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- Introduction - What is Self Adhesive Vinyl?
- Types of Self Adhesive Vinyl
- Applications - Where can you use Self Adhesive Vinyl
- How to use Self Adhesive Vinyl
- Inspiration - latest projects
- FAQ's about Self Adhesive Vinyl
- Further Reading
In basic terms, self-adhesive vinyl comprises a thin flexible layer of PVC known as the face film, coated on the reverse with adhesive and backed up with a smooth, silicon coated paper known as a release liner, to allow for easy removal.
Occasionally alternative face films are used such as Polyester or Polyurethane for specific applications or to make them more environmentally friendly. Release liners may vary in composition or texture to allow for improved lay-flat properties for precise vinyl cutting, different finishes, adhesives or specific application techniques which we will come to later.
When selecting the best film for your project please bear in mind not all products are create equal. Technical features in the adhesives and liners as well as the PVC itself will have an impact on its price overall as well as ease of use and longevity.
Beware! Bargain vinyl’s often use cheap adhesives and liners to achieve a low price point.
Self-adhesive vinyl is versatile and easy to use, the colour range, adhesive types and application possibilities seem almost endless, however, before starting our and for the best results, there are a few things you should consider.
Application surface: This should be clean and dry with no dust or particles which could become trapped under the adhesive and spoil the smooth finish of your graphic. For a secure and long lasting bond the surface should be relatively smooth however some adhesives are designed for use on slightly uneven surfaces such as wall films for example.
Lots of vinyls are designed for application to flat surfaces only, if your substrate is curved, corrugated or highly textured make sure you use a conformable film such as a cast vinyl or 3D wrapping film.
Surface material: Most metallic, glass or acrylic surfaces are ideal for vinyl, as are sealed woods and painted surfaces however there are a few synthetic materials such as Polypropylene or PVC which can be problematic. These materials have a 'low surface energy'. Vinyl looks good when first applied but can quickly curl up and fall off. On these occasions, when adding graphics to your wheelie bin for example, you should choose a product that has an adhesive designed for low energy surfaces such as ImagePerfect SuperGrip.
PVC often has plasticisers added to it to keep it flexible, these can migrate between the application surface and the vinyl causing it to become brittle and crack, this is one reason why, if you are layering vinyl you should always use vinyls of the same grade. We recommend that you never apply vinyl to a motorbike helmet or similar as, over time, it may affect the structural integrity of the helmet.
Lots of materials can give different results, if you are unsure about the suitability of a given surface for vinyl graphics we recommend you test a small area first. If the graphics will be temporary, ensure this small area can be removed without causing damage (try immediately after application and the following day).
All you need to know about creating a self-adhesive vinyl project.
There are different ways to apply self-adhesive vinyl depending on the type of project you are working on.
Designed to make your life easier.
What is Sticky Back Plastic called?
We call it Self-Adhesive Vinyl.
Is Sticky Back Plastic the same as Self-Adhesive Vinyl?
Absolutely, they are both thin, flexible PVC with a self-adhesive backing, however they are not just one material but a wide range of different products with different applications. Check out our range here.
Is Self-Adhesive Vinyl heat resistant?
Different brands have different recommended service temperatures, as an example Oracal 970 is recommended for use up to 120°C
Is Self-Adhesive Vinyl waterproof?
It is, additionally, if you choose a vinyl designed for outdoor use it will also have a waterproof adhesive that can withstand washing.
Is Self-Adhesive Vinyl easy to remove?
Yes, how easily will depend on your surface, length of time in place and type of adhesive. Adding gentle heat with a hairdryer will aid removal. Check out our guide to adhesives for more information.
Is Self-Adhesive Vinyl permanent?
Different products will have different life expectancy so check the spec sheet. Vinyl with permanent adhesive can be removed but requires more effort and may leave some residue unlike removable products. Check out our guide to adhesives for more information.
What is Self-Adhesive Vinyl made from?
In basic terms it comprises a thin layer of flexible PVC coated with an adhesive and lined with a silicon coated paper, however there are many variations and grades of sticky back plastic available. See our further reading section for more details.
What is Self-Adhesive Vinyl used for?
Lots of things! You can cut it out and stick it to almost anything for signage, decoration, window graphics and personalisation. Check out the Blog for inspiration.
How does Self-adhesive Vinyl work?
It has a pressure sensitive adhesive which cures over time, have a look at our handy guide to self-adhesive vinyl for more detailed information.
How do I use Self-Adhesive Vinyl?
Head over to our application area for more information.
Is Self-Adhesive Vinyl recyclable?
Generally it’s not currently recyclable, although some specialist self-adhesive films are recyclable and the range is growing.
Is Self-Adhesive Vinyl sellotape?
Not quite. It is a thin flexible self-adhesive film that is used for product decoration, signage, window graphics and personalisation.
