Why are vinyl decals popular? Are vinyl decals easy to sell? Experts weigh in.

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Written By Sam Davis Ph.D.

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Many people will choose to search for “vinyl decals” over “stickers” when they're looking for gifts for friends. What is this obsession with vinyl, and is it really all that hot? In other words: why are vinyl decals popular?? Find out why the vinyl business is so hot below.

So why the obsession with vinyl? Folks know that, for whatever reason, “vinyl” or “custom decals” is an indicator of quality. When you get a vinyl decal, the material is going to be thicker, probably weatherproof, and it will have good “tack” (stickiness) for adhering to surfaces.

“Stickers” are the kind of thing that you give children, but vinyl decals? Those are for adults. Even if those vinyl decals are just opossums. For some reason, in the last decade or so, the term “vinyl decals” has risen to prominence, almost over the word “sticker” — but let’s be real, “sticker” and “decal” are the same damn thing nowadays: some sort of material that can be stuck to a smooth surface for kicks and giggles.

Let's face it: most popular car decals are vinyl, not other materials. Your laptop and water bottles get vinyl, too. Everything gets vinyl, whether you like it or not. So, let's take a look at what makes vinyl so appealing to the broader public. And who knows? Maybe we can give another material a chance to shine in the “most popular car decals” category. It's worth a shot. Not all stickers are the same, but ALL decals and stickers are fun to make.

What materials are good for vinyl decals and stickers?

Vinyl isn’t the only material in town. Vinyl is the most well known and popular, but it’s also one of the most expensive for producers to acquire and use. What can people who are selling vinyl decals and stickers do to up their materials game?

Most printable vinyl decal paper is made for one-off crafts, not producing bulk decals. There are more affordable materials that also rank high on all of the qualities that stickers and decals need: good “tack”, good print quality, and weatherproofing.

My favorite decal material is actually Online Label’s polyester. It’s made for laser printers. It’s got a thinner feel than vinyl, but holds up great outside — and apparently is even more tear resistant than vinyl is! I did a test where I left several types of sticker material outdoors for months – and the polyester decals looked as good as they did on day one.

Online Labels also offers a vinyl. It's more expensive, listed under their specialty materials, but it's a good material. It also did well in my outdoor test, and this is the material that I use whenever I'm designing for vinyl. Plenty of other sticker supplies come in vinyl, as well.

What about bumper stickers?

If I had to guess, I would think that selling vinyl decals became popular because of bumper decals and other popular car decals. Most popular car decals are made of vinyl, and not of other material. This is because vinyl is thick, holds up to the elements, and when laminated, it can really take a beating. This means that the most popular car decals are vinyl because they'll hold up under bad weather or heavy use.

There is also non-printed vinyl among the most popular car decals. Anyone with a Cricut (a vinyl cutter) and a little patience can bust out a silhouette design and mimic the popular car decals we see all over the place: T-rex chasing stick families, the palm tree for South Carolina, and more.

How are holographic stickers made?

You may see specialty stickers like holographic ones making their rounds in your favorite vinyl decal business shops. I don’t offer them — yet — but I can tell you how they’re made. Most holographic stickers start with a normal material, like vinyl or polyester. Then, the producers laminate on a holographic finish, also known as a “foil” to certain parts of the sticker. Holographic stickers can require special equipment, which makes them hard to produce in a small shop.

You won't notice holographic stickers on cars – most popular car decals are made just of vinyl, no holographic laminate. These custom decals tend to be more affordable when they're smaller, not larger, and I'm just not sure how holographic elements would hold up to the weather.

Ultimately, if you're selling vinyl decals, you may need to outsource to add holographic details.

Should I try other sticker types?

Yes! Vinyl is only a small portion of the sticker market, and you could be missing out on lots of experiences by only sticking to vinyl (see what I did there?). I”m a big fan of polyester for my everyday stickers; it's easy to print on, durable when weatherproofed, and the adhesive holds up great.

Price is an important (but not the only) factor when making commercial buys or deciding what materials to use for your shop. It's also an incredibly important factor for buyers. Why buy a $7 tiny sticker when you can buy 3 for the same price?

But again – most popular car decals (and laptop decals, too!) are made of vinyl. Varying your material means a risk to consumers. While your designs for custom decals and stickers should be unique, customers usually want to stick to what they know.

How much can you make with your own vinyl decal business on Etsy?

In a very good month, I've made over $1000 selling vinyl decals on Etsy. But most months for me are in that $100-500 range. I haven't uploaded new art or spent a lot of time improving my shop lately; but if I did, I could push my profits higher.

But plenty of people are more successful at selling vinyl decals on Etsy, and not all of them are plagiarizing designs. Some folks are simply better at marketing or better at art than I am. And that's ok! My point is this: to sell vinyl decals on Etsy, all you need is a vinyl cutting machine, a printer, and some good design ideas. Selling decals isn't that hard, and the sky is the limit. It's an easy online business to start and maintain.

Why did you start your Etsy shop?

I loved stickers, and I thought it was going to be so easy to sell things like stickers and vinyl wall decals. So, I started selling vinyl decals in my Etsy shop, featuring my art. I started making money selling vinyl decals almost immediately, but because they're a cheap product – it just takes a lot of volume to make the big bucks.

Are vinyl decals eco-friendly?

The short answer is, it depends. Vinyl stickers are cheap, but they're also questionable on the eco-front. Vinyl is made from oil-based products, which are not eco-friendly in the least. The paper backings for vinyl decals are not generally recyclable either. However, using vinyl decals and stickers to showcase the art you love, or extend the life of a product by hiding dents or blemishes, means that you maximize the use of the product. Finally, it's really up to vinyl manufacturers to green their businesses – you as a consumer can only do so much.

Not all decals and stickers are eco friendly, but paper labels tend to be more eco-friendly than vinyl. That being said, paper doesn't last as long as vinyl, and thermal papers (like mailing labels) fade REALLY quickly in the sun. Another easy way to make sure your art is eco-friendly is to see if the backing paper is recyclable.

Whether you want to mimic the most popular car decals or strike out on your own, we hope this blog post about the popularity of vinyl has helped you make your decision about the vinyl decal business. All you really need to get started is a printer, a vinyl cutter, and some designs. Remember: decals and stickers are highly customizable, so there are plenty of ways for you to build your business!

why are vinyl decals so darn popular

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