How to Make Vinyl Decals and Stickers

by Sue McCarty

Enhance the paint job on a boat, auto or motorcycle by making homemade vinyl stickers and decals to contrast or highlight the vehicle's features or colors. While such items are available commercially, making homemade decals eliminates design constraints, allowing you to choose, alter or create a design or lettering to fit any style. Clear or colored vinyl sheets are available at craft stores or online in sizes to fit home ink jet or laser printers. Photo/graphics programs are capable of coloring, re-sizing or restyling clip art or scanned images; however, large designs must be printed in sections.


Open a new page in a computer graphics program and size it to 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches long. Set a border measurement on the page to 0.125. Draw or copy a design and scan it into the program or copy and paste an online design onto the page. Re-size and apply color to the design, if desired, keeping the design within the page border.


Load several sheets of plain paper into the printer and print out a test copy of the design on as many pages as needed. Check the prints for flaws and make any necessary corrections on the computer.


Load the vinyl sheets into the printer according to manufacturer's directions and print out the design. Lay the sheet face-up on a flat surface for a few minutes to allow the ink to fully dry.


Lay the dried vinyl sheet face up on a flat work surface. Peel about 1 inch of the backing off a sheet of high-gloss polyester across the top edge of the sheet. Hold it carefully by the top edges and lay it evenly on top of the vinyl sheet, matching corners and the top edge. Press the polyester firmly to the vinyl from the center out, smoothing it to force out any air bubbles. Hold the backing in one hand and slowly pull it off the polyester sheet while using the other hand or a ruler to firmly smooth and press the layers together. Check for air bubbles and smooth it again with the ruler or your hands.


Cut the design carefully along the outside border of the art, using sharp scissors or a craft knife and a cutting mat. Use tweezers or the point of the knife blade to remove any small, inner cutouts on intricate designs. Use a ruler or artist's square as a guide to measure and cut geometrically shaped stickers or decals.


  • check Purchase nonadhesive, printable window cling sheets to make easily removable art for windshields, rear and side windows.
  • check Apply a small amount of baby oil to the surface of a vinyl window cling with a clean cloth to make sure it adheres to glass surfaces.


  • close Do not apply stickers or decals to window areas that will interfere with vision.
  • close Do not use a razor blade to remove stickers or decals on a vehicle's body, fenders or gas tank; the paint will come off with the sticker.
  • close Purchase the correct paper for the printer to avoid paper jams.

Items you will need

About the Author

Sue McCarty, a writer and copy editor since 1994, penned a newspaper humor column for several years. She assisted in her husband's motorcycle shop for 20 years and was also a professional gardener and caterer. While earning her Bachelor of Arts in communications, McCarty began her journalism career at a Pennsylvania daily newspaper.

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Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Hemera Technologies/ Images