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Sign Guides & Tips by Our Experts

  • Writer's pictureTravis Coupland

6 Steps to Apply Vinyl Decals Like a Pro

If you've opted to install your vinyl decals yourself, this guide will take you through the process using the dry "Hinge" method. If any of this looks like too much to handle, we do offer installation services at Coupland Signs. But if you take it step by step, you got this!

Diesel Truck with Vinyl Lettering

NOTE: Some surfaces aren't ideal for vinyl graphics. A general rule is, if it's flat and shiny, it's OK (Glass, Vehicle Paint, smooth plastics). Avoid anything with a texture. Contact us if you're unsure.


Vinyl Graphic Exploded View
Note: Your Vinyl Graphic is Comprised of 3 Layers

Recommended Tools

  • Water/Rubbing Alcohol

  • Lint Free Cloth

  • Tape Measure

  • Masking Tape

  • Plastic Squeegee


Let's Do It

1. Clean the Surface - Vinyl will not stick to oily, greasy or waxy surfaces - so avoid common cleaning products as they can contain those things! Wipe away any dirt or debris and clean the area with water or rubbing alcohol only.

2. Position the Graphic - After your surface is clean and completely dry, tape the graphic in place. To ensure your decal is level, measure using an element within the graphic as a guide. For example, the bottom of a line of text.

Positioning the graphic

3. Tape the "Hinge" - Once the graphic is positioned, apply a strip of masking tape across the top as shown. The Tape will act as a hinge from this point on.

Taping the Hinge

It’s crucial that the graphic is positioned correctly before continuing.

4. Remove the Backing - Using the tape as a hinge, flip the decal upward and remove the backing paper. After the backing is removed, the graphic will become flimsy. Take care to keep it from folding in on itself while you hold it up.

Removing the backing paper

5. Apply the Graphic - Slowly lower the graphic into place while making overlapping linear passes with a squeegee (or an old credit card). Work evenly, to the edge of the graphic with firm pressure.

Applying the graphic

6. Remove Transfer Tape - After the entire graphic has been firmly applied, carefully peel away the transfer paper. If any part of the graphic wants to peel up with the transfer paper, push it back down and apply pressure until it properly adheres to the surface.

Removing transfer tape


After you have finished, you may encounter small bubbles in your graphic. Don't be alarmed. Small bubbles will disappear with regular sun exposure. You can attempt to work them out using a squeegee, but take care to not scratch the graphic. Large bubbles can be popped using a pin.

When performing this dry method properly, it is safe to wash your vehicle/surface immediately if desired. But NEVER POWER WASH your graphic directly.


Masking tape won't stick to the surface

The backing paper won't come off in some areas

The graphic won't stay down when I peel off the transfer paper

Unsightly wrinkles or folds in the graphic

Severe Air Bubbles


Truck with vinyl lettering

Not too Shabby!

Be sure to check out our Do's and Don'ts Guide for keeping your vinyl decals looking good for years to come.

We'd love to see your graphics out in the wild. Share some pics with us on Facebook!

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