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Buyer guide for custom stickers

Choosing an adhesive advertising print

Communicating with an advertising sticker allows you to use your existing surfaces, cladding, glass, furniture, walls, vehicles as a communication medium without adding additional display stands or hardware.

Strategic use of self-adhesive vinyl and stickers can be important to communicate your message and atmosphere to your client. This makes these elements potentially of great importance.

Small stickers (typically less than 1 m² or 10 square feet) can easily be applied by a beginner using simple application techniques. However, larger murals and especially those requiring overlaps and joints should be installed by a professional.

Some adhesives are easier to apply than others, such as repositionable or electrostatic adhesives (static cling), but they are recommended for small surfaces and only on interior surfaces.

Self -adhesive print (SAV) are thin and light. Typically, self adhesive vinyl prints are delivered rolled in sheets. Smaller stickers can be shipped in a reinforced envelope for ease of shipping.

When installed, adhesive prints use little to no floor space and as such are perfect for high traffic areas.

Sometimes they are the only possible solution available to communicate your message to others. Vehicles boats, furniture, glass or building often are not conducive to other forms of advertising that may permanently damage the area.

The range of adhesive films and prints is extensive. There is an adhesive solution for almost every type of applications and for many kinds of industry! (For example: wall stickers, wall murals, car stickers, vehicle graphics, sheet metal panels, walls, wood, brick, ceilings, floors but also in some cases airplane fuselage or ship hulls!)

In all cases, it is important to choose the right SAV for your application. We hope this guide will help you with your online self-adhesive print orders.

Which sticker material should I use choose?

Self adhesive vinyl (SAV) or stickers are made up of three main components: the film, the adhesive, and the liner.

The film

This is the part that is printed and is visible once the print is applied.

Most films are made of PVC. That is why they are often called "vinyl", vinyl stickers or vinyl adhesive.

There are also adhesive advertising films that are made of PVC-free films.

These self-adhesive films are made of PET(Polyethylene Terephthalate) or Polyolefin.

A PVC-free adhesive print is often chosen for environmental reasons or when PVC is less suitable for the application.

A PET film, for example, is more resistant to scratching or temperature.

There are three types of self-adhesive film:

  • Monomer films. The most used PVC film is called calendared. These are economical films using monomer plasticizers, these films are commonly used for short to medium term applications. They are often used in promotional or event applications ranging from 1 to 2 years for an outdoor use.

    Their main uses are promotional meaning for a few months on flat or lightly curved surfaces such as powder-coated sheet metal, glass, melamine, Dibond® or Forex® type panels, temporary floor messaging, messages on 4mx3m panels for 1 to 2 years... Calendared films should not be used for vehicle graphics or on complex curves.
     
  • Polymer films are also calendared. The plasticizers use a polymer and are more efficient. They are more stable in larger sizes with stability. They are more weather resistant and have a longer life span of 5 to 7 years. Typically, they will have less shrinkage once installed and will retain their flexibility longer, which will prevent cracking or failing along the edges.

    Unlike PVC, which will crack in cold weather applications, polymer films can be applied at lower temperatures than their monomeric adhesive counterparts.

    They are used for installation on flat or lightly rough surfaces or even slightly curved for long lifespans, for applications for interior or exterior signage, permanent information panel such as parking signs traffic signage, or wayfinding on the ground for a medium duration.
     
  • Cast films. Unlike calendared films cast are literally made by mixing ingredients together and pouring them into a moving mold. When they baked in an oven and the solvent evaporates what is left is a thin stable material that can be rolled. Because the sheet is rolled in a plastic state it is very stable and can be stretched and heated to contour to a desired shape or around complex curves such as a car mirror. The material is thin often 2mil which some printers will refer to them as such. Being stable allows the film to have a longer lifespan up to 10 years.

    They are primarily used for applications with complex curves such as vehicle graphics. Other uses are for interior or exterior furnishings, permanent wall murals with long term removability, thermoforming or die cut lettering.

    The adhesive film are often sold pre colored in a roll for lettering or white so that it may be printed and if needed cut to shape.

    For all window applications, cast vinyl films have a grey back and may not be 100% opaque.

There are also other types of films that can be printed if needed. We can quote:

  • Reflective films for road signs or security signage,
  • metallized films for a gold, silver, bronze aluminum metallic look,
  • films with smooth or textured surface look,
  • Perforated window film

Micro-perforated adhesives, sometimes called "see-through", "one way" adhesives, perflex or perforated window film, are widely used for communication on glass surfaces, such as on vehicle, store fronts, interior glass windows for one way. or building sides made up of windows.

These adhesives films have perforations or holes that make up 20 to 40% of the surface and are black on the adhesive side. When printed and adhered to the outside of a window, the outside shows the visual, while the inside shows the black on the back. The result allows you to have a slightly obscured see through effect from the inside and a visual from the outside.

