How to Choose Among Glossy, Matte & Clear Sticker Vinyl

How to Choose Among Glossy, Matte & Clear Sticker Vinyl
Authored By Michael Soltis 0 Comment(s)

There is plenty of fun to be had making stickers at home, but with differences among the types of sticker vinyl, how do you know which one to choose? This blog explains how to choose among glossy, matte, and clear sticker vinyl; and there are some bonus choices as well.

Ready to learn about the many types of sticker vinyl? Let’s get started!

What is sticker vinyl?

Sticker vinyl is a special type of plastic sheet used for making stickers. Largely, this refers to peel-and-stick vinyl that has a printable side and an adhesive side. However, there are other types of vinyl too, and we’ll touch on those later.

For the popular hobby of making stickers, all you need is a computer or laptop and sheets of sticker vinyl. Choosing among the types of sticker vinyl (glossy, matte, and clear) depends on your type of project and the sticker’s final destination.

When to choose glossy sticker vinyl

Among the types of sticker vinyl, glossy is the most popular. Glossy sticker vinyl is waterproof, durable, and has a shiny finish. This shine makes it a great choice for colorful, fun stickers. Choose glossy for making clip art stickers, anime/kawaii stickers, and pop art stickers.

Since glossy stickers are waterproof, this vinyl is a good choice when making stickers that will wind up outdoors, or placed on mugs, tumblers, or wet environments like a bathroom mirror.

When to choose matte sticker vinyl

Like making photo stickers? How about stickers with a lot of detail or an antique/vintage feel? When choosing among the types of sticker vinyl, choose matte for photo stickers, highly detailed stickers, and stickers designed to evoke nostalgia. Where glossy adds excitement and vibrancy, matte is more subdued and elegant.

Are you surprised to learn that most types of sticker vinyl are naturally waterproof? It is the vinyl itself, not the finish, that provides the waterproofing. So, even though your matte sticker doesn’t have a shiny, reflective surface, as long as it is sticker vinyl and not sticker paper (not plastic) it is waterproof.

This means you can make your photo, detailed, vintage, and antique stickers with a beautiful matte finish, and still use them on tumblers or in wet environments. In fact, some forms of matte sticker vinyl are even dishwasher safe.

When to choose clear sticker vinyl

Use clear sticker vinyl when you want a sticker without a background. These stickers are ideal for transparent surfaces like glass, or any surface where the sticker is part of the design and the background of the surface material must come through. Like glossy and matte, clear sticker vinyl is also waterproof and durable.

More vinyl sticker attributes

Although there are three standard finishes among the types of sticker vinyl, they all have some things in common. High quality glossy, clear, and matte vinyl is incredibly strong. It’s hard to tear or scratch it. The vinyl also resists color bleed even though the ink dries in seconds, and it resists color fading even in direct sunlight.

Other types of sticker vinyl

There are types of sticker vinyl that are clear, glossy, or matte but have an extra attribute or two.

Waterslide vinyl and when to choose it

Waterslide has a slow setting adhesive so you can move the sticker around on its desired surface before it is set in place. This is ideal for any project that requires precision or centering. Waterslide sticker vinyl is available in clear or white.

Adhesive vinyl and when to choose it

Adhesive vinyl is not printable. It is designed to be used with a CriCut® or similar tool, and transferred to a surface using special transfer paper. Adhesive vinyl comes in glossy, clear, matte, and in a variety of colors and patterns. There are many uses for adhesive vinyl including stickers, home décor, signs, labels, mural/wallpaper, cards, and more.

T-shirt transfer vinyl and when to choose it

The biggest consideration when choosing t-shirt transfer vinyl isn’t the finish, but if it is formulated for dark or light fabrics. T-shirt vinyl is used to create designs that are then transferred to a t-shirt via an iron or heat press. Whether you are using t-shirt transfer vinyl for a hobby or business, there is a lot of fun to be had making your own t-shirts!

Glossy, matte, or clear – it’s up to you!

We’ve discussed the various types of sticker vinyl, but the best thing about making stickers is that the design and finish is all up to you! Although some finishes are better suited for some forms of stickers than others, there is nothing wrong with a clear photo sticker or a glossy antique sticker. Go with what appeals to you and best suits your project.

Some things you do have to be mindful of when working with sticker vinyl, however, are the following:

  • Printable vinyl is formulated for inkjet or laser printers. To get the best results, make sure your vinyl matches your printer type.
  • You may be tempted to use adhesive vinyl on your t-shirts, but t-shirt vinyl is better suited for the heat transfer.
  • Remember to use waterslide vinyl to avoid having to peel off and re-stick stickers that aren’t properly positioned.
  • It is illegal to put stickers on other people’s property, so keep your stickers for your own use or give them to friends to do with as they please. Don’t surprise your friend with a permanent bumper sticker on her car!


Printable sticker vinyl is available in glossy, matte, and clear. Glossy is good for colorful designs that pop. Matte adds a sophisticated feel and is a good choice for photos, vintage art, and detailed designs. Clear has no background and is best suited for glass or surfaces where the pattern or texture should come through. Printable vinyl is waterproof, durable, and fade resistant. Other types of vinyl include waterslide, which can be repositioned easily before the adhesive dries; adhesive, which is cut into designs and not printable; and t-shirt transfer for use in customizing garments. Apart from not using adhesive vinyl for t-shirt transfers, not using inkjet vinyl in your laser printer and vice versa, have fun exploring the different types of sticker vinyl and the impact the type or finish has on your project.

Now that you know more about the types of sticker vinyl, it’s time to make your own stickers! Royal Elements sells printable sticker vinyl for both laser and inkjet printers in our online store and our blog has plenty of design tips. We love to see the projects you make using Royal Elements products. Post your results online with the hashtag #royalelementsstickers so we can feature your designs on our social networks (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube). Visit and today to learn more.


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