Have you found yourself wondering- how do you even make stickers? Can you print stickers at home? How do you make good quality stickers? What is the best printable sticker paper? How do you make waterproof stickers? How do you make stickers with a Cricut or Silhouette? Or what is the difference between all the various printable sticker papers out there….
Well my friend….you’ve come to the right place! If you’ve wondered if it is possible to print your own good quality, homemade stickers then don’t miss every word of the essential guide we’ve created. Pretty soon you’ll feel confident about printing high quality stickers, waterproof stickers/decals or promotional stickers.
As an added bonus we’re giving you some cute, FREE printable stickers files to experiment at home with! We’re providing you with FREE printable stickers you can download instantly to print and cut at home. They are FREE to use for personal, non-commercial use! We’ll show you how to make stickers the easy way it’s all done step by step in this article.
Have you walked into a craft store lately…the first few steps are a punch in the face with rows upon rows of cute stickers and washi tape. So stickers are definitely having a moment.
I mean who among us doesn’t LOVE stickers? Didn’t we all grow up collecting stickers in one of those waxy paged, Lisa Frank, unicorn & rainbow clad sticker books (if you don’t remember Lisa Frank or any of the 1980’s please allow me to re-introduce you two HERE)? And who among doesn’t LOVE plastering tumblers, notebooks, laptops & skateboards with totally rad stickers? Okay maybe the skateboard thing is just me but I think you get the idea.
Our goal here is to provide you with the complete guide on how you can make your own homemade stickers, select the right printable sticker paper for the application, cut them out the easy way & make high quality stickers you can share with friends or clients. We’ll attempt to answer every possible burning question you may have about homemade stickers….so strap in. This is gonna be a fun ride when you begin to see all the possibilities!
SO, you may be wondering…what tha’heck qualifies me to be a subject matter expert on sticker making? Well, it’s something I kinda do full time IRL. Technically, I’m a graphic designer and I created this here website you’re reading right now that focuses on providing tons of free stickers and printables for millions of visitors every year. I also have a shop called The Paper Hen where I sell instant digital downloads of things like stickers, planners, planner covers and printables that help organize this crazy life we lead. So I guess you could say I’ve got a little street cred when it comes to stickers!
Alright, let’s dive right in and start answering all the questions you could ever possibly have about making and printing stickers at home.
How to make stickers the easy way
If you want to make stickers the easy way you’ll want to purchase printable sticker paper so that you can print high quality, professional looking stickers at home. There are several different types of sticker paper types and finishes with different applications. You want to make sure that you are using the right paper for your project & your printer. Let’s dive in to our guide to find what’s right for you!
How Do You Make Stickers?
The Essential Guide to Homemade Quality Stickers!
What kind of paper is used for stickers?
There are four basic types of sticker paper for at home use:
- matte sticker paper
- opaque (white solid) glossy sticker paper
- clear glossy sticker paper
- vinyl sticker paper
- holographic sticker paper
Clear & opaque glossy sticker paper is universally good for making professional looking labels or stickers. Vinyl sticker paper is usually labeled water resistant or waterproof and works great in almost any environment. Matte sticker paper is the most economic option but has very few legit applications.
We’re going to tackle each and every one of these sticker papers because they each have unique use cases and there is a cost spectrum. As an example you could use a matte sticker paper as a decorative planner sticker or shipping label but you shouldn’t stick it on a car window and expect it to last beyond the first rain shower. So get to know your sticker papers before you get started!
Matte Sticker Paper
Okay, I’m just going to get this out of the way now to remove all doubt. I don’t love matte sticker paper. This won’t come as a shock to you if you are a regular reader on this website because I rail on matte sticker paper almost every chance I get. I think matte sticker paper has only a few use cases like shipping labels, low touch labels…and and if you needed a super economic option for decorative stickers.
But seriously, let’s talk about why it sucks. Matte sticker paper is like I GIANT, absorbent ink sponge. It sucks up all the ink during the printing process and leaves the image looking faded and sometimes pixelated.
