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How to Make Decals with Inkjet Printer (Step by Step)

Printing is one of the most efficient ways of adding text, color, or designs on different materials and surfaces. However, some printing techniques require specialized equipment and training to enable you to get good results, which is not always possible. Decal printing is a convenient and easy-to-use technique that yields excellent results on multiple surfaces and materials you can use. 

Decal printing is a printing method that uses a regular inkjet printer to create graphics and designs you can transfer onto different surfaces. And even though the process uses special decal paper, it’s easy and convenient to work with. So, what if you don’t know much about decaling? Worry not.

This post will look at how to make decals with your inkjet printer and everything you should know about the process. Keep reading to learn more. 

close up photo of assorted stickers
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What are Decals?

Decals are adhesive graphics or designs that can be applied to different surfaces to enhance their appearance, convey information, or personalize objects. They are typically made from a thin, flexible material for easy application and removal. Decals come in various shapes, sizes, and types to suit different purposes and surfaces.

There are several types of decals commonly used:

  • Vinyl Decals: made from a durable and weather-resistant vinyl material. They are often used for vehicle customization, wall decorations, signage, and promotional purposes. Vinyl decals can be easily applied and removed without leaving residue or damaging the surface.
  • Waterslide Decals: these are thin, transparent decals typically used for model kits, ceramics, and other smooth surfaces. They have a water-activated adhesive backing, which allows them to be easily transferred onto the surface by soaking them in water. Once applied, excess water is removed, leaving the decal in place.
  • Clear Decals: made from a transparent material that allows the underlying surface to show through. They are commonly used to create window decals, glass decorations, or overlay designs onto colored or textured surfaces.
  • Wall Decals: these are specifically designed for application to walls and other flat surfaces. They are often made from vinyl or fabric material and can be easily peeled off without damaging the paint or leaving residue. Wall decals are popular for adding decorative elements or quotes to interior spaces.

What Materials You’ll Need to Create a Decal

To create a decal, you will need the following materials.

  1. Inkjet Printer

An inkjet printer is essential for printing the design onto decal paper. Ensure your printer is compatible with specialty papers and has the resolution and print settings to produce high-quality decals. You should also note the regular ink in your printer will do just fine.

  1. Decal Paper

Decal paper is specially designed for creating decals. It comes in various types, including clear, white, or transparent. Choose the type of decal paper that suits your project and the surface you will be applying the decals to.

  1. Design Software 

Depending on your design skills and preferences, you will need graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to create or edit your design. Alternatively, you can use user-friendly online design tools that provide templates and customization options.

  1. Scissors or Cutting Tools

You will need scissors or cutting tools to trim the printed decals to the desired shape and size. Ensure the cutting tools are sharp and precise for clean and accurate cuts.

  1. Clear Coat Spray (Optional)

Applying a clear coat spray over the printed decals can enhance their durability and protect them from wear and tear. Clear coat spray provides an additional layer of protection and helps seal the ink, ensuring your decals last longer.

  1. Clean, Lint-Free Cloth

A clean, lint-free cloth is helpful in wiping the surface where the decals will be applied, ensuring it is clean and free from dust or debris. This helps to ensure proper adhesion and a smooth finish.

  1. Additional Tools

Depending on the specific project and application, you may need additional tools such as a ruler or tape for aligning and positioning the decals, a water bowl for activating waterslide decals, or a squeegee for smoothing out air bubbles during application.

A Step-by-step Guide to Make Decals with Inkjet Printer

Creating decals with an inkjet printer involves several steps. Follow this step-by-step guide to create your own custom decals.

  1. Design Your Decal

Use your preferred graphic design software to create or customize your decal design. Consider your design’s dimensions, colors, and details to ensure it prints well and meets your desired outcome.

  1. Select the Right Decal Paper

Choose the appropriate type of decal paper based on your project and the surface you will be applying the decals to. Decal papers come in various types, such as clear, white, or transparent. Moreover, ensure your inkjet printer is compatible with the chosen decal paper.

  1. Set up Your Printer

Adjust the printer settings for optimal decal printing. Consult your printer manual or manufacturer’s website for instructions on adjusting settings specific to decal paper printing. Ensure the print quality, paper type, and other settings are suitable for producing high-quality decals.

  1. Print a Test Page

Before printing on the decal paper, perform a test print on regular paper. This allows you to check the design, colors, and sizing to ensure they meet your expectations. Make any necessary adjustments to your design or printer settings before printing on the decal paper.

  1. Load the Decal Paper

Load the decal paper into your inkjet printer according to the printer’s instructions. Ensure the printable side of the decal paper is facing the correct orientation. Avoid touching the printable surface to prevent smudging.

  1. Print Your Decals

Once the decal paper is loaded, send the design to print. Allow the printed decals to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. Drying times may vary depending on the decal paper type used.

  1. Apply a Clear Coat (optional)

If desired, apply a clear coat spray over the printed decals to enhance their durability and protection. Follow the instructions with the clear coat spray and ensure the decals are completely dry before applying the clear coat.

  1. Trim the Decals

Use scissors or cutting tools to carefully trim the printed decals to the desired shape and size. Take your time and ensure precise cuts for a professional-looking finish.

