The Clear Picture on Custom Window Decals

By Kevin Crimmins

The Clear Picture on Custom Window Decals

From windshields to storefronts, windows present prime opportunities for labels, stickers, and signs. Windows draw the eye naturally — we want to see what’s inside or outside. As light streams in or out, it brings window-based labels and signs to life.

Window stickers, decals, and clings are popular and convenient for applying graphics and messages to glass. Car dealerships and mechanic shops often use window clings to remind drivers of their next tune-up. We might place window decals on our rear windshields as alternatives to bumper stickers. Retailers use window stickers on their glass doors and windows to advertise sales, promote new products, and list their hours.

Let’s explore how these things work, what they’re good for, and what you need to know about ordering, printing, and applying custom window decals.

What Are the Options?


Labels that adhere to smooth surfaces without adhesive are often called “window clings” or “static clings”. But static has little — if anything — to do with keeping window clings in place. Surface tension is actually doing most of the heavy lifting. Think of a window cling as a very flat suction cup.

Window clings are made from thin, flexible vinyl. Clings might be translucent (you can see through them), opaque (they block light), or a combination of both.


A wide array of available adhesives can be used to hold labels (or stickers, or decals) to glass. You may think of an item as a cling and perhaps you even have some examples in mind of clings that you admire. You might be surprised to learn that they are not clings at all, but instead are adhesive-backed labels that just happen to have been applied to glass.

What Questions Should You Expect From Your Label Printer?

A good label printer will always want to make sure you get the most suitable label for the job and your budget. So be prepared for questions with any label order. When it comes to ordering custom window decals, your label printer may ask you:

Are You Aware of Your Other Options?

Window clings are low-impact. Without adhesive, they don’t leave behind sticky residue, and they’re easy to reposition. But they’re not the only option for installing signs and stickers on glass, and they may not be the best option for your use case.

Tip: Clean a glass surface with isopropyl alcohol before applying any kind of window decal, whether a window cling or a window sticker.

Some types of adhesive labels offer many of the same characteristics as window clings, such as translucency and front and back imagery. These might be a better choice if permanency or semi-permanency is important to you.

Window clings may not be the best fit for environments where they will be exposed to outdoor environments or contaminants. Adhesive-backed labels may have better durability in more demanding environments. But, if the application requires that the window decal be removed and replaced or re-applied, especially if that is expected frequently, then some adhesives will be out of the question and maybe a cling will be the best solution.

Should the Image Be Visible From One Side or Both?

To protect them from the elements, window decals are often applied to the interior side of a glass window or door. If you want the text or imagery on your label visible from the exterior side of the glass, your printer will print on its “air-facing” side in reverse and leave the glass-facing side clear.

It’s also possible to print custom window decals so that different text or imagery is viewable from opposite sides of the glass. Think, for example, of a “push/pull” sign on a glass door. Printers achieve this double-sided effect with a layered approach printed onto one or several layers of material:

  • Layer 1: The glass-facing imagery or text (“Push”), in reverse.
  • Layer 2: An opaque background.
  • Layer 3: The air-facing imagery or text (“Pull”).
  • Layer 4: A topcoat of varnish or clear film, to protect the printed image.

Will Your Labels Be Exposed to Sunlight?

Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause certain inks to fade. If your window decals will be in the sun, be sure to mention it to your label printer. They should be able to help you choose inks that will resist discoloration from excessive sunlight.

Ordering Labels Is a Conversation

To ensure your window decals (whether they’re a non-adhesive cling or an adhesive sticker) fulfill their purpose and survive their environments, it’s best to seek out the advice of an experienced label printer. Prepare for your label printing discussions with your free copy of “Custom Label Buying Guide: An Inside View of What Makes a Great Label.”

Download our FREE Label Buying Guide

Tags: Industrial & Automotive Labels, Understanding Labels