stickers for packaging products

How to make stickers: Essentials for design, print, and use

Reading time: 8 minutes

Stickers aren’t just fun, they’re also an inexpensive key to marketing—think about how many stickers you’ve seen promoting political and social campaigns. Stickers are eye-catching, especially when they have well-crafted designs.

Affordability isn’t the only reason stickers are so popular. Compared to other marketing materials, stickers are fairly easy to produce. You can even make them yourself using materials you likely already have on hand. 

Key highlights for how to make your own stickers

Types of stickers

Tangible print stickers

Tangible stickers are physical stickers. They can be vinyl, paper or polyester. Tangible stickers have an adhesive backing that allows them to be stuck to surfaces like metal, wood, plastic, sheetrock, and fabric. We’ve included guidelines for designing and creating tangible stickers below. 

Digital stickers

Digital stickers are graphics used in a variety of online and graphic design interfaces. They mimic the look of tangible stickers and can be “stuck” onto posts, digital planners and designs. 

You’ve probably encountered digital stickers on Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Digital stickers can be a great complement to physical stickers or a cool asset on their own. They’re also a fun way to add pops of color and fun to digital planners and notebooks. Take a look at these: 

sparkle fruit stickers

Source: by A n a s t a s i a

When designing digital stickers, you don’t have to worry about their durability against the elements. But you do have to think about their compatibility with the platforms where you plan to use them. Generally, PNG is the best file format for digital stickers. It’s widely compatible with social media and digital planning platforms. 

You can create digital versions of your tangible stickers, or you can use digital stickers as a way to test out designs for tangible stickers. Because they’re free to create and use, you can play with designs and make revisions without spending more than your time. 

collection of yellow and black text-heavy stickers

Sticker design by miftake$cratches

Designing your stickers

Designing stickers is a lot like designing other marketing materials. You start the design process by brainstorming your goals for the sticker and the most effective way to express your brand through its design.

colorful cartoon-style stickers featuring a dog and bubble tea

Sticker design by noodlemie

Sticker’s purpose

What are your goals for the sticker? Is it going to be used internally, like a label for employees’ folders or company property, or externally, like a giveaway or piece of merchandise? Will it raise brand awareness, generate user engagement on social media or simply create a cool piece of art? 

It’s important to identify clear goals for your sticker before you start designing because these goals will factor into its design. For example, if you’re creating stickers for a political campaign, it’s likely they’ll be stuck on car bumpers, which means they need to feature big, readable text and be made of weather-resistant material. 

Or if you don’t plan on having the sticker leave your office, your name and logo don’t need to be as obvious as they’d need to be in a sticker meant to drive people to your website or social media profiles. 

After you’ve determined your goals for the sticker and where it will be stuck, you can start designing for these goals and purposes.  

colorful cartoon-style stickers featuring a dog and bubble tea

Sticker design by A n a s t a s i a 

Brand colors

Think about how you communicate your brand visually, or if you’re brand-new, how you would like to. In other words, what’s your vibe? Refer back to your style guide and any inspiration or mood boards you created early in the brand development process. Look at your color palette and the types of designs you aimed to emulate. Think about your brand values and how you’ve positioned yourself to operate according to them. 

Finding inspiration

If you’re feeling stuck, find inspiration from stickers you like. This part is easy—stickers are everywhere! Take a look at all the laptops and water bottles in your vicinity and you’ll undoubtedly see a wide variety of stickers from multiple different brands. In most cases, these stickers were placed voluntarily—the water bottle and laptop owners chose to let their personal property become free advertising, just because they liked their sticker designs so much. If your goal is brand awareness or engagement, make this part of your strategy. 

collection of pastel-hued national park stickers

Sticker design by Skilline

So break out a sketchpad or fire up your preferred design software (we recommend VistaCreate) and start playing with ideas. Your designs will become tangible stickers, digital stickers or both. Don’t worry about the technical design considerations for tangible vs. digital stickers just yet—we’ll go into more detail about those later on. For now, just focus on creating the kinds of designs you’d be proud to stick in your planner, on your water bottle, on your social media pages and anywhere else you can imagine. 

DIY stickers: How to print stickers at-home 

Once you have a design (or a few) ready, you can create your own tangible stickers. 

