How to Make Decals at Home

DIY crafts have increased in popularity over the years and there are plenty of reasons why: the ability to make at home what you would normally buy at the store, home business, and for the sake of the hobby itself. Another reason is being able to fully customize and personalize decals. 

When it comes to making decals, there is an abundance of imaginative ways to express your creativity. You can create decal stickers for windows, wall decor, and personalized gifts. You can even use them for practical purposes to advertise a business or label products. So whether you simply enjoy making DIY crafts or plan to start a decal business from home, knowing how to make decals can prove worthwhile.

This comprehensive guide will provide you with information on how you can make vinyl decals at home. We will cover:

  • What you need to make decals
  • Information on suitable machines and printers
  • The materials you can use to make decals
  • The steps to making decals at home
  • Ways to design your own decals
  • What you can do with custom vinyl decals
  • How to start a home decal business

What Do I Need to Make Decals at Home?

First, gather everything you need and make sure you have adequate working space to set up all the required equipment. To make vinyl decals at home, the basic equipment, materials, and tools you will need are:

  • Inkjet Printable Vinyl can be bought as a vinyl sheet or as a starter pack that comes with the laminate overlay. Printable vinyl is also called vinyl paper. 
  • Vinyl Laminate: to protect your decal and make it waterproof, dishwasher safe, and scratch and tear-resistant. You can get vinyl laminate in a matte or glossy finish. 
  • Inkjet Printer or Laser Printer: for printing high-quality decal images or designs.
  • Vinyl Cutting Machine: to cut the designs of your decal. A vinyl cutter can save time and create professional, precise cuts. 
  • Cutting Mat: to use with your cutting machine. Some cutting machines will come with a cutting mat.
  • Application Tool: to help burnish vinyl and prevent air bubbles when sealing the printable vinyl paper to the transfer tape. It is generally a tool with a hard, straight edge, such as a scraper. 
  • Design Software: to create or download designs for your decals. Cricut comes with Cricut Design Space that has many designs to use.

Additional Potential Supplies

You can also make decals using regular vinyl sheets or iron-on vinyl decals for t-shirts and other fabric materials. For these different projects, additional supplies you may need are:

  • Heat Transfer Vinyl: for iron-on vinyl decals.
  • Weeding Tools: to trim excess vinyl after it is cut. 
  • Iron or Heat Press: to transfer iron-on vinyl to fabric materials.
  • Transfer Tape: if you are using regular vinyl and not printable vinyl sheets for your project.
  • White Label Products: blank items you can transfer your decal onto.

What Machine is Used to Make Decals?

To create decals using printable vinyl sheets, you will need an inkjet printer or laser printer to print your decal design. See the section below for more details on why an inkjet or a laser printer works best for making decals at home and what type to purchase.

While you can cut vinyl decals by hand, a cutting machine can make the process easier, faster, and more professional-looking. If you plan to cut intricate designs, you should have a vinyl cutter. You can easily purchase a professional-quality vinyl cutting machine at an affordable price. Three of the best ones for making decals at home are the following Cricut machines.

Cricut Explore 3

Part of the Cricut Explore group of cutting machines, the Explore 3 is the fastest of its group. Its maximum cutting width is 13″ x 12′, making it suitable for large projects and compact enough for your home space. In addition, you have access to 100 ready-to-make projects on Cricut Design Space with a purchase, and it is compatible with six tools for cutting, scoring, writing, foiling, and more.

Cricut Maker

This Cricut machine can create a wide range of projects and use the most types of materials. It is also compatible with 13 tools for scoring, cutting, writing, foiling, engraving, embellishing, and more. It has a powerful cutting force, can cut projects up to 12′ in length, and provides access to 100 ready-to-make projects.

Cricut Joy 

If you aren’t planning to create large projects and want the most compact Cricut machine, the Cricut Joy is an option for you. It weighs only 3.9 pounds and can cut projects up to 5.5″ x 20′. The Cricut Joy is optimal for making cards, vinyl signs, and small iron-on decals. With your purchase, you get a StandardGrip Mat and access to 50 ready-to-make projects.

You will need a heat press if you want to create iron-on vinyl transfers to personalize totes, t-shirts, bags, pillows, aprons, and more. A machine such as the Cricut Easy Press 2 allows you to transfer your decals to the material for professional results. It is lightweight, portable, has a precise temperature control of up to 400℉, and an advanced heat plate design with a ceramic-coated surface.

