4ddcc8c6da4406a13e0da9ed447bc2f1ee27ace5 — Jakob Meier 4 months ago 315532c
Published: DIY Vinyl Sticker
How to make your own vinyl stickers, without buying them in bulk

10/10 can recommend
A content/blog/arts-and-crafts/diy-stickers.md => content/blog/arts-and-crafts/diy-stickers.md +197 -0
@@ 0,0 1,197 @@
title: DIY Vinyl Stickers
description: How to make your own vinyl stickers, without buying them in bulk
date: 2024-02-10
About one months ago,
the [postmarketOS mastodon account](https://fosstodon.org/@postmarketOS) 
posted a [picture of a couple of stickers they'd be giving away at FOSDEM](https://fosstodon.org/@postmarketOS/111731999694062604).

Given that I couldn't attend *FOSDEM* yet another year in a row
(as it is always during my exam period),
this got me thinking about how I might get my hands on some stickers.

# Prelude
## Initial research
My first idea was to try and find a sticker sheet provider,
and after spending half a day trying to figure out what kind of stickers I need,
I figured out that the type of stickers I was looking for are called *Kiss Cut stickers*. \
The great thing about *Kiss Cut stickers* is that they aren't square,
but instead, they preserve the shape of your sticker,
by drawing a white outline around the border of your image.

The first reseller I came across, 
that met my requirements was [stickermule](https://www.stickermule.com/products/kiss-cut-stickers).
> Custom printing that kicks ass

And to be honest, after reading about the services they offer,
that tagline is probably fairly accurate.
They provide templates for some of the most popular design programs out there,
including a couple of explanation videos on how to design your own sticker sheet.
And if you don't want to design the sheet yourself, you can also upload a `.zip` containing all the stickers,
and their team will arrange them for you.

However, I quickly found out that they require you to buy at least 10 sticker sheets. \
As far as I know,
this would have meant that I'd get to design one sheet and get 10 prints of it,
which obviously isn't what I wanted.

So I tried looking for on-demand sticker printing services and came across
heck, they even have a guide on how to design your stickers.
Unfortunately, they don't sell sticker sheets, only single stickers,
(at least in Europe),
which would have made everything more complicated and expensive.
I also checked in with [printful](https://www.printful.com/uk/custom/stickers/die-cut/kiss-cut-sticker-sheet),
as I've ordered hoodies, t-shirts and pillows from them before.
But after designing a sticker sheet,
I wasn't happy with the quality the preview showed, and according to the order overview,
the stickers would have to be shipped from Japan, which isn't really climate friendly, tbh.

## Printable Vinyl sheets
This got me wondering whether it was possible to use a laser printer (or inkjet) to print on some kind of paper with a sticky backing.

And as it turns out,
there is a product made for this, commonly referred to as *printable vinyl sticker sheets*. \
So I spent a couple of hours figuring out whether this type of paper would damage our printer,
but apparently a lot of people are using it, so I felt confident enough to order a packet of 15 sheets online.

So yeah - this is where the fun part starts.

# Things you'll need
As might be apparent from the text above,
you'll need a laser printer (or an inkjet printer, although I haven't tested it),
and *printable vinyl sticker sheets*, 
like this one on [amazon (de)](https://www.amazon.de/dp/B097KLGRJV).

I've also heard a lot of people recommend cutting machines,
like the small [Cricut ones](https://cricut.com/de-de/schneidemaschinen/cricut-joy).
And I see why, using a machine to cut out the stickers,
instead of having to do it by hand might save some time, especially on a large scale.
But I honestly couldn't be bothered to generate a second sticker sheet just to send that to a cutting machine,
when I can just do it by hand,
using a small pair of scissors.

# Getting the design ready
I actually spent quite some time figuring out how to draw the outline around imported images,
but I think I found a fairly good "solution" - and I'll spare you details of my less successful attempts.

First of all, get your hands on [Inkscape](https://inkscape.org/),
if you are on Linux, your distro's repository will most likely have Inkscape already.
if you are on Windows, either figure out how to get the version from the website,
or consider using a proper, less-shitty operating system.

After opening Inkscape,
create a new document and make sure the dimensions are set to *A4* 
(or whatever format your vinyl sheets have).
(You can change the Document properties in `File > Document Properties`)

Now get your hands on a single-color-ish image,
to use as a background,
given that the sticker outline will be white (or whatever color you choose),
having a background that is clearly distinguishable from the background,
will make manually cutting out the stickers later way easier.

