Two Common Ways to Install Decals: A Simple Guide

Hand using yellow squeegee to apply a circular wall decal that says Jared's Garage.

By: Naomi J. Myrick, Staff Writer

Whether you are about to paint a room, hang a picture or apply a custom vinyl decal, the first thing you should do is figure out the best method to use. 

There are two methods of vinyl decal installation: wet installation and dry installation. 

I’ve put together this short guide to teach you how to easily use each of these methods. 

Let’s go!

Preparing for Your Vinyl Decal Install

The best way to camp in the mountains, fly an airplane or simply install a vinyl decal is to be prepared, so we strongly suggest keeping these four things in mind when preparing for either vinyl decal application method.

1. Texture

Surface texture is key when choosing where to put your vinyl decal. Our vinyl decals work best when applied to smooth, non-porous surfaces like glass, plastic, painted drywall, stainless steel and tile. We do not recommend placing our decals on brick, cement, or other porous, rough surfaces.

2. Temperature

Room temperature or 60 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature margin for vinyl decal application. Keep this in mind when applying car decals in a garage or outdoors.

3. Tools - Dry Install

These are the tools you will need for dry installation:

  • Light cleaning solution, we recommend warm soapy water.
  • Paper Towels
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Tape Measure
  • Squeegee, credit card or small, flat, hard edged object.

4. Tools - Wet Install

  • Light cleaning solution, we recommend warm soapy water.
  • Paper Towels or dry cloth
  • Squeegee, credit card or small, flat, hard edged object.

How To Install a Vinyl Decal - Dry Install

Step One: Clean & Dry Surface

Clean the intended surface  with a light cleaning agent, like warm soapy water or rubbing alcohol. Using an absorbent paper towel, dry off the surface, and be sure not to leave any paper bits behind. 

Step Two: Tape Decal to Surface

Next, grab your masking tape and use it as a temporary adhesive to hold the decal in place, kind of like a decal seatbelt. 

Step Three: Level & Measure Decal

Once you have the decal secured to the intended surface, using a line of text as a place to measure from, level off the decal.

Step Four: Peel & Cut Bottom Half of Backing

Peel back and cut off the bottom half of the decal backing. 

Step Five: Apply Decal to the Surface

Using your squeegee, or similar object, press and apply the decal to the intended surface beginning on one side and working your way in a zig-zag pattern to the other side of the decal. Take your time working your way across the decal, otherwise air bubbles can occur.

Step Six: Remove the Tape

Once the decal is smooth and bubble free on the surface, gently remove the masking tape seatbelt. 

Step Seven: Peel & Remove Top Half of Backing

Carefully peel off the top half of the decal backing.

Step Eight: Press and Apply

Using your squeegee or similar flat edged object, press and use pressure to slowly apply the decal to the surface with the same zig-zag motion as before. Take your time to avoid air bubbles. You are now done with your dry decal installation!

How To Install a Vinyl Decal - Wet Install

Step One: Clean the Surface

Use a light household cleaning agent, like warm soapy water or rubbing alcohol to thoroughly clean the surface. Clear away any cleaner residue or debris with a dry cloth. Debris can weaken the adhesive, so make triple sure you don’t have any clinging to your surface. 

Step Two: Spray & Apply Decal

Prior to peeling away the decal backing, spray the surface with light soapy water or glass cleaner.

Step Three: Squeegee Out the Liquid

Use your adorable yellow squeegee, or small, flat, hard edged object, to squeeze out any excess moisture. The best way to do this is to start in the middle of the decal and move toward the outer edges, using the squeegee tool to work out the liquid from behind the decal. 

Step Four: Wipe Away Liquid & Dry Surface

Wipe away the liquid from around the decal and make sure the surface is dry. You are now done with the wet install application!

Please share if you found this helpful! Taking your time with the application process as well as using the right tools, will result in a well-applied, great looking decal. Enjoy!