  1. Prepare the Surface

Clean the surface where you will be applying the decals. Use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe away any dust or debris. Ensure the surface is dry before proceeding.

  1. Apply the Decals

Gently peel off the backing from the decal, taking care not to damage the design. Position the decal on the surface, aligning it to your desired placement. Press the decal onto the surface, starting from one edge and working your way toward the other edge. Use a ruler or tape as a guide for alignment if necessary.

a woman making a wall decor
Photo by Thirdman on
  1. Smooth out Air Bubbles

Use a squeegee or your fingers to smooth out any air bubbles or wrinkles from the decal. Start from the center and work your way outwards to ensure a smooth and bubble-free application.

  1. Allow the Decals to Adhere

Give the decals sufficient time to adhere to the surface. Follow any recommended drying or curing times provided with the decal paper or clear coat spray (if used).

Decal Applications

Decals have a wide range of applications and can be used in various contexts. Here are some popular applications of decals.

  1. Vehicle Customization

You can use decals to personalize and customize vehicles. Vehicle decals are popular among car enthusiasts, sports teams, businesses, and individuals looking to make a statement.

  1. Home Decor

Decals offer a versatile and temporary way to enhance the aesthetics of your living space. Home decor decals range from decorative patterns, inspirational quotes, and floral designs to children’s rooms. They allow you to easily transform the look and feel of your home without permanent changes.

  1. Signage and Displays

Decals are also frequently used for creating signs, banners, and displays in commercial settings. Businesses use decals for branding purposes, displaying logos, promotions, and information. Decals are also used at trade shows, exhibitions, and events to create eye-catching displays and signage.

  1. Crafts and DIY Projects

Decals are popular among crafters and DIY enthusiasts. You can use them in craft projects such as scrapbooking, card-making, glass etching, ceramics, and model-making. Decals provide an easy and effective way to add intricate designs, patterns, or images to craft projects, allowing for unique and personalized creations.

  1. Retail and Packaging

Decals play a significant role in product packaging and retail displays. They’re used for branding, labeling, product information, or promotional messages. Decals applied to packaging materials, bags, or containers help to create an appealing and professional presentation of products.

  1. Equipment and Tools

Decals are commonly used to label equipment, tools, and machinery. They provide clear identification, safety instructions, or warning signs. Decals applied to industrial machinery, power tools, or appliances ensure essential information is easily visible and understood.

  1. Personal Items and Accessories

Decals offer a fun and creative way to personalize personal items and accessories. You can apply them to laptops, smartphones, water bottles, helmets, skateboards, and more. 

  1. Promotional and Advertising Materials

You can also use decals in promotional and advertising campaigns. Decals make excellent designs for promotional materials such as brochures, flyers, and posters. You can also use them on promotional products as stickers. 


Creating decals with an inkjet printer opens up a new world of possibilities for customization, personalization, and creative expression. With suitable materials and a step-by-step process, you can design and print your own decals to enhance vehicles, transform your living space, create eye-catching displays, and add a personal touch to various objects.

Decals offer a convenient and cost-effective way to bring your designs to life and make a statement. Whether you’re a car enthusiast, a DIY enthusiast, a business owner, or simply looking to add flair to your items, decals provide a versatile solution.

Following the steps outlined in this post, you can confidently embark on your decal-making journey. Remember to choose the appropriate decal paper, prepare your design, adjust printer settings, and carefully apply the decals to achieve professional-looking results.

So, start exploring the world of decal printing and let your creativity soar. The possibilities are endless, and with each decal you create, you’ll add a unique touch to your surroundings and make a lasting impression. Get ready to make your mark with custom decals made right at home.


Can I use any inkjet printer to print decals?

Not all inkjet printers are suitable for printing decals. Ensure your printer is compatible with specialty papers and has the resolution and print settings to produce high-quality decals.

What type of decal paper should I use?

The type of decal paper you should use depends on your project and the surface you’ll be applying the decals. Clear, white, or transparent decal papers are common options. Choose one that suits your needs.

How do I ensure my decals adhere properly?

Before applying the decals, ensure the surface is clean and free from dust or debris. Smooth out air bubbles during application and allow the decals sufficient time to adhere according to the instructions provided with the decal paper.

Can I remove the decals once applied?

Most decals can be removed, especially if made from vinyl or designed for temporary use. However, it’s important to note that some decals may leave residue or require extra care during removal. Follow the instructions provided with the specific decal type for best results.

How can I protect my decals from wear and tear?

Applying a clear coat spray over the printed decals can enhance their durability and protect them from wear and tear. The clear coat spray adds an extra layer of protection and helps seal the ink, making the decals last longer.

Are decals weather-resistant?

It depends on the type of decal paper used. Vinyl decals are generally more weather-resistant compared to other types. If you plan to apply decals in outdoor environments, choose a durable material and consider using a weather-resistant clear coat for added protection.

Can I reuse decals?

In most cases, decals are designed for one-time use. Attempting to reuse them may result in damage or poor adhesion. However, if the decals are in good condition and designed for reuse, you can carefully remove and reapply them.