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I started to sell stickers about 8 months ago and I thought it was finally time to tackle how to make stickers to sell online in a blog post!
I touched on it, though somewhat haphazardly when I discussed some of my 2020 side hustles. Since then, my custom sticker business has turned into a legit small side hustle for me. My Etsy shop sells a variety of stickers and some other products and art that I make. While it doesn’t make a ton of money, it’s fun and I love getting my artwork out there.
About 3 days ago one of my stickers went minorly viral. Someone must have shared one of my sticker designs somewhere and instead of my usual trickle of orders, I sold $92 worth of one design in about 24 hours! It was so exciting!
I decided to take the excitement those sales created and channel it to tackle this subject! So, if you have been wanting to start a sticker business or open an online sticker shop, check out this post.
Why This Post on How to Make Stickers to Sell is Different
I am not going to talk about how to physically make stickers in your home. I do not have a Cricut machine or any other kind of sticker making machine. I know some people tell you how you can use regular printer paper and a specialized vinyl cutting machine when starting your custom sticker printing business. I think there is enough info out there on that. With a Cricut, you can start selling custom stickers – truly one of a kind, and that may be up your alley.
I like to have my stickers professionally printed. The quality is significantly better and that is reflected in my shop reviews. Though I may have to carry a little more inventory, I think the time commitment is much lower as well. And that’s super important to me in trying to set up a semi-passive income stream by starting a sticker business.
Make sure to read to the end if you want to for what is also, a Sticker Mule review, one of the vendors I use regularly.
Step 1: Come Up With Some Sticker Ideas You Want to Sell
Before you can start selling stickers, you have to have an idea!
This all started as a fun thing for me (actually it still is!). I had an idea for a slogan I wanted to see on a bumper sticker. I decided to look up a sticker screen printing shop I was aware of and see what things might cost.
I was already aware that one and two-color stickers were pretty cheap to make. I knew about this vendor because they are one of the go-to vendors for small punk bands on the west coast. Punk bands are cheap, and the word of mouth train is strong.
Once I knew that making a black and white bumper sticker was going to be pretty cheap, I set together to make a design I was happy with.
Step 2: Design your stickers in Canva and/or Another Art Programs
I use Canva Pro for a most of my graphic design.
There are multiple ways to go about this, and you DO NOT have to be an artistic genius.
Sometimes I start with some sort of design I made in a paint program (much easier with my laptop with a touchscreen and pen… and a goal for 2021 is to convince myself I’ve sold enough to buy an iPad Pro and get Procreate program). Then I might add text to it in Canva. But I have also scanned a block print I made with a linocut, changed the colors in Canva (or another art program). Point is, I use a few tools to combine art with graphic design and make my final products.
So I might start in Canva, then move the image to GIMP (both discussed below), then move it back to Canva depending on what I’m trying to accomplish.
I will discuss a few of those programs below.
I really love Canva. So I want to talk about it a bit on its own.
Canva is an all in one graphic drag and drop graphic design software program.
Canva comes with a lot of premade graphics and artistic elements. If you upgrade to the pro version of Canva, there are tons of them, and more added all the time.
Some other cool things: a CanvaPro subscription now comes with 4 seats you can share with whoever you wish. Meant for teams, but can be shared among friends. Nonprofit 501c3 companies can also get a CanvaPro subscription for free with 10 team seats.
Now, you need to keep in mind, anything you want to sell needs to be your own creation. Like, I don’t just take a single graphic or element and turn it into my sticker. I add multiple elements, text using their fonts, etc, to make a custom-designed sticker that is clearly my creation, using their offerings of elements. I’m no a legal expert, so make sure you read the fine print and do some research. I’m also pretty sure you cannot trademark anything you make in Canva.
CanvaPro allows you to save in a variety of formats, like JPG, PNG, PDF, and even SVG formats. Many printers want files in vector format, and SVG is vector format.
For stickers that are just words and only use the elements/clip art in Canva, you should be able to start with ONLY this program! If you just want to put some sayings on a sticker with a transparent background, Canva will totally get you there.