Can You Make Decals with a Regular Printer?

Regular printers are not optimal for making decals. Some of them are also not compatible with printable vinyl materials that are required to make decals. Printable vinyl is thicker than regular paper, so it can easily jam a regular printer. 

If you still prefer to use a printer, purchase an inkjet printer. An inkjet printer can produce high-quality pictures, vivid colors, and print fine and smooth details. So, if you are printing vinyl stickers, you can recreate the vibrant colors you want to make the decal stand out. 

Depending on the color of your decal design, you will need different types of inkjet printers. For example, if your designs are black and white, you can use a black and white inkjet printer. Generally speaking, a four color inkjet printer is enough for all other color decals. However, if you want dynamic color ranges or a wide variety of tones, use a printer with at least six cartridges. 

Laser printers are also a good choice for printing quality images on printable vinyl. The main difference between an inkjet and a laser printer is that the inkjet printer uses ink and is more suitable for low-volume printing. On the other hand, laser printers use toners and are great for high-volume printing. A laser printer can be a more suitable investment if you plan to start a home decal business.

In general, it is best to purchase a printer that can handle the thick paper needed to create printable vinyl stickers. Some good printers to choose from are listed below.

HP ENVY Photo 7855

This photo printer is budget-friendly and allows you to print vinyl stickers from your iPhone or AirPrint. You can also print directly from its touchscreen after inserting an SD card or USB. 

Epson WorkForce WF-7710

This printer has a touchscreen and wireless capability for mobile printing. It can print vinyl stickers on both sides and it has a wide format to print larger vinyl projects. The Epson WorkForce is multi-functional, so you can also use it as a regular printer, a scanner, and a fax machine. 

Canon Pixma Pro 100

For the most color range, this printer has eight dye-based inks. It is designed specifically for printing vinyl decals of high quality. Some neat features it has for printing stickers are an OID system that detects different print materials and an automatic document feeder.

What Types of Materials Can You Use to Make Decals?

Vinyl is the best material to use for decals and there are two basic types: adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl. Adhesive vinyl is also known as sticker vinyl. It is a thin, flexible material that you can apply to various smooth, hard surfaces due to its pressure-sensitive adhesive. Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is also known as iron-on vinyl and t-shirt vinyl. You can use HTV for fabric surfaces because it has a heat-activated adhesive. You can purchase both as a vinyl sheet or roll. 

When printing on vinyl, make sure to use printable vinyl sheets and not regular adhesive vinyl. If you print on regular adhesive vinyl, the ink or toner won’t soak into the vinyl; it will run off the sheet instead. To purchase a wide range of adhesive vinyl, HTV vinyl, and printable vinyl, check out the Expressions Vinyl site.

Types of Adhesive Vinyl

Adhesive vinyl sheets come in many different types of materials and designs. For example, you can buy solid colors or printable vinyl sheets with patterns on them. Permanent outdoor vinyl is best for decals on outdoor signs, cars, or items that will go through a dishwasher. Usually, these have a glossy finish and the adhesive is more durable. For indoor decals or anything you want to put up temporarily, it’s best to use removable indoor vinyl. These are usually a matte finish and work well for wall decals, stencils, and indoor signs.

There are also other varieties of adhesive vinyl, including:

  • Metallic: Creates sparkly, shimmering designs that look like reflective metal. 
  • Glitter: Let’s you create glittery designs. It is a permanent adhesive with three layers: vinyl on top, adhesive underneath, and a paper backing beneath.
  • Patterned: Is printed vinyl with a pattern on it, usually colorful patterns and designs.
  • Etched Glass: Creates a stained-glass appearance with a smooth and frosted finish. It is great for shower doors, window decals, car windows, and glassware.
  • Glow in the Dark: Appears glossy in direct light and illuminates in the dark. 
  • Chalkboard: Looks like a chalkboard but doesn’t work well with regular chalk. You can use chalkboard markers to write on it. 
  • Transparent: Also called clear vinyl, it is exactly as it sounds. It’s great for sticking decals on glass surfaces.
  • Stencil: Use a stencil for crisp lines since its edges seal better; paint is less likely to seep through.
  • Calendared: A common material for floors, walls, and windows since it’s thicker and more rigid.
  • Wood-Grain: For an effect that looks like genuine wood.
  • Cast: Has a fabric-like consistency. It is also thin, flexible, durable, and great for outdoor use.

