What is the Main Difference between a Decal and a Sticker?

What is the Difference between a Decal and a Sticker?

Photo by CC user Julia W on Wikimedia Commons

Stickers on cars, bags, fridges, laptops, in shops, libraries, schools, on walls and doors, everywhere we go. Or maybe just a sticker picture to add a bit of colour where there is a void, such as stickers of fruit and vegetables on the walls of a kitchen, they are everywhere. The word ‘sticker’ is a word which is commonly used, but occasionally we will hear the word ‘decal.’ But what is a decal? Some of you fellas out there who made such things as plastic scale model kits of aircraft, etc. when you were younger, may be more familiar with what a decal was. It was a sticker which had to be left in water for a short while, until it was ready to slide off and then applied to the side of the model to give it that final realistic look. And there is the clue as to what the difference is between a sticker and a decal. Let’s take a further look for those shopping for one type of the other. Using the Chambers dictionary, let’s have a look at what they say about their meanings.

Sticker noun – an adhesive label or small poster, card, etc., especially one displaying a message or advertisement in a shop window, on a car, etc. or that children swap and collect.

Decal noun, chiefly N America. A picture or design prepared for permanent transfer to glass, china, plastic, etc.

  • As can be seen, a “sticker” can be termed a type of a label with an adhesive backing. But when it comes to stickers and the first time we heard the word, where would that probably be? In most cases it would be at school, when we were in earlier years, where the teacher would give us a sticker, maybe in the form of maybe a star, for being good children, or producing good work. Remember those?! These were usually a piece of paper or plastic, and sticky on one side which we stuck on our books or clothing. Should you be interested in sticker printing in Perth, W. Australia, stick with the very best! Usually, the sticker is peeled off a backing paper, and stuck as a single piece on just about anything. Stickers are normally printed on to, and made out of plastic glossy paper on one side, with the adhesive on the other. If there is no design, they can be written on. Generally speaking, a “sticker” is an all-round term that covers everything from the gold star you used to get on your school work, to the label there on your wine bottle.

  • The term, “decal” on the other hand, is often used interchangeably with other outdoor sticker products and the term is used more in the USA. But, as you can see in the Chambers definition, a “decal” is more associated with a “transfer” from one surface to another. Greenlea Print in Perth is where you can go for all of your sticker needs and more. “Decal” is short for “decalcomania” and in most cases is a more stylish and decorative type of design. So, “slide-on transfer decals” in the model building world, or water-slide ceramic decals (transfers) for tile and ceramic uses, are a definite description for the term “decal.”

Now you know the difference, why stick around?

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