This is another question that we often get here at the Made of Sundays sticker factory, and we are the first ones to admit that we some times use both terms in a slightly confusing way (so no wonder that you guys ask about it). But no worries, we are finally here to clear everything up once and for all.
Stickers you stick, decals you transfer
This title kind of sums it up in a very simple and understandable way. Stickers usually refer to an adhesive product that you simply peel off the backing paper before sticking it on whatever cool place you had in mind. Stickers can be made of a whole range of different materials, but most often they are printed on PVC-vinyl or polyester. In Made of Sundays we use a thick PVC-free and re-positionable polyester for our wall stickers.
Example of wall stickers on sheets
Decals, on the other hand, are transferred from one surface to another. This needs three different parts (where the stickers only have two); a backing paper, the actual sticker and finally a transfer surface on top. Just imagine a ham sandwich, where the bottom bread is the backing paper and the ham and the cheese is the sticker and the top bread is the transfer. Then imagine sticking the ham and cheese on a wall with the help of the top bread only (ok, perhaps not the best analogy after all).
Example of an animal decal installed on a door (those thin lines need a transfer surface)
Decals often consist of several separate part like letters or patterns, because thanks to the transfer surface they can be attached on the wall exactly with the same spacing as they were designed to have. Decals are almost always made out of PVC-vinyl, because very often they are applied on places where you need the elasticity that the plasticisers give. If you see that a decal is called a vinyl decal that usually means it’s made of soft PVC-vinyl. We however prefer polyester before PVC, so our door friend decals are made of a recyclable polyester vinyl.
Ok, so now you know the difference between a sticker and a decal. Then you might ask yourself why we are calling everything stickers on our site? The reason for this is quite simple: geography. Like color instead of colour, decals is a term that is used a lot more in the United States and Australia than in Europe.
In Europe it seems that we like to keep things simple and just bundle everything under one broad term that in this case is stickers. To be fair, sometimes you also see the term “transfer sticker” used in Europe instead of decal but mostly it’s just stickers. So a tip for you: if you google around in Europe we recommend you search for stickers or transfer stickers, while decals will give you better results if you live in the United States.
And what about labels?
Oh yeah those. We don’t really work with labels so we tend to always forget about them. Ironically labels are the adhesive product you most see in your every day life (shipping labels, product labels, address labels and so forth). Labels are adhesive products that almost always are printed on materials that can’t be used outdoors (mostly paper). They are usually printed with special label machines that are able to produce rolls of labels using a few specific colors. Labels also tend to come in pre-defined sizes unless you are ready to invest in a custom shape.