In my case, I went with one of the 
[postmarketOS wallpapers](https://gitlab.com/postmarketOS/artwork/-/blob/master/wallpapers/2024/evergreen/evergreen-dark.png).

Now you can start adding stickers.

Go to `File > Import` and select the image you want to add,
in the popup, select `Embed` (although it probably won't matter).

Now scale the image to your liking.
I'd recommend holding `Ctrl` whilst moving the diagonal resize handle,
to lock in the dimensions. \
For my sticker sheets, I sized the individual stickers at about four to five centimeters.

This is also the perfect time to position the sticker,
although you can also do this later.

Afterwards, go to `Path > Trace Bitmap` and you should see a new panel on the right.
Depending on the image you are tracing, you'll have to play around with different tracing options a little bit,
but for most images, `Single scan, Brightness cutoff` should be good enough. \
What you'll probably have to change is the `Threshold` value,
just slide it up or down until the preview on the bottom looks like the image (filled) you are trying to trace.
(If you can't get it to work, you'll probably have to try different scan modes or detection modes.)

Once you are happy with the preview, click `Apply` and **DON'T** move the inserted shape.

With the newly created shape selected,
go to `Object > Layers and Objects` and drag the selected layer below the image you just imported.
It might appear as if the layer has gone missing, 
but we will get to that in a second.

First of all, navigate to `Object > Fill and Stroke`
and select `Stroke style` in the menu on the right and increase the width.
I found that `3` to `4` millimeters work pretty well for my stickers.

Next, select `Stroke paint`,
click on the filled blue square (`Flat color`)
and drag the sliders around to select the color you want.
If you want a pure white, you could also enter `ffffff` in the `RGBA` field.

You should now have an outlined version of the sticker.
If you aren't happy, try playing around with different stroke width,
tracing methods, or just manually go in and fix the outline.

When you are happy with your design,
go back to `Object > Layers and Objects`,
select every layer connected to this design (the path for the outline and the image)
by holding down `Ctrl` while clicking on the layers 
and hit `Ctrl-G` to group them together. \
This will make moving them easier. 
If you haven't already positioned your design, 
select the group in the layer menu and dragging it around on the canvas.

If you want to add another image,
deselect the group (or select the `Layer 1` root)
and repeat the steps we just did.

# Printing
We are nearly done,
now that you've finished your design,
we can go on to the next step: printing.

Make sure you know which side of your sticker sheets is the back.
And confirm,
which side of the paper inserted into your printer will be the back. \
I just drew a bunch of arrows on the top of a piece of paper,
and printed an empty white sheet.
That way, I found out, that the paper faces down in the tray,
so I had to place my sticker sheets with the back facing up in the tray,
when printing.

After preparing your printer,
go to `File > Print` in Inkscape and print your sticker sheet.
I found that the stickers look better, 
when setting the printer to `Glossy` -
but this probably depends on the model and type of printer you are using.

# The final step
Grab a small pair of scissors,
like [small crafting scissors](https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K1HNBXZ).
And cut along the outline of the white padding,
making sure not to cut outside the white.

I'd recommend listening to music or a podcast,
as this might take you some time.

As mentioned above, 
you could probably use a cutting machine to do this task,
just make sure everything is aligned properly
and you've removed the background image,
before exporting the Inkscape SVG.
![A bunch of stickers on top of a ROLI Seaboard Block box](./cutout.jpg)

# Outro
Now you are ready to apply your stickers,
just peel off the back (using your finger or a cutting knife)
and put them onto the back of your laptop, phone or whatever.

For inspiration, here is what I did with mine:

![Back of a tablet/Chromebook with a bunch of stickers on it](./chromebook.jpg)

P.S.: If you are wondering, It is really easy to get the sticker off,
and they don't leave any residue (or at least mine don't)

A content/blog/arts-and-crafts/diy-stickers/chromebook.jpg => content/blog/arts-and-crafts/diy-stickers/chromebook.jpg +0 -0
A content/blog/arts-and-crafts/diy-stickers/cutout.jpg => content/blog/arts-and-crafts/diy-stickers/cutout.jpg +0 -0