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Collecting stickers like those Panini World Cup collectibles are said to help children develop their intellectual and cognitive abilities. Aside from this positive function, there’s just a sense of fun and feeling of satisfaction when we collect and maybe peel the back off of stickers, and then we get to stick them on some random surface where they can grab all the attention they want from unsuspecting passersby. Stickers are fun, and there are countless ways we can enjoy them, be they for collecting and fandom purposes, for scrapbooking, or even for promoting our businesses and shops. Stickers can also be head turners like those on cars that make us think they were included on Pimp my Ride.
There are many different kinds of stickers available, and we can have these printed depending on our preferences and needs. If you’re into stickers, or you’re just looking to get the perfect one for your car or business or to advertise your product, you’d probably encountered by now terms like decal and vinyl.
But what makes decals different from vinyl and ordinary stickers? Is there any difference at all? Some professionals from the industry also seem to add to the confusion when there is no set standard definition for these types of labels which the public can use. Hence, people unsurprisingly use these terms interchangeably, and no one seems to bat an eye about it because they’re just stickers, right? Well, it pays to know the difference especially when you’re trying to decide which one to use. So, it seems like a clarification on the basics is in order.
First off, and as mentioned earlier, there isn’t a single working definition that makes people’s loose use of the terms either right or wrong. It’s worth to note though that all decals are stickers. However, not all stickers are considered decals.
Type of Adhesive Used
For sign shop owners, manufacturers, and those in the printing and signage business, it seems that they categorize decals as decoration or trimmings which make use of high-quality adhesives. The lower-priced ones with lower quality of resin are simply stickers.
Both decals and stickers have adhesives that make them stick to almost any material we want. But decals are often made with remarkably strong, and consequently more expensive, adhesives compared to ordinary stickers. When those windshield or bumper stickers peel off, or those Paninis we collected begin to lose their touch, we don’t mind as much compared to when it’s our car graphics we’re talking about that’s peeling off the sides. Decals need stronger adhesives compared to ordinary stickers.
Another significant difference we can point out is the so-called foundation layer of stickers. The cheaper ones often use paper for their base while decals have what we call a vinyl or plastic base. The kind of layer used is paramount as this determines the length of time stickers can last, especially when left exposed to varying weather conditions.
Vinyl layers on decal stickers also have categorizations such as “calendered” and “cast.” Calendered vinyl are those solid bases through and through used on specific graphics and labels. The cast vinyl considered to have higher quality compared to calendered vinyl are initially liquid plastic. The state of being liquid allows cast vinyl to stick and cover complex curved surfaces for an extended period of time. This characteristic of cast vinyl is the primary reason why they’re on car and boat decals.
Another characteristic of decals that ordinary stickers don’t have is the use of chemical treatments to increase the degree it takes for the ink to bind to the vinyl surface when printed; this, on the other hand, is not necessarily done on ordinary stickers. Decals, particularly those with industrial applications, are also often laminated with a protective UV to achieve a long-lasting print that does not quickly fade away. Other than the treatment and layers used on decals, the types of ink used for printing are often similar for both decals and stickers.
Stickers are any and all products we can stick to a vast range of surfaces. Decals are a kind of stickers, often larger than their counterparts. Often, people use these for outdoor purposes.
Earl Jonathan Tech is the founder of PrintMeister, one of the newest online companies offering printing services that include basic printing to personalised compliment slips. His work focuses mainly on marketing and merchandising, but he writes on his spare time.