How They Work: Wall Decals vs. Vinyl Lettering vs. Window Decals and Wraps

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In our last blog, Why Window Decals Work for You we touched on some of the differences between window decals, window lettering, wall decals and wraps. In this article we’ll delve further into the pros and cons of wall decals vs. vinyl lettering, as well as explain the distinctions between window lettering and window logo decals. Finally, we’ll contrast the qualities of wraps vs. decals.

Lettering vs. Decals

Both vinyl lettering and decals are made from vinyl film. The main characteristic of vinyl lettering is that it is a series of individually cut-out pieces of vinyl that are shaped into either a typeface/ font or in some cases, a simple shape to form an image. A decal, on the other hand, is a single piece of vinyl that has letters and/or images printed onto it.

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Since vinyl lettering is made up of smaller individual pieces of vinyl there are both pros and cons to their installation and visual presentation:

Pros of Vinyl Lettering:

  • Less Air Bubbles – smaller pieces of vinyl mean that it will be much easier to get air bubbles out during installation.
  • More Cost Effective (in certain cases) – if you’re sticking to just one color on a standard font, small cuts of vinyl will not only mean a lower cost of materials but unlike decals, vinyl letters also require no graphic printing process.
  • A Classic Look – the look of individual letters allows for the look of hand-painted or gold leaf lettering, even when seen from close-up.

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Cons of Vinyl Lettering:

  • Less Color and Font Choices – using cut vinyl as your medium means you have a choice of around 30 different colors and 70 different standard fonts. The larger variety of colors there are in a single project also means higher costs, which is why most vinyl lettering you see is in just one or two different hues.
  • Simpler Shapes and Designs with no Color Gradients – vinyl lettering necessitates simpler designs. The more complex and thin the pieces of vinyl are, the greater the chances they can rip and tear during installation. Also, since there is no printing involved, color transitions known as gradients are not possible.
  • More complex installation – whenever you’re installing multiple letters vs. a single graphic, it can be more difficult to make sure they are level and properly spaced. However, we can help you get it done with our masking tape transfer, where the letters are precisely laid out in advance for an easy installation.

vinyl lettering and cut vinyl

Pros of Decals:

  • All in one Installation – since a decal is a single piece of vinyl containing printed graphics you just have to worry about installing one adhesive film vs. a number of individually cut letters.
  • More Color Choices and Complexity – if you’re looking to replicate a complex image or logo, especially one using a unique color palette, such as with Pantone Color Matching (PMS), then a decal is the better choice for the job.
  • More Cost Effective (in certain cases) – if you’re using a custom typeface with several colors a decal will be less expensive since the graphics are simply printed on from an image file.
  • Better for Temporary Indoor Graphics and Home Decorations – Using just one single piece of vinyl not only allows for a simpler installation, it also means a more straightforward removal. That’s why many indoor wall decals are manufactured with low tack adhesive which allows for the graphic to be removed and reused. On the other hand, while vinyl lettering is also meant to be taken off with no damage to your wall or window, it is made to be installed only once. Decals are also commonly used to decorate homes, including kitchens, family rooms, and children’s rooms.

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Cons of Decals:

  • They don’t look hand-painted – as we stated earlier, vinyl lettering offers the look of a hand-painted logo without the visible outline of a single decal or sticker. Usually decals are reserved for more complex designs that either aren’t doable with vinyl lettering — such as with connected letters and shapes — or would simply be too tedious and difficult to install. While they still look great, they won’t replicate the look of individual paint or gold leaf letters, especially from close up.
  • Window Logo Decals will often need to be transparent – since there is plenty of room between the individual letters, numbers and shapes to allow in light, window lettering can be opaque. With a window decal however, an opaque design would mean losing the transparency of the window, which is why window decals — especially larger ones usually require see-through letters. This also reduces the ability to use decals on interior glass as well.
  • Printed Decals Have a Shorter Lifespan Outdoors – a printed decal placed outside will last around a third as long as vinyl lettering since it uses a printed graphic that can fade over time. This is why decals tend to be more popular indoors than out. For slightly higher price, lamination can mitigate this problem and add a couple of years to a printed decal’s service life. However, vinyl letters still tend to outlive even these weather-treated print decals. The same goes for the risk of scratches on decals — which tend to be less of a problem for lettering — which can also be reduced with lamination, for an additional cost.

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So…What about Wraps?

The best way to describe a wrap vs. a decal or lettering is that a wrap is sized to completely or partially cover a surface vs. a custom cut decal or lettering meant to be placed on a surface. Wraps also tend to be completely opaque with no transparent elements. They offer privacy for offices, cover store windows not being used for displays or for during construction, as in a “Coming Soon” window wraps.

Wraps are used to completely or partially cover vehicles — which can also be decorated with vinyl lettering and decals. In fact car, truck and van graphics may be the best way to distinguish the main difference between these three types of signage. Think about a car or truck wrap which is custom fitted onto a contoured hood. This is very different from the lettering or printed decals you see on a door or along the side of a vehicle.

Contact Signs NYC for All Your Graphics Needs

Whether it’s for original cutting-edge designs, professional installations, faithful renderings of your company logo and mascots or all three, contact the Signs NYC team now. Let’s get started on the perfect look for your business, property or organization.


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