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What Do You Need?

Sourcing custom printed stickers can be a difficult process. Buying the right type of sticker for your needs involves making a number of decisions about the suitability, quality and economy of the different types of printing processes and the printing companies that make them. We hope the following information will help you make the right choice.

Sticker, Decal, Label — What's the Difference?

There are no precise differences in the definition of these terms. They are often used interchangeably. In most instances, labels refer to flexographic/offset roll labels (which we do not produce), and stickers/decals often refer to screen printed and digital solvent based inkjet printing (both of which we produce). When assessing suppliers on the web, you need to look closely at the types of production technologies to make any sense of the differences. Be wary of any printers that are not clear about the technologies they use. In our website we use sticker and decal to mean the same thing — we use both because it matches our customer's search criteria.

We Produce Screen Printed & Digital Eco-Solvent Inkjet Printed Stickers specializes in producing stickers/decals for applications where flexographic labels are not adequate to meet longevity, durability, water and lightfastness required for many applications. Screen and Digital Inkjet also have a much greater variety of customization and size and shape options, and are often more economical for short run production. Below is a more detailed description of these technologies.


Screen Printing

Ink Deposit & UV ink technology

Screen Printing remains the most durable technology available for producing stickers with extended longevity. Recent advances in digital inkjet printing (see section below), have opened up new horizons for full colour imaging, and short print runs, but their longevity is not as good as screen printing. Depending on the choice of material and ink, screen printed products can have an exterior longevity of up to 9 years. Most of the vinyl stickers we produce have an expected lifespan of 5-7 years in typical exterior applications. Using high-end cast vinyls this can be extended up to 9 years.

All screen printed decals are waterproof and UV resistant. Screen printed decals do not need a laminate to extend their lifespan (unlike digital and flexographic). Laminating screen printed decals is only required for extremes of abrasion or chemical resistance — OEM decals for mining equipment for example. Unlaminated screen printed stickers also have greater scratch resistance than unlaminated solvent inkjet stickers.

Screen printed stickers are lower in cost than digital inkjet stickers for large quantity runs. For short runs, however, digital is more economical.


Full Colour Digital Eco-Solvent Inkjet Printing

Digital Printing Technology

Digital solvent inkjet printers work in much the same way as your desktop printer but on a much larger scale. They use solvent-based inks instead of the water-based inks typically used in consumer inkjet printers. Solvent inks are waterproof and UV resistant for 2-3 years in outdoor applications without a laminate & 4-5 years with a laminate. uses Eco-Sol inks that emit very low VOCs — low enough that they do not even require ventilation during production.

Digital inkjet printing has a number of advantages over screen printing. It produces better full colour photographic images, and is economical for short runs and shape cut stickers. Most screen printed decals are printed in "spot" colours — ink colours are printed one at a time, with each colour mixed separately, wheras digital printers always print in full colour. For short run jobs, digital stickers are lower in cost than screen printed decals.

Artwork file formats are also more forgiving with digital printing. Spot colour screen printing requires that colours be separated for film output, and this sometimes necessitates an artwork charge depending on our customer's supplied artwork files.

Pantone Colour: Screen Print vs Digital

While the new digital technologies can produce spectacular full colour photographic prints not possible with screen printing, they can only simulate Pantone spot colours. For those not familiar with the printing industry this distinction might be difficult to understand. Since the early 1960s, Long before digital printing existed, graphic designers have used a standardized colour matching system, called Pantone, to control colour reproduction for corporations/brands. This consisted of a system of mixing 15 different inks to produce over a thousand numbered colours. This system allowed different kinds of printers in different locations to communicate and print an exact colour by matching their ink to a printed swatch book.

The Pantone colours are very rich and vibrant because they are mixed from pure ink colours. Screen printing can reproduce these colours using the same ink system, whereas digital inkjet printers can't quite match the richness of these solid colours. Digital printers use process colour — cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink — to reproduce a photographic spectrum of colour. Although acceptable for most applications, the simulated spot colour produced by an inkjet printer is not an exact match to Pantone. can combine digital and screen printing on the same decal for very particular jobs.

Flexographic Printing (We do not produce this type of sticker)

Flexographic labels are produced on rolls. They are inexpensive for large quantities in standard sizes. With or without laminates, they do not have a simialr longevity as our stickers. They are typically used for short term and indoor label requirements, such as on food product packaging and mailing labels.


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