The higher the perforation rate, the better the visibility from the inside to the outside. Conversely, a low perforation rate will give a better resolution to the image outside.

Perforated films are available in monomeric or polymeric films depending on the desired life span and installation constraints. Vehicle windows will will always be polymeric.

It is important to choose a good quality micro-perforated adhesive that will be easily removed without leaving any trace of adhesive on the glass.

The adhesive

There are different types of adhesives depending on the use for which the application requires:

  • Repositionable adhesives: these adhesives allow you to remove and reposition the film several times before letting it set. Some adhesives remain repositionable, others are only repositionable for a certain time.
     
  • Removable adhesives: these adhesives make it easier to remove the self adhesive film once the advertising campaign is over. The "removability" is often 1 year or less depending on interior or exterior applications. Beyond this this 1 year adhesive polymerize and can become difficult to remove or permanent.
     
  • Permanent adhesives: these adhesives are used for long term applications or when used on exterior signage.
     
  • Strong adhesion or reinforced adhesives: these adhesives are used to apply printed adhesive on more difficult surfaces such as wood, plywood, for covering fences or to cover rough and porous surfaces such as concrete.
     
  • Special adhesives: there are specific adhesives specially designed for certain surfaces such as asphalt or tarpaulin.

The adhesives used for advertising prints are often acrylic adhesives. They are water-based (emulsion) or more often solvent-based for better chemical stability and durability.

They can be of different colors which will give a different opacity to the sticker. Transparent glues are used for light box, sign and window sticker applications. A grey glue I used for opacity. This type of glue is often used for hiding the background colors.

For some films, the glue is applied during manufacturing in micro dots. This type of adhesive, sometimes referred to as “easy dot” allows for an easier installation, removal and repositionable decals of the adhesive vinyl, especially for promotional applications or during special events.

In all cases, the choice of adhesive is very important. Using the wrong adhesive can damage the application surface, especially when it is painted or varnished, or make the removal of the adhesive very difficult or even impossible.

Our consultants are here to advise you on the most suitable adhesive for your application.

The liner

The liner is the part that is removed to free the adhesive side of the print. It is either made of siliconized paper or polymer. A polymer liner will be more durable and can make installation easier.

In some cases, the liner has grid lines on it. This is used to make the adhesive easier cut prior to applying. Some liners have small ridges that form small channels on the adhesive film. During installation, the air trapped between the substrate and the adhesive will flow more easily through these small channels and facilitate the removal of air bubbles. This is called "easy apply" or “comply” adhesive films.

Fire ratings

Some adhesives are fire rated M or Euroclass in Europe of NFPA in USA or CAN-ULC in Canada which may be required in applications such as inside public areas.

Opacity

The Opacity of a self-adhesive vinyl is achieved by the film and the adhesive.

The opacity of the film can be obtained either by adding thickness or by changing the composition of the material.

To cover a wall that isn’t a solid color, you will need to choose a thicker opaque self adhesive print or a or one that has a gray adhesive.

Lightboxes require a translucent white film that is applied to either a clear or a translucent plastic or glass. The translucent film will help defuse the light evenly over the entire image.

Another option is clear print which is printed on a clear medium with a transparent adhesive or a “ultra clear” or “optically clear” adhesive. Applied correctly, the result looks as if the window was printed directly. The ink will be see through

The size of a sticker

The final size an advertising mural or wall decals print is almost unlimited. We’ve printed and installed over entire buildings covering several thousand square meters.

Obviously printing in one single pieces at this size is not possible so the material is printed in panels of between 48” 1.2 meters to 52” or 1.32 meters in width and no longer than 10 feet or 3 meters in length.

The panels are printed with an overlap between 0.5” (12.5mm) to 1” (25mm) so the seams are covered during the install. This will help with the longevity of the install and avoid the material peeling back from the seams.

All attempts are made to ensure that panels do not interfere with crucial elements of the visual

Resistance to weather

The resistance weather of the adhesive will depend largely to the quality of the film and the type of adhesive.

The adhesive film is plasticized and as such will lose its elasticity over time and gradually begin to shrink.

The adhesive will also age. Over time the adhesive will harden and depending on the substrate on which the adhesive is bonded to and the environment it will degrade.

Long term, the adhesive may shrink and become brittle. This may cause the film to crack or curl. Plasticizers in the film may also disintegrate into the adhesive and affect it.

Monomeric vinyl adhesives will be more difficult to apply in the cold and for this reason will not last as long outdoors (2 to 3 years on average).

Polymeric vinyl adhesives will be more efficient at low temperature installation. They will resist the effect of UV rays and are expected to last approximately 5 and 7 years.

Cast vinyl adhesives can be left outside and age well. Some can last upwards of 10 years!

