A printer? Check. A program like Word, Avery, or Canva? Check. Printable vinyl? So easy and affordable to buy it online. Before you get started, however, there is a way to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other sticker makers out there. With a little know-how, you can make waterproof stickers that are extra durable. Ready to learn how? Let’s get started.
Why Make Durable Stickers?
Stickers are fun and functional. They serve as everything from labels to home décor. Thanks to digital printing you can customize stickers as décor, put them on tumblers, sell them at Farmers Markets, or use them to enhance products (like putting logo stickers on items you sell). Whether your stickers are labelling the flour canister in your pantry or act as the name on your mug at work, you want them to last.
Durable stickers are waterproof, difficult to tear (even when you remove them), and able to stand up to outdoor elements. So, how does one make durable stickers? It starts with vinyl.
Waterproof and Tear Proof Vinyl
Many people turn to precut sheets of labels for making stickers, but this presents a problem. Off-the-shelf labels are usually paper-based. Instead, choose printable vinyl. These thin plastic sheets are naturally waterproof and tear-resistant. They are formulated to accept and set ink in seconds, without color bleed or smearing. They can get wet in the dishwasher, be cleaned with a damp rag, or put outdoors (like a bumper sticker) and hold up perfectly.
To print waterproof stickers, first choose your finish. Printable vinyl comes in sheets that are either glossy, clear, or matte. The finish affects the look of the end result, it does not affect the durability. As long as you start with vinyl, you will be making very durable stickers.
Sheets of printable vinyl are not typically precut like sheets of labels. You can get around this by placing your sticker design into a label template. Even though these sheets are for durable stickers, they are still thin and flexible enough to cut with scissors. You can simply cut out and trim your design with household scissors. If you are working with a design with straight edges, such as a logo in a box, you can use a paper cutter to speed up the process.
When you start with printable vinyl, you automatically create a waterproof sticker. However, what if you need to start with a paper-based label, or you want to create extra-durable stickers? In these cases, you turn to lamination.
You don’t need to invest in a laminating machine to make laminated stickers. Instead, try a self-adhesive laminating sheet.
The fastest way to make laminated stickers is to simply peel the protective backing off of the laminating sheet and adhere the sticky side right over your entire sheet of stickers. Look for a laminating sheet that is slightly longer and wider than your 8 x 11 sheet of printable vinyl, so you don’t have to worry about lining up the edges. Once the laminating sheet is down, gently push outwards with a rubber spatula or your fingers to remove air bubbles. Now proceed with cutting your stickers out. If they were printed on paper, you have increased their durability and water resistance. If you started with printable vinyl, you have extra-durable stickers that can be used outdoors. For example, laminated stickers are ideal for bumper stickers that face mud, slush, rain and the car wash on a regular basis.
Laminated stickers can be made on a singular basis too. Since the laminating sheet is easy to cut, you have the option of cutting out your sticker, cutting out a square of lamination, adhering them together, then doing the final overall trim. This takes longer and is a finicky process, but is ideal if you only want to make laminated stickers from part of the batch on your sheet.
Once you have created durable stickers through printable vinyl or lamination, the next thing to consider is the surface they are going on. Stickers stick because of the adhesive backing. Heat can break down the adhesive. So, even if your sticker is durable enough for the dishwasher, to preserve stickers on mugs, glasses, or tumblers, rinse them in lukewarm water. The same goes for stickers that are outdoors. Of course they will get some direct sunlight, but be careful of stickers placed on metal. Any surface that retains and conducts heat will degrade the adhesive faster than a surface like wood or plastic.
You also need to ensure the surface you choose is clean and smooth before placing your sticker. You went through all that trouble to make a beautiful durable sticker, so take a few extra moments to prep the surface before you place your sticker.
- Unless you are looking to place the sticker permanently, choose a surface that will not be damaged when you break the seal and pull off the sticker.
- Gently wipe the surface with a damp cloth, or, if it is colorfast, an alcohol swab.
- Dry the surface completely. Do a final check to ensure it is debris and dust free.
- Peel the backing of the sticker off, place it on the surface, and smooth it from the middle out to remove the bubbles.
It’s easy to make durable stickers. The fastest way is to start with printable vinyl that is waterproof, tear-resistant, and naturally strong. Printable vinyl comes in clear, glossy, and matte, and is easy to cut with scissors. If starting with a non-vinyl sheet of labels, or if wanting extra-durable stickers, use a laminating sheet. Thanks to self-adhesive laminating sheets, you don’t need extra equipment like pouches and a machine to laminate stickers. Simply place the sticky side of the laminating sheet over your stickers, smooth out any air bubbles, and cut out the desired shapes. Laminating sheets are easy to cut; you could also laminate and cut out single stickers instead of working with whole sheets at a time. Once your durable stickers are ready, ensure even more longevity by cleaning and prepping the surface they will stick to, and avoid putting them on surfaces that will retain and conduct heat.
Want to get started on your durable stickers right now? Royal Elements sells printable and adhesive vinyl, along with transfer tape, laminating sheets, magnetic sheets, and more in our online store – and our blog has plenty of design tips. We love to see the projects you make using Royal Elements products. Post your results online with the hashtag #royalelementsstickers so we can feature your designs on our social networks (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube).