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How to choose the perfect custom sticker

Are you unsure which custom sticker is right for you? Confused?

Experience tells us that too many people buy the wrong sticker and pay more than necessary.

We’ve spent weeks creating the most comprehensive resource available online to help you get the perfect custom sticker.

This guide will give you enough information to make the right decision but doesn’t get bogged down in technical jargon or too much science.

We’ve split this guide into 4 sections:

  • Choosing the right material
  • Should your sticker be laminated; Yes or No?
  • Getting the adhesive right
  • Choosing the perfect cut

Once you’ve read this guide, you’ll be in the best position to buy the perfect custom stickers for your application.

Get ready to make the right decisions, saving you time and money! Let’s get stuck in.

1. Choosing the right material

This is the most important part. Getting this right could mean the difference between your sticker enjoying years of happy sticking and looking great (something we all want), vs disintegrating at the first touch or drop of water.

But don’t worry! It’s easy to make the right decision with the information we’re about to give you.

When we talk about the material, we mean the layer your design is printed onto.

There are 2 main categories of material to choose from; they are paper and plastic. Here are some highlights of both:

Plastic

  • Durable and hard-wearing

  • Tear-resistant

  • Waterproof

  • Suitable for outdoor use

  • Options to choose flexible plastics

  • Recyclable options available

  • Available in many colour options

  • Flexible, so can go on curved surfaces

Paper

  • Short-term or indoor use only

  • Most aren’t waterproof. If they are it’s not as resistant as plastic.

  • Low cost

  • Easily recyclable

  • Great textured finishes available

  • Available in nearly as many colour options as plastics

Typical uses

A useful way to understand what material is best for you is to see what other people do. Here are some popular uses for vinyl and paper stickers:

Plastic

Die cut holographic stickers applied to honey jars
Rectangular clear label applied to a pink gin bottle next to a measuring cup and mint leaves
Protect the NHS white die cut sticker on a laptop
Circle holographic sheet labels applied to an amber jar with beard oil
Rectangle clear labels applied to four spice jars filled with different spices
Die cut eco-friendly stickers with cat art design applied to a silver laptop

Paper

Rectangle biodegradable paper sticker with take out logo applied to cardboard food boxes
Biodegradable paper sheet label with fruits and berries design applied to a cardboard tube next to additional sheet labels
Round Biodegradable paper sheet labels applied to paper bags
Biodegradable paper sheet labels with logo and sealed with love design used as a packaging seal on a cardboard box
Rectangle biodegradable paper stickers with cardboard soap boxes
Biodegradable paper sheet labels with rounded corners applied to a cardboard soap box

A common mistake

Many people don’t realise that papers and plastic material are available in various colours and can come with different effects such as glitter, silver, gold, holographic and fluorescent.

While both materials are very versatile, you will find it much easier to find plastic-based effect stickers.

So do not settle and instead speak to your supplier if you want a colour other than white or clear.

Laminated – Yes or No?

Understanding if you need a laminate on your custom sticker or not will save you valuable money.

What types of laminate are available?

The 2 main options are either matte or gloss. This is mainly down to preference.

Gloss vs matte finish for custom stickers

You can get ‘liquid laminates’ that are clear coatings to help with a bit of resistance, but they don’t get close to the strength of a layer of plastic.

Yes - I need laminate

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you need a laminate on your sticker.

  • Is your sticker being used outdoors? For example, on a bike frame. If so, it needs the UV, water and scratch resistance from laminate.

  • Will your sticker be scratched, rubbed or held repeatedly? For example, on the back of your phone or laptop.

  • Do you have a premium brand, and you want to give a perception of quality? The extra layer of laminate gives your sticker the thickness to make it feel premium, like a beautiful thick business card.

No - I don't need laminate

If you answer yes to these questions, you don’t need laminate.

  • Are you looking for the lowest cost option? The extra layer of laminate adds cost and complexity to the manufacturing process.

  • Are your stickers for a single-use? For example, takeaway food packaging or event name stickers. No laminate is needed as they are used for such a short time.

  • Are your stickers only being used indoors? For example, for beverage bottles (think fancy gin bottle sticker) or for product marking like a QR code on an electrical product.

Top tip

If you want a clear or transparent sticker we recommend choosing a gloss laminate rather than a matte finish. Otherwise, you won’t get very good clarity.

Getting the adhesive right

Getting the adhesive right is really important to ensure your custom sticker doesn’t peel and look bad within a few hours – not ideal.

Whilst there are many different types of adhesive, the most important factor is strength. We will focus on this.

There are 3 ‘strengths’ of adhesive used for sticker and label applications. These are:

Removable

Stickers with a removable grade adhesive are used for applications when you want to remove the sticker after a very short time and to leave no residue.

