Do you remember being a kid and collecting stickers from bubble gum to put all over your binders and pencil cases?
Stickers are still going strong and have become a popular way to start a small business. They’re currently a trending item on online marketplaces like Etsy and are a fun way to express your personality at a low cost.
Unlike those bubble-gum stickers, the kind you can buy online now are high-quality, unique pieces of art that span every genre and style. Whether sticking on laptops, phone cases, or notebooks, there are many ways to use them to decorate everyday objects. During the VSCO girl trend that started in 2019, a reusable water bottle covered in cute stickers became a viral accessory.
If you’re already an artist, turning your work into stickers is a simple process. And if you’re new, the barrier to entry is low—the only limiting factor is your creativity.
Compared to other types of businesses, sticker shops are a relatively affordable and straightforward way to get into entrepreneurship. In this guide, we’ll go over why you should consider making stickers, how to design and print them, where to sell them, and some ideas for marketing them. We’ll also hear from two shop owners who have found success with their own sticker businesses.
How to make and sell stickers online
Table of Contents
Why make stickers?
Stickers have endless possibilities. Any piece of art—whether an illustration, scripted letters, or a photograph—can be turned into a sticker. You can make any size or shape, and add special finishes like clear backgrounds or holographic glitter effects.
If you want to make and sell stickers online, there’s definitely a market for them. According to eRank, which tracks trending items on Etsy, “stickers” was the 11th-most-searched item on the marketplace in September 2021.
If you’re already an artist, turning your work into stickers is a simple process. And if you’re new, the barrier to entry is low—the only limiting factor is your creativity. Stickers are used to express individuality and different interests, so you’re bound to find a buyer for whatever style you make.
Ilona Lin is the owner of Milkteanco, a sticker shop featuring adorable, kawaii-style designs. Ilona was working in sales before she finally decided to pursue her love of art and open a sticker shop full time.
“Hitting a sales quota hardly quenched my thirst for creativity,” she says. Ilona started her shop during COVID, while everyone was stuck inside. “I saw so many inspirational videos and stories of people starting their own business from home, and it hit me that I now have the time and the passion for it.”
From a business cost perspective, the materials to make stickers are more affordable than other goods you can make, and require little storage space for inventory. If you’re using a third-party printing service, stickers cost less than $1 each for small batches, and even less if ordering in larger numbers. If printing at home, stickers can be made to order, avoiding waste and overstocking issues. Shipping is simple too, with only a small rigid envelope being needed for most orders.
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How to design stickers to sell
The hardest part of starting a sticker business is deciding exactly what your stickers will look like. With so many possibilities, your first challenge will be narrowing down what your brand and style are and then figuring out how to optimize them as stickers.
Find your niche and get inspired
With so many sticker shops already out there, you need to discover your own unique aesthetic.
Ilona was inspired by her cat, Milkie, and created a cute cartoon version of him that she remixed into different designs.
Christine Lee is the owner of Created by Christine. She chose to create stickers full of positive vibes and inspirational quotes. She also gets ideas from her day job as a first grade teacher, and makes stickers for fellow educators.
“Positivity is a big thing about me, and it’s like my centre of gravity in my classroom, so I'm always, like, pulling out positive quotes,” she says.
Think about what you already like drawing or creating, as well as your own identity and personality.
- Your hobbies and interests
- Your favourite artistic styles
- Communities you belong to
- What you find inspirational
- What messages or symbols represent your personality
Consider scalability, too. If your niche is too small, there will only be a small pool of customers who will want to buy your stickers.
You can also browse other sticker shops for inspiration, but never copy someone else’s work. Having unique work will help your business stick out and draw in customers.
Create your art
The drawing method that both Ilona and Christine use is an iPad and the app Procreate, an art program designed specifically for tablets. It works perfectly with an Apple Pencil, letting you draw, color, and texture anything you want to create. You can also download new brushes, either for free or for a fee, to expand what the app can do.
Although Procreate is a common choice, any digital art program, such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, or a free program like GIMP, can be used to create stickers.
You can also scan non-digital art to a computer program to turn into stickers.
The most important thing is that any art you use should be at least as large as you’re planning to print it in its final sticker size. It should also be a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch) and saved as a CMYK file to ensure the final product is the same quality and colors as your design.
Lastly, if you’re planning on doing individual stickers that aren’t a simple square or circle, you need to have a clear, defined border, so either the printer or your at-home cutting machine will know where to cut the edges of the sticker. Many people choose to draw a white border around their designs, but you can experiment with different colors.
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What types of stickers can I make?
Stickers can be printed with many different finishes and cuts. Deciding these details early will help you create your designs.
Different ways to cut a sticker
There are two main cuts for stickers: die cut and kiss cut.
- Die cut stickers are cut to conform to the exact shape of your sticker. This could be as simple as a circle or square, or as complex as a wiggly blog or the delicate leaves of an illustrated plant. With this method, both the sticker and its paper backing are cut into the same shape.
