Waterslide Decals vs Printable Vinyl

Waterslide Decals vs Printable Vinyl

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.

If you’re interested in creating homemade stickers to send to loved ones as personalized gifts check out this amazing article we recently added to our blog!


Differences between waterslide decal paper and printable vinyl sticker paper

 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.


waterslide decal paper application technique
A waterslide decal being placed on a mason jar

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.

clear waterslide decal paper tumbler royal elements
Waterslide decal on an epoxy tumbler

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! 

what is printable vinyl infographic explanation glossy clear and matte differences

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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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Vicky Searcey

    Do you need to seal it?

    1. Michael

      You do need to seal waterslide decals, but it is not needed for printable vinyl. We offer laminating sheets that will waterproof stickers as well. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Fermagaia

    What kind of epoxy you used for water slide?

  3. Eva

    I’m working with waterslide decals for the first time on glass. I sprayed acrylic sealer over the water decals. My confusion is how to best seal or set it and what it actually does for it. Some show you can put it in the oven to set it. Some don’t mention to do that so not quite sure the end game there. You mention using the clear resin. Can that be used for the glass and is the idea to put the resin to protect it so there is not need to set it further. And can you wash it after applying the resin (hand wash vs. dish washer safe)?

    1. Michael

      Yes there are many ways to seal and protect your waterslide decal. For your particular case: BEFORE transferring the decal in the water to the glass- spray with an aerosol sealant such as Krylon or Mod Podge. 3 coats should be enough, allowing to dry at couple hours before transferring in your bowl of water.
      Epoxy (such as Alumilite Clear Cast) is more for custom tumblers, but this process is more involved and takes patience, though the decal is permanently encased in the hardened resin and looks beautiful afterwards. After applying resin the decals are completely dishwasher safe.

  4. Savannah

    Can you use water slides to make a custom license plate?

    1. Michael

      Great question! I would recommend our matte white printable vinyl for this particular case. You can use your inkjet printer and it is our most durable and long lasting. I would be careful about putting a sticker directly on your license plate though, legally speaking. Here’s the link for our matte printable vinyl: https://www.amazon.com/Royal-Elements-Waterproof-Sticker-Paper/dp/B07D7K96JJ/ref=sr_1_2?m=A2WNG3PSNCD1AM&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&qid=1569197670&s=merchant-items&sr=1-2

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