Bumper Stickers & More: An Introduction to Thermal Printing

How to Create Bumper Stickers for Your Sticker campaigns

For everything from political campaigns to social causes and beyond, cars adorned with bumper stickers are a regular sight across the country. Regular stickers, even more common, are a staple of our world from a young age, and an easily recognizable object for even children. Have you ever wondered how they’re made? Sure, there are many companies that print stickers and the like in bulk for a third party, but there are also countless custom sticker campaigns floating about with highly customized messaging, some of which sprang up nearly instantaneously from their creative parties. These aren’t cheap, flimsy creations either, some of them are the backbones of grass roots organizations that have changed the way we think and live our lives.

Whatever your idea or needs, you’re reading this because you want to create your own stickers, labels, or some other similar creative piece with professionalism and reliability. Let’s take a look at exactly how you might get that done.

Step One – Get Your Printer

Especially if you’re going to be producing large quantities of whatever you’re making, it will be important that you have a reliable printer that isn’t going to break down on you. For this reason, I’d suggest a thermal printer. Thermal printers have relatively few moving parts compared to traditional printers.

Thermal Printers 101: The primary way in which thermal printers differ from traditional inkjet type models is that they use heat to transfer or even produce text and images. There are two subtypes: thermal transfer and direct thermal. Thermal transfer printers heat an inked ribbon which is then rolled over a paper or high-graded vinyl, transferring an image. Direct thermal printers work with thermal-chromatic paper, but do not require any ink. A heating element is pressed against the paper in the pattern of the text or imagery desired, and the paper responds by changing color in those places. Both types of printers are thought of as extremely reliable in the printing industry, and are used for large campaigns because they are generally cheap to operate; thermal transfer printers use low amounts of ink, thermal direct printers use no ink though the special paper they require costs slightly more than regular paper. One of the few tradeoffs is that you need to limit your color pallets as thermal printers can usually only print in a limited range (though this is alright for many stickers as logos and designs are generally fairly simple).

If you decide to go down the thermal route, LabelTac is an industry leader and is a safe, reliable bet. With any label printer brand, be sure that the specs match up with your needs: The size of labels that can be printed with a printer model vary greatly, as does the type and size of paper that can be used. Also, especially if this is your first time purchasing a printer, look into the warranty offered – most reputable brands will offer a multiple year warranty with any printer they sell.

Step 2 – Design Capabilities

After you’ve got a printer, or really while you’re in your buying process, you need to consider the design capabilities and compatible software of the model you buy. For most industrial label/sticker printers, you’ll be able to hook them up directly to your computer and use them much in the same way you would use any other printer. This means you design your stickers in third party software like Photoshop, Microsoft Word, etc., and then print off your creations. For LabelTac, third party compatibility is generally included standard with their thermal printers. In addition, many models come with custom software that will allow you to quickly make labels and stickers with the correct dimensions and color specifications for your particular printer.

If you are creating designs on your own, make certain to be sure of the arrangement and sizing of your label and the printable boundaries of your printer. This will help you avoid wasting time and money by having too many test prints.

Step 3 – Production

Once you’ve got your design all ready to go, it’s time to go into production mode. Depending on the volume of items you need to produce, you may need to print overnight or throughout work days. Unlike a 1990’s home printer, you won’t have to stand over thermal printers while they’re at work to make sure things don’t jam or malfunction. Because of the aforementioned lack of moving mechanical parts, you can leave your thermal printer unattended as needed. You may not want the comical morning greeting of a jumbled tangle of paper/stickers, however, so make sure you have a receptacle system setup for the printed products (some printers produce individually cut labels and stickers, while many print on a continuous spool – that may be serrated – which requires you to separate each unit after it’s done.

Creative Safety Supply

Post Production and Other Considerations for Bumper Stickers

Stickers and labels have an infinite number of applications in the real world, but in order to serve those applications they need to be up to the task. When purchasing the materials (vinyl labels) that you’ll be using, consider the elements or conditions that your stickers will be exposed to. If you’re creating bumper stickers, for example, you need to make sure your stickers won’t peel in the outdoors if they become wet. Certain vinyl labels, such as those compatible with the LabelTac 4 Pro (which you can find here), are made to be durable; high quality vinyl that won’t peel from surfaces and the printed surface won’t scratch or obscure easily. If you’re creating a large number of standard stickers, you might not want to use up as much of your budget of premium paper, as stickers on things like laptops won’t need to be as durable as their outdoor counterparts.

As with any project, having a solid grasp of your goals and the materials at your disposal prior to getting started is key. Keep this in mind, and it’ll carry you a long ways on any of your endeavors.

Additional Resources