Secrets to Designing a Successful Sticker

custom sticker design secrets

"Design is a plan for arranging elements in a way that best accomplishes a particular purpose." ~ Charles Eames

First and foremost, let’s define “successful sticker.” Given that we are a custom print shop and see all manner of graphics cross our path, we describe a “successful sticker” as one that achieves the purpose of rendering a digital art file into stickable print media and does so in both an effective and efficient way. Whether the label will bring success is not something we can forecast unfortunately. (Oh, to have THAT crystal ball!) An effective label will leverage design elements combined with material knowledge to create a desired appearance and impact. An efficient label is one that will produce in the best possible way with the least amount of time, effort and potential for pitfalls. So, how is this achieved?


Design as an aesthetic is not really something we advise on since it’s a subject fraught with endless bias and expertise. We’ve all got opinions about what looks good! But, when designing a custom label, we do know a few things about what’s worked in the past, about different materials as well as the limitations and capabilities of different print methods that can help a design accomplish its intended result.

1. Make good color choices. Choosing too many similar colors, for example black, dark chocolate brown and deep burgundy, without including one for contrast can have a less-than-eye-catching effect.

2. Know the substrate. The combination of ink and material you select can have a huge affect on legibility and clarity of design. For example, certain shades of gray will not be very visible if printing on a brushed silver poly.

3. Font choice. Don’t pick fonts that are hard to read or hackneyed and try to stick to one or two fonts for all the text otherwise the label will look dissonant.

4. Less text, more graphic. Really this about making an impression and too much text will detract from that initial impression.

5. Get to know gradients. A well-placed gradient can do a lot for a label design.

6. Make good use of negative space. It’s not always necessary to fill every nook and cranny on your sticker with detail or information. Sometimes less really is more.


Efficiency is one of those basic goals that everyone strives to achieve. Who doesn’t want the best output with the least amount of effort?! It may seem a little self serving to include this as criteria for a successful sticker, but rest assured, designing a sticker for efficient printing will help you, too!

1. Design in vector. This is the single most beneficial thing you can do to improve print efficiency. Not only will you get the best print quality, vector enables the prepress tech and press operator to color match and make slight adjustments for clearance or registration concerns.

2. Include bleed. If you design in vector, this is an easy fix, but if working with raster files, always be sure to extend a background color or graphic 0.125” beyond the cutline.

3. Design in CMYK, not RGB. Printers use a different color model than computer monitors and will have to convert any files supplied in RGB to CMYK, which can alter color shade and vibrancy. The way color is displayed on a computer screen is always going to look somewhat different than its printed equivalent, but you can mitigate the differences by designing for the purpose of print output.

4. Ask questions! The best way to avoid surprises is to discuss your project with your printer. If you have a special look in mind, provide them with a sample or photograph of what you’re expecting so they can advise on the best way to achieve it.

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