I thought I would put together a thorough checklist of everything you would need to acquire or purchase in order to get yourself started in the Wall Decal Business or any vinyl decal sign business you wish to create. Even if you are thinking of selling decals for automobiles or business window signs, this checklist will guide you in the same direction. Some things to keep in mind: Because this is a part-time, home-based business for me, my business model is to sell wall decals online and not directly to customers. Therefore, this checklist focuses on this simple model: Home-based and online sales only.
LINKS TO SITES, PRODUCTS AND SERVICES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE:
- Adobe Illustrator
- Corel Draw
- Vinyl Master Pro
Vinyl Decal Business Checklist
- Computer – Either a Mac or Windows PC will work just fine. Keep in mind that most vinyl decal shops opt for a Windows PC. Mainly to keep start-up cost low. PC’s are much cheaper than Macs and you are going to get the same results in the end.
- Vinyl Cutter – There are hundreds of models to choose from. Some more popular than others in different regions of the world. However, there are 2 types of cutters based on their drive motors (the mechanism that moves the blade and roller on your cutter to cut a design on your vinyl). The 2 drive motor types are:
- Mechanical Stepper Motor
- The Good: Cheaper to purchase
- The Bad: Because they are mechanical, they are less precise on smaller, fine cuts and don’t do as well with tracking. Also a bit noisier… their mechanical parts can sound a bit harsh!
- Digital Servo Motor
- The Good: Cuts with precision; Does well with tracking; Quieter; Smoother
- The Bad: More pricier. But, you get what you pay for.
Recommended vinyl cutter:
The Roland GS-24 Vinyl Cutter – This vinyl cutter is the next generation from the GX-24 that I own. Roland calls it “…Roland’s best desktop cutter ever.”
Things to consider before purchasing a vinyl cutter:
Always make sure to go online and check the specs for the vinyl cutter you are looking to purchase. You want to make sure the drivers are up-to-date and will work with your current computer operating sytem.
Find out what vector software/plug-in comes with the vinyl cutter, if any. See what features it has and how it works – Visit YouTube and learn all you can about your choice of vinyl cutter and accompanying software.
Size does not have to matter. If you are looking to open a car window vinyl decal shop, you might get by with a small 15”craft vinyl cutter for something in the range of $700.00. If you don’t believe me, read about my friend Lori from Blakdogs Designs: Wag More, Bark LessOther. Like myself, she works full time and minds her Etsy Shop on the side… and her shop is doing great.
My Roland GX-24 has a Servo Motor. Graphtec also carries models with Servo motors.
- Scanner – If you are planning on drawing your own artwork, you will need to get a scanner. Check out your local computer or office supply stores or go online.
- Desktop Printer – Any cheap printer will do. If you plan to sell online, you need to print shipping labels. You may even need to provide a copy of step-by-step instructions to your DIY customers.
- Familiar Vector Drawing Software – For some of us, the advantage of choosing a vector drawing software is that we may already have some experience with them. That was my case with Adobe. I was already somewhat oriented with Adobe via Adobe Photoshop. My transition to Adobe Illustrator was natural and easy for me. The two most popular vector-rendering software used by sign shops are:
- Dedicated Sign Shop Software – Instead of the Familiar list of Vector Drawing Software above, you can opt to work with dedicated sign shop software. With dedicated software, the features and tools are all geared for the specific needs of a sign shop business. Some of the more popular dedicated sign shop software are:
- Vinyl Master Pro – find it at vinylmasterseries.com
- Flexi Sign Making Software – You can find many resellers online. One reseller I have purchased from that carries Flexi Sign software is SignWarehouse.com
- Sure Cuts A Lot Pro – Much less expensive than other dedicated sign shop software. You can find it at USCutter.com
- SignCut Pro – Another popular sign shop software. You can purchase it right form the company website: SignCutPro.com
Things to consider before purchasing software:
Choose your software depending on your needs and budget. But, keep in mind…
Professional vector software are powerful tools and are also rather costly when you are just starting. If you already own vector editing software, you will be a step ahead.
- GraphicsFactory.com – My favorite choice for vector graphics. A GREAT collection of graphics from all different categories… check it out!
Vinyl Decal Shop Tools:
- Cutting Mat: I purchased all of mine from eBay.
- Metal Cutting Ruler: Also from eBay
- Basic 12″ or 18″ Wooden Ruler with a Metal Side: For small, straight cuts. Also from office Depot or your local office supply store.
- Tweezers, Xacto Knives, Burnishing Tool with fine point: I purchased all mine from USCutter.com
- Squeegees: Also from USCutter.com
- Table or Work Bench – Watch my instructional videos on this site. I purchased my tables at Office Depot. For larger decals and if you have the space, you may consider building your own workbench.
