Printed Vinyl or Cut Vinyl Decals – What’s the difference

At Inkmill Vinyl we create vinyl graphics for walls and windows in homes as well as a variety of businesses such as offices and restaurants from graphics which customers upload to our website. Some vinyl graphics are printed vinyl and others are cut vinyl decals. How can you tell the difference between printed vinyl and cut vinyl? Which is the best type of vinyl graphic to use for your application? Read on to learn more about  these two types of vinyl graphics and the differences between them.

Printed Vinyl Stickers

Laser or inkjet printers create printed vinyl stickers. A sheet of adhesive vinyl  is digitally printed with a design such as an image, pattern, text or a logo.

This generally takes on the form of a full colour process print commonly used for fine art, photography and illustrations. Printed vinyl stickers can match colours from references such as Pantone, RGB or CMYK.  It also means you can recreate photographic images onto vinyl, images with shading or graduated designs rather than just line art. Digital printing can produce vast quantities with savings made in labour.


Printed Sticker-min


This logo is an example of a printed vinyl sticker. As it is made up of many different colours placed closely together it would be complicated and time consuming to create as a cut vinyl sticker. You can see that the different colours have been printed on to one piece of vinyl which has then been cut to shape.

Printed vinyl is also easier to apply as the whole of the design removes from the backing in a solid piece to apply to the surface.

Printed vinyl is not as weather hardy as cut vinyl and is more likely to fade over time if it is in direct sunlight. You can however treat it with a laminate to protect it.

When to use printed vinyl decals

  • When you need an exact colour match for example brand colours matched to Pantone or CMYK references
  • Multi coloured logos and designs
  • To create a photographic vinyl image

Cut Vinyl Decals

Instead of a printer, a specialist computer vinyl cutter called a plotter makes vinyl cut stickers. The computer loads the graphic onto its system and follows the design by controlling the movement using a sharp blade. This blade cuts out shapes and letters from sheets of thin self-adhesive plastic (vinyl). Our machines can only cut one piece of vinyl at a time so if you need multiple colours this comes in various pieces which you would need to install separately.

cut vinyl plotting machine

The plotter cuts the designs out of sheets of vinyl


This is the plotter which cuts the shapes into the surface of the vinyl. If you look closely at the top of this picture you can see that this one is cutting a geometric pattern made up of triangles into the surface of the vinyl.

After cutting the vinyl is ready for weeding. This is the process where a person picks out the pieces of vinyl which are the negative space in the design. This is always a manual process. The time it takes to complete depends on the size of the vinyl panel and the complexity of the design that it is cut out of. As the design is cut there is no background layer of vinyl.

The manual process of weeding out the negative space in a cut vinyl design. This example is creating vinyl lettering for a menu board.

A vinyl logo with layers of different colours

For cut vinyl decals most designs are one colour. Although there is a wide range of colours to choose from including some exact matches to Pantone references, the range is limited. All other colours are a ‘match by eye’ to the closest available vinyl colour. To create designs with multiple colours, different sections of coloured vinyl designs are layered together. This is a complex process and can be expensive to produce.

This is a simple example of a layered logo. The white letter is layered over the black vinyl. This method works when the wall colour is not part of the logo design. You can see that the white letters sit on top of the black vinyl which is placed on the blue wall behind the sticker.

Layered vinyl logo

Cut vinyl decals are thinner than printed vinyl and have a more seamless or ‘painted on’ appearance on a wall or window than a printed vinyl. There is no background on a vinyl decal. The background colour is the colour of the surface which it is applied to.

In terms of application cut vinyl decals need a bit more care. Unlike printed vinyl the designs will be in sections. Whilst applying ensure all the sections of the design adhere to the wall before removing the backing.

Cut vinyl is more resistant to sunlight and less likely to fade than printed vinyl. This makes it ideal to use for outdoor signwriting or on shop window displays.

When to use cut vinyl decals

  • Indoor wall logos and window displays which need to appear ‘painted on’
  • Outdoors for weather resistant and fade resistant signage up to 10 years
  • Single colour designs

If you need vinyl logos, signs, wall stickers or window manifestations contact us or upload your artwork on to the Inkmill Vinyl website. We’ll take a look at your artwork and then we can advise the most suitable type of graphics  and we’ll create the perfect vinyl decal for you.

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