Solvent-based adhesives will age better than water-based adhesives.

In the case of a printed adhesive, the fading and aging of the colors will depend on the durability of the inks. We use only the best recommended UV inks for our printers and even with an above average UV exposure we offer a 2 year warranty on your print against noticeable fading due to UV light.

For areas with extensive sun exposure we recommend using a UV laminate which will increase the durability of your print to 4-5.

For interior application UV light and bad weather do not factor into your decision, however weight and fire classifications will.

The thickness

Stickers are generally between 50 and 120 microns thick (0.05 mm to 0.12 mm).

Cast vinyls are made of high-performance materials. They are very thin materials that can stretch and conform to shapes and are highly durable. They are often referred to as 2mil

Polymetric calendered vinyls will often be less than 100 microns thick. They are often referred to as 4mil

Monomeric calendered vinyls the thickest. These are thicker than 4mil

Appearance / texture

The self adhesive vinyl material prior to printing can have a matte, satin, glossy or even ultra glossy finish, however, once printed, the gloss of the adhesive will change slightly depending on the amount of ink that is applied to the material. As a result, there can be different areas of the print which will have different brightness or levels of glossiness depending on the printed visual areas of the print and the ink coverage.

Laminating after printing not only protects the film from scuffs, damage and UV light it also allows to change the look of the print to a matte or bring out the glossiness of your print.

There are three basic types of printed piece laminations: matte, gloss, and silk. Of these, matte and gloss are the most popular. In fact, the choice between matte vs. gloss lamination can be one of the most important decisions in a print project.

Matte lamination produces an elegant, sophisticated finish. It also provides a softer, more natural look that makes it easier to read the printed piece. Matte lamination has a “velvety” texture that makes it pleasant to handle. It also softens the contrast of darker colors so that they don’t stand out quite as much.

Gloss lamination produces a shiny, glass-like appearance that enhances the color and vibrancy of the ink on a page. It is commonly used for business applications such as marketing and promotional pieces. It also works well as a covering for bound information in the form of books, reports and training materials.

As for appearances, there are "textured" films and laminates. For example, granular surface, imitation wood, leather, or textiles. They can easily be printed with digital inkjet printing, which is a non-contact printing technique.

Other laminates that are available include dry-erase, anti-graffiti, UV, slip resistant optically clear.

The color

Self-adhesive films come in a wide range of colours.

These pre colored films are mainly used for digitally cut lettering. For this type of application, the letters or shapes are cut out of an adhesive in the desired colors and then applied to the substrate window wall or vehicle.

White adhesives are primarily used for printing.

For some applications, printing of non white material is possible using transparent films, frosting or metallized films. Since digital printing inks are translucent, the background color will show through the ink layer. To hide this background color, a layer of white can be printed on the entire surface or selectively in certain areas prior to adding color. This is called spot white

A transparent adhesive can be printed to make a window sticker or to cover the entire window. Depending on whether the adhesive will be applied to the outside or inside of the glass, a white layer can be applied before or after the four-color inks. CMYK +W

What are the finishes and manufacturing processes?

Several finishes can be done on a self adhesive prints or pre colors films.

Cutting

The adhesive can be cut to shape either using a digital cutting table in XY or on a cutting plotter.

The cutting can be done "Cut through" or "kiss cut".

A Cut through cut will cut the adhesive film and its liner at the same time. The result is a sticker with the desired shape ready to be applied (logo, letter, round, rectangle, silhouette...).

A kiss cut will cut the adhesive film but not the liner. A "weeding" operation will then be performed. It will consist in removing the parts of film which won’t be used in the final rendering. Several separate elements can be cut out and kept on the same piece of liner.

When kiss cut is involved the die cut lettering or shapes are delivered "in sheets". A sheet is made up of several independent stickers delivered on the same liner.

Custom logo wall decals and lettering will often use the process a combination of "Cut through" or "kiss cut" for commercial signage

Applying tape premask

When the self adhesive vinyl is weeded, you may in some cases wish to keep the layout of the different shapes that have been cut and left on the liner such as in words. such as the letters of a word or a logo for example.

In this case, a self-adhesive film called "premask" will be applied over the weeded adhesive. This film will allow all the elements left on the liner to be joined together. During the install the premask and the liner are separated with the weeded print or pre-colored vinyl remaining on the premask.

Once the self-adhesive is applied to the surface the premask liner can be easily removed revealing only the lettering or shapes desired

These tape applications are often made of a translucent or transparent film in order to help with the positioning and leveling of the visual.

Laminating or lamination

The printed adhesive stickers can be protected by a lamination film such as:

  • a UV lamination: to extend the life of the printing up to 4 to 5 years,
  • an anti-slip lamination: for your floor stickers or prints,
  • a matte, satin, gloss or ultra gloss lamination to obtain the desired glossy effect,
  • anti-graffiti lamination: to protect the adhesives on hoarding for example.