- Kiss cut is when the cut is made through the top sticker layer but not the paper backing. When the sticker is removed, the backing and a border remain behind. This method can be used to make sheets of stickers containing multiple designs.
Types of sticker finishes
Stickers can have a different look and feel depending on what they’re printed on.
The most common types include:
- Glossy paper or vinyl
- Holographic glitter
Your stickers will look different printed on different materials. For example, fine detail may look better on a matte sticker, and holographic stickers work better with bolder designs. You may want to experiment with different finishes before committing to one for any given sticker.
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How do I make stickers to sell?
You have several options for how to create your stickers. Some people do it all at home from start to finish, while others have a professional printer create their stickers. There are also online dropshipping companies that do all the work for you.
Each method has pros and cons that we’ll cover here.
How to print stickers at home with a Cricut
Ilona prints all her stickers at home using a color printer and a Cricut cutting machine, which is like a primer with a blade that can cut precise shapes out of paper and other materials.
To print the stickers, you’ll need to get adhesive sticker paper, which can be found at craft stores, office supply stores, a specialty retailer like OnlineLabels.com, or on Amazon. Make sure whatever sticker paper you get works with your type of printer, whether inkjet or laser.
Sticker paper comes in different finishes like matte, glossy, or holographic. Which one you choose will depend on your aesthetic preferences. A popular option is to print on matte paper, which is the most cost effective, then apply a sheet of self-adhering laminate for a glossy finish. This method not only adds shine, but adds a layer or protection to make the sticker water- and weather-resistant.
The printed sheet is then placed in a cutting machine, such as a Cricut or Silhouette, which cuts around the stickers to make the final product.
Ilona said she prefers this method because she can create stickers on demand instead of keeping an inventory of stickers she may or may not sell. That also allows her to have more designs on offer because she doesn’t need to make a large batch every time she adds something new to her shop.
“I’ve tried outsourcing with a printer and a supplier, but in my experience, I have way less control and quality,” she says.
The downside of printing at home is that it can take a lot of trial and error to get everything just right—from making sure the print quality is correct to calibrating the cutting machine. That means a lot of time and materials spent before you have stickers you can actually sell.
Printing stickers with StickerApp or Sticker Mule
The second option for printing stickers is paying a company to do it for you. There are several major online companies, such as StickerApp, Sticker Mule, and Sticker Giant. You can also look for local printers that may have better deals and faster turnaround times.
With these services, you upload your artwork outline and the company prints, cuts, and mails you the finished stickers. These stickers are high-quality, can come in a range of finishes, and take out the guesswork of calibrating a cutting machine and printer on your own. It’s also a sensible option if you’re doing a high-volume of orders and don’t have the time to print them by yourself or you don’t want to invest in equipment to print at home.
This is the method Christine uses now that she’s doing a higher volume of sales. She started her business by printing at home, but now uses a variety of third-party printers to print large quantities of stickers.
“In the beginning, when I received an order, I could just make it,” she says. “The business grew over time, and it was getting a little bit hard to manage all that, so I did slowly transition.”
The downside of using a printing company is that you won’t know what the final product will look like until you get it, so if you don’t like how your sticker turned out, you’re stuck with it. It also means paying for batches of stickers up front. With these printers, the cost per sticker scales with the quantity order, so you pay less per sticker the more you order. That leaves you deciding whether to order a lot of stickers you may not sell at a lower cost per sticker, or pay more per sticker and get a more manageable amount.
If you want to try a sticker printer, see if they offer a sample pack so you can compare their various sticker types.
Printing stickers with dropshipping
The last option for printing stickers is using a dropshipping service. Shopify apps like Printful or Printify let you upload a design and they take care of the rest, from printing to cutting to sending orders directly to your customer. It takes a lot of work off your hands, but also leaves you with less control, because you don’t get to see the sticker yourself. If you choose this option, make sure to order a sample so you can review the finished product.
There are also dropshipping art marketplaces like RedBubble and Society6, which we’ll get to in the next section.
How do I sell stickers online?
When you’re ready to set up shop, you have a few options for where to actually sell your stickers. You can set up your own standalone online store, sell on Etsy, or use a dropshipping marketplace like Redbubble. Here’s what you need to know about each one.
Selling stickers on Etsy
Etsy is a marketplace for crafters and vintage shops, where you can find a lot of stickers for sale.
When you sign up for Etsy, you get a standard storefront you can list your products on. The advantage is that Etsy has a built-in base of customers who browse the site for new goods. People are already searching Etsy for stickers, so if you optimize your product pages, there’s a chance for potential customers to easily find your stickers.
But Etsy comes with fees. Each new product added will cost you a $0.20 listing fee that renews at a set time. Then, when a sale is made with a basic account, Etsy takes a 5% commission, then charges a further fee for the transaction. When you’re selling stickers that may only cost a few dollars to begin with, the fees add up quickly and cut into your profit.
