What’s the difference between a sticker and a decal? This is a frequently asked question. There is no definitive answer because people frequently use the terms interchangeably to describe identical things. However, this should assist to clarify.
Let’s look up the definition in the New Oxford Dictionary. Then I’ll explain how we at Darrtam (a custom sticker, decal, and label vendor) determine these product categories.
An adhesive label or notice, generally printed or illustrated.
A small piece of paper, fabric, plastic, or similar material attached to an object and giving information about it.
A design prepared on special paper for transfer onto another surface such as glass, porcelain, or metal.
It’s easy to see why we’re frequently asked, “What’s the difference between a label and a sticker?” “A sticker is a form of label… and adhesive labels are also stickers.”
At Darrtam, we use the term “sticker,” as in bumper stickers, die cut stickers, window stickers, and so on, to refer to heavier-duty labels/stickers that can be used outside and withstand the elements for an extended length of time. These are printed with long-lasting outdoor inks on vinyl or polyester.
We generally use the term “label” to describe adhesive products printed on papers or foils with inks that are not suitable for outdoor use, such as address labels, shipping labels, lapel labels, foil seals, and so on, which are typically supplied on a roll or sheet for use (indoors) on packaging, paperwork, clothing, products, and so on.
In contrast, the term “decals” is frequently used interchangeably with other outdoor sticker goods. However, as the New Oxford definition shows, “decals” are more linked with a “transfer” from one medium to another. “Decal” is an abbreviation for “decalcomania” and refers to a more ornamental design. Thus, “slide-on transfer decals” in the model-building field, or water-slide ceramic decals (Transfers) for tile and ceramic applications, are correct uses of the decal term.
The most common source of decal/sticker confusion is vinyl cut text and graphics. These are intended for long-term outdoor usage and come with a pre-masking sheet, so they may be transferred from one sheet/medium to another when applied. Unlike a standard “sticker,” which is taken from its backing paper and adhered to any smooth surface, these vinyl decals are transferred (sometimes in numerous pieces) from the masking sheet to a smooth surface.
As a result, at Darrtam (and many other companies), vinyl cut lettering and graphics with a masking sheet are referred to as “decals,” whereas all other one-piece, outdoor printed vinyl or clear polyester are referred to as “stickers.” Because decals are a type of sticker, you’ll also hear and see the term “vinyl cut stickers“.
We hope that this article was helpful. Whatever language you choose, it is always best to inform a manufacturer exactly what you want to do with this sticky substance and where you want the sticker/decal to be applied/stuck. If you want your name (or message, or graphic) to stick to whatever you’re attempting to label, decorate, or market, Darrtam will assist explain and develop the ideal personalized solution to match your needs.
If you need a small quantity (short run) of personalized stickers, decals, labels, or magnets, it no longer makes sense to produce them yourself (DIY). Contact Darrtam Print Solutions for high-quality digital printing in small quantities.
Based on Brisbane’s Northside, we can design, print and install your signage with your choice of colours, sizing and finish options.
We even offer affordable graphic design and printing solutions for business start-ups, SME’s and large scale operations across all industries.