GIMP – The Free & Open Source Image Editor
I didn’t want to pay for PaintShop Pro or something similar when I was first getting started. Canva and the drawing art program that came on my computer didn’t give me enough options for things to do with my images.
For example, I did one black and white sticker that had a photo image on it. Well, photo images do not work for screen printed stickers. The photo needed to be converted into “halftone” dots. It’s a method that makes a bunch of dots look like shading from a normal view. A lot like newsprint, I guess.
It was a decent learning curve (I’m not a graphic designer by background), but I was able to accomplish this in this free program GIMP.
Paint.Net and Paint 3D
Paint 3D is the program that came with my HP laptop and works with my computer’s stylus pen. It allows for some fun drawing on the computer to create images like this sticker (I then added the words with CanvaPro).
Another program that I have downloaded for free and works with my computer stylus is Paint.Net.
There are a variety of options to begin experimenting with art on the computer!
iPad Pro with Apple Pen and Procreate
This is the next upgrade I am going to make. Can’t decide when though, as it’s hard to justify when the setup will cost more than my laptop did. While being super frugal has its perks, sometimes I just don’t know when it’s ok to spend.
But, Procreate on the Ipad Pro makes it look exceptionally easy to create all kinds of one of a kind art you draw into amazing art using a variety of tools.
I can’t say too much more because I don’t have it yet, but the videos on TikTok have me hooked.
Now That You’ve Got a Design, Make a Sticker!
Before you actually complete your design, you will want to determine which vendor you are using to produce them. This will dictate the file format in which you save your stickers.
As I said, screen printers may require a vector file format (like SVG or EPS). CanvaPro will save in SVG and GIMP will save in EPS.
Other programs offer other options.
Custom Screen Printed Stickers
I think a screen printed vinyl sticker almost always looks great. They just look professional. For this reason, they are my favorite if you want to develop a good affordable branding strategy and some cheap promo material in the form of a stand-out sticker.
Your sticker design will be printed on a matte vinyl material, and the ink will appear glossy.
For screen printed stickers there are special considerations to things like cut lines and bleed edges. Your print shop will likely give you guidelines on how to make sure your sticker is going to come out looking its best. They will also do some of the artwork formatting for you, for an additional cost, if you can’t do it yourself.
Keep in mind, this is semi-manual process using inks on a giant sticker sheet that is then cut down into single vinyl stickers. If you have your art or words too close to the edges, they are likely to get cut off or look weird when the giant sheet of vinyl stickers is cut down to single sticker sizes.
The benefit to this type of custom printed stickers is that they can be pretty cheap. My 8.5 inch by 2.75 inch black ink on white custom vinyl stickers cost me about $0.25 cents each to make. Considering I can sell these for $3-$5 dollars, that’s a great profit margin. This doesn’t account for shipping costs, which might bring them up to a whopping $0.30 each.
The downside, I have to order a minimum of 250 stickers. And, since these are silk-screened (using high-quality UV safe inks that hold up like, literally, forever) you don’t get a bulk discount. The silkscreens that are produced can make roughly 250 stickers. After that, you need a new screen made, so your order amount has to go up by another 250… I’d have to order 500 stickers with the full fee again, and so on.
This is also a process that can take a bit of time. You could easily have a 3 to 4 week turnaround depending on how busy the print shop is.
Bottom line, you can get some great looking stickers and have 250 pretty good-sized ones in black and white for $75 or less delivered. That’s pretty sweet if you know you can sell 25 stickers at $3 each… you’ve got your costs covered. The rest is pure profit baby (ok, not totally, you have labor, and materials like envelopes and postage fees for mailing, and maybe vendor fees – like Etsy, but you get the point).
Full Color Digital Printing of Stickers with Sticker Mule
I’m not exactly sure what the industrial process is with these mass-market full-color printers like Sticker Mule. In a way, I think it’s like Cricut on steroids.
These stickers are printed on durable vinyl with a laminated covering to protect them from scratches, rain, and uv coating to protect them from sunlight.
They are really cool because for one they’re in full color.
