Even as someone who works with stickers and decals on a daily basis, I will admit I use the terms interchangeably. For someone who is in the market to purchase these products though, it can be confusing and will want to know the difference between the two as well as the different types that are available. So here’s what you need to know:
When most people hear sticker they think of things like the gold star you’d get on your homework in grade school. By definition, a sticker is “an adhesive label or notice, generally printed or illustrated” which brings in the further question of what exactly is a label?, but we’ll get back to that later. A sticker is often a piece of paper or plastic that has an adhesive on the back attached to a backing which can then be peeled off and placed on any smooth surface. Essentially “sticker” can be used as a catch all term for an object (typically paper or plastic) with an adhesive backing. It is also important to note that stickers are one solid piece. For example if you have a “sticker” that says America on it, you would peel off one solid piece rather than each individual letter. Stickers also typically have a stronger adhesive as they are meant to last a longer time.
To go back to the previous question of what is a label, there are different kinds of labels as well but most that are included in this category also have an adhesive backing. Labels are not meant for outdoor use and are typically printed on paper similar to what you’ll find in your printer at home or slightly thicker.
Then there are decals. According to the definition, decals are “a specially prepared paper bearing a picture or design for transfer to wood, metal, glass, etc.”, meaning that decals, although they are considered stickers, are prepared on a special type of paper in hopes of eventually being transferred onto a variety of different surfaces. The key word with decals is TRANSFER. When you purchase a decal you will notice that it comes not only with the typical sticker backing, but also a 3rd layer on top of the decal itself. This is called transfer paper and is used to transfer the decal from one surface to another. It also helps to assure your decal is in the correct spot before you attach it.
Although the terms can still be confusing, we hope this gives you a little bit clearer idea of what each term means!