Choosing a company to print your custom stickers online can be quite a task when you have so many different options. You begin your custom sticker search knowing what you need and how you want your stickers to look. Establishing further details such as the product type and name of the product can require more intense research. Some customers come to us extremely educated and know exactly what they need in their stickers, while others are completely unsure and are just starting their research into finding the correct product for the look they are going for.
Let us speed up the research process a little bit for you!
Polypropylene – This is a common sticker and labeling material that’s widely used for everything from food containers to short term outdoor stickers. These stickers are generally a lower cost option and aren’t made in short runs. Minimums can run as high as 250 stickers per design. For indoor applications, these stickers can be good performers if you need higher runs of stickers. If you’re looking for roll stickers, typically they would be printed with this material. We do not print onto this material as it’s too temporary for our customer’s durability requirements.
Vinyl – Vinyl is your other option for stickers. Vinyl is outdoor stable and a variety of printing processes are used to turn unprinted white vinyl into printed stickers. Not all inks are created equal, so ensure that the ink types used are designed for outdoor use. Not all sticker providers list an outdoor life, which generally means they aren’t using an outdoor rated ink system in their print equipment.
Laminated Vinyl – The laminate is the transparent layer of (usually vinyl) that is applied over top of the ink after printing is completed. Not all companies laminate, which can be a concern if you’re worried about durability. We do not produce any stickers without lamination, as we know our customers want the most durable stickers possible. Lamination will add UV protection, scratch resistance and chemical resistance to the print, which can be a critical role for most applications. Even with laminate, if the provider is using water-based inks during printing, you can expect your stickers to have an extremely short outdoor life. Water based inks aren’t designed for outdoors.
Most companies do not apply the adhesive when printing your stickers, so you won’t have a lot of options when choosing how you want your stickers to perform. The adhesive is a critical component that many customers overlook. Like ink sets, not all adhesives are designed to be outdoors. This means that a water based adhesive can deteriorate quickly if you apply your indoor stickers, outdoors. All of our stickers use a solvent based adhesive, so water has no effect on the adhesive.
Ask the right questions regarding application surfaces
Any sticker will apply to a car window perfectly initially, but will the sticker look the same in a week, in a month, in a year? Asking this question can be critical to ensuring your money is well spent down the line. If the expectation is to apply your stickers to a rough surface, or even a surface like a silicone cell phone case, more research should be involved to ensure the stickers will perform as intended. We stock many different materials that are designed to work with these specific surfaces.
Sticker samples can help you make the final decision
Allowing enough time to order your stickers will give you time to receive samples and make a more educated decision. Ask your print provider for pre-printed samples, or if available, ask for them to print a short run of your actual artwork. When you receive your samples, apply them to the surfaces you plan on using, and keep them applied for a few days. Try to test the sticker by getting it wet, scratching it, etc. If these are conditions your stickers will see over their useful life, this durability test should help to give you an idea of how they will hold up.
Ensure that your production run of stickers will be printed in the same resolution as your sample stickers by confirming with your sticker provider. Testing the stickers outdoors for long term is of course very difficult. Read through the vendor’s literature and ensure that they give an outdoor life rating, or a rating based on your application. Outdoor life ratings assume that you prepped the surface properly with isopropyl alcohol, and that stickers are applied to a clean, smooth surface like metal or glass. A rough application surface will not guarantee the same rating, and extreme temperature locations like the searing summer heat of Arizona, could shorten this rating.
Cut quality is as important as print quality. A poorly cut sticker will ruin the look and feel of the sticker as quickly as poor print quality. It’s difficult to predict how accurate your stickers will be cut, but try to look closely at your samples for consistency from sticker to sticker. Not all equipment is created equal, and we have seen some less than stellar cutting in our 10+ years of making stickers from other vendors. We put a lot of focus on cut quality as we understand this is an extremely important step of the production process.
This is only a general overview of what to look out for when buying your first set of custom stickers. We could more than likely write a novel on this topic based on our experience of printing stickers online since 2005.
E-mail us at [email protected] or give us a call, 1-304-212-4670 9am-5pm EST.