Vinyl Sign-Making Supplies:
- Vinyl Rolls: I purchase mine based on the width of the cutting area of my machine. Mine is a Roland GX-24. So, I purchase 24 inch vinyl rolls from USCutter.com. Some I can recommend from personal experience:
- Oracal 631 – This is a widely-used 3-year indoor wall and window vinyl. However, I find they last for way more than 3 years indoor. They come in a matt finish, giving wall decals somewhat of a stenciled or painted look.
- Oracal 651 – This is also a widely-used outdoor (or indoor) vinyl. This is an intermediate vinyl with an outside life of up to 6 years. They have many choices of colors with a glossy finish and a few matt finish choices. They are great for making decals for automobiles, business windows signs, home window decorations, and used on many sign substrates used for advertisement.
- There are all sorts of vinyl for all sorts of projects that you can purchase to cut on your vinyl cutter. It all depends on what you are looking to do. The beauty of this business is that you can go in so many directions and genres of the vinyl business that it is hard to run out of choices!
- Masking Tape: This could be tricky. There is masking tape that is clear and there is masking tape that looks like masking tape. There are high-adhesive masking tapes and there are low-adhesive masking tapes. Some masking tapes work better with some vinyl than others. And then there are folks who will swear for or against some of these types (just visit the forums! You’ll see!). So, depending on what vinyl you are using, and how you are going to sell your vinyl (direct or online, installation included or DIY), you purchase your masking tape based on your needs. Don’t look for cheap alternatives. Let me explain to you how I came up with my personal top choice of masking tape:
- ORATAPE HT55 High Tack Decorative Film Transfer Tape for 631 Vinyl – Why? Because Oracal 631, which I use for Interior Wall Designs in my vinyl shop, has a matt finish. This has been an ongoing issue and complaint within the wall decal business community. Why? Because it is hard for masking tape to adhere to matt-finish vinyl. For me, Oracal HT55 has just enough adhesive to peel away the vinyl from the backing, but gentle enough for walls. Plus, when I ship the decal in a tube, they don’t bubble-up so much like others. And I never have had a complaint from my DIY customers. That’s why.
- RTape Conform Series 4076-RLA High-Tack Application Tape with RLA – This is my second choice for wall vinyl. This is what I used to use for my wall decals and worked fine. Except I thought it was a bit too adhesive. I also never had a complaint, but then preferred ORATAP HT55 because it had the right balance adhesive for my vinyl, thus far.
- RTape Conform Series – RTape also has a clear high-tack adhesive masking tape. Some vendors prefer selling their decals with clear masking tape to DIY customers because you can see the design clearly through the clear masking. I have never used it, but I have heard this to be a favorite over the online vinyl forums.
What You Need To Ship Decals:
- Shipping Postal Scale – You got to weigh your items if you plan to ship. The cost is about $30 bucks. Get one from your office supply store or on eBay.
- Shipping Tubes – I use the 3” Kraft shipping tubes for large wall decals. DO NOT get these from your office supply store, PLEASE! Get them locally or online from a shipping supply company. I have one locally that also sell online: MrBoxOnline.com
- Envelops – I don’t make decals that small, but if you are planning to, then you need envelops from your office supply store.
- Packing Box Tape – Get it at your local office supply store or shipping store.
- 8”x11” Printer Paper – I print my shipping labels on copy paper. Then I cut it to size and tape it using packing box tape. I think it might be a cheaper alternative than using adhesive paper for printing shipping labels… not sure… must investigate.
Marketing / Selling Online:
- Website or Blog – You want a web presence. You also want to make sure you secure a web address that reflects your company name or the like. Not only to be able to reach customers outside your home base, but to also let your local customers know who you are and what you have to offer. Only two web host providers that I stick to and I make good use of them both the same:
- E-Commerce Online Store – Although you can go the cheap route and place PayPal buttons all over your website to sell your items or you can pay for access to a secure, user-friendly e-commerce site that provide dozens of templates and plenty of whistles to build a really nice shopping cart website for your customers. A little more costly than a regular website or blog, but you do not need to be a programmer to build yourself a really professional looking e-commerce site. I am currently working on my own shopping cart for my Sunshine Decals website using the best online shopping cart software I could find to meet the needs of my wall decal business:
- Shopify.com – Easy to use; 14 day free trial; They have a Starter Plan starting at $14 dollars a month; Some free Templates and some available for a price; Did I mention it is user-friendly – easy to use.
- Etsy.com – A market place to sell your craft. I love Etsy because people from all around the USA and from all around the world have purchased my wall decal designs. And Etsy is also my starting point and I think I will always have my shop on Etsy, it will be a jumping board for me as I get my Shopify e-commerce site up and running.
- eBay Market Place – I think eBay cheapens the vinyl sign business. Prices are stupid.
- vinylforum.org – Some of the friendliest people you can have a discussion with online. Just post your question and the Calvary comes-a-runnin’! They cover every topic!
- T-shirtsForum.com – Not so friendly to the wall decal community, but a GREAT resource of information
- WallDecalBusiness.com – You are already here!!
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Thanks for reading and Good luck!