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How are Stickers Made?

Dana Hinders
Updated May 17, 2024
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Stickers, adhesive labels commonly featuring colorful graphics or slogans, have become an important part of pop culture. Children trade them with their friends, and teenagers buy them to decorate their lockers, notebooks, and other personal belongings. Adults use bumper stickers to show support for political candidates and charitable organizations. However, very few people take the time to consider how they are made.

Many different types of material can be used to manufacture stickers. Litho stock is the most common base material, although latex is sometimes added to create flexible ones that can more easily adhere to curved objects. Bumper stickers are commonly manufactured from vinyl or other plastics in order to increase their durability and weather resistance. Those intended for scrapbooking, card making, and other craft projects are often made from foil to give a metallic appearance.

The Pantone Matching System dominates the sticker manufacturing industry’s choice of ink colors. This system expands upon the CMYK printing process by using spot colors to produce metallics, fluorescents, and other unique color variations. The ink used in manufacturing stickers is usually transparent, but may be opaque in some circumstances.

Typically, stickers are made with permanent, removable, or repositionable adhesive. Permanent adhesive is most common for general use, while removable or repositionable adhesive is more popular on those intended for craft projects. Tamper evident adhesive, a variation of permanent adhesive that is designed to fracture if the sticker is removed, is sometimes used by retail stores as a precaution against theft or product damage.

Although the process for mass producing stickers can be quite involved, it’s easy to make them at home using a computer and inkjet printer. People can simply print the text or images onto sticker project paper purchased from any large office supply store and use paper punches to create uniform shapes. This paper is available in matte or glossy finishes to provide a variety of unique looks. However, it’s important to realize that most made with sticker paper will not be water-resistant. If people are concerned about the longevity of homemade stickers, designs can be sealed with two or three coats of clear acrylic spray.

People who want to make stickers of family photographs, a child’s artwork, or other memorabilia, can try making homemade glue. This can be made by boiling 2 tablespoons (29.5 ml) of vinegar, one packet of unflavored gelatin, and a small amount of vanilla extract. This mixture can be bushed on the back of paper and allowed to air dry. When the paper is re-moistened, it will adhere to almost any surface.

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Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the AboutMechanics team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.

Discussion Comments

By anon312585 — On Jan 08, 2013

What material can I use as the base of my homemade stickers? Please, I need answers immediately.

By bagley79 — On Apr 30, 2012

I remember decorating many of my personal items with stickers when I was a kid. All of my notebooks and many of my school supplies had all kinds of different stickers on them.

I also had some glow in the dark stickers in the shape of moon and stars. I put these on the walls and ceiling in my room. When the lights were out, the stickers glowed in the dark and I felt like I was outside under the sky.

I also had small stickers that glowed in the dark and I put them on the doorknobs. This way if you were trying to find the door at night, you would see where the handle was by the sticker glowing in the dark.

The moon and stars wall stickers disappeared a long time ago. When I recently went home for a visit I saw one of the stickers still on the doorknob of my room. It is something pretty insignificant that I would probably be the only one who would notice it, but I was surprised it was still there.

By julies — On Apr 29, 2012

I have bought special paper to use with my computer so I can make stickers with. I have never mixed up my own recipe for this though.

I like to make homemade craft projects with my nieces when they visit, and this sounds like something that would be a lot of fun.

Both of them love stickers and I think they would really enjoy the whole process of truly making their own stickers. They could make them as big and colorful as they wanted them to be.

Some kid stickers in the store can add up to quite a bit of money if you buy very many of them. Making your own sounds like something that would not only be fun, but economical as well.

By Mykol — On Apr 28, 2012

There are small machines you can buy where you can make just about anything on paper into a sticker.

I bought one for around $20 and as long as you use the special paper, and it fits in the machine, you can get an adhesive backing on most anything.

This is fun to use for personalized craft projects. My girls and I use this quite a bit and enjoy giving personalized gifts with photo stickers on them.

By John57 — On Apr 28, 2012

I haven't met a kid yet who didn't like stickers. There is something about the bright, colorful designs that appeal to the kid in all of us.

Stickers aren't just for kids though. I have spent a lot of money on scrapbook stickers for all of my projects.

I think I am worse than the kids when it comes to deciding which stickers I want to buy. I even have to give myself a budget so I won't spend too much.

I have never thought much about the way stickers are made. I just like ones that peel off easily, but yet will stick for a long time.

By Oceana — On Apr 27, 2012

@lighth0se33 – If you don't want to spend money on sticker paper, you could get away with using other kinds of paper that you might already have on hand. You could use the homemade sticker glue recipe in this article and save money.

I like to use either card stock or photo paper to make stickers. I will use glossy paper for photographs and cartoon images for kids, and I will use matte paper or card stock for more formal or serious stickers.

I do coat my stickers with acrylic spray, mainly to keep fingerprints from soiling the glossy paper. I paint the paste on the backs with a pastry brush and stick them onto a surface.

By cloudel — On Apr 26, 2012

Bumper stickers have to be made with super powerful adhesive so that they can stay attached through all kinds of weather conditions. This makes them pretty hard to remove.

I had a bumper sticker on my car, but I was ready to sell it, so I had to figure out a way to remove the sticker. I used a blow dryer on high heat to help loosen up the glue, and I used a rubber kitchen spatula to push the edges back.

I was able to get the majority of it off this way, but then came the hard part. The sticky stuff was still all over my bumper, and I decided to use a trick that had always worked when I needed to get gum out of my hair.

I rubbed shortening all over the sticky area and used a rough, dry cloth to rub it in circular motions. It came off rather easily, and I washed the area when I was through to remove the shortening residue.

By OeKc05 — On Apr 26, 2012

I remember being obsessed with stickers when I was a kid. I don't know what seemed so awesome about them, but anytime I received any, I felt like I had been given a great prize.

The stickers I used were the permanent kind, and it bummed me out when I figured this out. I would try to take them off of something old and put them on something new, and I would destroy the sticker in the process, along with whatever paper product it had been attached to in the beginning.

If I ever have kids, I will be sure to buy them repositionable stickers. I didn't know those existed until reading this article, and it sounds like good news for all the kids out there.

By lighth0se33 — On Apr 25, 2012

I didn't know you could make your own stickers with your computer! That opens up a whole new world of potential to me.

My daughter always wants to find alphabet stickers to spell out her name on her notebooks and folders for school. Kids are always getting their stuff mixed up because it looks too generic, so I have to buy a new pad of letter stickers each year. Since the letters that she needs will be missing from the old pad, we can't really do a whole lot with it.

I am good with design, and I know I could pick out a cool font and colors to make her some customized alphabet stickers. It will be a fun project for both of us.

Dana Hinders

Dana Hinders

With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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