DIY stickers are appealing for a few reasons: 

  • Test your design: Make stickers at home to analyze your design before investing in professional  printing 
  • Release small batches: Homemade stickers are a cost-effective way to create a small batch of stickers, such as a limited edition sticker sheet or personalized stickers.
  • Create a unique look: DIY stickers have a handcrafted look that’s difficult to replicate with professional printing. 

And for all the parents, babysitters and big siblings, making your own stickers is a super-fun activity for young kids!

Sticker paper stickers

Sticker paper is one of the easiest methods for making stickers. You can purchase it at any craft or office supply store. It’s thicker-than-average sheets of paper with adhesive on one side. The adhesive side is protected by a paper liner that can be peeled off, just like any other sticker’s backing, when it’s time to stick. 

sticker design on full sheet for gemini star sign

Source: by TikaDesign

You can print images onto sticker paper or draw onto it directly. In either case, the next step is simple: with scissors or an x-acto knife, carefully cut out your stickers. 

Glue stickers

The first step in making glue stickers is to design your stickers. You can draw them, print them out and color them or use cutouts from newspapers and magazines. Be creative! You can color with any medium, like colored pencils, markers, watercolors, glitter glue—anything you can imagine. 

Next, cut them out neatly. Whether you cut exactly on each sticker’s edge or leave some negative space around them is totally up to you. 

After you’ve cut out your stickers, make the glue. Here is a simple, non-toxic recipe:

  • An envelope of plain gelatin
  • 4 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or corn syrup

If you’d like, you can also add a drop of peppermint extract or another flavor. To stick these stickers, you’ll lick their backs, much like licking an envelope.

  1. Add these ingredients together in a bowl and mix to create a sticky substance. 
  2. Lay the cut-out stickers face down on a sheet of wax paper or foil. 
  3. Using a paintbrush, brush a small amount of the glue onto each sticker’s back. Be sparing with the glue, a little bit goes a long way!
  4. If there is glue left over, you can store it in an airtight container in your refrigerator. To use it again, simply add hot water to liquefy it.
  5. Allow the stickers to dry completely and store them in a plastic bag or box. When you’re ready to stick them, just give each sticker’s back a lick and place it anywhere you’d like!

How to print professional, custom stickers

If you need a large quantity of stickers or lack the time or artistic chops to create them yourself, it’s better to professionally print your stickers.

VistaPrint will print custom stickers, and you’re not limited to one type of paper or finish—there are a variety of sticker shapes, styles and materials, including options like face stickers and reusable stickers. 

Image via VistaPrint

At a small scale, professionally printed stickers cost more than DIY stickers. However, when you’re producing hundreds or thousands of stickers, professional printing is the more economical option. Pricing varies according to your order size, sticker size, material you choose and customization options like a holographic finish or front adhesive. Generally, custom stickers range from a few cents per sticker to close to $2.00 USD per sticker. 

To get custom stickers with VistaPrint, upload your design to the easy-to-use editor and make any design choices you’d like, like making your sticker round, square or adding a text overlay. 

blue AIlab sticker and pink and yellow beverage sticker

Image via VistaPrint

Then, choose the quantity and finish you’d like, and your stickers will be on their way!  

Professionally printed stickers aren’t always the best choice, but in a lot of cases, they absolutely are. As you weigh out whether they’re the right call for your brand, consider the following benefits and drawbacks:

Professionally printed sticker benefits

  • Stickers are all uniform: same size, same shading, same colors
  • A large range of paper and finish options
  • Durable stickers with quality adhesive 
  • Design aid and guidance if you need it

Professionally printed sticker drawbacks

  • Usually have to buy in bulk
  • The fewer stickers you buy, the higher the cost per sticker
  • The process isn’t instant—you’ll need to wait for your stickers to ship

Get design help and printing with VistaPrint

Whether you’re an emerging, established, pivoting or scaling brand, stickers are a fun, low-investment way to create something that’s uniquely cool and uniquely you.

If you need help, VistaCreate makes designing stickers easy, and if you decide to have them professionally printed, VistaPrint makes that super affordable and simple. Check out VistaCreate and VistaPrint to learn more about design and create your own set of custom stickers

Ready to create stickers?

Check out all our sticker options and bring your brand to life. Let’s go!