So, you may design some super bright, vibrant sticker or decal and be completely disappointed when you go to print it out because the cheap, crappy matte sticker paper sucked ALL the life (or in this case ink) out of your awesome design.
Also, matte sticker paper is like the Wicked Witch of the West…get one drop of water on it and it starts smoking and denigrating right before your eyes. Okay, maybe not smoking…but the disintegration part is 100% accurate.
So what can you use this cheap swill for? Shipping labels, light use organization labels, economic planner/decorative stickers, single use labels and making stickers for people you don’t like that much.
Clear & Opaque (White) Glossy Sticker Paper
Let me first start off by saying that glossy sticker paper is what dreams are made of (for a sticker junkie like me anyway). Glossy sticker paper prints true to color so your stickers and decals come out looking like they did on the computer screen where you initially designed them. The ink isn’t absorbed by the paper (like aforementioned matte sticker paper)…the ink sits on top of the paper leaving your stickers looking bright and vibrant!
Glossy sticker paper comes in opaque (as in white, non see through) and clear (100% transparent). I would describe glossy sticker paper as water resistant but certainly not “waterproof” by any means. It’s middle of the road on the price spectrum (it’s more expensive than matte sticker paper but not nearly as expensive as vinyl which we’ll talk about shortly). I personally like using them both equally but each has certain advantages and disadvantages depending on the application.
Opaque (white) glossy sticker paper is absolutely fantastic for making super high quality, professional looking stickers. I love using it for decals, planner stickers, decorative labels on DIY gifts and party favor stickers. No mater what you use it for you’ll have to keep in mind that you’ll potentially have a white background in between elements of your homemade sticker designs. So think about this during the design process. Everything I’ve ever made with THIS white glossy sticker paper has come out super professional looking and I can highly recommend it.
Clear glossy sticker paper is equally awesome but I think it has some unique advantages that opaque does not. If you’re using them for planner stickers it allows you to layer your stickers (because you don’t have that white background or white outline mucking things up). Also clear stickers don’t interfere with the lines and grids of your planner which keeps things more functional IMHO.
Also, when your designing your own stickers you don’t have to worry about that white negative space which is also a plus. Clear sticker paper is excellent for labels on clear glass objects like kitchen canisters (you can download my free printable kitchen pantry labels HERE OR my free printable craft storage labels HERE if you want to try this for yourself at home).
The one disadvantage of clear sticker paper is that you will see whatever is underneath a clear sticker- which may not be what you want for every application. I’ve thoroughly tested and vetted THIS clear glossy sticker paper for quality and TRUE clarity (some clear sticker papers out there aren’t really clear despite their claims…they look more like a steamy shower door than clear sticker paper).
Vinyl Sticker Paper
We’ve reached the pinnacle, the paragon, the mother of all sticker papers….vinyl (*heavenly angels singing from on high can be heard off in the distance*). Printable vinyl sticker paper is pretty rad because of it’s universality but it’s also at the top of the cost spectrum (as in most expensive).
Printable vinyl is usually either water resistant or waterproof. BUT you must understand that the typical at home inkjet printer ink that you’ll be using DOES NOT CONTAIN WATERPROOF or UV Resistant inks.
What does this mean? It means that even if you buy water resistant or waterproof vinyl your ink may run in the rain OR fade in the sunlight. Later in this article we’ll talk about the best ways to fully waterproof your stickers to increase outdoor survival.
Vinyl sticker paper is the thickest, highest quality and most reliable of all the sticker papers we’ve discussed today. Chances are you’ve been handed 1 or 100 of them in your lifetime as a promotional product. Bumper stickers are also usually made of vinyl. People use them for car decals, laptops, tumblers, promotional stickers and skateboard stickers because they stand up pretty well to regular abuse.
It’s probably overkill for planner stickers but maybe not a sticker you put on the outside of your planner, your car or something that is exposed to the outside elements or lots of abuse. I’ve used this white printable vinyl sticker paper (for inkjet printers) in the past and found it to be of exceptional quality. You can also find clear vinyl sticker paper and they also offer a vinyl sticker paper for laser jet printers.
