When to Choose Waterslide Decal Vinyl (and How to Work with It)

When to Choose Waterslide Decal Vinyl (and How to Work with It)
Authored By Michael Soltis 0 Comment(s)

You have choices when it comes to working with sticker vinyl, including glossy, matte, and clear peel and stick, and adhesive vinyl that is cut with a Cricut® or similar tool. However, when it comes to attaching stickers to surfaces where centering is important or working with curved surfaces (like a mug), waterslide decal vinyl can save the day.

What is waterslide decal vinyl?

Waterslide decal vinyl adheres to surfaces slowly, giving you time to slide the decal around until you are confident in its position. This differs from other vinyl that forms a tight bond on contact.

Advantages of waterslide decal vinyl

There are many advantages to choosing waterslide decal vinyl. When you work with a traditional adhesive, once you place it on the surface, that is it! If you need to remove it, you risk tearing or stretching the sticker. Even if you get the sticker off the surface intact, you have damaged the adhesive and will have trouble re-sticking it. If you have placed a permanent sticker, well, let’s just say you have your work cut out for you if you need to remove it!

There are times when you will have to place a sticker on a curved surface, or when you need it to center or line up perfectly. The advantage of using waterslide decal vinyl in these cases is that you can keep moving the sticker around until the adhesive dries. This gives you plenty of time to slide your artwork into position and be happy with the result without any worries of damage in having to pull it off the surface.

Speaking of surfaces, do you know what happens when you rip a sticker off? Depending on the surface, you can tear paint or leave behind residue. Be sure to check out our blog on how to remove vinyl stickers safely to prevent this type of surface damage.

Disadvantages of waterslide decal vinyl

Is there a downside to using waterslide decal vinyl? Not really. Although the adhesive dries slowly it does form a firm bond. The disadvantages stem from trying to use the product in a way it was not intended. Let’s look at some waterslide misadventure and how to fix the issues:

  • Using waterslide decal vinyl as a t-shirt transfer: Don’t do this. T-shirt transfer vinyl is made from different material than waterslide vinyl. T-shirt transfers are designed to be applied using heat. Using a non-heat transfer for a t-shirt will result in a loose bond. It may survive a couple hours of wearing, but it will fall off soon and not survive the wash.
  • Placing waterslide decals on candles: Don’t place any vinyl decals directly on candles. Plastic burns and this creates a fire risk. Instead, place the sticker on the ceramic candle holder. If you have a glass candle holder, ensure the glass is thick enough to provide a bit of insulation. As seen in our how to remove stickers blog, heat loosens adhesive. If the glass is too thin, you can expect your sticker to peel, curl, or dislodge.
  • Color bleed: Half the fun of making stickers is putting them on things! So, is waterslide decal vinyl waterproof? No. You need a spray sealer. Waterslide is activated in water (more on that below) so without a spray sealer, the color will bleed.
  • Not as easy as peel and stick: Printable vinyl is very easy to use. Simply print, peel, and stick. Waterslide decal vinyl, on the other hand, has a few extra steps involved. We’ll get to that in a minute.
  • Thin sheets: Waterslide decal vinyl is very thin. Be sure to work carefully with it. If using a Cricut® for intricate designs, use a weeding tool to gently remove excess vinyl and to lift the sticker. You can, however, use scissors for designs that are easy to cut out.

How to use waterslide decal vinyl

Waterslide decal vinyl is activated in water, therefore the process for using them differs from other sticker vinyl you may have used. Here is how it works:

  • First, design your sticker.
  • Next, print your sticker. Be sure to choose the right waterslide decal vinyl for your inkjet or laser printer.
  • Now you have to seal your sticker. Remember, these are water activated. Sealing prevents color loss in the water. You’ll need three coats of acrylic sealer, and you need to wait an hour between each coat.
  • Once your three coats of sealer are done and the sticker is dry, you can go ahead and cut out the design.
  • Time for activation! Place the cut out sticker in water for 15-30 seconds.
  • Once you remove the sticker from the water, carefully slide it off the backing.
  • Now your sticker is ready to use. Place it on the surface and slide it into position.

Fun projects to try with waterslide decal vinyl

Need some inspiration? Here are some fun projects to do with waterslide decal vinyl.

  • Design tumblers, plates, egg cups, or other dishes. Waterslide is ideal for the curved surfaces of dishes because the vinyl is thin and you can slide the sticker around on the irregular surface. When putting waterslide decals on dishes, apply an epoxy finish to make it waterproof and dishwasher safe.
  • Make a sign. If you like the look of signs made by adhesive vinyl (the non-printable kind that you cut out to make intricate designs) but you don’t have a cutting tool or you are a novice crafter, use clear waterslide vinyl. Remember, the backing slides right off so while you will have a seam (depending on how closely you cut out your design) it is barely noticeable – and a full sticker, rather than adhesive vinyl, is easier to work with for beginners.
  • Motivate yourself. A hydration meter on a water bottle, an encouraging note on a mirror, a reminder on a locker – customize a sticker that keeps you organized and moving forward.
  • Gifts. Who doesn’t love a hand made gift? Waterslide vinyl decals give you countless opportunities to make affordable gifts for family and friends.
  • Kitchen labels: Get some clear or ceramic jars and whip up some fun labels. Now you can organize your flour, sugar, pasta, etc., with labels that make you smile.


Waterslide decal vinyl adheres to surfaces slowly, giving you more time to set your design. It is ideal for uneven surfaces or any surface that requires precision placing. Using waterslide decal vinyl means you don’t have to unstick your sticker, and risk damaging it or the surface it was on if you place it incorrectly. Waterslide is not as easy to use as peel-and-stick as you must first activate it in water. It also requires sealing. Waterslide decal vinyl, while very durable, is also very thin. The steps to using waterslide are: design, print, seal, soak, and apply. If you are putting your sticker on a tumbler, mug, plate or any surface that is exposed to water or the elements, finish off with an epoxy. Some fun projects to try include dishes, signs, motivational notes, gifts, and labels.

Working with waterslide decal vinyl is fun and easy. Are you ready to give it a try?  Royal Elements sells waterslide decal 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 https://www.amazon.com/royalelements and https://www.royalelements.com/ today to learn more.


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