Stickers are an underappreciated ephemeral art form. While closely related to stamps, stickers have their own unique styles and uses that differ from stamps. While stickers may have evolved from stamps, the first stickers were created by R. Stanton Avery in 1935. Initial uses were mostly utilitarian, but in the 1970s Forest Gill created the first ‘bumper sticker’ to put on the back of your vehicle. The bumper sticker rose in popularity as potential politicians used them to great success every election year. Stickers quickly became a merchandising collectable as companies would put out a series of them for people to collect.
As the cost of production dropped, the sticker became an additional creative outlet for niche communities. Music bands found them as an inexpensive item to provide fans either for free or a small fee. In the late 90s and early 2000s the ubiquitous of the laptop computer, with the large flat real estate of its top cover, just invited people to place stickers on it. The IT/cyber/hacking communities quickly grabbed onto this trend and began producing stickers specifically for people to place on their laptops.
In the 90s costs drove many aspiring designers to produce stickers by photocopying their design onto a standard size sheet of sticky paper and manually cutting the stickers out with a pair of scissors. While crude by today’s standards, it was inexpensive and quick. Production costs have continued to drop and today a few hundred vinyl full color die-cut stickers can be professionally printed for the cost of a mediocre meal.
With ease of ordering, the question becomes where to order your stickers? I was planning on doing a largish run of a set of stickers and decided I should test out the top recommendations. After posing the question on Mastodon, I came away with five contenders. I ordered the same sticker from each vendor or as close as I could get based on the options they offered.
I ordered fifty 2.5 inches square black & white stickers with the cheapest shipping offered from each vendor.
Sticker Robot used to be my go-to sticker supplier. A generally inexpensive and high-quality silkscreened sticker. However, they use a gang run printing process, so lead times can be quite long. Their website quotes 3 to 4 weeks and I was okay with that when I was ordering from them. Until this one time… it took me six weeks to get my order. While I was waiting, I ended up ordering the same sticker from another vendor and had it within a few days. I haven’t gone back to them since. If you don’t mind waiting, Sticker Robot might be a good option for you.
Sticker Mule was my go-to for a long time. Quality stickers, quick turnaround, cheap prices couldn’t get much better. However, I began hearing accusations being levied against the owner that he supported far right political groups, and then just as many denials of that involvement. I don’t know which side is accurate, but decided it was better for me to put my money into a different company. However, for the sake of this comparison, I did a small run with them, anyway.
50 @ $66.78
Sticker Guy came with a few recommendations and I was excited to try them out. However, it looks like the reason they are so inexpensive is partially due to long lead times (possibly due to gang printing like Sticker Robot?) and only printing a few standard sizes. They did not offer a 2.5-inch square in black & white (or if they did, I didn’t see it). I almost didn’t order from them at all but then at the last minute I found the color sticker button and could order 50 color stickers to be printed in Black & White.
50 @ $44.95
Slick website made ordering a breeze. The minimum ordering quantity of 125 seemed rather high. They do have an option to order a sample pack but who wants to wait for a sample. When you need stickers, you need them NOW!. Sticker Giant shipped the stickers in a box as opposed to a simple envelope, but that was likely because of the larger quantity that was ordered.
125 @ 114.72
Sticker App came highly recommended and has a slick easy-to-use website. Sticker App tied with Sticker Mule for fastest shipping, both arriving within a few days of ordering.
50 @ $44.52
One person recommended Vinyl Disorder so I figured why not. Website is very busy and can be a little confusing to the first-time sticker orderer. For example, it says you have quantity 50 stickers in your cart but when you go to checkout, it has changed to quantity 1 because it is one quantity of fifty stickers. Yeah, made no sense.
50 @ $41.90
Sticker Mule tied with Sticker App for fastest shipping arriving within a few days of the order. Sticker Mule shipped from NY and StickerApp from MD to my PA address. Sticker Giant was third to arrive just a few days later after shipping from CO. Vinyl Disorder took about a week and half to arrive after shipping from CA. Sticker Guy took the longest to arrive at over three weeks, shipping from NV. Sticker Mule used a padded envelope while the rest used a cardboard envelope (except for Sticker Giant who used a box). Not sure how much added protection the padded envelope offered but it is definitely not as easily recyclable as the cardboard.
Despite being a simple black and white sticker, there is a wide variety of printing quality among the different vendors. StickerGuy, while acceptable quality, is definitely the worst overall as the black letters on the white background are fuzzy and the black is not very black, almost as if it was printed by an old inkjet printer. The quality of the other four were all very close but I’m gonna give the win to Sticker Giant. The black color really seems to pop a bit more and the lines are just a bit crisper.
I am not a vinyl expert by any means but when I first started ordering stickers one of the places I ordered from touted how their vinyl was tougher than the competition because you couldn’t rip it in half. So I gave them all a rip test, Sticker Guy was the only one to fail. Ripped right in half.
Vinyl Disorder and Sticker Mule seem to have the thickest feeling vinyl but Sticker Giant, while feeling slightly thinner than the other two, has the best overall feel. Yes, this is completely subjective but I feel what I feel.
One other note about vinyl quality. I have ordered tens of thousands of stickers of multiple different designs from Sticker Mule. I have several on my car and old stockpiles of others. This may be an issue with all vinyl but Sticker Mule stickers shrink over time, not a lot, but they do shrink. This can leave a sticky glue border on your car window or a white border of the paper backing showing through. This might happen with all stickers but definitely happens with Sticker Mule.
Both Sticker Giant and Sticker Guy rounded the square corners of my design. I don’t remember if that was specified when I placed the order or not but it was a surprised when I opened the packages. Vinyl Disorder actually shrunk my design and added a small white border around the edge of my sticker. Again, this might have been mentioned during the ordering process, but not something I was expecting when it arrived.
There are a lot of things in this brief experiment I didn’t test for, color accuracy being the primary one. Kiss cut stickers being another one. Each vendor also offers unique features, like back label printing or sticker sheets or something else, none of which this little experiment looked at. Hopefully, though there was some information here that might help you decide which vendor to use without having to place five different orders. I am really surprised that I don’t have a clear-cut winner. Each vendor brings their own strengths. Going into this I really wanted to like Sticker Giant or Sticker App but my results are inconclusive to me so I’m not sure who I will order from.