While Etsy is simple to set up, you also have very few customization options to make your shop stand out from others, so having great product descriptions, optimizing your listings, and having high-quality product photos will be key to succeeding.
Both Christine and Ilona started their shops on Etsy, as many sticker sellers do.
“Etsy would be an option to start for beginners who are maybe having a small amount of listings, or are just kind of feeling it out,” says Christine.
Ilona said that Etsy is a good way to test out your business, see if there’s a demand for your products, and build a customer base.
Both women now operate standalone shops on Shopify in addition to keeping their Etsy listings running as an alternative sales channel.
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Selling stickers on your own website using Shopify
Building your own ecommerce website lets you take full control of the process—including the design, the domain, the marketing, and running sales and promotions. It lets you truly build your brand from the ground up and make all the decisions about how your customers interact with your shop.
With Shopify, you pay a monthly fee for your account, depending on which plan you choose.If you’re making the switch from Etsy, you can migrate your products, sales information, and customer database to Shopify by downloading your Etsy data.
“For Shopify, what I find really, really helpful is that I can build my own standalone store with my own domain name that I can customize and manage how I see fit,” says Ilona. “There’s so many really gorgeous, professionally designed templates that I use.”
Many sticker shops operate on both Shopify and Etsy to diversify their sales channels and gain the benefits of both platforms.
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Selling stickers on a marketplace like Redbubble
It’s a very no-fuss way to sell your sticker designs without worrying about running a business, doing marketing, or dealing with customers.
The downside, of course, is you have very little control over the process and don’t actually create the finished product yourself. This makes sense if you’re looking for a simple side hustle that generates passive income, but the potential for profit is also lower. Because the website takes care of most of the process, your profit will only be a small fraction of the sale price, and because stickers are typically inexpensive, your profit per sale might only be $0.50.
But on the other hand, these sites let you put your design on a number of template products, including art prints, mugs, t-shirts, and phone cases, without you ever having to source these products yourself.
These marketplaces could be a good way to test a design or two to see if they generate interest. To really scale your business, though, you’ll want to move to your own website so you’ll have the most flexibility and revenue opportunities.
How to price stickers for sale
It’s hard to put a price on art, especially art you’ve made yourself—but you’re going to have to do it now!
Stickers sold online typically range from $2 to $6, but can be sold at higher prices for larger or more complex designs. It’s a good idea to look at other sticker shops and compare their prices and sticker sizes to your own to get a general idea of how to price your collection competitively.
You also need to take into consideration the cost of your materials, your labor, and your packaging. Also consider your experience and artistic talent—are you new or well established? If you’re just starting out, look to the market to ensure your prices are staying within an established range.
“I made a whole spreadsheet of everything, like all the costs of all the materials, and also making sure my labor and time was paid, along with shipping,” says Christine.
Christine’s stickers average $3.50 each, but that may not be the right price for you. Take stock of all your costs before setting a price to make sure you come out on top.
How to ship stickers
One of the best things about selling stickers is that they’re a breeze to ship. For an average order, all you’ll need is a stamp, which also keeps shipping costs low for customers.
Some customers may want tracking or speedier delivery, so Christine also offers first-class priority shipping as an option.
To send stickers, it’s best to look for rigid mailers that won’t bend and damage your stickers, or envelopes that include rigid cardstock inside. Some sellers also place a Do Not Bend sticker on the envelope.
Sticker shops are also known for creating fun packaging that looks like a beautiful gift when it arrives at your customer’s door. It’s not uncommon to include a short, handwritten thank you card or a branded sticker with an order. Some people also get creative with packaging, like branded tissue paper, but you need to keep your costs in check. There’s no point in having beautiful packaging if it eats away all your profits.
Ilona packages her orders with adorable custom wrapping and stickers. This makes her deliveries memorable and special and keeps her customers coming back for more. But she also orders supplies in bulk to keep costs down, and keeps a budget sheet to make sure she’s not overspending.
“I used to upgrade and change the packaging every other month to make it interesting, but I’ve since stopped doing that because I realized that it's not really cost efficient for me,” she says.
You’re ready to go!
By now you’ve learned everything you need to know to take your sticker shop from an idea to an actual business. Stickers may be a small product, but shop owners know it still takes plenty of time and hard work to make a business successful.
It’s a great business if you want to start small and grow, adding new designs and refining your art while building loyal customers.
Christine, who operates her sticker shop after long days teaching, still finds joy in sharing her art. “Even on the hardest days, I just think about how my designs and my creations are being shared with the world,” she says.
Making and selling stickers FAQ
How do I make stickers with a Cricut?
How do I make vinyl stickers?
How do I make stickers at home?
How do I print stickers?
Feature image by Dan Page