Waterslide decals and printable vinyl- which is better? The answer really depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
The short answer is: waterslide decals are great for creating low-profile, slidable (adjustable even after placing them on a surface) decals, however, their downside is that they must be sealed and covered to protect them fully.
Printable vinyl is perfect for a one-and-done type of application where you print the vinyl sticker and slap it on. However vinyl is thicker than waterslides (resulting in a noticeable edge) and if you misplace the vinyl then it is very difficult to remove the adhesive and readjust it.
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Where did waterslide decals get their name? They are called waterslide decals because you place them in the water and slide them off a backing sheet, and the adhesive is wet which allows for adjusting and moving the decal while it is stuck to the surface until it drys.
If you run your finger over a waterslide decal you will barely be able to tell that its not part of the surface itself. This is one of the reasons why waterslides are so popular for creating custom tumblers, though a layer of epoxy over the waterslide is required to protect it from wear and tear. Alumilite clear casting resin was used to seal over the epoxy waterslide tumbler in the image below.
Printable vinyl on the other hand is a very different material and process. For printable vinyl, all you have to do is print a design on the vinyl (printable vinyl is specific to inkjet or laser printer), then cut the vinyl out either with a machine cutter such as Cricut/Cameo, and then peel off and stick on.
Printable vinyl is very durable, scratch and tear resistant, and even waterproof with no sealant required!
The only downside to using printable vinyl over waterslide decal paper is that once it is placed on a surface- it is nearly impossible to adjust it, whereas waterslide decal paper can be moved and adjusted for about an hour before the water-based adhesive backing drys and sets in.
Printable vinyl has a larger variety of colors (clear, matte white, and glossy white) as well as thicknesses and materials which gives a larger variety of options as opposed to waterslide paper, which is only available in glossy white and clear options. Royal Elements offers a variety of amazing printable vinyl and waterslide decal paper.
They are both wonderful and useful in their own right- it is totally worth adding them both to your arsenal of crafting supplies!
Waterslide decal paper gives you the flexibility when placing it on your custom project, however it takes more care and is much more fragile. It is also a longer process, taking a few hours for the sealant to dry and be ready to transfer. Additionally, more supplies are required for waterslide decal paper and get be a little tricky to get the transfer technique.
Printable vinyl is a much more durable material, being tear and scratch resistant, and even waterproof in many cases. The printing process is also quick and very similar to printing a regular sheet of paper, except that you need to cut out the shape and peel off the backing sheet- but then you’re all ready to go.
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