Sticker Vendor Review

September 16, 2020Missy

I’d say about 80% of my reputation stems from my love for designing stickers. If you aren’t unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, you can check out my sticker shop here. It’s not uncommon for people to approach me about who my preferred sticker vendor is when they decide to print their own, and honestly, thats not an easy question to answer. There are just so many variables. As with most projects people ask me about, I start with a list of questions.

  • What kind of stickers are you trying to print?
  • What is your timeline?
  • What is the size and quantity of the stickers you need?
  • What’s your budget?

I’m pretty sure I found all my vendors at one point or another, from either a google search, or a paid advertisement that I’d seen on Facebook or Instagram. I will say the BEST thing you can do, is order sample packs. Often they are free, or minimal cost, and it truly helps manage expectations of the material. Luckily, there has only been one time that I got something I didn’t expect, and it was due to my lack of research.

I have a few favorite vendors, each with their individual strengths. In order to organize my review, I am going to to go with the “Four Weddings” rating approach. If you have seen the show, you know I have a list of qualities for which each vendor is rated. I will be reviewing these mostly based on a matte vinyl sticker, as that’s what most people are looking for. There are so many material options on each site, but I’ve had the most experience with vinyl, and this allows a “control”.

Rating System for each – 10 points possible
1. Quality of Product
2. ProductionTiming
3. Proofing Process
4. Price
5. Variety of Substrates
6. Custom Service
7. Shipping Experience

 

First up: StickerApp.com

Here’s a link to their Sample Pack- $2, but worth it.

1. Quality of Product – 6 – The main reason I docked them is because don’t have a good matte sticker option. Well, technically they do have a “matte sticker”, but its uncoated, so it isn’t weather resistant. The last couple times when I opened first these, I noticed I could see the burnt edges of the laser (this is no bueno for me). Honestly, this wouldn’t have bothered me if I didn’t know that my other printers don’t have this same tendency. I’ve also had a handful of instances where the white “padding” around the design gets cut uneven. They usually print a few extra though, so I can pull the uneven ones out. Sticker App’s holographic stickers are totally awesome, though (and all their stickers have a crack back *drool*).

2. Production Timing – 6 – Honestly, I don’t remember them taking super long, but I also don’t remember them being super quick. And there’s no way for me to look through my emails for a reference because you don’t get notification when they ship – so no tracking numbers. It’s a complete surprise when they show up (which if fine in quarantine time, but was bad when people actually wanted them for conferences).

3. Proofing Process – 10 – This is where SA is a true shinging star and could lead the rest of the industry by example. After you upload your design (.ai files work perfectly), you get an IMMEDIATE proof. You don’t even have to waste time putting on that “sticker padding” around the edge. You can change the material or the size, and see instant updates on price. This makes it super easy to compromise between sizes and your budget if you’re toggling between variables.

So let’s say your budget was $21, the minimum you must spend on a design. You can see here (comparing the two images) that the quantity you’d get for that $21, but it’s been adjusted because I made the size smaller- this updates instantly. Just try it. Trust me, it’s magnificent.

4. Price – 8 – I’d say their pricing is right in the middle. Not as cheap as some site with sales, but to get a 3″ sticker for less than $1 each is great! It just goes back to remembering- this is a gloss vinyl, not the matte you often see.

5. Variety of Substrates – 8 – I docked a few points because I’m constantly in disbelief of lack of matte vinyl, considering its industry standard. But honestly all of their other substrates that I’ve ordered are top notch! I’ve even ordered the Kraft paper, for little accent stickers that I put on envelopes and mail out. Its not coated but its so unique, and was inexpensive!

6. Custom Service – 8 – I had an instance where my tiny Kraft stickers came printed uneven, and they were replaced with no hassle (I even got to keep the defective ones). They helped me figure out the best way to re-print them to make sure I was getting the quality I expected. The only downfall was that I had to wait a few weeks again, but luckily I wasn’t on any timeline. I also docked a point because there isn’t a phone number listed- you have to wait for an email of you reach out for a request. For most instances, that’s fine though. Its rare I have a real sticker emergency.

7. Shipping Experience – 7 – A few points gone because of the lack of tracking. But generally as long as things show up fairly quick and unharmed, I’m happy.

Notes– One other unique experience about StickerApp is that each order gets an order number printed on the packaging with instruction to easily re-order. This way if you send the stickers directly to a client, they can easily re-order their own when they run out. Obviously if you are the designer for a client and you want to mark up the stickers in price, you’ll want to avoid drop shipping them so you can take off those re-order directions. Personally, I love enabling the client to re-order their own stickers. Often the mark up of the stickers is barely worth my time if I’m not getting paid design time on top of it.

Total Points: 53 out of 70

 

Next up: VinylDisorder.com

Link to Sample Stickers, (free,  but you have to request each material separately)

1. Quality of Product – 10 – A simple reminder that the exact product I’m reviewing is just the matte vinyl sticker. This quality is exactly what I was looking for. A soft, matte finish, with even spacing around the outside.

2. Production Timing – 7 – In their defense, I have only been ordering them from since Covid. I actually found this company because my original vendor stopped making stickers during the original 2 month lockdown. It used to take me 3ish weeks to get them, but my last order was down to about two. It just feels longer like a longer wait, because it can take a few days to get a proof if you want one. The biggest struggle I have is there’s no to rush print with them. It seems to take just over a week for production, which isn’t bad, but when I’m working on a project with a large company, sometimes time is more important than budget. I’m also often asked about shipping updates and its hard to tell someone “I don’t have one”.

