Stickers are designed to be long lasting, but sometimes you want to give them that extra bit of protection. You can put polyurethane over your stickers, but be careful how you do it. Some surfaces react to polyurethane differently to others and you may end up damaging your sticker.
Why Would You Polyurethane Over Stickers?
Given the life span of most adhesive vinyls, many people don’t see the need to add a coat of polyurethane to seal them. Others like to coat their sticker to make them more permanent. Whether you add it to your sticker is entirely your own opinion, but before you do, there are a few things you should consider.
- Adding a coating of polyurethane makes your sticker more permanent. If you are making a bench or box for a special occasion, you may want to protect your sticker so it doesn’t wear off. If you’re making something like a house sign or wall decal, you may at some point want to change it and adding polyurethane makes it a whole lot harder to remove the old sticker.
- If you want to waterproof your item, polyurethane won’t do this. Stickers designed to go outside are already waterproof and will last several years. If your sticker starts to show signs of wear and tear, you can easily print another to replace it.
- Don’t use an oil based polyurethane. This can damage the surface of your sticker. A water based one is preferable.
- Don’t be tempted to use an adhesive designed for inside the home as an outdoor sticker if you intend to add polyurethane. The vinyl still needs the additional adhesive which outdoors stickers have.
- Polyurethane will work better on some surfaces than it will on others so always test it on the material you will be working on first. Ideally, print off a smaller vinyl and apply this to your surface and add the polyurethane. Before working on your actual project leave your test piece to dry completely and then check that your vinyl is still intact and that it is not peeling off the surface.
- If you are applying your vinyl to wood, you may wish to stain the wood first. If you do, add a coat of polyurethane on top of the stain before you apply the sticker, as the wood stain can affect how well the sticker adheres to the wood.
- Adding polyurethane to wood may seal the sticker, but over time you may still find that it starts to come unstuck. Water will soak through the polyurethane in to the wood and if it runs along a seam, it could get underneath your sticker and loosen it.
- If you are applying a wall decal, only use a light coating of polyurethane. Wall surfaces can absorb some of the polyurethane and this can actually cause the sticker to start to peel off.
Applying Polyurethane To Stickers
To get the best result, use the right vinyl for your job and print it in the same way. When working with polyurethane, always make sure the room is well ventilated as it can give off harmful fumes.
- Before you do anything, make sure the surface you are working on is clean and dry. Use a dry or damp cloth to wipe it down and wait until it has dried out. If you’re working with wood, sand it down before you apply your sticker. The smooth surface means your sticker will be easier to apply and the adhesive has a better surface to stick to.
- Wipe down your sticker to remove any dust or dirt and then apply it to your surface.
- Prepare your polyurethane. Refer carefully to the instructions given.
- Before you apply it, wipe your vinyl again to make sure it is dust free. Carefully brush the polyurethane over the vinyl. Use smooth brush strokes and then leave it to dry. This can take up to an hour.
- When it has dried, feel around the edges of the vinyl. If you can still feel the edges, apply another coat of polyurethane.
If you use the right vinyl for each project and follow the instructions, you should never need to cover your stickers with anything.
While vinyls are always sold with a projected lifespan, many vinyls last a lot longer than this and if they are uncoated you can always replace them with a different design if you want one.