Custom Dry Transfers or Vinyl Lettering?
Which is Better?

Custom Dry Transfers vs. Vinyl Lettering?

Find The Right Solution For Your Project

Artwork labels and captions using dry transfers rubbed onto the gallery wall. Here a custom dry transfer is applied instead of vinyl lettering for that finished professional look.
Sometimes clients don’t know if they should use dry transfer graphics or vinyl graphics for their projects. It often depends on the application needed. Here’s our expert opinion on the matter.

Our clients use custom dry transfers for:

A closeup wall label for an art gallery with custom letraset transfer lettering. The clear transparent rub on decal is crisper and cleaner than vinyl lettering. Custom dry transfer is applied directly to the art gallery wall beside the painting.– small type or graphics
– prototypes and inventions
– museum wall art labels and descriptions
– 3d printed objects
– guitar logo art
– Letraset lettering
– product packaging
– replica model airplanes and boats
– glass bottle labels
– windows and glass doors

Unlike vinyl, when dry transfers are applied the image or type looks like it is printed right on the substrate.

With dry transfers, there is no edge and it is smooth to the touch. This means that the transfers you receive of your artwork are only the thickness of the lacquer ink. Lacquer adhesive is only on the image area so after applied there is no adhesive residue. Especially important to note is that dry transfers can be made permanent with a clear spray coat of lacquer or workable fixative applied on top of them. Custom lettering transfer decals make great museum wall labels and might be an affordable alternative to Letraset or vinyl lettering. Our rub on transfer decals get more affordable when you gang-up your vector art onto one page, fitting as many dry transfer decals that an 8.5″ x 11″ transfer sheet can hold. Need larger oversized dry transfers? No problem, look into ordering the 11″ x 17″ custom transfer sheet.

A closeup picture of vinyl lettering, the edges are frayed and bubbled underneath. As with many permanent lettering decals, vinyl letters don't seem to hold up very well over time. Perhaps semi-permanent rub down transfers might be the next best solution for custom vinyl lettering.

Vinyl letters bubbled at edges

Custom Vinyl Lettering may be cheaper

Vinyl lettering has been around for a long time. Because of vinyl’s durability, it is common to use vinyl lettering for many outdoor applications where custom dry transfer lettering cannot be used:

– outside signage
– large type or graphics on trucks and automobiles
– storefront banners and awnings
– mailboxes
– store windows
– boats and outdoor recreation vehicles
– utility signage


Why are custom dry transfers superior to custom vinyl lettering?

Custom Letraset decals for glass. The image transfers logo applied as a custom rub on transfer applied to the interior of a glass window. Rub-on transfers can be used for corporate branding on glass.

The Image Transfers logo Applied to Glass

Custom dry transfers are easier to apply, without messy chemicals or the chance of bubbles underneath. Transfers are just ink. Our dry transfers adhere to any smooth surface, even non-flat surfaces. We can match any color including glossy or matte finishes. In addition, Image Transfers makes custom dry transfers with the options of metallic ink or foil – something vinyl can never provide.

When you choose vinyl lettering there are color limitations. Your letters will be cut out of whatever color vinyl is available or in stock. Vinyl lettering also has size and resolution limitations. Small type or images are a challenge because vinyl is cut with a blade.

Also once cut, the vinyl artist has to “weed” the vinyl (which means removing all the vinyl except your artwork). If the image is small, weeding can be very difficult and even impossible because your image can easily be removed or damaged with the process. When vinyl images are small, there isn’t much to hold them in place. Vinyl backing sheets are slick on purpose so you can remove the vinyl and apply it.  After it’s applied you will have a noticeable edge – the thickness of the vinyl.

Our rub on transfers are semi-permanent;
Unless you choose to make them permanent.

to remove permanent vinyl lettering you sometimes need to use a power-tool like the mbx vinyl zapper

The MBX Vinyl Zapper

Removing and replacing vinyl lettering can be difficult, especially if the vinyl is dry, old and brittle. The simplest method for removing vinyl graphics is to pull them off with force, sometimes using a razor as a chisel helps. This may cause some damage to your substrate surface. Whether your vinyl comes off in complete letters or little pieces, you will almost certainly have adhesive residue. Several solvents are available and even a few power tools are out there, like the MBX Vinyl Zapper (see right).

But why take the risk? Custom dry transfers are semi-permanent unless you choose to make them permanent (with an extra coat of lacquer after application).

Weigh your options. If you have small artwork, need a specific color, have a multi-color logo, want your image to appear as if it is printed on the substrate, are creating a beauty box and want to simulate foil hot stamping – transfers are your best bet in making this happen.

Image Transfers are custom dry rub-on transfer specialists. We make only one thing: custom rub down transfers for graphic designers, artists and model-makers. A dry transfer (or rubdown) is an image printed on a translucent sheet. The image has a coating of adhesive on its back. The image is transferred from the translucent sheet onto another surface by applying light pressure in a rubbing motion. The dry transfer can be applied to any surface that is free of dust, grease or oil. Dry transfers are referred to as DRY because they are applied dry, without the use of water or solvents. A dry transfer is not a slip-off label or a water decal, instead the transferred image appears as if it was printed directly onto the item. Our dry transfers are opaque because we back the colors with white, so our rubdowns can be applied to a surface of any color without changing the color of the rub-on transfer. We consider dry transfers a semi-permanent application. Our production artists can match all Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors including Metallic. Standard transfers are semi-gloss but we also offer matte and uncoated finishes. We deliver within as little as 24 hours. -- Specialties: Custom Rub Down Dry Transfers, Art Gallery Signage & Museum Labels, Custom Transfers for Product Prototypes, Comps & Mockups, Dry Transfers for Scale Models.

Posted in Museum Exhibits, Quality and Color Matching, Transfers for Glass Tagged with: , , , , , ,
2 comments on “Custom Dry Transfers or Vinyl Lettering?
Which is Better?
  1. Bob Schneider says:

    “But why take the risk? Custom dry transfers are semi-permanent unless you choose to make them permanent.”
    I would like to know more about this. How do you make them permanent on glass? If they are semi-permanent, how well will they stand up to glass cleaners and other cleaners?

    • Robert, It would be difficult to make permanent on glass. Our transfers are not the right source for anything you would be using for beverages or food, but they can be put on glass display cases and windows. Care would need to be taken because they can still be scratched. For display cases they can be produced to be applied “below the glass” to protect them. We have done that in the past for clients. The glass can still be cleaned with glass cleaner. The only solvent to stay away from would be lacquer solvent. We would be happy to send you some samples via snail mail if you want to send your address to our email at art@imagetransfers.net

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