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How to Apply a Custom Decal to Your Car

Car getting prepped for decal

There’s a thrilling sense of ownership and individuality that comes from customizing your vehicle. While there are countless ways to personalize your ride, decals stand out as a popular choice—offering a blend of simplicity, affordability, and creativity. Whether you’re aiming to make a bold statement, support a cause, or just add a splash of art, a well-placed decal can transform your car’s aesthetic. Dive into this comprehensive guide and discover the steps and best practices to seamlessly apply that perfect decal, ensuring it resonates with your style and lasts the test of time.

Step One: Gather Your Supplies

Before you start, ensure you have the following supplies:

  • Your custom decal
  • Soapy water (a drop of dish soap in a spray bottle filled with water)
  • Clean, lint-free cloths or microfiber towels
  • Squeegee or credit card
  • Hair dryer or heat gun (optional, for curved surfaces or large decals)
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Masking tape

Step Two: Preparation

First - Clean the Surface

Wash the area where you intend to place the decal, ensuring it’s free from dirt, wax, and grime. Dry thoroughly.

Position the Decal

Place the decal on the desired area and use masking tape to temporarily hold it in place. Stand back and check its position. It’s a good idea to mark its edges with small pieces of tape so you have a reference point.

Step Three: Application

Wet Application Method (Recommended for Large Decals)

  1. Remove the backing paper from the decal.
  2. Spray the adhesive side of the decal and the car surface with the soapy water solution.
  3. Position the decal on the surface. The soapy water will allow you to slide and adjust the position.
  4. Once positioned correctly, use the squeegee or credit card to push out any bubbles, working from the center outwards.
  5. Let the decal dry. This can take several hours, but patience is key. The soapy water will evaporate, leaving the decal firmly in place.

Dry Application Method (Recommended for Small Decals)

  1. Peel the backing paper away from one edge of the decal.
  2. Position the exposed edge onto the desired location.
  3. Slowly peel back the rest of the backing paper while smoothing the decal onto the surface using the squeegee or credit card.
  4. Work from one side to the other to avoid bubbles.

Step Four: Post Application

Checking for Bubbles

If there are small bubbles, you can prick them with a fine needle and push the air out. For larger bubbles, try lifting the edge of the decal (if possible) and smoothing it down again.

Heating (for curved surfaces or challenging areas)

If the decal isn’t conforming to a curved surface, or if you’re dealing with a large decal, a hair dryer or heat gun can help. Apply heat evenly while smoothing out the decal. Be cautious not to overheat as this can damage the decal or your car’s paint.

Final Step: Maintenance and Care

Wash Carefully

When washing your car, always use a gentle touch around the decal area. Avoid high-pressure washes directly on the decal.

Sun Protection

Prolonged exposure to the sun can fade your decal over time. Consider using a UV protectant spray or parking in the shade.


Customizing your vehicle with a decal is an exciting and cost-effective way to express your personal style, support a cause, or simply embellish your car with art. The process may seem daunting, but with the right tools and a little preparation, you can achieve a flawless application. From gathering your supplies to meticulously positioning and applying the decal, each step is crucial for ensuring your decal not only looks great but also stands the test of time. Post-application care is equally important; a little attention to maintenance can go a long way in preserving the quality and vibrance of your custom decal. Armed with these tips and techniques, you’re well on your way to adding that perfect finishing touch to your ride!