Is Self-Adhesive Vinyl the same as contact paper?
Contact paper is a type of self-adhesive vinyl, there are lots of different types available for different applications and surfaces. Check out our selection here.
How should I store Craft Vinyl?
Vinyl should be stored at room temperature, avoid damp or very humid environments as it can cause the liner to wrinkle and cockle and do not stack rolls or heavy objects on top of each other as it may create pressure marks. If vinyl is stored in cold conditions it can become very brittle, too hot and it becomes very stretchy like chewing gum.
How to Vinyl Craft?
Vinyl is a great crafting product for all sorts of projects, you can make personalised gifts or homewares and it is a great activity for kids and for school projects. Having your own vinyl cutter opens up a world of possibilities, however vinyl is easy to hand cut and great for collages. Head over to our Blog for more information.
How thick is Craft Vinyl?
Self-adhesive vinyl is available in different thicknesses depending where it is to be used or the texture or the film, usually it is between 70 - 100 microns (0.07mm - 0.1 mm) but can be as thick as 500 microns (0.5mm) for specialist products.
Is Craft Vinyl toxic?
Self-Adhesive Vinyl is safe to use for crafting purposes however always supervise young children when using vinyl for crafting as small shapes may provide a choking hazard. Vinyl should not be eaten, please call a doctor immediately for advice if vinyl is ingested.
What is Craft Vinyl?
Craft Vinyl is standard self-adhesive vinyl or heat transfer (iron-on) vinyl that is sold in small rolls and sheets for use by hobbyists and boutique businesses or on small craft cutters such as Silhouette, Cricut and Brother brands. For more detail on different types of craft vinyl and how to use it check out our handy guide here >
What is Craft Vinyl used for?
Craft vinyl is used for product marking or protection, decoration and personalisation, up-cycling or simply to keep the kids entertained. Lots of people craft with vinyl as a hobby and as a business too.
Can you put Self-Adhesive Vinyl on books?
Yes, it’s great for covering school books – we even have an anti-microbial film to help keep them germ free!
Can Self-Adhesive Vinyl be used on t-shirts?
Not for anything other than very short term use as it will just peel off, try our range of heat transfer vinyl which you can iron-on instead.
Can Self-Adhesive Vinyl be ironed on?
No, you will probably get a gummy mess and wreck your iron! The adhesive is activated by pressure rather than heat. Check out our range of iron-on heat activated adhesive films here.
Can you put Self-Adhesive Vinyl on concrete?
Yes, there are certain types of self-adhesive vinyl that have a special adhesive designed for use on concrete.
Can you put Self-Adhesive Vinyl on tumblers?
You certainly can, just beware of applying too much pressure when applying to glass. For a washable and long lasting decal select a vinyl with a permanent adhesive such as ImagePerfect 5700. You can put this through a dishwasher but it will last longer if hand washed.
What is Self-Adhesive Vinyl wallpaper?
This is a thin, flexible printed, or printable PVC, Polyester or similar, with a self-adhesive backing designed for wall decoration. Coloured self-adhesive vinyl can also be used as wallpaper or cut into designs for decorative wall graphics. Check out our wall vinyls for inspiration.
Can you use Self-Adhesive Vinyl on walls?
Yes! Depending on the type and finish of your wall there are several different types of vinyl which will work very well. If your wall has a smooth finish try ImagePerfect 3300 which is a matt vinyl with a removable adhesive. Alternatively, if your wall has a rough or textured surface then ImagePerfect 5700HT (coming soon) would be
a good choice as it has an adhesive that has been designed for hard to stick surfaces, this can be layered with ImagePerfect 5700 if you require a wider colour selection. For something a little bit more functional, head over to our Black and White Board section for inspiration.
Can you use Self-adhesive Vinyl on tiles?
Yes, self-adhesive vinyl works well on smooth ceramic tiles, however if your tiles are unfinished, such as terracotta, you may need to select a vinyl with a high-tack adhesive and check a small inconspicuous area first. For floor tiles you will require a vinyl that is suitable for floor graphics and cover with a non-slip floor graphics laminate.
Can you use Self-Adhesive Vinyl on kitchen worktops?
Yes, although you will need to protect the vinyl when preparing food, using sharp knives or hot pans.
Can you use Self-Adhesive Vinyl in kitchens?
Absolutely, on all sorts of surfaces but not for direct food preparation areas. Check out our range of Cover Styl' which is perfect for transforming kitchen units, walls and doors all around the home.
Can you use Self-Adhesive Vinyl on floors?
Yes. There are specific floor graphics materials designed for this, they have a special adhesive and a non-slip clear laminate.
Can you use Self-Adhesive Vinyl on wood?
Absolutely, but as wood can be unsealed, varnished or waxed we recommend you try a small inconspicuous area first. A wax or oiled coating will prevent the vinyl from sticking. You can also use heat transfer vinyl on some wood surfaces. Alternatively you can use stencil vinyl and paint or spray your design.
