What is the difference between a sticker and a decal?

Here, at YoSticker, we are sometimes asked, what is the difference between a sticker and a decal? What should be chosen and why stickers are cheaper than decals? Are they not that good quality?

No, no, the quality is the same, so please don’t worry! But sometimes decal works where sticker doesn’t. All decals are stickers (but not all stickers are decals).



Everyone knows what is sticker. When we were kids, we sticked them everywhere. Now, I grew up but I still stick them everywhere (you probably too), lol. But let’s lyric stay aside.

According to Wikipedia, Sticker is a piece of printed paper, plastic, vinyl, or other material with pressure sensitive adhesive on one side. Basically you peel it from backing paper and stick on your desired surface. From one hand, sticker, as a general term, is simple and understandable – we all know what purposes they serve. From another hand, there are so many different sticker types, materials, adhesives that you can write a book about it. But no worries, we won’t… at least not in this article.


vinyl decal with transfer tape

vinyl decal with transfer tape


Decal (short from decalcomania)  has much wider and more abstract meaning, so this Wiki description of a decal can be somehow confusing. Let us try to explain it in few words.

Decal is like a sticker, same vinyl quality, same ink and cut process, but it has a transfer tape (or masking tape) on top of it. Think about lettering – a simple message of your business (for example, like this). As you can see, all the letters of the message are separate stickers but they are so perfectly aligned! Did somebody stick each letter individually? Of course not, it would be nightmare long process and in the end, most probably, you would notice some misalignment.

Having transfer tape on top of all the letters dramatically simplifies the application process. You peel off the transfer tape together with all the letters. Then you stick your letters with the transfer tape on the surface like a normal sticker. After you remove the transfer tape and voila, your letters stick to the surface and masking tape in your hands. As you can see, decal works here and sticker doesn’t.

When to order a decal instead of a sticker?

Now, when you have clear understanding about the difference between a sticker and a decal, you would ask when you should choose a sticker instead of decal?

Wouldn’t be better to order even simple shape (rectangle or circle) sticker as a decal? We would say this – if it is small size less than one square feet,  don’t! Otherwise it is waste of your money. For bigger sizes, transfer tape on top of your sticker will help you to apply it because vinyl sticker itself is very thin (between 3 and 4 mil/th (1000 mil/th = 1 inch ). So if you order 2ft x 2ft sticker and suddenly, during the application, it folds and sticks to itself with adhesive sides – not much you can do in this situation except reordering the same sticker.

That’s why we often hear the term wall decal but not wall sticker – wall decals are usually produced in big sizes and even if it is single shape design, decal option is recommended to simplify the sticking process. Also, when you apply your decal, you probably use either old credit card or some kind of non-professional squeegee so transfer tape protects your vinyl against any scratches.

So rule of thumb is this. Order the decal if your image is very complex (lettering, stars, long tail of an animal) or your sticker size exceeds one square feet.

Why a decal is more expensive than a sticker?

After reading above and knowing the difference between a sticker and a decal, you most probably guess why a decal is more expensive than a sticker. After the machine prints and cuts the vinyl , we need to make few extra steps:

1) To remove non design pieces of vinyl. For instance, in letter A, we need to remove internal triangle and all the surrounding vinyl manually so only pure letter A stays on the backing paper. This process is tedious and requires a lot of attention in order to make sure that we remove all non-design pieces.

2) To apply transfer tape on top. This process requires a lot of focus because one wrong step can lead to wrinkles or creases.

But again, quality of the vinyl for a sticker and a decal stays the same.

We hope that you have a clear understanding now about the difference between a sticker and a decal and this article helps you to make the right choice by ordering at YoSticker.


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