Types of Heat Transfer Vinyl

For HTV ( iron-on vinyl), there are also different varieties. Iron-on vinyl should work on all fabric materials that can stand up to the heat of your heat press or iron, like cotton or polyster. Acrylic materials may melt. Different types of HTV vinyl include:

  • Stretch: Is extra thin, stretchy, and best used on other stretchy materials such as leggings.
  • Glitter: Gives sparkly, glittery results but can be a little difficult to weed.
  • Holographic: A shimmering multicolor material that represents the colors of a rainbow. It is sometimes called iridescent vinyl.
  • Patterned: Is printed vinyl with a pattern on it, usually colorful patterns and designs.
  • Flocked: Is thicker and has a velvety texture that’s easy to weed, so it’s recommended for beginners.
  • Metallic: Creates sparkly, shimmering designs that look like reflective metal. 
  • Reflective: Is a material that reflects light and is most noticeable in the dark when reflecting light off of lamps or vehicle headlamps. 

What Are the Steps to Make Vinyl Decals?

Overall, the steps for making decals are straightforward and all the machines you need are user-friendly. But there are different steps to making decals depending on your project and the materials you use. For example, you can cut one vinyl color with a normal vinyl cutter. However, you may not make an intricate, multicolor design.

You can also choose to layer six different colors of vinyl sheets onto transfer tape for a stunning product. Yet, this process can require time-consuming layering and weeding. You will also need transfer tape to make the decals into stickers.

The following steps explain how to easily make decals using an inkjet printer and printable vinyl paper.

Step 1: Prepare Your Design 

Whether you are using Silhouette Studio, Cricut Design Space, or a different design software for your decal image, there will be certain things you need to prepare. 

First, you want to make sure the design is the right size for your printer and cutter. Next, select “trace outer edge” on your design space to add the cut lines. If you want a border around your decal, you can add it using an offset tool. However, make sure to set the cut line around the border, not the image. 

Step 2: Print Your Design 

Load your inkjet printer with the printable vinyl sheet. Make sure you place the vinyl paper so the ink will print on the matte side since the shiny side is the backing. Print your design!

Step 3: Apply Clear Laminate Overlay (Optional)

This step is optional but recommended. Regular printable vinyl will last around one year, especially outdoors. By adding a clear vinyl laminate, your decal stickers can last up to 5 years. Apply vinyl laminate to your decal sheet by:

  • Placing your decal sheet on a flat surface.
  • Peeling off the edge of your vinyl laminate and lining it with the edge of your decal sheet. 
  • Pressing down on the laminate smoothly, so there are no air bubbles or creases at the edge. 
  • Using an application tool, apply the laminate onto the decal sheet by smoothly pulling away the laminate paper. Use this same tool to burnish the laminate to secure it and remove air bubbles. 

You can also use a clear acrylic spray on your sticker decals. Although this option is more budget-friendly, the spray isn’t as thick as the laminate and may not effectively protect your decal against water. 

Step 4: Cut Your Vinyl Decals

Place your decal vinyl sheet onto a cutting mat and put it into your vinyl cutter machine. Line up the cutting mat and prepare your vinyl cutter by setting the blade, thickness, and speed. Then, send the file to cut. Your cutter will use the cut lines printed to make sure it cuts accurately along the outer edge of your design. 

Step 5: Use Your Decals!

Now you can peel off the sticker decals and place them on the products or surfaces you want them on. Use your application tool to secure them in place and remove air bubbles or wrinkles. 

Different Steps Depending on Material and Project Type

For projects using non-printable adhesive vinyl, you need to add transfer tape to your decal to make it sticky. You will also need to weed the cut design and remove excess vinyl pieces, such as negative space.

If you use heat transfer vinyl, you will also want to make sure you mirror the design on your computer. Not mirroring your design before sending it to the vinyl cutter will result in a backwards result. Next, weed the cut design. Lastly, transfer the design to your fabric material using a heat press. 

There are plenty of tutorial videos online to help guide you through different steps to complete different projects ranging from pop-up gift cards and vinyl labels to iron-on t-shirts.

Can You Make Your Own Vinyl Decals?

When making decals at home, you can choose to use existing designs with permission or create your own images. Software such as the Cricut Design Space that comes with your Cricut machine includes free fonts, free images, and ready-to-make projects you can use. If you are downloading other people’s designs from the internet, make sure you buy the commercial license for the design. Without a license, you are stealing the artist’s work and they can sue you for it. 

