First we'll show you a step-by-step guide to applying ordinary domestic stickers, & then we'll move on to vinyl lettering systems, commercial stickers (with somewhat more detailed application instructions), & some further examples.
Since this is just a demonstration, we've selected some really unfortunate examples. The adhesive is weak on these; they're coming away from the backing, & probably won't stick very well. Of course, the opposite problem — the adhesive being too strong — could have been worse…
Having made sure everything is clean & dry (recipient surface, hands, etc.), bend the backing paper to release the sticker. In this case, no great effort was required.
Place the sticker lightly in position. With large stickers, start from the centre to avoid bubbles or creases.
Rub the sticker down, working from the centre outwards. If at any point a bubble or crease should form, gently lift the affected portion of the sticker away from the surface, straighten it, & try again.
If bubbles persist, you may be able to drive them away from the centre to the outside edge — at which point they should escape into thin air, leaving your sticker flat & smooth. Pushing the bubbles from behind with your thumb (etc.) should achieve this, which is a task not dissimilar to chasing a wasp out of a window.
Or a cat.
(Chasing a cat out of a window — not chasing a wasp out of a cat.)
In this case, the sticker is small, & a thumb is sufficient for smoothing; for larger stickers, a clean dry cloth, a plastic comb, a stuffed elephant's foot, or whatever tool strikes your fancy can be used.
Repeat the previous procedure, step by step.
It's not rocket science, people.
(Although this does remind me of the Rosetta mission to land Philae on a comet. Perhaps slightly less difficult.)
Flatten out those bubbles.
Now you can be really proud of your gorgeous newly-decorated pencil case, made out of an old plastic jar of screenwipes.
Where are those lovely stickers?
— There they are!
Here is a commercial sticker (or 'emblem') made by Eagle Transfers of Lichfield. You will see it comes with excellent detailed instructions on the back. This sticker is 208mm wide, not including the backing sheet. (The accompanying 'Michelin' sticker is just a freebie for you.)
CAUTION: Do not apply to cold surfaces.
From the Thomas Salter 1981 trade catalogue. Note that one variety consists of sheets of stickers on a background…
…Whereas the other type is of pre-cut individual stickers.
Letraset's system of vinyl sticker lettering was called Letrasign. This photo of various sizes in their packets was kindly supplied by Doris and Wilf (eBay Seller 'dorisandwilfs').
Below is another sign lettering system.
By spacing the letters correctly before use, whole words could be peeled off the backing (shown here in white) while kept in position on their carrier sheet (the ivory-coloured strip). Once the letters had been applied, the carrier could be peeled off; you can see that a small area at the bottom of each letter protrudes from the carrier, so that they could be safely held in position throughout the peel. Very simple, effective, & most important of all, accurate.
Puffy Stickers from Japan; the image is printed on embossed foam shaped to the die-cut.
It's hard to know what can be intended by the term "Laser" in "Laser Stickers", but it seems to mean that heat-resistant paper is used because they're printed on a laser printer. Or perhaps it's because they're related to Holographic Stickers, which are used for security passes & suchlike. This example is a typical combination of reflective glitter & embossed metallic seams.
Of course, if you can put adhesive on something, & put a waxed protective sheet behind the adhesive, then you've got a sticker.
Finally, here are some stickers in official use on a London Transport tube carriage; plus underneath them, a less official addition, applied & photographed by Daniel Nicholls.
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives — Daniel Nicholls
Photography by Tom Vinelott at Triplica.com
Model: Lisa Cole
© Tom Vinelott 2023