De-Mystifying Decals: Transparent, Translucent, Opaque, Oh My!

Example of vinyl graphics on a boat

Well, they may not be lions and tigers and bears, but the background choices for custom decals can be just as overwhelming! Ordering decals for a window, wall, vehicle, or any other surface, can be tricky, especially if you are unsure of the terminology used in the sign industry. So, we are going to de-mystify decals for you! After these brief, but informative, explanations, you'll be a pro at ordering custom decals for all of your creative sign projects.

Here are decals "de-mystified":

  • An example of custom transparent decal Decals with a clear/transparent background – The terms "clear" and "transparent" are used interchangeably. They both mean that the backgrounds of the vinyl decals are completely "see through". Careful: when you order "clear vinyl decals", you will receive a clear square or rectangular shaped decal with with your design printed on it. If you were to put that decal on a colored surface, you could clearly see the surface through the square or rectangle around the design. If you'd like a decal with no background at all, clear is not the best choice – contour cut would be.
  • Contour cut window decal Contour-cut decals – To achieve decals with no frame, order "contour cut" vinyl decals. These decals are custom cut into the unique shape of your design – not a square or rectangle. Whether it's a logo, graphic or photograph, the decals are mechanically cut, or "plotted", to the precise outline of the artwork, leaving no trace of a background at all. Contour cut decals are a bit more expensive because of the labor involved, but they are quite attractive…and very impressive.
  • Translucent decal on a lighted sign Decals with a translucent background – "Clear" and "transparent" may be interchangeable, but "translucent" means something else entirely! Translucent vinyl allows light to shine through, giving the design a glow, but the surface below it is not clearly visible through the vinyl. In other words, decals printed on translucent vinyl are not completely "see through" – the rectangular background around your design will have a hazy, frosted effect that light can shine through. This application is perfect for lighted signs. Putting a translucent decal over a backlit sign face allows the light beneath it to illuminate the design and make it more visible, particularly at night.
  • Example of opaque decals Decals with a solid/opaque background – Vinyl that is not "transparent" or "translucent" is opaque – meaning no light is permitted through at all. If you place the square or rectangular decal on a solid color surface, you would not be able to see the underlying surface, only the solid color background of the decal itself.

Crystal clear, right? The more knowledgeable you are about vinyl decals, possible backgrounds, and specific applications when placing your order, the more likely you are to receive exactly what you envision. Understanding these terms will ensure your complete satisfaction with your order!

If you've got questions about creating custom signs, has got answers! We're the only online sign company always ready to answer all your sign questions. Call us directly at [[TechSupport]] or click here to chat with us right now.

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