How to Put Vinyl Decal on Curved Surface

Curved surfaces like utensil canisters, mugs, tumblers, and laptops can be tricky when it comes to applying vinyl decals. If not done correctly, your decal could end up looking wrinkled or bubbled. This is because vinyl is a pretty stiff material. However, with a little patience and the right technique, you can achieve a smooth, bubble-free finish.

In this article, we provide a step-by-step guide on how to apply a vinyl decal to a curved surface.

Things You Need

To start, you need the following materials:

  • Vinyl decal
  • Scissors
  • Weeding tool
  • Transfer tape
  • Squeegee or credit card
  • Burnishing tool

Just like when creating custom vinyl wall decals, you need to know that not all types of vinyl will work for this project. You want to use a thinner vinyl that has some give to it, such as Oracal®651 Permanent Vinyl. This will make the weeding process much easier and prevent your decal from becoming too stiff.

ow to apply vinyl decal to round surface

Step One: Prepare the Curved Surface

You can’t just put a vinyl decal on any curved surface and expect it to stick. The surface needs to be clean, dry, and smooth. Any dirt, dust, or grease prevents the adhesive from making a strong bond.

Use a lint-free cloth to wipe down the area where you’re applying the decal. If there are any stubborn marks, you can use a mild cleaning solution, such as dish soap and water. Just be sure to rinse the area thoroughly and allow it to dry completely.

Step Two: Cut Out the Decal

The first step is to cut out your design using scissors or a cutting machine. If you’re using a cutting machine, we recommend using the kiss-cut setting. This ensures that your decal remains attached to the backing paper and makes it much easier to handle.

Once your design is cut out, use a weeding tool to remove any excess vinyl from around your design. Be sure to weed away any small details or negative space. This is one of the most important things you should also remember when applying vinyl decals to glass or installing perforated window decals.

how to apply vinyl decal to curved surface

Step Three: Apply Transfer Tape

After your design is cut out and weeded, it’s time to apply the transfer tape. This step can be a little tricky, so be sure to take your time. If you rush, you could end up with wrinkles or bubbles in your decal.

Start by peeling away a corner of the backing paper. Slowly remove the paper, being careful not to disturb the vinyl. If your design is large or complex, it may be helpful to use a scraper tool to keep the vinyl in place.

Once the entire design is removed from the backing paper, gently lay it down on the transfer tape. Use a squeegee or credit card to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles. This step is also important when applying vinyl decals to canvas.

Step Four: Cut Excess Tape

Once your design is securely attached to the transfer tape, you can trim away any excess tape. You want to leave a small border of tape around the design so that you can easily grip it when applying it to the surface.

Step Five: Apply the Decal to the Curved Surface

Now, it is time to apply your decal to the surface. Start by peeling back the decal slightly, then place it on the surface. Once the decal is in the desired position, slowly start smoothing it out from the center moving towards the edges. If you come across any air bubbles, use a paperclip or other sharp object to poke a hole in the bubble and then smooth it out again. If you are applying vinyl decals in cold weather, allow them to dry for a few hours before moving on to the next step.

Step Six: Press the Design into the Surface

After the decal has had time to dry, it’s time to press the design into the surface. 

Start in the center and work your way outwards. Use a hard object such as a credit card or a spatula to really press down on the decal. This will ensure that there are no air bubbles and that the decal is fully stuck to the surface.

applying vinyl decals to curved surfaces

Step Seven: Burnish the Decal

Use a scraper or burnishing tool to go over the decal. This helps set the design into the surface and create a smooth, professional finish.

Step Eight: Remove Transfer Tape

The final step is to remove the transfer tape. Start at a corner and slowly peel it back at a 45-degree angle. If any part of the decal starts to come up with the transfer tape, simply press it back down and continue peeling. Once the entire decal has been removed, stand back and admire your work!

If your vinyl decals won’t stick, you can use a small amount of heat to make them more pliable. Use a hair dryer or heat gun on a low setting and hold it about six inches away from the decal. Move the heat back and forth over the decal until it is warm to the touch. Once the vinyl is heated, apply pressure to the design with your fingers or a squeegee and the decal should adhere to the surface. You can also use a heat press to apply vinyl decals, but this is not necessary for most projects.

There you have it! By following these simple steps, you can easily put a vinyl decal on a curved surface. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with it. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.

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