How the pros do it: Making custom printed stickers

Have you ever wondered how stickers get made? Maybe you’re in the market for some new custom stickers or labels and want to ensure you get the very best?

Whatever your interest in custom printed stickers, we’re here to show and explain to you how professional sticker makers manufacture them.

Before we get started, we need to be clear. There are many, many different ways of manufacturing stickers and labels and covering them all in this short article would be impossible. Therefore, we’re going focusing on the fastest growing method that’s most popular for shorter runs, of up to 500,000 stickers.

This will cover the uses of almost all SMEs (small or medium businesses). It’s also growing the fastest because of the advances in technology.

Our focus will be on digital printing & finishing.

Even as little as 10 years ago, digital printing wasn’t up to scratch in terms of quality and speed compared to analogue print methods like gravure.

However, huge strides in technology mean that in 2022 the quality of digital printing is among the best on the planet, and the effects that digital can achieve are simply stunning.

We’ll show you some examples along the way to get your tastebuds activated and your mouth salivating.

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

It all starts with the design

Getting the design right is possibly the single most crucial step. It’s also underrated most of the time.

The best option is to start with vector artwork. Vector artwork is made from maths equations rather than pixels. That means when vector designs are scaled, they don’t go blurry.

Vector artwork is also very easy to change in a program such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. This makes it a simple process to add a cut line or other artwork elements needed for finishing – something we’ll discuss more a little later.

This image shows the difference between vector and bitmap artwork.

So if you’re looking at getting custom labels, we recommend creating your design in vector.

Printing; the options

As previously mentioned, there are many different ways to put ink onto media (i.e. print a sticker or label), but we cannot possibly cover them all here. 

So our focus will be on digital printing specifically.

Digital printers mix CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) inks to create a range of colours. Newer, more advanced digital printers, such as the HP Indigo, adds OVG (orange, violet and green) to make even more colours.

Special spot colours are also added to create special effects. White, silver and fluorescent inks are some examples of these spot colours.

The most significant benefit of spot colours is that’s there’s little setup involved for each separate order, which keeps the costs down. 

This makes printing just a few stickers possible for a competitive cost.

To finish: adding various embellishments

Embellishments come in a wide range of options. Laminating, foiling and varnish’s are 3 of the most popular.

Firstly we’ll focus on laminating. A sticker is laminated when it’s got a transparent protective layer over the top of the print.

The laminate makes any sticker or label more durable by protecting it from scratches, water, and from fading in the sunlight.

Adding laminate makes the sticker cost a little more but is well worth the added expense because it will last much longer.

Secondly will talk about foiling and varnishing. These two finishes add visual effects to your label and can really make them stand out.

They are typically costly because of how expensive machinery is to accomplish these finishing options, but if you want an appealing sticker, then go for this. 

Here is an example of a label that’s got foiling and varnishing applied. Doesn’t it look awesome?

Concluding thoughts

We hope this short guide has helped explain the effort, cost, and detail it takes to create beautiful, digitally printed stickers.

The equipment that we’ve discussed in this article a loan will cost about £1 million, so you can see it’s a significant investment to get the best possible digitally printed stickers.

If you have any questions or comments about the equipment or about any part of the process, please ask away.

Thank you for reading.