You are currently viewing What Is Waterslide Decal Paper?

What Is Waterslide Decal Paper?

Waterslide decal paper (also called water transfer paper) is a type of printable decal film that is printed on a home printer.

It gets its name from the need to place the decal in a bowl of water (to activate the adhesive residue) and slide the decal off of the paper backing to place it on an object.

graphic showing the process for spraying waterslide decals, then soaking them and transferring them onto an object

How To Use Waterslide Decal Paper

The process for using waterslide decal paper is as follows:

  1. Print your design on a sheet of waterslide paper (similar to printing on a regular sheet of paper) 
  2. Seal the waterslide decal with a fixative spray (for inkjet waterslide only) 
  3. Cut out shape of decal 
  4. Place decal in warm water for 15-20 seconds) 
  5. “Slide” the decal off the water-activated adhesive backing 
  6. Place your decal on a smooth, hard surface (for example a coffee mug) 

Some waterslide paper is made for inkjet printers, while other waterslide paper is made specifically for laser printers. 

To see our full set of detailed instructions for waterslide decal paper check out this blog post.

Is clear or white waterslide paper better?

There are two main types of waterslide decal paper: clear and white.

Clear waterslide is best used on light-colored surfaces (generally white mugs, tumblers, etc) and has the benefit of appearing to be “baked on” with a low profile seem around the edges.

White waterslide paper is used for non-white backgrounds and looks similar to regular white printed stickers, however the decal is much thinner and low profile.

Waterslide paper is mostly used for indoor applications.

clear vs white waterslide decal paper

Does waterslide paper need to be sealed?

Water transfer paper requires sealant for the inkjet printer versions (both clear and white).

However for laser printers sealant is not required due to the waterproof nature of laser toner and the paper material.

To seal inkjet water transfer paper you will need to pick up a can of clear aerosol fixative spray and apply 2 to 3 coats.

Commonly used brands of sealant include Krylon and Mod podge. 

We wrote an in-depth article on the top 7 best clear acrylic sealers for waterslide decal paper if you want to see which brand is the best to seal stickers with.

Is waterslide paper permanent?

Waterslide decals are permanent once they are transferred, however they are not waterproof or as durable as printable vinyl or printable sticker paper.

Common applications for waterslide paper are for custom DIY tumblers, die-cast model vehicles, and other indoor applications.

Generally waterslide decals are sealed over thoroughly or epoxied.

They will not last outdoors for much more than a week due to their thin, lightweight nature.

Is decal paper the same as waterslide paper?

Yes, waterslide paper and decal paper are the same.

Other common names are “water transfer paper” and “water transfer paper.”

This type of DIY printed decal is not to be confused with printable sticker paper- which is simply paper material with an adhesive-backed removable sheet.

Printable vinyl sticker sheets are also another popular material used to create custom stickers.

Printable vinyl sticker sheets are similar to printable sticker paper, however the vinyl material is much more durable and can even be water-resistant or dishwasher safe depending on the brand and material used.

For example our Royal Elements matte printable vinyl sticker sheets are highly waterproof and dishwasher safe.

We still have a sample that was printed 7 years ago that has gone through hundreds of dishwasher cycles with minimal fading (without sealing or laminating over top!)

waterslide decal glitter tumbler
Clear waterslide decal on a custom epoxy tumbler

Can you use a regular printer for waterslide paper?

Yes you can use a regular printer for waterslide decal paper.

You will need to match the correct version of waterslide paper (for inkjet or for laser printer) with the corresponding printer, however.

Make sure you pay attention to the product packaging and read the directions before use.

Inkjet vs laser waterslide decal paper

Inkjet waterslide paper requires the use of a clear varnish or sealant.

On the other hand laser printer waterslide paper does NOT require any additional sealant to be transferred.

If you simply print on inkjet waterside and immediately attempt to place it in water to remove the backing sheet your ink will smear and run and your project will be ruined!

Be sure to apply at least 2 coats of sealant, ideally 3 for best results.


Waterslide decal paper is fun to use and more unique than any other printable sticker material out there.

Part of the appeal is the thrill of bringing your design to life from the water transfer process, and it can honestly become addictive (in a good way!). 

If you’re looking to pick up a pack of waterslide decal paper, check out our Royal Elements shop page to browse our selection.

Happy crafting!

Michael from Royal Elements

Leave a Reply