Holographic Sticker Paper
Printable holographic sticker paper is relatively new to the world of sticker lovers. It’s a strong, water resistant paper for both inkjet & laser jet printers. It’s a really cool option if you have juuuuust the right graphic design in mind. Personally, I think it looks best with pure black or single color sticker designs. If you get too many colors and they aren’t complementary to the background hologram colors it’s….a bit much for the eye to take.
I did find that my Cricut cutting machine had a bit of trouble finding the registration marks during cutting. If this happens to you then grab some Matte Scotch Tape and tape over all the registration marks so they aren’t as glossy | reflective. After doing this, the cutting machine should be able pick up the registration marks.
Remember, just because this printable holographic sticker paper is water proof it doesn’t mean that your ink is waterproof. If you want waterproof | water resistant stickers then read through our section above on how to make waterproof | water resistant stickers.
What is the best printable sticker paper if I want good quality stickers?
Stick with Opaque (white) glossy sticker paper, clear glossy sticker paper or white printable vinyl sticker paper for professional quality stickers and decals that you can print at home. Matte sticker paper should never be a consideration if good quality is the chief concern.
How do you make homemade glossy stickers?
Glossy-ness is mostly determined by the type of paper you use. You can make glossy stickers at home by printing any image on glossy sticker paper. We recommend this Opaque (white) glossy sticker paper or this clear glossy sticker paper for print at home use.
If it’s still not shiny enough for your liking you can add a layer of clear packing tape which will add another layer of gloss (you can find packing tape from 2″-8″ wide for BIG stickers. It will also help protect your stickers from moisture & the outdoor elements.
Is sticker paper waterproof? How do you make a waterproof sticker?
The only sticker paper that is remotely close to being water proof (for at home use) is printable vinyl sticker paper. Note, we are talking about the paper alone. Chances are that the ink in your printer is not water resistant or waterproof (which could cause the ink to run in the rain/humidity). Also note, the ink in your printer may be UV sensitive (which means that you could see the colors fade in the sunlight over time).
If you can’t get your hands on waterproof/UV ink to use in your printer there are a few things you can do to mitigate these problems to better waterproof/UV proof a sticker for outdoor use.
- Always print with water resistant or waterproof printable vinyl sticker paper
- Seal your stickers with a coat or two of Krylon Acrylic Spray
- Use a layer of packing tape over your printed sticker or decal and trim away any excess tape. You can use this 6 inch wide packing tape for really large stickers.
- Use a permanent clear laminate sheet over the top of your stickers.
What kind of stickers can I make?
As we discussed earlier, stickers can be printed on many different finishes of printable sticker paper. But there are also different ways that you cut a sticker so they are easy to peel.
Different ways to cut a sticker:
The most common cuts for stickers are die cut and kiss cut.
- Die Cut stickers are perfectly cut to conform to the exact shape of your sticker. Using the die cut method, both the sticker and the waxy paper backing are cut all at once in the same shape. You can accomplish this with a cutting machine (like the Cricut or Silhouette) OR a special laser cutting machine. Die cuts are often those free promotional stickers you pick up from the local coffee or skate shop.
- Kiss Cut is when the cut is made through the top sticker paper layer but not the waxy paper backing This method is used when making a sheet of multiple stickers. With a sheet of stickers you peel a sticker off one at a time leaving the waxy paper backing behind. You can accomplish a kiss cut with a cutting machine (like the Cricut or Silhouette).
Can you put sticker paper in a printer?
Yes, BUT you need to make sure that the paper you are using is suited for the type of printer you have. Laser jet printers require special sticker paper for laser jet printers. Inkjet printers require special inkjet sticker paper. If you put inkjet sticker paper into a laser jet printer you will mostly likely melt the paper inside your laser printer which is no bueno. So make sure that the sticker paper you are putting into the printer is the correct type. Most sticker papers are clearly labeled as either inkjet or laser jet specific.
How to make stickers with a printer
If you are able to print at home then make sure that you do a few things before you print out your first sticker sheet. In the print settings dialogue box use the “highest quality” print setting and for paper type you’ll want to select “glossy photo paper”.