If you want to design custom decals, you will need to use photo editing software. There is also other vinyl cutting software that allows you to design your own decals. Below are some options to consider.

CorelDraw

This cutting software has user-friendly tools to edit designs and is suitable for both beginners and advanced designers.

Sure Cuts A Lot Pro

This vinyl software has easy-to-use magnetic snapping, masking, and includes Adobe Photoshop as a feature.

Easy Cut Studio

This software allows you to draw images quickly on the cutting mat, freehand draw, auto-trace, create lattice design, and more.

Adobe Illustrator

Although not a cutting software, this design software is great for creating vector images. You can also hand-draw designs and change them into vector art on Adobe Illustrator. Vector images are optimal for vinyl printing because they do not reduce in quality with size adjustments and can be easy to find cut lines. 

What Can You Do With Vinyl Decals

Now that you know how to create your DIY vinyl decals, what projects can you make with them? The sky is the limit with what design you choose to cut into a decal. You can create quotes, phrases, shapes, infinity hears, animal images, holiday-themed images, and more. Some ideas for vinyl stickers are to create them for: 

  • Car decals, advertisements, and bumper stickers
  • Wall decors
  • Helmets, bikes, and skateboards
  • Phone cases, laptops, and other electronics
  • Gifts such as jars of homemade jam
  • Envelopes and gift tags
  • Personalized name tags 
  • Mugs, plates, cups, and water bottles
  • Christmas ornaments 
  • Pencil boxes, lunch boxes, and lockers
  • Kitchen and garden labels

Can You Start a Home Vinyl Decal Business?

Yes, you can! A vinyl business can be a fun way to earn income since you can do it from home and it doesn’t require a lot of overhead to sustain. The costs to start the business mostly depend on the supplies you purchase and how much time you have to do all the steps yourself. Not needing to hire additional people can save on costs. For example, some people have said they got started for as low as $700 by purchasing a vinyl cutter with a design program.

Besides knowing how to make vinyl decals, there are other things you need to consider to start a vinyl decal business. These include:

  • Understanding copyright laws and tax obligations.
  • Having a camera to take professional pictures that showcase your creations.
  • Accounting software.
  • Managing the logistics of receiving and filling orders when selling decals, including having accounting software. 
  • Setting up payment platforms and methods. Having an option to use credit cards can help with sales. 
  • Choosing a business name and checking it with the U.S. patent and trademark office.
  • Branding your business with logos and marketing materials, such as business cards.
  • Having business licenses and applicable commercial licenses.
  • Managing a social media profile on various platforms.
  • Having a marketing plan, including creating a content schedule. 

Where Can You Sell Your Decals?

Decide if you want to sell your decals online, locally, or a combination of both. For online businesses, you can create a storefront through Etsy or open a Facebook and Instagram business page to sell directly through social media. Some things to consider about selling online include:

  • You can reach audiences globally but will also have a lot of competition.
  • It’s a form of passive income where you can make sales while cooking, shopping, or sleeping.
  • It requires beautiful and quality pictures of your decals since customers can’t see them in person.
  • You don’t have to interact with customers face-to-face but need to be responsive to online messages. 
  • You may have to handle your own packing and shipping. 

To sell locally, you can network with local businesses, schools, nonprofits, sports teams, and professionals such as wedding planners, party planners, home stagers, and interior designers. Craft fairs and farmer’s markets are also great places to sell your work. Use the in-person opportunity to show your customers samples of what you can create. Giving some away to generate word-of-mouth marketing can also prove beneficial. When selling offline, things to consider include:

  • You get a chance to network and build close relationships with recurring customers but need to be comfortable interacting with people in person.
  • You can answer customer questions immediately as they are deciding to purchase with you.
  • You will be limited to the local community. 
  • Your decals won’t sell as passive income. 

Whether you sell online or offline, finding opportunities to sell in bulk can help you generate enough income to sustain your business. Consider catering to people who plan lots of events needing giveaways, such as fundraisers or conferences.

Final Thoughts

Making DIY vinyl decals at home can be a fun hobby or a great home business venture. Impress your friends and family by crafting your own stickers for personalized gifts and create projects to liven up your home. When doing it for business reasons, easily create your decals and craft projects at home and sell them online, at craft fairs, to local businesses, or anyone who plans events.

With this guide, you have all the basic information you need to start making decals easily. As you gain experience, there are many more techniques and project types to explore using a vinyl cutter. Regardless of how far you decide to take your decal-making experience, remember to have fun! 

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