Permanent

Most stickers use this material – well over 90%. This is because they’re perfect for sticking to nearly all surfaces (see the list below).

  • Glass

  • Metal

  • Paint

  • Galvanized steel

  • Powder coatings

  • Paper

  • Cardboard

  • Leather

  • Plastic bottles

  • Fibreglass

High tack

This is an industrial-strength adhesive for those hard to stick to applications. Go for these if you’ve used stickers in the past that don’t stick or you’re sticking to one of these materials:

  • Rubber

  • Low energy plastic – polypropylene and polyethene, to be exact. Things that are made from these plastics are; water buckets, wheelie bins, and motocross bike fairings.

  • Wood

  • Stone

Top tip

If you’re selling your stickers to your customers, giving them away as handouts, or just unsure about which is best for you to choose the permanent adhesive option. It's the best all-rounder and won’t go ruining anything they’re stuck to.

4. Choosing the perfect cut

Do you get stickers cut individually or have them on sheets or rolls?

Getting this right could save you valuable hours! Choose from; individually cut, sticker sheets or stickers on rolls?

To help explain how important this is, we did a test of applying 1000 stickers that were 3cm circles. It took 2 hours and 17 minutes when individually cut, whereas it took 48 minutes when on a sheet. That’s a saving of 1 hour and 29 minutes or 65% – now do I have your attention?

Round Biodegradable paper sheet labels applied to paper bags

Individually cut

If you’re giving your stickers away at an event, selling your stickers individually or even applying a few hundred to your product packaging, we recommend individually cut stickers.

They are easy to store and often the easiest to buy in small quantities. If you choose individually cut stickers, then you have two main options; kiss-cut or die-cut.

What’s the difference?

The main difference is that kiss-cut stickers are only cut through the top, self-adhesive layer, whereas a die-cut sticker is cut through the sticker and the backing paper. You can deep dive into this in our article "What is the difference between kiss cut and die cut stickers?"

This image helps to show what we mean.

A die cut and a kiss cut sticker example

Sticker sheets

If you’re starting to apply many hundred or even thousands of stickers to products or packaging, we recommend getting your stickers on sheets.

All stickers on a sheet are kiss-cut through the sticker layer but remain on the backing paper, making them super quick and easy to remove.

Sheets are also great if you want to write on them. Sheets come in many different sizes, but we recommend A4 and A5 if the size of your sticker allows it because this is very easy to distribute.

Here are some great examples of stickers sheets (or sheet labels).

Die cut biodegradable paper sheet labels applied to a cardboard box filled with lavender soap
Rectangle biodegradable paper sheet labels with detox design applied to a clear glass jar filled with soaking salts
Eco friendly label with granola design applied to a brown bag of granola next to a bowl of granola
Mirror gold sheet labels applied to black tin candles
Mirror silver sheet labels applied to honey jars
Stacks of mirror silver sheet labels on a table
Holographic sheet labels with rounded corners applied to a cardboard soap box
Stacks of holographic sheet labels on a table

Top tip #1

Custom sticker sheets are also a great option if you want to add a giveaway for a magazine or for logo stickers in product packaging (think of the Apple stickers you get with your iPhone). Popping sticker sheets in works perfectly and will get your brand seen.

Top tip #2

If you’ve got many different designs, it might be worth adding a title, product code or barcode to the sheet to help you identify each design. This is especially helpful if your designs are very similar and only a few words differ, for example, on ingredients stickers.

Stickers on rolls

The benefits of rolls are similar to sheets because they are easy to apply.
Rolls are particularly useful if your stickers are applied automatically/semi-automatically via a dispenser or machine.

Similar to sticker sheets, stickers on rolls are kiss-cut through the sticker layer but remain on the backing paper in a sheet or roll form, making them fast to peel and apply.

There are many ways stickers on rolls can be applied; here are a few images to get your creative juices flowing.

We recommend getting stickers on rolls if you’ve got a machine to apply them for you. This is easily the fastest way to apply thousands of stickers.

2 examples of label machines to speed up peeling

Claim your sample pack

To summarise, there are 4 key decisions to make when choosing the optimal custom sticker. They are:

  • Choosing the right material

  • Do you want your sticker laminated?

  • Making your label stick – choosing the right adhesive

  • Getting them cut right – individual or on sheets or rolls

If this has been overwhelming and you simply cannot decide what is best for you, we recommend getting the best all-rounder – a white vinyl sticker with a permanent adhesive. It’ll stick to most things, and the white material with a gloss laminate will make your stickers look fantastic!

If you still feel like you need more information, the best option is to get some stickers in your hands so you can test them on your application.

Get a material sample pack

If you have any questions about sticker printing or want help finding your perfect custom sticker, please contact us.