The glossy photo paper setting will slow down the printing process so that the ink does not smear. The high quality setting will also ensure more ink is laid down and your stickers will be high quality and won’t turn out pixelated.
Print one sheet at a time and DO NOT print all of your pages at once. This is for two reasons! First, you want to do a test run and make sure that you like the final outcome before you use up all of your paper. Second, you don’t want your sheets to stack up in the printer tray which can cause smearing of the ink.
Each printed sheet should be laid flat & separately to dry. Allow each sheet to completely dry at least 15-20 minutes before you cut or fuss with it. Note, some inks may take up to 24 hours to completely dry. Be sure to test a small area with your finger before cutting.
Storing Stickers & Unused Sticker Paper
Do not store fresh sticker printouts in plastic of any kind (such as plastic sheet protectors). Store any unused paper and printouts in a dry, non humid environment away from sunlight and heat. I personally store my unused paper and stickers in my closet, inside plastic containers.
How to make stickers without a printer at home
You don’t actually have to have a printer at home to make printable stickers. You can take your sticker design files & your chosen sticker paper to your local print shop, Fedex/Kinkos, Office Depot or the UPS Store and have them print out your stickers for you.
In some cases you can transmit your files online for printing and pick them up when they’re done. Call in advance and find out if they use laser jet or inkjet printers so you can bring them the appropriate sticker paper to print on. Also inquire what file types to bring in.
One last option is to take your design to a professional sticker printing company. With professional sticker printing services you simply upload your custom artwork and the company prints, cuts, and ships you the finished product. If you’re wondering how to make stickers to sell…this is definitely the way to go.
Professionally printed stickers are ultra high quality (I’ve NEVER been disappointed) and come in an array of finishes. Having a professional sticker printer can eliminate the trial and error associated with calibrating a cutting machine and printer on your own.
Due to the higher costs associated with professional sticker printing (starting at roughly .75 cents per sticker), this is more geared towards those who want to print a high volume of stickers to sell OR those who don’t want to invest in the equipment to make stickers at home. There are a few professional sticker printers I trust like Sticker Giant, Stickerapp & Stickermule.
I’m not a graphic designer & I have no art skills…can I still make stickers?
Yes you can! Surprisingly enough you don’t have to have to graphic design skills to make stickers. You can purchase pre-designed stickers in my digital sticker shop HERE. You can purchase raw clipart/images from other graphic designers from a website like Creative Market (make sure transparent PNG files are provided- read every listing carefully).
You then take those purchased images and size/arrange them using a graphic design program like Inkscape (which is FREE to use web based graphic design software). You can also use Cricut Design Space or Silhouette Studio software to size/arrange your images (we show you how to do this later in the article).
If you are a doodler or artist you can use your ipad & an apple pencil to create your own hand made designs an app like Procreate. There are tons of videos on Youtube that will show you how to draw step by step in Procreate. The images are easy to export with a transparent background into graphic design software.
How do you cut stickers? Can I do this on a Cricut?
If you have a steady hand there is no reason that you can’t cut out your stickers with a pair of scissors or a fingertip craft knife. If you don’t have a steady hand there are some options like a circle punch, straight line paper cutter or a Cricut cutting machine. The Cricut is super handy if you have to cut out a large quantity of stickers.
If you have a Cricut Cutting Machine at home you can easily upload your digital sticker sheets to Cricut Design Space. It’s important to make sure that you have the right file types to load into the Design Space software. Design Space only accepts the following file types:
While you could use any of these file types I highly recommend that you create a transparent PNG file on whatever design software you are using to design your stickers. It’s so much easier for Cricut Design Space software to pick out your images when it’s a transparent background PNG cut file.
How do I cut stickers on a Cricut?
I’m going to give the detailed step by step below but if you prefer to watch a short video overview then check out this quick video we made for you:
Assuming you have a file created and ready to go you’ll next open up the Cricut Design Space App. Click on “New Project”on the top right hand side of your screen.