You will come across many references to different grades of self-adhesive vinyl which can get confusing so we will try to clarify a few here. Terms such as Cast and Calendared, Polymeric and Monomeric and sometimes simply, Long-term and Short-term are used interchangeably. Different grades will have varying features and performance expectations but there is no single measure that is consistent across the industry.
These films tend to command a higher price as the manufacturing technique is more costly. The vinyl or organosol is liquid in its original form and is poured (or cast) onto a flat surface and run through a series of ovens to cure or set like custard skin! This makes the vinyl very thin, even and usually glossy. More importantly it means that the vinyl has no ‘memory’, it has not been forced into its current state so is not under any internal stress, this is good news for the user as it will last longer, not shrink back after application and is usually very flexible making it suitable for highly curved surfaces, including some 3D applications.
There are a couple of different types of calendared film but they all start life as a dough-like substance called plastisol which is pressed between hot rollers until it is the desired thickness, just like making pasta! This process stresses the film, it retains its ‘memory’ and will try to return to its original form meaning it will shrink back over time. Calendaring is a much cheaper process but produces media with reduced performance and flexibility when compared to Cast films.
Calendared vinyl is further divided in Polymeric and Monomeric types. PVC products are generally hard and brittle so in order to make flexible vinyl, plasticisers are added which can be larger long-chain plasticisers (poly) or smaller short-chain (mono). Over time these plasticisers migrate out of the media causing them to shrink further and become brittle and crack. Monomeric films will experience much greater and faster plasticiser migration then polymeric films. This is hastened by sunlight and weathering so they are generally described as internal, short term or promotional films and are better suited to indoor use or applications that are outdoors only intermittently or temporarily. Polymeric films, often labelled premium or high performance, are ideal for outdoor use as they can last up to 8 years but are recommended for flat or only slightly curved surfaces and remember, you will still see some shrinkage. Intermediate films are usually monomeric with a slightly higher quality plasticiser which can offer a higher performance but ultimately will still not avoid cracking and shrinkage.
Vinyl is generally coated with one of two types of adhesive. Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) uses a heat activated adhesive which requires ironing or a heat press to bond so is suitable for heat resistant materials such as textiles.
Self-adhesive vinyl utilises a pressure sensitive adhesive which initially manifests as anything from slightly tacky to downright gummy depending on the product. The adhesive is further developed with pressure usually using a squeegee.
As the market for self-adhesive vinyl has matured, manufacturers have found ways to differentiate their media, which is good news for the user as there is now a vast choice of useful features to make vinyl application and removal quicker and easier than ever.
Sometimes called Low-tack, these adhesives either have a very low initial bond or a premium feature such as tiny glass beads which block the initial grab to allow for precise alignment of the vinyl before adding pressure to fix into place. The glass beads will break or the adhesive will continue to cure to full strength over a number of hours or days. These products are unsuitable, and in fact negate the need, for wet application. Recent adhesive developments allow vinyl to completely glide across the application surface before being squeegeed into place.
More a feature of the liner than the adhesive and another development aimed at reducing the need for wet application. The air egress products have an ingenious release liner with a very fine crosshatch texture and this produces grooves in the adhesive through which the air is squeegeed to allow for easy bubble free application. As the adhesive cures it flows to fill the space and give an even coating. These products can make very fine intricate detail a little fiddly to apply due to the reduced surface area of adhesive.
Avery Easy Apply
Oracal Rapid Air.
The adhesive is designed for long term application and is generally weather and waterproof and will withstand a wider range of temperatures. Permanent does not mean the vinyl can’t be removed but it may leave some adhesive residue behind and if it is applied to a porous surface such as a wall it may remove some paint with it. Heating the vinyl with a hairdryer or paint stripper will usually make it easier to peel off. Specialist adhesives such as those used on premium wrapping vinyl often combine a permanent adhesive with repositionable and removable features.
Does what it says on the tin! These products are easily and cleanly removed within a stated time frame with no residue. Certain surface types and weather conditions can affect this feature though so be sure to check the spec sheet before use. Don’t worry about vinyl falling off either. If used as directed the removability does not affect the bond when in use.
Better for the environment and often used on internal or short term films. This adhesive is not recommended for wet application as it is not waterproof and can give a ‘milky’ finish if used on double sided or window graphics. We are now starting to see a new generation of water-based adhesives that mimic some of the benefits of solvent but at a reduced cost.
Used generally for longer term outdoor graphics due to its superior resistance to weather, water and extreme temperatures, these adhesives tend to be pricier than water-based equivalents.
Adhesives can be clear, white or grey. Check before using for double-sided graphics, grey is often used as a high opacity or block out feature to mask strong colours from showing through your graphics.