You can’t get a full-color image silk-screened. You can do four-color which gives a very close representation of full color to the naked eye using a blend of 4 colors printed in 4 layers. I can’t say more because I’ve never done this … but suffice it to say, your prices skyrocket over black and white or even 2 ink color process compared to when you want “full” color screenprints.
Alright, so Sticker Mule has it going for them that they can print a pretty good product in full color. I don’t think these stickers are as high quality as a silk-screened sticker, but, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
They accept artwork in a variety of formats. So if all you have is a lower quality JPG they’ll print it for you. Keep in mind, the quality of your finished product will reflect the quality of the artwork you provide.
Sticker Mule will also do most of your image formatting for you. You submit the image you want, and they will send you unlimited proofs free until you like how things look or abandon your idea.
Why is this important? Well, for example, I talked about the amount of space needed to allow for cutting of the sticker. The StickerMule team will automatically format your item for you so that there is enough space around the edge to preserve your whole design.
When you chat with the editors you can let them know if you want a full bleed or (where the image goes all the way to the edge) or if you’d like a border on your sticker.
You can go back and forth with the editors until you like the proof they send you. For example, I asked them to change the transparency of the color on a sticker I made on a holographic background so that more or less of the rainbow effect would shine through. Or, when I made this “Money Makin’ Mama” sticker, I asked them to increase the opacity of just the letters for me. They’ll let you know if they can help or not.
They even have some tools you can use for free and design templates to help you create eye catching adhesive stickers and decals and tons of other stuff (like coasters, and then send you a free coaster with each order!). Use it to remove the background from an image. If you want you can then assign a background color as I have done here.
The background removal tool is part of paid Canva only. But check this out … you can use this design tool for free on the Sticker Mule website and then download the photos for your own use! They also have a free tool to increase and enhance the resolution of an image by 8x. Both can be found on their website… just scroll to the footer where it says “TOOLS.”
That’s right, I just gave you a free tool to use however you want to remove the backgrounds from images. You’re welcome.
Are you gathering yet that I really like Sticker Mule? Well, check this out, you can get $10 off your first order with the link below!
Flexible Order Sizes
Sticker Mule offers a ton of options on the number of stickers you want to make. You can order pretty small amounts and set any quantity you want. Unlike with my screen print shop, I definitely get increasing savings with the more stickers I order. If you are buying stickers to sell in large quantities, it can be affordable with decent margins. If you only want to make a few stickers to sell, you’ll want to see if the cost makes it worth it. But, if you just want to make some gifts or something for fun, it’s not too bad to pay $2-$4 a sticker. Make sure you play with quantities and compare.
You can get digitally printed samples if you want to check things out before ordering a bunch too, by ordering 5-10 stickers.
Quick Turn Around Time
Once you settle on your design you can expect a product to be made and delivered within about a week. Great if you need quick turn arounds and need stickers on short notice.
Other Gushing Love for Sticker Mule
So far, their customer service has been great. I had some flaws in some stickers, and they reprinted as many as I said were messed up and sent them back to me. They also run a ton of deals, which you’ll see if you subscribe to their email list. They also save your designs and you can easily apply the image you save to any other number of products, not just stickers.
When it comes to stickers, they offer a ton of options too. Shiny hologram stickers, as I mentioned, customized sticker sheets, cool shipping labels, die cut stickers, clear vinyl stickers, adhesive decals, and window decals and window clings to name only some!
Tip: I make designs ahead of time and then wait for deals to come up to make a set of stickers to test out if people like them. That way I don’t make too many photo stickers or magnets and get stuck with them.
Step 3: Sell Your Stickers!
I hope this gave you a good overview of that way to begin turning your ideas and art into sweet decals and stickers.
It’s pretty easy when you get the hang of it. Honestly, I have more ideas than I execute. It’s much easier to make the stickers to sell than it is to actually get them sold
Once you have your stickers in hand, it’s super easy to set up an Etsy shop. In time, I’ll try to get around to a write-up on how to set up an Etsy shop to sell your stickers, but this should give you plenty to get you going!