Decal Installation


Decal Installation - Wet/Dry Method

 There are really only two installation methods for die-cut decals:

  1. Wet
  2. Dry

The method you use depends on your skills and the surface you are applying it to. Here we will cover both the pros and cons of installing vinyl decals.  

1. Dry Installation

Most designers and installers prefer the dry vinyl decal installation method. This is usually the method of installation of choice because it is easy to install and the decal lasts for a long time. In this process, you don’t need application fluids, and there are no bubbles to deal with when you install it like this. This makes the process much easier. Just one note of caution here … once you apply it, you CANNOT remove or re position the sticker without having it experience some damage. Remember to measure the area where you are installing it as well as the size of the vinyl decal. This will help you do it accurately the first time. Otherwise, if you have to re position it you may end up with a decal that does not fit the product.

Dry Installation Precautions:

  1. Don’t install in direct sunlight.
  2. Be sure the room and installation surface temperature is between 10°C (50°F) and 20°C (68°F).
  3. Do not store your vinyl decal in direct sunlight.

2. Wet Installation

The advantage of the wet vinyl decals installation process is that you can re-position the decal multiple times. Just so long as you make sure that the decal and surface are still wet. You just need to use application fluid and you’ll need a squeegee to pull the water out from underneath the decal and surface or your decal can lift or have water bubbles.  

Installation of Dry Vinyl Decals

What You Need for Vinyl Decals…

  1. Installation squeegee
  2. Masking tape
  3. Glass cleaner (non-AMMONIA BASED)
  4. Paper towels
  5. Measuring tape or ruler.
  6. Scissors or Razor


Remove any dirt, grease and/or wax from the surface first. Vinyl decal will NOT adhere properly if the surface is not clean. Be careful! You don’t want to use ammonia-based cleaners as these can create bubbles under your vinyl decal. Once the surface is ready, follow below steps…   

Step 1: Carefully inspect the vinyl decal for any shipping damages. Use a squeegee on the decal as it is and press down on the decal while it is on a hard surface. Press firmly to ensure the transfer tape is properly stuck to the vinyl decal. Place your decal on the surface.   

Step 2: Use masking tape on top of the decal “transfer tape” to hold the decal in place. Measure the area to be sure your decal is correctly lined up.  

Step 3:  Peel the “liner” back to the masking tape crossing the decal. Be careful! Don’t allow the sticky surface to touch application surface. Do not touch the decal with cutting tools or the tools can stick accidentally and peel the decal off the “transfer tape”. Cut away the peeled “liner” close to the masking tape. 

Step 4: Place the squeegee in the middle where your masking tape crosses the decal. Carefully begin to apply the sticky side to the surface. Use horizontal strokes and firm pressure to apply. Smooth out from top to bottom with long horizontal strokes. Be sure the decal is securely stuck to the surface.  

Step 5: Place masking tape parallel to the masking tape that crosses the decal you just applied. Carefully remove the original masking tape that crossed the decal to secure it. Peel back the corner pieces of tape. Slowly peel the final piece of “liner” off exposing the adhesive. DO NOT allow the adhesive of the decal to touch the surface.

Step 6: Place squeegee in the middle at masking tape that crosses the decal. Apply the adhesive side to the surface. Use horizontal strokes to apply the decal. Continue smoothing with long horizontal strokes from top to bottom. Be sure the decal is securely stuck to the surface. Remove all the masking tape. Use increasingly harder strokes to secure. Carefully peel off the “transfer tape” covering the decal.

 With the “transfer tape” removed, check to see that the entire decal is attached. You can make a small incision into the vinyl and use your squeegee to force out any trapped air bubbles. Most will disappear in a few weeks. 

Installation Method of Wet Vinyl Decals

  1. Do not install in direct sunlight.
  2. Be sure the installation area and surface temperature is between 10°C (50°F) and 20°C (68°F).

Know that the wet method is NOT recommended for interior installations and do not store vinyl decals in direct sunlight.Things you need…

  • Installation squeegee
  • Application fluid in a spray bottle (Mixture of 500mL (1/2 quart) of water, 250mL (1/4 quart) of 99% rubbing alcohol and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap) –
  • Non-AMMONIA BASED window washing liquid
  • Paper towels
  • Measuring tape or ruler.


Carefully remove all dirt, grease and/or wax from application surface. The decals will NOT adhere properly to un-cleaned surfaces. Be careful to not use ammonia-based cleaners. This could create bubbles under your vinyl decal. Once the surface is ready, follow below steps… 

Step 1: Inspect the decal for any shipping damages. Use the squeegee, pressed onto a hard surface.  Press firmly over the decal to assure  "transfer tape" is properly attached.  Turn the decal over (transfer tape down) and slowly peel off the “liner” exposing adhesive.  Do not allow the sticky part of the vinyl decal to touch anything. Generously spray application fluid over the surface area where the vinyl decal will be installed.  Be sure the surface area is completely sprayed down and there are generously spray application fluid onto the adhesive side of the decal. 

Step 2: Place the adhesive side on the surface. While wet, carefully measure and adjust the vinyl decal. Once it is placed, use a squeegee with firm strokes to force application fluid out to assure firm placement. Repeat until you remove most of the application fluid between decal and surface. Ensure there are no fluid or air bubbles. 

Step 3: Wait between 30 minutes to an hour or more to allow complete drying and secure adherence. Temperature can affect drying time. 

Step 4: Once dry, peel off the "transfer tape" from decal and surface. If peeling occurs, re-apply decal with a squeegee (Step 2), and wait about 30 minutes before you remove the "transfer tape" again. Once the "transfer tape" is removed, assure decal is securely attached to surface. If any small air or water bubbles appear, cut a small incision in the vinyl decal and use a squeegee to smooth out. Most bubbles will disappear in a few weeks. Allow a few hot sunny days to completely cure before washing or waxing. 

Is There a Reason to Choose Either the Wet or Dry Decal Installation Method?

Most vinyl film manufacturers and printers recommend the dry application process over the wet. And I agree with this general rule because the dry vinyl decal installation method is faster and cleaner than the wet vinyl decals. now, having said that, there are certain conditions when a wet vinyl decal is a way to go. Why? Well if you are installing an etched glass film, or have a graphic printed on a clear film and plan on installing it on a window, it is probably that this film does not have the air egress properties that prevent air bubbles from forming when you are installing. In this case, it is best to use the wet application method. On these surfaces, you won’t have squeegee marks or air bubbles if you use the wet vinyl decal installation method.