How to Clear Coat Over Vinyl Decals

Although we don’t make decals for cars, we are often approached with the question of how to clear coat over vinyl decals. There are many important factors to consider when deciding to clear coat or not to clear coat.

You may cause long-term damage to your decals or your car. It may be something that sounds like a good idea but actually has some disadvantages. It might even be the perfect answer for all your personal requirements.

First, however, it’s essential to ask yourself why you would want to clear coat your decals in the first place. For your specific situation, is a clear coat even necessary?

At Coastal Creative, we specialize in custom vinyl wall decals. If you want more information, take a look at our blog.

What this article covers:

Why Choose to Clear Coat Your Decals

how to clear coat over vinyl decal

When a decal is constantly exposed to the elements, wear and tear will occur naturally over time. Some believe that by adding a clear coat, you can make the vinyl look new for longer. There are some situations in which this is the case.

Your vehicle may be out in very harsh conditions such as thick mud or desert sand. These elements can speed up the damage caused to your decals. In this case, a clear coat makes sense to extend the life span of your decals.

You may have decals with very fine, sharp details that may repeatedly catch on things like cleaning rags. By using a clear coat on those detailed spots, you can prevent that damage from occurring.

Your car is going to be power washed regularly. The strength of the water coming from a power washer can easily and quickly lift the corners of your decals. This will look unsightly very quickly and therefore, a clear coat will help.

Decals and a good clear coat are much more affordable than a fully custom paint job. Custom paint can be extremely expensive and often out of reach for amateur enthusiasts. Full-size decals are quick, easy, and much cheaper.

There are those in the industry that believe that clear coating a vinyl decal will only cause more problems in the long run. So can you polyurethane over vinyl decals?

Why You Shouldn’t Clear Coat Your Decals

Most car decals these days are printed on high-quality, long-lasting vinyl that is built to withstand day-to-day damage from sunshine and rain. This and the following reasons are important to consider before even touching the clear coat.

Unless you paint only the sticker, you are bound to get a clear coat on the car which can interfere with the body paint. The clear coat may drip or run, and it can develop bubbles that can completely ruin the car’s overall aesthetic. 

how you should clear coat over vinyl decal

The clear coat will get damaged eventually and will be extremely difficult to remove without destroying the decal underneath. You may delay the inevitable damage, but vinyl decal repair will be so much harder with a rock-hard seal over the decal.

At least when the decal gets damaged you can peel it off and replace it, but when there’s paint over the top you may cause all sorts of damage to the car underneath when you try to remove it. The decal by itself will look much cleaner and will be easy to repair.

Many vinyl decals are quite thick and may never look like they are part of the paint job. The edges might look very obvious. This can ruin the overall sleek appearance of the car.

If you want to know more about how to protect vinyl decals, check out our blog.

How to Clear Coat Decals

As long as you understand how difficult it will be to remove or repair, and you feel that your need for a clear coat is still valid, we have a couple of tips for you.

Some clear coats will smear your decal. Always run a test first using a few different clear coats and a test decal. This will help you to pick the right clear coat without causing permanent damage to your car’s surface.

It’s also important to ensure that the clear coat you pick doesn’t have any weird reactions with the vinyl material or the adhesive used for the decal before you stick it down. Some clear coats won’t even stick to the glossy laminate on some vinyl decals.

Using an airbrush allows for soft, thin layers that you can build up bit by bit. By starting slowly with very thin layers, you can prevent any paint from slipping behind the decal and curling the edges.

If you want to know how to get wrinkles out of vinyl decals, take a look at the Coastal Creative blog.

how you should clear coat over vinyl decals


We can’t tell you what to do, but we know a thing or two about vinyl decals and how to look after them. We hope we’ve explained how and why clear coating a vinyl decal on your car could cause you problems in the long run.

While we completely understand that you want to do everything you can to keep your decals safe and stop them from aging prematurely, there are other ways to do it that won’t mess with the integrity of the vinyl and the paint on your car.

We want your decals to look as great as you do, but a clear coat just isn’t the way to go about it. Consider any of the other methods to seal and protect your vinyl decal before you slap a clear coat on it.

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