Custom picture decal

Hello everyone,
I have been searching and searching for hours, looking for a company that will produce a custom decal for my kayak/canoes. Most sites I have found provide only stock decals or only lettering. I would like a custom picture made into a decal. I have several quotes from local sign companies but I don’t really know what type of vinyl or any specifications of material I should be requesting to make sure the decal will hold up for many years; (waterproof/UV resistant) considering their products might not be made for use on a kayak.

  1. Does anyone have any suggestions for an online place to create custom decals?
  2. What material specifications should I be insisting on for a kayak/decal?

Thanks for taking the time to read. Have a good one!

There are companies like this that make small custom vinyl “skins” for laptops, using the same material that is used for the wraparound designs applied to commercial trucks and other vehicles. This one I found in a quick search allows you to submit your own design and they will print it for you. Probably cheaper than going to a car skin company since they are set up for smaller scale. They charge $30 for a 13" x 17" decal for a large laptop. If you have an irregular design in mind you could just trim the edges of the rectangle with sharp scissors before applying.

https://www.decalgirl.com/make/skins/

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Seems like anything that could go on a car would more than hold up on a kayak. Cars are in hot parking lots, sub zero temps, sun, rain, salt… and car washes.

Is a decal different than a bumper sticker? I’ve had several bumper stickers made for car and boat from photos that I took, from on line stores like Build a Sign and for < $5. The Superior and Missinaibi are custom:

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Thanks for taking the time to respond. I found some sites like this but was wondering about the longevity of such products. I know they say the same as car decals, but I didn’t find any information on the type of vinyl they used; nor would know what to look for that could withstand the weather and UV.

That would be my thoughts as well. But I do know that all aren’t made the same. (of the same material) Some hold up better than others. Do you know what material I should be looking for for waterproof UV resitant?

Decal sounds classier. :smiley: There must be an actual difference as most places offer both, but I have no idea. I found places that created bumper stickers but didn’t think that those would be suitable. As they are pretty large decals, I wanted to make sure they held up for many years and I didn’t mind spending a little extra to make sure. But if bumper stickers work for people, maybe I should reconsider.

Trust me, the vinyl skins that are used for commercial vehicles will hold up far longer than bumper stickers. In fact the skins are supposed to be good for 5 or 6 years and that is on a vehicle that will get FAR more UV exposure and abuse than you would ever experience with a boat. I used vinyl stickers on my vintage motorhome in 2014 and when I sold it in 2019 they were still bright and unfaded. Those stickers on my kayaks are 8 years old.

A decal is not a sticker. A decal is a thin membrane that has a water-activated glue that causes the printed design to slide off the backing and then adhere as the glue sets. Decals are typically not very durable and are used on interior furnishings, as temporary labels and as decor on models

A vinyl sticker or skin is a much heavier gauge material and has an “active” adhesive that is ready to bond when you peel off the waxed paper backing. And you can remove stickers and skins by heating them with a hair dryer to loosen the adhesive and peel them off the surface.

The material they use is vinyl, by the way – it is what they all use and it is not up to you to specify it. Believe me, commercial fleet owners expect durability and this material is more than sufficient for what you are planning to do with it.

Don’t overthink this.

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Thanks for the solid advice willowleaf and the extensive knowledge.

I think I am over thinking this as it is a new boat that was very expensive (for me) and I am looking to put some images on said boat to remember someone special that I lost. So I guess it is the fear of screwing both up.

I read that there was several grades of vinyl, and some might not be adequate for outside use, but I might have been mistaken.

You are correct (about their being different grades of vinyl.) But the people who make the skins have already figured that out and use the right materials that will hold up. You are not going to “screw up” anything. These peel off easily from surfaces like rotomold plastic, fiberglass and all the other materials used for boats. If you are that adamant about a long term display, I would suggest buying a duplicate set of whatever your final design is and store it in a good place. If the skin eventually gets damaged or fades over a long period of time and use, you can easily remove and replace.

Seems to me this is a three part puzzle:

  1. identifying proper product for use in sunlight and salt water. I would reach out to a kayak company, maybe even a rental place that brands it’s fleet, and see what / who they used. Maybe reach out to a manufacturer.

  2. design artwork. You can drop a bundle here or DIY

  3. find company that deals in the correct product. Again, it’s for nautical application, so I’d head down to a boat yard and ask some questions.

You might also poke around maker forums. I recently took a lesson with a dude who had his business decal on his boat. Pretty sure he made it himself; unfortunately the product name on the backing of the adhesive is cut off because of the way the sheet was cut or I’d take a picture of the product name for you. For example https://youtu.be/Lffoc_WByjU

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Have you tried a “Cricut”? A lot of the Etsy stuff you’ll find is done using one.

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Check with the sign shops we’ve had Memorial stickers made with photographs and art work

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Thanks for sharing such a piece of great knowledge. Its really helpful for bad fridge compressor images.

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I’ve used makestickers.com to make the stickers I give out for my local paddling group. Technically they’re bumper stickers but after a year and a half and many times in the water, hundreds of hours in the sun, they are not fading and not peeling, even off the HDPE kayak. Same on my friends kayaks although with vastly less sun and water exposure. I used one of their stock backgrounds but you can at no cost use your own artwork. They’re more oriented towards quantity purchases, individual stickers aren’t cheap.

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Nice first post… Congrats…

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If the price is right, order a few extra and replace when they get funky after a few years.

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Decals are fun but it is hard to find nice ones.
I have paddled an Old Town Guide 18 for several decades. It is white canvas, so it was natural to draw images on it with a Sharpie. For the Upper Missouri R in Montana, I drew the signature buffalo skull in CM Russell’s signature and some other native designs. I felt like the King of the River in that boat. Sorry I don’t have pictures. Getting repairs and new canvas now.

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Hello everyone! OP here. Seems like some people have picked up on this old post. For those who are interested, I did many hours of research after coming here and found out some great information; let me know if you have any questions.

With all intended respect, I didn’t find the previous responses, from very well intentioned posters adequate although definitely pointed me in the right direction.

I actually went through a local sign shop. They provided the best price and desired material. Despite previous comment, you can dictate which material to use as there are some major differences between certain material. Vinyl comes in several grades and you can definitely specify which grade. All grades used for commerical vehicles are NOT the same. I wouldn’t advise to trust the people who make these products to have it figured out. Just by asking several basic questions, I was able to verify who knew their stuff and who was selling a product that probably wasn’t what I was after. One that might work in the long run but I wanted to over research so I had exactly what I wanted and will be a permanent fixture on the canoe. I also wanted several unique designs so they were one off decals. This eliminated some of the online sticker sites.

In summary, research what grade vinyl you would like. Then compare prices. For me, the etsy and inexpensive sticker websites didn’t use the grade I desired. This is not to say that my conclusion is the best; only that it was what I wanted. I am sure that the sticker website’s products would do just fine, especially if you didn’t mind replacing them or leaving residual when removed. I paid around 70$ for four custom art decals that were about 7inch by 7 inch in size that are high grade, meant for curved surfaces and manufactured to last as long as the canoe.

Hope everyone is well! Happy paddling.