Check out my "How to Make Planner Stickers to Sell on Etsy" guide for more information on the sticker making process!
Who doesn't love stickers?
Seriously, stickers are awesome. I used to have a sticker collection when I was younger... although, at that time, my idea of a sticker collection was using all the stickers I got and putting them all into one notebook to display. I'd just fill the pages with as many stickers as I could find.
I had forgotten about this love for many years until just recently, as I have been falling down the rabbit hole into the world of planning; I had NO idea that there were so many different ways to use stickers, and that there were so many talented people on Etsy making such cute and beautiful little things!
And of course, since I don't have enough hobbies in my life, I decided that I too wanted to open an etsy shop and try my hand at designing stickers. It's been a long journey, but after much trial and error, I've officially opened my store today! Don't forget to use the code "GRANDOPENING" to get 20% off your purchase!
That's right, it really has been a long journey. I didn't think printing and cutting stickers would have been such a challenge; Just buy a printer, a Silhouette Cameo, and I'm ready to roll! ...right?
It turns out there's actually a lot of troubleshooting and issues you'll experience the first few times you try and make stickers. I wanted to write this blog post to share what I've learned and hopefully give others some insight to the problems I've experienced.
First, let's talk about print quality. Both laser and inkjet printers can produce beautiful results for stickers. I am using the HP laser printer that I linked to above, and I've been loving it overall. However, it is not without its issues.
In particular, the biggest issue I've experienced is the toner flaking off the page and not properly fusing to the sticker paper surface. In the first picture, the black toner scratches off very easily, and flakes up to reveal the white paper underneath. In the second picture, the toner looks incredibly grainy.
The absolute first thing I want to say about these print quality issues is that they have drastically improved over the first few days of using my printer. I'm not sure if its possible for toner to get old or stale by sitting in storage, but I have definitely noticed drastic improvements throughout the first 10 sheets that I printed. If you are not pleased with the print quality of a new laser printer, I would suggest giving it a few days to break in and see if the quality improves. It might not be the case for everyone, but it definitely made a difference for me.
Now, the more legitimate solutions.
To solve these issues, you will need to use a higher fusing temperature. This is usually done by changing the specified paper type while printing. For matte paper, I've been using "Mid Weight" or "Heavy", and for glossy I've been using "Heavy Glossy". These settings make the paper pass more slowly through the fuser, allowing a higher temperature to be reached. Since using a higher temperature, I have not noticed any flaking.
The other solution is to use a higher quality paper. I have found that the cheap generic matte sticker paper sold at Staples and Walmart always appear grainy compared to some of the higher quality labels I purchased online. Paper does make a difference.
You also need to make sure whatever paper you use is compatible with laser and/or inkjet printers. This paper here is a Vinyl sample that I attempted to use. However, the toner smeared and did not fuse to the paper very well at all. I'll need to make sure my sample was actually intended for laser printers, and I might also try increasing the fuser temperature to see if it sticks.
Next, I want to talk about paper issues. In particular, paper curl; That one annoying thing about laser printers. The problem is that when you use a higher temperature, the more likely your paper is to retain a curl after printing.
These poor stickers were my very first attempt; You can imagine my despair when the paper curled this badly. I tried putting the sheet under a heavy book for 3 days, curling the page backwards, and using a lower fuser temperature, but nothing really worked all that well.
This problem is mostly dependent on the type of paper you're using. Some papers will just naturally curl way worse than others (I've noticed high gloss clear paper and polyester to be the worst). Using the lower temperature did help a noticeable amount, but the paper was still nowhere near flat enough for me to feel confident selling. If you're only experiencing minor paper curl, using the lower temperature may reduce it enough for you. However, the only real solution seems to be buying a printer with a direct back feeder, which will prevent the paper from going through the rollers while printing, thus keeping it nice and flat. Thus, some papers might just not work with your current printer if they experience insane levels of curl.
However, the good news is that minor curl can be minimized and fixed. If the pages are curling a reasonable amount, rolling them in the opposite direction makes a difference. Likewise, I've found that putting slightly curled sheets in a stack of other papers or into the plastic packaging for shipping will make them perfectly flat in a day or two.
It is also important to realize that the way you pull the stickers off the cutting mat can have an impact as well. Pulling the paper off in the direction of curl will encourage it to curl more intensely. I have noticed that this makes the sheets significantly worse. Thus, I try to pull them off either opposite the direction of curl, or on a diagonal. This will minimize the effect.
Cutting and Design Problems
Lastly, you'll probably experience some trouble the first few times you use your Silhouette Cameo (or Portrait). In particular, the cutting mat will probably be too sticky and tear up your paper, and you'll need to play around with the blade settings to find the perfect combination.
The other issue you might encounter is your cut lines being way off center. You can see above that the cameo cut the lines at least a whole 1/8th an inch off from where they were supposed to be. Thankfully, this issue was simply because I did not print registration marks. Believe me, registration marks are VERY important.
I have also found that shadows from windows or lighting can cause noticeable issues with cut marks. When the machine tries to read the lines, I try to create as consistent lighting as possible to remove shadows, even if it means blocking light; Some videos and articles have suggested shining a light on the machine while reading. However, I have found that this creates intense shadows, resulting in misread marks. I tend to get the best results in the evening, when I stand in front of the machine, blocking the ceiling light in my studio.
As far as the blade settings go, it will be a bit of a trial and error process. You should, however, be aware that simply changing the setting on the physical blade might not be enough. Even on the lowest setting, my blade was still cutting all the way through the paper. The solution was to change the settings digitally in Silhouette Studio. My current preferred settings for kiss cuts are a speed of 4, a thickness of 7, and the ratchet blade set to 4.
To de-stickify your cutting mat, you'll just need to follow the manufacturer's suggested advice of repeatedly using a pair of jeans to stick and de-stick the material.
Also, remember to leave a little extra "bleed", or color around your designs! While the sillhouette can cut pretty accurately, it will always be ever so slightly off. If you want to ensure you always have full color on your stickers, remember to leave the bleed!
It's been a crazy couple of weeks trying to work through these issues, but I've finally got things mostly figured out and at a professional enough quality that I feel confident in my product. Hopefully this guide will help some other aspiring Etsy sellers figure out how to make planner stickers!
...and of course, if you want to see the results in person, feel free to order from my shop!
UPDATE: Still having trouble? Click here to read my updated article with more information about perfecting the print and cut process.