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How to Stop Ink From Smearing On Your Printable Vinyl Sticker Paper

A common complaint we get from customers is, “Help! Why is the ink smearing on my printable vinyl?”

product reviews of customers complaining about ink smearing on their printable vinyl sticker paper

We get it, it can be extremely frustrating if you have a BEAUTIFL sticker you just printed- only to find out the ink (black ink in particular) starts to smear or run when you touch it…

Ink smearing on printable vinyl can occur due to several reasons, including printer settings, ink type, the type of vinyl used, printing method, and handling. Here are some common causes of ink smearing on printable vinyl and tips to prevent and fix the issue:

Common Causes of Ink Smearing on Printable Vinyl:

Best Printer Settings For Printable Vinyl Sticker Paper:

Depending on the type of printable vinyl (glossy, matte, clear, holographic) you will want to adjust your printer settings accordingly. 

On the instructions on the back of each pack of our Royal Elements printable vinyl we recommend selecting “High Quality” when printing and either “Photo Glossy Paper” for glossy finishes or “Matte” for matte printable vinyl.

Ink Type and Quality For Printable Vinyl Sticker Paper:

Oftentimes when smearing happens, it is because of an incompatible ink type with the printable vinyl. 

First- make sure you read the product packaging! Some printable vinyl is made specifically for laser printers, while other printable vinyl is made for inkjet printers. 

In rare cases printable vinyl may be suitable for both printer types- so pay attention to the manufacturer’s details. When customers complain about inkjet ink smearing on their printable vinyl, 99% of the time it is black ink. 

There are two main types of ink available for inkjet home printers: pigment and dye-based ink. 

Manufacturers do not always state what type of ink is best-suited for their printable vinyl. 

According to this source – pigment-based ink is often longer-lasting than dye-based ink for printable vinyl stickers.

Tips to Prevent Ink Smearing on Printable Vinyl:

Test Printing Before Using Printable Vinyl:

 Performing a test print on a regular sheet of paper before printing on the printable vinyl is a good idea for multiple reasons. First, to check the print quality, colors, and alignment are correct. 

Printer Maintenance Helps With Printable Vinyl Quality: 

Maintaining your printer, including print heads, rollers, and cartridges will help print high quality stickers. If you haven’t used your printer in some time your printer heads may have dry ink which will cause issues. A simple fix is to remove the ink cartridges and wipe them down with a clean cloth before reinstalling them.

Is All Vinyl Printable?

This is a big NO – not all vinyl is printable, unless the packaging clearly states “printable vinyl.” Vinyl such as regular adhesive vinyl, iron-on vinyl, and other commercial grade vinyl is not suitable for printing. This is because there is no coating on top to accept ink from printers.

Sealing And Protecting Printable Vinyl:

Some printable vinyl is waterproof- such as our Royal Elements matte printable vinyl. However, in many cases they are marked as “water-resistant,” but not 100% waterproof. In these cases it is best to use either a self-adhesive laminating sheet over top or use a clear acrylic sealer like those offered by Mod Podge or Krylon.


Having ink smear all over your printable vinyl sticker sheets is a bummer! But with these tips and insights, you should be prepared to do battle with your printer and print amazing, totally-not-smeared stickers that you can show off to all your friends! 

And if you’re in the market for picking up a new pack of printable vinyl sticker paper, or just want to browse our selection – click here to check out our shop at Royal Elements.

Happy crafting!

Michael from Royal Elements

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