The complete guide to sticker materials

Choosing the ideal sticker material can feel like navigating a maze—confusing, daunting, and sometimes left to chance. Shouldn’t the printer handle this technical aspect? Yet, understanding the best material for your project holds the key to sticker success. Join us as we unravel the top material types, empowering you to craft the perfect custom outdoor stickers with confidence and precision.

Sticker Materials vs. Label Materials

First off, what’s the difference between a sticker and a label? Isn’t everything with sticky stuff considered a sticker? Technically, yes, but there are quite interesting differences between these two products. We wrote a blog post looking at stickers vs labels. Check it out!

In this post, we will be looking specifically at sticker materials suitable for outdoor use.

The top 7 types of outdoor sticker materials:

  1. Vinyl Outdoor Stickers: Standard outdoor sticker material. Weatherproof. Available in white or clear.
  2. Polyester Stickers: Extra durable, high-performance situations such as outdoor equipment and under-the-hood stickers require the toughness of polyester.
  3. Static cling: Want to stick something to glass without sticky residue? This material does the trick!
  4. Heavy-Duty Stickers: Ultra-thick and durable material for helmets, motorcycles, etc.
  5. Holographic Stickers: Fun and playful, but also quite durable!
  6. Reflective Stickers: These stickers are used in a host of safety signage such as road signs.
  7. Shiny Chrome Stickers: Reflective, mirror-like surface that creates a cool effect, especially when white ink is printed behind the artwork.
  8. Bonus! Laminates: Laminates are used to protect the print or change the look of the stickers. Think: Glossy or matte finish.

Each of these materials serves a purpose and should be used in the appropriate situation. Keep reading to learn more about each one!

Vinyl is the Most Widely Used Sticker Material

The most common and versatile sticker material is vinyl. This is the material most people think of when they hear the term outdoor sticker. It’s commonly used by brands to promote their products or services. These stickers are sometimes called promotional stickers. Vinyl also tends to be less expensive than other outdoor sticker materials. This is especially important for custom bulk stickers because the high quantities result in significant cost savings.

Vinyl decal material comes in both white and clear. The thickness of the material is 4 mils and it has a soft and pliable feel. The soft feel helps the sticker conform to rounded surfaces like a hard hat without creating annoying bubbles. This material has a matte or gloss finish before printing.

Above all, vinyl stickers are the most used in the industry and make great marketing giveaways.

Pros and cons of the different types of sticker materials.

We are more than happy to recommend a sticker material for your project. We know what substrates work best and give your brand the best look. Some applications are a little more technical and we recommend testing a couple of different options to make sure the final choice is correct.

There are tons of different materials and adhesives available and we will help you sort through the options. If you want to know all of the details, we’ll spill the beans. However, if you want beautiful-looking stickers without too many questions, we’re more than happy to keep the details to ourselves.

Use Polyester Stickers for Technical Applications

Polyester is another common sticker material. It is the best choice for heavy-duty equipment decals and other industrial applications. This material will stand up well to high temperatures and will work great for water heater decals or under-the-hood stickers. Polyester comes in white, clear, silver, and other fun finishes like brushed chrome. It makes for an excellent long-term durable decal because of its resistance to heat and abrasion.

Polyester sticker material is 2 mils thick, making it substantially thinner than the vinyl decals. The thickness (or relative thinness) of the material has no bearing on the durability of the sticker. Polyester material is a more long-term product than a vinyl sticker.

Polyester is a glossy and almost pearlescent material. Some brands prefer the upscale look of polyester and ask specifically for a polyester sticker!

Try a bright silver reflective sticker for some added flair!

The bright silver reflective decal is one of our personal favorites. This material is almost reflective (not to be confused with the reflective material used in traffic signs) and can look cool when using matte inks.

Want something cool and unique? Take your traditional vinyl sticker and print it on shiny silver material! It’s a great way to mix up your decal offering and give your customers something new. Consider a one-time specialty decal or free giveaway for your top customers. This sticker material will bring attention to your brand.

Silver reflective material is made of polyester and is 2 mil in thickness. Because of the durability of polyester, silver chrome stickers last a long time outside! It’s also an economical choice for wholesale bulk stickers.

Go crazy with specialty materials for a unique look

There are tons of other specialty materials in addition to the options above. Combine your creative artwork with special pattern materials that will be a hit with your customers and make your sticker stand out. These are perfect for events or limited-use decals and keep your brand fresh and innovative while providing your customers with options!

Laminate. Yes or No?

Laminates are a touchy subject with printers. One printer is telling you that laminate is necessary to protect the inks from the weather. However, the other printer will tell you the sticker does not need a laminate for protection. And the laminate will only add unnecessary cost and environmental waste to the job.

The equipment the printer uses will determine their opinion on whether or not your sticker needs a laminate. For instance, some equipment requires a laminate to protect the sticker during outdoor use. Other equipment is made to print inks that withstand the outdoor elements.

All the equipment we use is suited for outdoor use. The inks we print do not fade or scratch off after exposure to the sun, wind, or rain. Therefore, we believe laminates are not necessary to achieve a quality sticker.

In conclusion, we offer laminates as an option because some brands enjoy the look of a quality laminate. They transform the sticker. A matte finish will add an interesting element. While a glossy laminate will provide depth to the design.

Our sticker samples will help you decide which material is best for your brand

Purchase a sample pack to check out the various material options for yourself!

Ready to get started with your own brand stickers?