Dry erase

As for the types of laminating films there are: monomers, polymers, cast and in different materials: vinyl, polyolefin, polycarbonate, polyester.

Installing a decal

Applying an adhesive vinyl can be technical challenging for a novice. It requires good preparation of the surface area before beginning and a good mastery of the techniques used to get a quality result to avoid creases

Multiple techniques exist to make the installation easier such as a wet application which uses soapy water however this requires practice and experience for larger adhesives.

As a general guideline we recommend that you contact a professional when the area covered is larger than 10 square feet or 1 square meter or when installation is on a difficult area such as on a vehicle

On smaller areas that you would like to install yourself we would recommend an “easy to apply” or “comply” self adhesive. These are designed to allow air to escape and make the installation easier.

Similarly, repositionable or "easy-dot" type adhesives are easier to apply whether it is on a solid surface or on glass for window graphics.

Please remember when working at heights always use recommend safety recommendation of the equipment that you are using.

Prismaprint offers you its installation service across Canada and the USA, don't hesitate to consult us for each of your self adhesive vinyl projects!

The environment

Prismaprint, a brand of the Prismaflex group is certified ISO 14001 and labeled Impri'Vert. We are committed to an ecologically responsible approach to the environmental.

Here are some tips to reduce the environmental impact of your adhesive print:

We offer products without PVC (type Pet or Polyolefin) with water-based glues.

For your long-lasting murals, we offer quality adhesive films, which will make your print last longer and as such reduce the frequency of removal and reinstallation.

FAQ

Can I make my own wall decals design ?

Use our prismaprint decals design templates on-line or contact us for additional help. It's a Great way to get started

Can I order decals on-line ?

Prismaprint makes ordering decals on-line easy

Are all decals Repositionable?

No they are not. some decals have aggressive adhesives and will want to bond to the material quickly. Installation can be tricky and may require a wet install

Should Commercial wall decals be installed by a beginner?

It would be highly recommend to seek professional help for your investment. Please contact us and we'll provide the help you need from planning to installation across North America

What are the different types of Self adhesive vinyls SAV?

There’s a large variety of (SAV) stickers window films and wall murals that exist. To understand all possible combinations of base material, adhesives, opacity levels, and finishes that exist start on this page.

What type of printing is done on an adhesive?

Our adhesive films are printed on digital printers using a 4 color CYMK process. Depending on the application we may use latex inks solvent or UV.

What type of self adhesive sticker should I choose for a vehicle graphics?

To stick your graphics on your vehicle, we recommend a cast material 2mil that will be conformable and can adjust to the complex curves of the vehicle body. It will also provide excellent longevity.

For flat body surfaces, a polymeric calendared adhesive can be used.

For the windows, using a high-quality perforated window film (perflex) is recommended.

Which adhesive film should I use for my print panel?

It all depends on the desired lifespan of your message. For a lifespan of 1 to 2 years, a classic monomer calendared vinyl adhesive will provide the best quality to price ratio and will suffice. For longer periods, it is recommended to use a polymer adhesive that will last up to 5 to 7 years. In this case, it is advisable to laminate the adhesive after printing to prevent the colors from aging.

Which adhesive film should I use on my window?

There are several different options for window graphics or stickers we recommend discussing your options with us.

What are the floor graphics used for?

Floor graphics are being used for a multitude of applications, such as promoting sales, providing directions, building brand awareness, and conveying new guidelines like social distancing. Additionally, floor graphics act as an easy way to communicate with in-store customers.

What is the maximum size of adhesive decal?

Rolls of self adhesive decals come in sizes of from 54 inch (1.4m) to 60 inch (1.5m) the armlength of your average installer. The material is trimmed down further to allow for traveling of the roll on press and scuff marks that may occur during printing on the edges. It can however be printed in lengths of several tens of meters (yards).

The strips can then be laid and joined onsite. In theory, the total surface of the adhesive mural is unlimited. For examples of some of our completed projects using advertising decals of various large sizes click this link.

How to apply large vinyl wall decals?

As a general guideline we recommend that you contact a professional when the area covered is larger than 10 square feet or 1 square meter or when installation is on a difficult area such as on a vehicle

On smaller areas that you would like to install yourself we would recommend an “easy to apply” or “comply” self adhesive. These are designed to allow air to escape and make the installation easier.

Similarly, repositionable or "easy-dot" type adhesives are easier to apply whether it is on a solid surface or on glass for window graphics.

Smooth surfaces are a must to help in all situation so make sure your walls are smooth

Please remember when working at heights always use recommend safety recommendation of the equipment that you are using.

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PRISMAFLEX CANADA INC
1645 Queensway E.
Mississauga Ontario,
L4X 3A3, Canada