Labels, stickers, and decals all sound too similar. However, each differs a little. And while each difference may be minimal in certain situations, they can still affect your overall decision for your next project.

In this post, we will explore the exact difference between the three options, as well as their pros and cons, to help you make a better decision for your next project or promotional campaign.

What is a label, sticker, and decal?

Labels are a self-adhesive option that can be printed using polyester, vinyl, and paper. Their typical usage is neither for identification nor decoration. They are generally printed with images or texts containing information about a product’s usage or content.

Stickers are tiny pieces of fabric, vinyl, or paper with an added adhesive backing. They are highly customisable and can be printed in a variety of designs, shapes, and colours, making them highly versatile for decoration, branding, and promotions.

Decals also offer self-adhesive backing but are generally larger and more permanent than labels and stickers. Decals are typically used for branding and identification. Most decals are printed using vinyl and involve die-cutting printing to cut to a specific design and shape. They typically have clear backgrounds to blend with the applied surface.

Difference in materials

For labels, the materials that can be used in printing are similar to stickers but are generally thinner so that they are easier to apply over products. Some common label materials are Biaxially-Oriented Polypropylene (BOPP), paper, and vinyl. However, other materials such as metallic and holographic are also possible, though rarely used.

For stickers, the choice of materials is vast. They can be printed with fabric, vinyl, matte, or glossy paper. Stickers offer versatility in terms of appearance, and it all depends on your brand’s intended visual appearance, budget, and durability. For example, paper stickers, as compared to vinyl stickers, are more affordable but less durable.

For decals, the most commonly used material is vinyl. This is because most applications of decals are outdoor and need to be able to withstand harsh conditions, such as rain and heat. Vinyl is known to be not only weather-resistant but is also highly customisable with designs and colours.

Durability, application, and design differences between labels, stickers, and decals

The design options for labels and stickers are pretty much similar. Depending on your needs, they are available in various sizes and designs, ranging from round and tiny adhesives to rectangular and large ones. You can die-cut them, which is cutting to the exact shape you design, or kiss-cut them, which is the same as the die-cutting process but leaving the adhesive backing untrimmed.

This is where their similarities end – their durability and application. Stickers are generally applied manually, while labels can be applied through a specialised machine or manually. Furthermore, depending on the chosen material, stickers last longer as compared to labels.

Decals are a little different from the other two. As the largest out of the three and generally used in outdoor applications, they are easily the most durable option. However, unlike labels and stickers, decals can only be die-cut. However, they can be designed, printed, and applied on various surfaces, such as metal, walls, and glass.

Pros and cons

Labels are easy to apply and remove, ideal for brand promotion and conveying vital information, have flexible material options, and can be die-cut or kiss-cut. However, because they are usually printed thinly, they are the least durable and are not suitable for outdoor applications.

Stickers offer similar advantages as labels. However, one different advantage is that it offers the most versatile material options. Its cons are that its durability is material-dependent and that it is also not suitable for outdoor applications.

Decals offer the best quality in terms of material choice because of their common application in outdoor use. Hence, compared to the rest, they are the most long-lasting option. However, they are only available in die-cut, and because of their difficulty in applying and removing, you need professional assistance to do so.

When to use either option

While they generally have the same purpose in brand promotions, there is still the best time to utilise each option.

Labels are employed in various industries, such as pharmaceutical, retail, and food. They are usually applied on packaging or products to relay vital information and brand identification.

Stickers, on the other hand, are usually used for brand promotion. They are often included in packaging, allowing customers to apply them on their personal items, such as laptops, mobile phones, and water bottles. They are ideal for generating word-of-mouth and can be given away during events to create brand awareness.

Lastly, decals are typically used to display information or brand advertisements. Because of their durable and large nature, they are best applied on large surfaces, such as industrial equipment, floors, walls, windows, and signages.


At the end of the day, labels, stickers, and decals share similar purposes and traits in the sense that they are able to help promote your brand. However, their vital differences do warrant their use in different situations and purposes. Choosing the right option allows optimal use for your brand.

Here at Hillier Industries, we offer customised decals as well as labels and sticker printing. Contact our team to find out how we can help you with your next project.