When you hit “New Project” you’ll be taken to a fresh new canvas in Design Space. Click the upload button on the bottom left hand side of your screen.
On the next screen you’ll see a button to “Upload Images”…click on that button.
You’ll then click on “Browse” and grab the file you want to use from file explorer.
Whatever image you select will show up on the left hand side in the next screen. I’m using a transparent PNG cut file from the Happy Planner Disc Sticker Kit for this example. It’s a fully transparent PNG file that is pretty simple so I select “Simple” and hit continue at the bottom right hand side.
If you don’t think your images are simple you might have to select one of the other options. Read the descriptions for each and decide which one applies to your image. On the next screen you’ll be selecting the areas you want to remove. You can even erase things you don’t want to include in your cutting. The areas that will be removed will appear as a blue and white checker box. The items you’ll be keeping and cutting will appear as normal colored objects. When you have selected all the areas you want to remove hit “Continue”.
Next you’ll select the “Print & Cut” option on the left hand side by clicking on it. Give it a file name if needed and click “Save”.
You’ll be taken to an area where your file has been uploaded to. Select that file and then click “Insert Images” on the bottom right hand side.
On the next screen you’ll see your image inserted onto the Design Space canvas. Chances are it will be too large and you’ll need to resize it to fit the cutting area of the Cricut. If you don’t do this then the software will not allow you to progress to the next step- it’ll say your image is too large (your image must be smaller than 6.75 x 9.25 inches). To resize you’ll grab the bottom right hand corner of the inserted image and size it accordingly. When the image is the size it needs to be you’ll click “Make It”.
On the next screen your images will be sorted onto the mat and you’ll have a chance to select how many copies. Then you’ll click “Continue”.
Since you’ll most likely be using a special glossy sticker paper you’ll need to tick “Use System Dialog” box, select “Print Preferences” and select something like “glossy photo paper” and “high quality”. This will ensure that the printer slowly prints out your image (so as not to smudge the ink) and that it puts down photo quality amounts of ink (so your stickers will look super professional). When you’re done with all those selections you’ll click the “Print” button.
Your image will print with a black border around it. This black border is how the Cricut indexes the cutter head to your images so you get totally accurate cuts. Take your printed image on glossy sticker paper and place it on the blue Cricut mat. Make sure it’s nicely aligned with the grid.
Next you’ll look back at the dialogue box and select the type of material you’ll be cutting. You can do a search for “Sticker Paper” and select that for your material. You’ll be asked to make sure you have the correct tool loaded into your machine. Next you’ll load your loaded mat into the machine using the load button (flashing arrow). Your machine will buzz around the mat/image indexing everything it needs to. When it’s done indexing you’ll see that the arrow has stopped flashing. You should then see the letter “C” (Cricut logo) button start to flash. Push that button when you’re ready to start cutting.
How do I cut stickers on a Silhouette cutting machine?
Since I originally published this article I’ve had a few emails and comments asking me how do you cut stickers on a Silhouette cutting machine? I don’t actually own one (I have a Cricut)…but I did find this helpful, step by step video for Silhouette users who want to learn how to cut out stickers with their cutting machines. Hit play to see how it’s easily done!
I hope you enjoyed reading our DIY tutorial on how to make stickers that look totally professional. Did we answer all your burning questions on how to make stickers? If we didn’t you can leave us a question in the comments sections at the bottom of the page and we’ll try to answer it. We’re all about fun tutorials and crafts and if you like this post you should check out our step by step tutorial on How to Make Professional Looking Pins at Home.
FREE PRINTABLE STICKERS DOWNLOAD
You can grab some FREE printable sticker files to try printing stickers at home for yourself! We recommend that you use printable glossy vinyl waterproof sticker paper so that your decals will last longer in those high touch environments (like laptops, notebooks & water bottles).
We provide you with FREE PDF files but if you would like cut files for your cutting machine you can purchase them HERE or at the link below for a small fee that helps support the work we do here on this website.
To grab the FREE printable stickers PDF stickers download go to the link below which will take you to our printables shop. Add the item to your shopping bag and use the code GROOVY at checkout to get them for FREE!
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