Polyurethane or Polycrylic Over Vinyl Decal

It’s essential to use a sealant over your vinyl decal to keep it from being buffeted by the harsh effects of the weather. This helps hold it in place and preserves the item’s quality.

Polyurethane and polycrilic are the two most popular options for sealing your vinyl decals, but most people don’t know the differences between the two. This makes it challenging to choose which one to use in your space.

Below, we take you through the pros and cons of each, as well as which environment each works best in. This should help you make an informed decision about the sealant you use.

What this article covers:

What Is Polyurethane?

how to apply polycrylic over vinyl decals

Before deciding which sealant is best for your situation, you should understand what they are. So what is polyurethane?

Polyurethane comes in two variants: water-based and oil-based. The oil-based variant is the more popular option because it’s more durable and can be used on interior and exterior vinyl decals. It’s also water-resistant, meaning if you seal a vinyl decal with this variant, it won’t be ruined if you accidentally splash some water on it.

Water-based polyurethane is also a popular choice, though. The main reason for this is that the smell is less pungent. It’s also fast-drying while being easy and quick to use. If you want to apply a vinyl decal in a hurry, or you’re only planning on having it displayed temporarily, water-based polyurethane is the way to go.

What Is Polycrylic?

Polycrylic is known for being a great, reliable sealant. Unlike polyurethane, this option only comes in a water-based variant.

Despite this, many still see it as reliable for outdoor projects. It offers a stunning finish on wood projects, but can be used on a variety of other materials as well.

Polycrylic is available in two application methods, giving you more flexibility to choose how you want to apply your sealant over your vinyl decal. You can get aerosol or spray-on polycrylic, as well as roll-on polycrylic.

These options make polycrylic the easier sealant to apply over vinyl decals. To not obscure the graphic or text of the vinyl beneath, you want a thin layer of sealant over your decal. Spray-on polycrylic sealant is a great method for achieving this and it’s easy to do yourself, so there’s no extra cost of hiring someone to do it for you.

can you polyurethane over vinyl decals

Roll-on polycrylic works like any other varnish or sealant and is available in large cans. This makes it perfect for big projects. 

It also comes in a larger variety of colors than polyurethane, making it an attractive option for crafters. Additionally, it’s available in different finishes. This means you can choose if you want a matte, satin, or sheen finish over your decal. In the highly competitive battle to win a customer’s attention, having access to these tools can make the world of difference for a store owner.

Let’s go over how to protect your vinyl decals

Using Different Sealant

One of the most important things to consider when applying polycrylic over your vinyl decal is its consistency. It’s a water-based solution, so it’s thinner and runnier than you might expect. If you don’t apply it properly, you run the risk of leaving streaks behind. 

Polycrylic is best applied with a high-quality synthetic brush. Using a brush with super soft, fine bristles gives you the best results and lowers the chances of lines left from the bristles showing up in the finished product. 

Some people apply polycrylic with a roller, but we don’t recommend it. It can leave you with air bubbles underneath your sealant because the roller doesn’t always make contact with the vinyl decal. This is especially true if your decal isn’t on a completely smooth surface. 

can i use polycrylic over vinyl decals

Rollers also increase the chance of streaking and the layer of sealant tends to be too thick, increasing the chance that the decal peels away from the wall or window.

How to Apply Polycrylic Over Vinyl Decal

Here’s how you can eliminate streaks with a soft, synthetic brush:

  • The first step is to make sure there’s enough ventilation in the room. Polycrylic doesn’t have a strong smell, but it’s still a chemical you shouldn’t be breathing in.
  • Next, you need to clean the area you’re applying the polycrylic to with soap and water. For more information on this process, see how to clean your vinyl decals. If you’re applying it to wood, you can lightly sand the area to get rid of any bumps.
  • Vacuum the area after cleaning it. This gets rid of any small particles from sanding or cleaning that could give your sealant texture you don’t want.
  • Now you’re going to open your tin of polycrylic. Be careful not to shake it, because this could lead to air bubbles which contribute to streaking. 
  • Then, wet your paintbrush before dipping it into the polycrylic. Don’t wipe your brush on the side of the tin to get rid of excess sealant; rather let it drip off back into the tin. 
  • Apply the polycrylic over your decal using light strokes. Work on one small area at a time as it dries quickly.
  • Allow your first coat to dry for two hours before applying your final coat.

Polycrylic Pros

  • It’s not time-consuming to apply because of its quick drying time.
  • The formula is odorless, making the application less painful. It’s a great option to keep your custom vinyl wall decals in pristine condition on your walls.

polyurethane over vinyl decal

  • Polycrylic is the cheaper option when compared with polyurethane.
  • It’s versatile, being available in a variety of finishes such as matte, semi-gloss, and high-gloss.

Polycrylic Cons

  • It’s quite complicated to apply polycrylic correctly.
  • Polycrylic is only available in a water-based formula, meaning it’s not suitable for outdoor projects that will be exposed to the natural elements.
  • It doesn’t create as strong a barrier as polyurethane does, so it’s not as durable.

How to Apply Polyurethane Over Vinyl Decal

  • First, prepare the surface you’re coating, and ensure there’s sufficient ventilation if you’re applying it in an inside space.
  • We recommend washing the surface with soap and water, or sanding it down and vacuuming it as described above. This is an important step in keeping your vinyl wall decals from peeling. Although you’ll be using a different product, you still want the area to be clean to ensure no bubbles or texture in your sealant layer.
  • Next, open your tin of product. Be careful not to shake it, or you’ll be wondering why your vinyl is bubbling. Instead, stir it gently once you’ve opened it.
  • Apply it with a synthetic, fine-bristled brush. Apply thin coats in bright light, so that you can see any imperfections and fix them before the substance dries.

polycrylic or polyurethane over vinyl decal

Polyurethane Pros

  • It comes in water-based and oil-based formulas. This means you can choose which is best for you. If you’re using it outdoors, oil-based is best. If you’re using it inside, water-based is perfect.
  • Polyurethane is highly resistant to external factors such as weather. This makes it a good choice for outdoor projects, as well as homes where sticky hands are present!
  • It’s more durable than polycrylic sealant because it’s available in an oil-based formula. This makes it more resistant to scratches and general wear-and-tear.
  • It’s versatile, being available in many finishes. You can choose between matte, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss.

Polyurethane Cons

  • Polyurethane takes much longer to dry than polycrylic sealant.
  • This means the application process takes much longer because you have to wait for the coat to dry before applying another one.
  • This product has a strong smell, and the fumes can be toxic. It’s very important to ensure adequate ventilation when using it.
  • It’s more expensive than other options due to its extended durability.

can you polyurethane over your vinyl decals


If you’re looking for a definitive conclusion on which is a better option between polyurethane and polycrilic sealant for your vinyl decal, we’re sorry to tell you there’s no single answer. The upside of that is that both are good options, depending on what you want to do.

Whether you’re quickly slapping up a sticker on an interior wall or planning a large storefront display on a public walkway, there’s an option for you. Provided you know how to get the sticky residue off your decal, sealant is a great way to keep your decal looking as good as new.

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