Ever wondered how these little sticky-backed beauties (stickers) are made?
We’re going to show you how in a simple step by step guide.
Step 1 – Artwork setup
This is probably the most important but underappreciated step in the process as it impacts everything that follows.
Key things that happen at this stage:
- Drawing cutlines
- Adding bleeds
- Inputting registration marks to ensure they’re cut accurately
- Adjust colours to CMYK to ensure they print correctly
- Nest the artwork to be the most efficient use of space on the vinyl
- Export in the correct format
We generally use a professional design program like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW to create our designs. They allow the designer to change the artwork as much as is needed.
Here are some great free or low cost resources to help you create your own designs:
- Free photo editor – Pixlr
- Easy background removal – Clipping Magic (one of our favourites)
- Vectorise your bitmap images – Vector Magic
- Edit vector images – Vecteezy
Step 2 – Printing
There are many different ways of printing and many different materials that can be printed on.
Here we focus on Sticker it’s most popular method of printing – digital inkjet printing.
We start by taking rolls of print media (usually a plastic such as PVC or PET), and load it onto the printers.
An inkjet printer takes the ink, in a liquid form, and through a print head fires tiny dots of ink at the printable media. Printers apply a layer of ink about 15 microns thin. They print up to 1440 DPI (dots per inch), so incredibly small, ultra-high-resolution, creating amazingly vibrant images.
The ink is then cured and this happens in different ways depending on the technology:
- UK inkjet uses UV light to instantly cure the ink
- Solvent inkjet – allow the solvent to ‘de-gas’ over time, usually 24 hours.
Here are some examples showing the detail that can be achieved:
Step 3 – Laminating
For some of our stickers, we apply a clear, protective layer to maximise the durability. There are many options that can be chosen but it’s really important they are compatible with the printable media and the print technology.
Laminates can be gloss, or matte, textured. Often the effect you choose can be personal preference, dependant on the effect you want to create.
Adding a laminate protects the printed layer giving it resistance to sunlight, scratching, chemicals, oils and most other things that can ruin a sticker. It’s a really effective method of protection.
Step 4 – Cutting
The final step is to cut it in the correct shape.
Shapes can be as complex as you want however the more tiny details you have the more small edges there are to lift. The most durable shape is a circle or oval, closely followed by a rectangle with rounded corners.
There are loads of ways to cut a sticker.
An old cutting technique would cut stickers pre-made metal ‘dies’ that looked & worked like this:
This is why custom shaped stickers came to be known as die cut stickers.
However time & technology have moved on. To speed up the process, reduce costs and increase accuracy we now using digitally controlled knives or high-speed lasers to cut stickers.
Print companies who use the old cutting method with metal dies tend to charge extra for bespoke shapes because the dies need to be made. The giveaway will be if they want to charge you a setup fee for your stickers.
At Sticker it we only use digital cutting. Its more accurate, quicker and cheaper, so you get your stickers quicker & cheaper.
To know anything else about how stickers are made add your comment below.