How to make stickers by hand – without a cutting machine

Little note before we start: this method might not suit to your needs, depending on your abilities, health, and how many stickers you need to make. In other words, it unfortunately isn’t fully accessible. It also works only for die cut stickers.

picture of die cut stickers and a part of the sheet, with black and white scissors, on a green cutting mat

What you’ll need

  • sticker paper – I recommend vinyl sticker paper because it’s more qualitative than standard sticker paper
  • good scissors – I personally use the fiskars non-stick ones that have been very good so far!
  • an image editing/drawing software – I personally use clip studio paint
  • if you print at home: an inkjet printer
    You cannot use sticker paper (vinyl or not) nor photo paper with a laser printer because the heat of the technology used by laser printers may melt the plastic components used for this type of paper.
  • Your wrist or any other body parts braces or support you might need to make sure it doesn’t trigger any pain.

Preparing the file

Making the outline

You have your design and you want to make stickers out of it. The first step is to prepare your printing file of your design by adding a light outline. I know there are methods out there to avoid having to draw the ouline by hand (Malin shared this in her videos sometimes, for instance in this one), but I prefer drawing it by hand because I can adapt it very easily to my needs in terms of cutting. For instance, I’m trying to have very few harsh angles, because it’s more complicated to cut and thus can trigger wrist pain.

In my experience, to make a good outline by hand, you will want to increase the stabilization of your brush and to use a light color. If your sticker will have a white or transparent background, I recommend using a light grey. If the background of your sticker is colorful, I recommend you to use the same color for your outline.

With the magic wand tool, you can select everything that isn’t the sticker and erase it if your file hadn’t a transparent background. Then you can save it as a PNG.

example of a sticker design with the handmade light and thin outline

Test print

Whether you print at home or at a local print shop, you can test print to make sure of the accuracy of the colors. I personally have a test print sheet, that I use only for test prints – this way I make sure I don’t waste any paper and ink!

To avoid wasting paper and ink, I recommend you to print it small when you test print.

Create a new canva and paste your PNG file – reduce its size if needed. Make sure the icc profile is the good one for your printer, or the one for the paper you’re going to use.
In the printing settings before printing, make sure you choose the right size of sheet, its positioning, and the right type of paper: for instance, if you use matte sticker paper, pick matte paper.

Now you can test print! I recommend you do test print one sticker at a time: this way you don’t waste ink nor paper. If the colors aren’t quite right, or accurate, observe the differences between your original design and the printed one: is it a color balance problem? Does it need more contrast? for example. You can use correction masks to make your printed design more accurate to the original one. Once you’re happy with the outcome, don’t forget to save your test file.

You also can correct the color settings of your printer, but it’s not the way I personally like to work on the colors and I don’t feel legitimate to explain this as I don’t master this method. If you prefer to do it this way, just make sure you remember the settings that made the best outcome for you!

If you’re not used to print your artworks by yourself and you’re having a hard time having them right on paper, don’t panick – there’s a learning curve and that’s normal. With some time you’ll know your printer better and will know how to correct the colors efficiently!

Making the printing sheet

I usually print on A4 vinyl sticker paper sheets, but you totally can cut the sheets in half if you want to produce only a few stickers of the same design (or put several designs on the same sheet – you do what’s best for you!).
On a brand new canva, copy and paste your sticker design and adjust the size depending on what you want. You can use rulers of your

software to have an idea of what size it would be on the sheet. Make sure to have margins on top, bottom and on both sides of your canva to make sure the software and the printer don’t cut some bits of your lovely stickers! When the design fits in clean lines, I personally like to have a line file into CSP that I just have to copy and paste to finish filling the page with all the stickers.

Copy and paste the filters / correcting masks you created from your test file to your new canva, on top of your layers (or files) with the sticker designs. Or, if you played with the color settings of your printer, make sure the settings match the ones you made while print testing that gave the best result.

Printing

Before printing, make also sure the color profile (icc profile) is the good one for your printer.

As for print testing, you need to make sure the settings of your printer are right: make sure or the size of paper, the type of paper, the paper positioning, the paper box from which the printer will have to take the paper, …

I recommend you to enable the printing preview of both your editing/drawing software and of your printer’s software. On the preview, check if there’s anything odd – like some cuts on the top, bottom or sides of your sheet for example. If there are parts that are cut, I recommend you to uncheck the borderless printing box of your printing settings.

Your file should now be ready for printing!

Depending on your sticker papar, you might need to let the ink dry before manipulating the sheet. Mine dries pretty quieckly, but *just in case* I prefer to let I dry. Letting it dry also allows me to pace better and to make sticker-making more sustainable for my health!

Cutting

You feel well enough to cut the stickers and your sheet is dry, so it’s time to finish producing the stickers!

I recommend to use precise scissors that are non-stick. As I said in the intro of this post, I use the fiskars non-stick ones that I have found really great so far (saying just in case you need a reference if you don’t own good, precise scissors!). I also recommend to cut by rows before cutting each single sticker, because cutting small things out of a big A4 sheet can be a bit unhandy in my opinion.

Don’t hesitate to take breaks! From what I heard, it can be pretty tired for the hands even for abled/non chronically ill people to cut a bunch of stickers by hand in a raw!

And, voilà, you just made stickers by hand!

picture of die cut stickers and a pair of scissors on a green cutting mat

If you have any more tips that aren’t in this post, please share them so we can learn from each other ✸

By Mibyle

Freelance disabled 2D artist and illustrator living in the North of France

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