Dry Transfer Decals vs. Stick-On Decals – What Looks Better?

Custom rub-on transfers offer advantages over stick-on decals and look smooth, clean and professional on substrates including plastic, wood, glass, metal, wallboard and more. They are easy to apply and have a perfect, professional appearance.

Dry ttransfer decal on an axe protoype model presentation comparing stickers to custom rubon transfers.

If you’re working on an important project that requires lettering or visual details, custom dry transfers offer you results that appear as finished as final manufactured products. If you’ve been accustomed to using stick-on decals, you’ll be surprised by how much better custom rub-on transfers look in many different applications. They’re easy to use and a preferred choice among everyone from the most experienced industrial designers to first-time hobbyists. At Image Transfers, we’ve helped everyone from film set designers needing to make one-of-a-kind items to museum curators looking for crisp, concise museum wall text – and always with helpful customer service and prompt turnarounds.

When considering some of the specific advantages of custom dry transfer decals compared to stick-on decals, one of the first things that come to look out for is bubbles. Stick-on decals can trap air bubbles as they are being applied, which can be challenging to smooth out for a perfect appearance. In comparison, rub-on transfers apply flat and perfectly when firmly set in place using a unique burnishing tool supplied with each order. For smaller letters and more specific items, there is little comparison in terms of precise appearance. Dry transfers are semi-permanent immediately upon application and with a top coat of varnish become permanent.

Custom Dry Transfers Display Your Design with Nothing Left Behind

Lisa Kay designed this book cover using gold foil transfers from Image Transfers. Dry transfer decals have several advantages over sticker decals.

When you rub on a dry transfer decal, the only thing that goes onto your item is the lettering or visual element you choose to add – nothing else. Unlike stick-on decals that might require you to trim around certain areas, the dry transfer goes on with a final finished appearance. Because we create your custom transfers from files you supply, you’ll have precisely the look you’re after, and it will be ready to apply without any extra steps. Edges are exact and crisp, proportions are maintained among similar items placed in a series, and there’s no stretching nor bubbling as a result of the application. Particularly for high-end applications, we offer unmatched quality that will appear the same as a final product.

Our process works equally well for lettering, logos, stripes, and details of any other sort.

We can produce all Pantone colors as well as metallic and foil looks, which are capabilities few others can provide. At Image Transfers, we’re always available to answer questions and give advice if you’re using custom dry transfers for the first time. We have years of successful experience, and our clients come from nearly every industry imaginable, ranging from large global corporations to designer retailers to hobbyists working at home. Small-batch products, one-of-a-kind items, and prototypes are among the most common things calling for our products. If your project calls for lettering, we are an ideal replacement for the former Letraset process.

You Can Achieve a Perfect Look on a Tight Deadline

A white transfer decal mounted on glass made using custom dry transfers for museum labels

At Image Transfers, custom rub-down decals are our only business, and with this singular focus, we can produce outstanding results with turnarounds in the 24 to 48-hour range. In fact, we are the largest online supplier of custom dry transfers and our clients return to us time and again, knowing they can count on us to come through for them, even on tight deadlines. We provide a special burnishing (application) tool with each order to make applying your dry transfer easier and more exact.

Whether you are transferring lettering or visual elements onto wood, glass, plastic or metal, you’ll end up with an appearance that’s far superior to stick-on decals. You can take a magnifying glass to small details of dry transfers, and they will look clearer and more concise than with water-slide decals, stick-ons, or any other method. If you’re interested in understanding the technicalities of our process, we print with special ink backed with an adhesive that can be rubbed off without using water or solvents. It’s a neat, clean process that’s ideal for any surface, including archive pieces. Especially when the stakes are high and you need a perfect appearance, a custom dry transfer is your best option virtually every time.

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. A top coat of clear lacquer can make them more permanent. 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 & Mock-ups, Dry Transfers for Scale Models. Decals for Glass and reversed transfer decals for inside glass cases.

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6 comments on “Dry Transfer Decals vs. Stick-On Decals – What Looks Better?
  1. Chris WEALE says:

    Can these be applied to vehicles and sealed with a clear lacquer ?

    • Luann says:

      Chris, Our custom dry transfers are lacquer ink with lacquer adhesive. Since adhesive is only on the image area, after applied it will look like your artwork is printed right on the substrate you apply them to. We assume you can apply to a vehicle if you spray the applied transfer with a clear lacquer spray but you are limited to our artboard sizes; letter or 11″x14″ or tabloid. Pricing is published right on our website. Let us know if you have further questions. We hope we can work on this project with you. Luann

  2. David says:

    How heat resistant are these dry transfers? I am looking to reproduce automotive decals for use on valve covers, oil filters, and air cleaners. Some of these items get quite hot under operating conditions.

    • Luann says:

      David, Thanks for your inquiry. Our transfers are lacquer ink with lacquer adhesive. We are not sure how they will hold up for your usage, but we do know that clients use them for all different projects and on a lot of different substrates. We would be happy to send you samples of our transfers at no charge but we ask potential clients to pay the pass along FedEx Shipping cost. We used to send them snail mail but they rarely got into the right hands and they are too expensive to produce for them to get lost. We can ship to you on your FedEx Account as well. If you want to move forward feel free to call the studio at (212) 928-7987. Thanks again for your inquiry.

  3. Eileen says:

    Do the images look painted on. I do not want images that have a plastic like film over them. Please advise

    • Luann says:

      Eileen, Our custom dry transfers are lacquer ink with lacquer adhesive. Since adhesive is only on the image area, after applied it will look like your artwork/text is printed right on the substrate you rub it onto. You will be rubbing through a clear slick, but removing the slick and leaving the artwork/text applied. They are beautiful. Please view our BLOG page or Portfolio page for some past projects. We hope we can work with you on this one.

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