3. Proofing Process – 7 – You can request a proof for any order, although it can take a few days to come through. They are great with changes, but this does prolong the process a bit if it isn’t right the first time. I’ve never had a problem with their proof, its usually just me realizing something needed adjusted with the artwork that was completely my fault. Its just the fact you’re actually talking to a person and waiting for a response that takes a little longer.

Here’s a sample of a proof I recently got. The last sticker was a holographic one, so it views a little differently. 

4. Price – 9 – Their prices are actually super great! Granted, they’ve had a “sale” on 3 inch stickers for the last few months since I have been printing with them, and I have taken full advantage! This is also where I get my sticker sheets printed, because they are substantially less expensive than elsewhere.

5. Variety of Substrates – 9 – I have mainly been using them for the matte, weatherproof vinyl, but they do have a lot of other options (I requested samples of about 10+ different materials when I first started, I just haven’t ordered any others.)

6. Custom Service – 9 – I’ve had client specific questions and I have talked to a human with no effort every time (I think there’s one prompt that you listen through when you call). And I can’t speak for how they resolve issues, because I haven’t had any.

7. Shipping Experience – 7 – While I haven’t had any real issues with their shipping, I’m always a little skeptical when my hundreds of sticker sheets show up on in a beaten cardboard envelope (the stickers have been fine, the envelope is just a little destroyed at times). I do get a shipping notification from stamps.com when they ship, but it doesn’t update very quickly and I’ve actually worried that I’ve lost some in the mail, when tracking said they were in California for over a week. I know that this shouldn’t reflect on the vendor, but it does influence the ordering process.

Note: I can’t say enough great things about their sticker sheets. If you ever need to order kiss cut sticker sheets, you have to be careful with some vendors that have minimum sticker sizes and minimum space between. I have personally one into this and it can really make or break your design. This is the only printer I trust with my sticker sheets!

Total Points: 58 out of 70

 

Finally, StickerMule

Link to Samples (but sign up under the link above first, and we will both earn $10 off)

StickerMule has become pretty much the “industry standard” for sticker expectations. They were the first company I ordered stickers from, and I remember them being a very small company. In the past few years they have grown very quickly- this has both pros and cons. I have noticed you need to watch your proofs more closely now, but it has not effected quality or turn around time.

1. Quality of Product – 10 – StickerMule is the sticker OG in my eyes. Honestly, there’s a crazy following of SM. As mentioned before, they have set the standard of quality. (Although if you read this, StickerMule, how about a crack back?)

2. Production Timing – 10 – This is the main reason I keep coming back to SM. There are places I can save a few bucks, but I almost always get my deliveries in less than two weeks without paying for rush. If I do pay for rush, I’ve paid for the slowest form of rush and they get here in about a week (or 5 business days). I rarely have to do this, other than around the holidays when I plan poorly.

3. Proofing Process – 9 – I only docked a point because I love StickerApp’s process more. You usually get your proof in less than a few hours (unless you purchase doing a sale and they’re overwhelmed), and it’s an easy process, even for non-designers. I’ve had friends hand draw designs and use SM to print them, and even they are shocked with how easy it was. I think StickerMule will even draw your die-line around the outside, if you need them to. I’m just too much of a control freak to let someone else do that.

4. Price – 8 – Their pricing is decent. Its best if you can hit a sale, but not everyone always has time for that. But if you need a lot, the more you spend, the cheaper it gets per sticker. If it wasn’t for the “Custom Samples“, I’d probably dock another point. When you order custom samples, you can order 10 for $9, and I love the fact you can sample a design for cheaper than you can eat out.

5. Variety of Substrates – 8 – This is really where StickerMule has room for tiny bit of room for improvement. Granted, I’m all about sticking to what you’re really good at, but they have ventured to try a few things (like acrylic charms), where I think they could benefit by adding a few other sticker materials (like glow in the dark), or add crack back to their designs. I also think I hold them to a bit of a different standard because I know they are a huge company.

6. Custom Service – 9 – I have had pretty good luck with their customer service. I did have quite a “run around” about holographic sticker that I couldn’t get to proof correctly. It was only black and white color, but I had an extensive conversation, and after multiple order attempts and a handful of proofs, they finally told me “it needs to be vector”. I had drawn it on ProCreate, and I just didn’t realize the restrictions that don’t seem to have been printed anywhere. Of course after I figured that out, it was actually a fairly easy fix.

7. Shipping Experience – 10 – They send the stickers in either a nicely branded bubble envelope, or a box, and its sent via UPS, who has some of the best tracking, and the package arrives barely touched. (Those USPS deliveries look like they’ve seen “some things”, ya know?)

Total Points: 64 out of 70

 

So now that I’ve completely overwhelmed you with information, let me simplify it. If you’re not a designer, or you’re on a tight timeline, I’d suggest StickerMule. The website interface is more “user friendly” and shipping is quickest.

If you ever need a material that isn’t matte vinyl, and you’re not on a strict timeline, I’d suggest StickerApp.

If you are a designer, and comfortable with a more “technical” interface, I’d suggest trying VinylDisorder. They will always be my number one for kiss cut sticker sheets, but the interface can be intimidating.

They all have their strengths, and I will likely always shuffle between the three depending on my needs.

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