StickerYou Blog

What are Stickers Made Out Of: Anatomy 101 [With Infographics]

February 5, 2019  |  

Stickers aren’t just pieces of paper or plastic plastered with an adhesive backing. A lot of things go into making a sticker, forming layers that help it become more durable, functional, and aesthetic.

From an adhesive backing to a unique finish and laminate, we reveal the anatomy of a sticker in this article.

What is a Sticker?

First, let’s define what a sticker is. Stickers are pieces of paper, plastic, or other material with a design printed on one side and adhesive covering the other. The layer of adhesive is protected with a paper backing that users can peel off to apply the sticker on a surface of their choice.
Stickers are usually coated with a finish to enhance the design and make them more durable. Depending on the type of material used to make the sticker, they can be applied indoors or outdoors and withstand regular wear.

What are Stickers Used For?

Stickers are primarily used to decorate and personalize objects. You’ll see them stuck on water bottles, lunch boxes, gadgets, notebooks, and other items, bringing a creative touch to common objects.
More recently, stickers have become tools for advertising and marketing. Companies are printing their logos, slogans, and campaign copy onto stickers and giving them away to customers and employees. They’re also applying them on car bumpers, storefronts, windows, and walls to increase visibility and make an impact.

What is the Difference Between Stickers and Labels?

Stickers and labels are commonly mistaken as the same. But they are considered two different things, each with a unique purpose and application. Stickers can be used for personal or professional purposes, i.e. for decorating objects or for marketing merchandise.
Labels, on the other hand, exist to provide information about a product. You’ll often find them attached to grocery store items, from a bottle of liquor to a pack of frozen vegetables. The truth is that the line that distinguishes a sticker from a label can get blurry. Labels can also contain elements that we usually see in stickers, such as an illustration or a company logo.

What are Stickers Made Out Of: The Anatomy of a Sticker

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive deeper into the anatomy of a sticker. Stickers generally come in three layers, which include the removable adhesive, the surface, and the laminate. Stickeryou Anatomy of a Sticker

Layer One: Removable Adhesive

There is nothing more annoying than a sticker that just won’t stick. Which is why the adhesive layer of the sticker is so important. The adhesive layer of the sticker is what bonds it with the surface that you stick it on, whether it be a laptop, cellphone, or a subway station wall. But not all adhesives are created equal.

The strength of an adhesive is measured in Newtons, which means that it is measured in the amount of force necessary to break the adhesive bond with the surface it is stuck to. Named after Sir Isaac Newton, they are a Standard Unit of Force, under the International System of Units, and measure the amount of force necessary to accelerate mass in the direction of the applied force.

One Newton is the amount of force needed to accelerate one kilogram of mass at the rate of one meter per second squared in the direction of the applied force. What does this mean for sticker adhesives?

It means that with an adhesive of 300 Newtons, which is the adhesive strength of our personalized die-cut sticker, you’ll need roughly 67 pounds of applied force to pull it off. Our permanent stickers and labels are even stronger, at 1,000 Newtons. This means what you’ve stuck will stick until it’s time for you to remove it.

Speaking of removing stickers, another key feature of the adhesive that we use for our customized die-cut stickers at StickerYou is that it is easily removable. So no gunk or ripped bits of sticker left behind when you apply your 300 Newtons to remove it.

Layer Two: Surface

The surface is the layer that your customized design is actually printed on. The surface layer of stickers is either made from paper, or from vinyl.

Paper stickers may look good, but they don’t last long, which is why they are often used in packaging. Paper stickers don’t require laminate, and are at the mercy of the elements, which means that they fade, rip, and smudge easily.

Not so with vinyl stickers, which is why all of our custom-designed stickers are made from a thin layer of vinyl. Vinyl stickers are easy to clean and the colors don’t fade, making them perfect for indoor and outdoor use. Oh, and they last a very long time.

Layer Three: Clear Matte Laminate

Raw vinyl is thin, and thin stickers can be difficult to remove, as they rip and tear easily. This is why the final layer of laminate is the key to creating a sticker that is good-looking, long-lasting, and is easy to take off when you need it gone. The vinyl sticks to the laminate when you remove the sticker, not to the surface you’ve stuck it on.

  • Our die-cut singles are laminated with a clear matte coating for extra protection and durability. On top of that, the clear matte laminate is waterproof and offers UV protection, which is essential for retaining bright colors and keeping the sticker in great shape.
  • The laminate coating also works to keep the colors on the vinyl from bleeding out or splashing during the printing process, so the edges of your designs stay clear and sharp.

What Types of Sticker Materials are There?

Not all stickers are made of paper or plastic. There are actually several different types of sticker materials, each contributing to the sticker’s durability, appearance, and application. Here are some of the most common types of sticker materials:

● Clear Vinyl: A transparent sticker material that is flexible, durable, and can be applied to any surface.
● Reflective Vinyl: A specialty vinyl that has a metallic, reflective base.
● White Vinyl: A tough and waterproof sticker material that makes for the perfect base for colorful designs and intricate details.
● Glow in the Dark Vinyl: A specialty vinyl that absorbs light and emits it in the dark to create a glow-in-the-dark effect.
● Permanent Adhesive: As its name implies, this sticker material has a tougher adhesive that cannot be removed from a surface without causing damage.
● Front-facing Adhesive: A sticker where the design is printed on the adhesive layer, allowing for placement on the inside of transparent surfaces.
● Clear Cling: A sticker material that can cling to surfaces without using adhesive. The design is printed on transparent and protective UV ink.
● Front-facing Cling: The design is reverse-printed on clear vinyl, creating a front-facing sticker that can adhere to clear glass.
● White Cling: A high-gloss vinyl film that self-adheres to smooth glass surfaces without an adhesive layer.
● Perforated Film: A full-color vinyl film that is perforated with small, evenly-spaced holes in the print.
● Magnet: A reusable sticker material that can adhere to any metallic surface.

When to Use Each Sticker Material?

Each sticker material has unique characteristics that make it better suited for particular applications. Clear vinyl, permanent adhesive, reflective vinyl, and white vinyl can all be applied to most surfaces.

Materials like front-facing cling and front-facing adhesive are best applied on clear glass because the design is printed on the adhesive layer, allowing you to apply the stickers from inside and achieve better protection.

Magnets adhere best to metal surfaces, perforated film is usually seen on storefront windows, and clear cling is best used for flat glass surfaces. While glow-in-the-dark vinyl and white cling are more suited for smooth and flat surfaces.


As you learned, stickers are very versatile, made with a wide range of materials, and created with several layers to achieve durability and the intended appearance. Understanding what makes up a sticker can help you make the best decisions when creating your own custom stickers, ensuring they suit your intended purpose and application.