Custom decals are a great way to make your car stand out, let your opinion be heard, or advertise your business. Although several retail stores can print and apply custom decals to your vehicle for you, doing it on your own will save you money and have more control over where and how to apply them. When applying custom decals to your car, it is important to be patient. Take your time and pay close attention to small details to create a final product that looks great.
Part 1 of 3: Locate the decal
Step 1. Identify an area of the car to place the decal
Before applying it, you must determine where in the car you want to place it. Doing so is very important for large decals that can be spread over various body components, as you will need to plan the applications that span across the gaps.
Evaluate the area you want to place the decal over and determine if it will fit in that spot
Step 2. Place the decal on the vehicle to measure it
Hold the decal against the vehicle to get a general idea of what it will look like and if it will fit in your chosen area. That will give you an idea of what it will look like and the best place for it.
- Leave the protective backing of the decal so it won't stick as you hold it against the vehicle.
- Make sure the vehicle is dry before pressing the decal and seatback against it.
Step 3. Use a tape measure to center the decal
While you can get a good idea of where you would like the decal by holding it against the vehicle, using a tape measure will help ensure that it is located properly.
- If you are putting identical decals on both sides, make sure they are placed the same distance from at least three points on the car's body to match the location on either side.
- Measure the distance from things like the trunk lid, door, or window.
Step 4. Use pieces of masking tape to mark the location
Once you have measured exactly where you want the decal to sit, tear off small pieces of masking tape and place them at each corner where you will apply the decal.
- The masking tape will serve as a guide when you start applying the decal.
- It will not damage the paint of the vehicle.
Part 2 of 3: Prepare the car for the application
Step 1. Clean the area
Once you've determined where to place the decal, use a soft cloth and mild cleaner on the surface of the car. Rubbing alcohol will clean the area well and evaporate quickly, making it the most common choice.
- Don't just spray the cleaner on your car or it could soak up the masking tape you used as a guide.
- Apply cleaner to a cloth and wipe where the decal sticks to the car.
Step 2. Do not use any cleaner that leaves a film or oil on the car
Some cleaners, such as Windex brand, or spray cleaning waxes, leave a residue that helps maintain shine. That residue will prevent the decal from sticking properly to the vehicle.
- Rubbing alcohol or basic car cleaning detergent will clean the area adequately enough.
- Make sure to rinse the area well if you are using car wash detergent.
Step 3. Allow the cleaned area to dry completely
Decals won't stick as well to a wet surface, so blot the area you've cleaned with a cloth or allow it to air dry completely before continuing. If you choose to use a cloth, use a suede cloth to avoid damaging the paint.
Wait for the surface to be completely dry before applying the decal
Step 4. Detach the beginning of the backing
Depending on the size of the decal, you can choose to remove the entire backing or just a portion of it at a time. If the decal is larger than your forearm, you can peel off the backing in three parts to make the application more manageable.
- For decals that are only a few inches long, you can remove the backing completely.
- If you're using larger decals, such as those that stretch the entire length of the vehicle, just peel off the backrest a little at a time.
Part 3 of 3: Apply the decal
Step 1. Apply the corner of the exposed decal to the car
Use the masking tape on the car as a guide as you begin to apply the corner of the decal to the vehicle. Press the corner firmly onto the vehicle, then use a straight edge tool such as a credit card to press further on the decal in a controlled manner.
- Keep the decal stretched while pressing it on the vehicle to prevent bubbles from appearing.
- Using a straight edge tool will allow you to make sure to apply pressure to the entire decal, forcing out small bubbles.
Step 2. Peel off the backrest as you go
As you apply more decal to the vehicle, peel more of the backrest to reveal more of it. Peel it off a few inches at a time to make sure you keep the decal straight as you apply it without worrying about the other parts sticking together.
Continue to apply the decal to the car as you peel off more of the seatback as you go
Step 3. Leave the transfer tape on the decal while it dries in place
Although you can remove the transfer tape immediately by pressing the decal onto the car, it is best to let it dry for a moment. Waiting 30 minutes will make it easier for you to remove the transfer tape and reduce the chances of removing any part of the sticker with it.
- Letting the decal stick in direct sunlight will make removing the transfer tape easier.
- Don't try to speed up the process by using a heat source like a hair dryer, as it could melt the decal.
Step 4. Peel off the transfer tape
After about thirty minutes, remove the transfer tape starting at one corner. Peel back the masking tape slowly, while at the same time looking at any areas of the sticker that are being peeled off again by the transfer tape. If the decal starts to peel off with the masking tape, press them back into place firmly and begin peeling the tape from another angle.
- Be careful not to tear the decal as you remove the transfer tape.
- Steady and slow movements are the best way to avoid damaging the decal.
Step 5. Use a credit card to squash any bubbles
With the transfer tape removed, you will be able to see the decal on the vehicle. It is normal for there to be some bubbles on the decal from that point. Some of those bubbles are easy to remove by pressing a credit card or other flat tool onto the decal and pushing the bubbles to the edge.
- Be careful not to press a sharp edge on the decal or it could tear.
- Small bubbles will disappear on their own in the first few days.