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Decoding the Essentials of Transfer Tapes

The world of transfer tapes and vinyl offers an overwhelming array of choices. If you read our previous article on the range of tapes we offer at Express Sign Products, you might have some questions about tack levels, paper versus clear tape, and their optimal applications. Today, we’re going to shed light on these aspects of transfer tape so you’ll be better equipped for your next project.

Stickiness: High, Medium, and Low Tack

The term ‘tack’ is essentially a measure of the tape’s adhesive quality. Compared to the household masking tape you’d pick up from Staples, all vinyl transfer tape is less sticky. Standard masking tape has too much adhesive for vinyl projects. The key is to have enough tack to easily lift the vinyl but not so much that it interferes with the final application.

The level of tack varies between brands, but some general guidelines remain consistent.

Low Tack

For larger graphics that measure a few feet on each side, a low-tack tape is your go-to. It provides just enough adhesion to lift the vinyl without straining, while adding some stability to larger vinyl pieces, like vehicle wraps.

Medium Tack

If your decal is of an average size, ranging from 6 to 24 inches per side, a medium-tack tape will serve you well. This tack level is the most popular because it strikes a balance, lifting the vinyl easily but also releasing it when applied to a surface.

High Tack

When dealing with intricate vinyl designs, high-tack tape is advisable. It’s also useful for textured surfaces like carbon fiber or etched glass. If you’re new to working with vinyl and find it challenging to separate it from its backing, high-tack could be the answer.

A pro tip: once you’ve applied the vinyl and smoothed out any bubbles, let the tape and vinyl sit overnight before removing the tape. This ensures optimal adhesion and minimizes the risk of the tape lifting the vinyl edges.

Types: Paper vs. Clear Tape

With your tack level sorted, it’s time to talk about material choices: paper or clear tape.


Picture your usual masking tape, and you’ve got an idea of what paper transfer tape looks like. It’s budget-friendly, doesn’t stretch, and is sufficiently transparent for most tasks. You can even tear it without needing a knife.


Clear tape is, well, transparent. It’s more robust than paper tape and is a little stretchy, making it useful for curved surfaces. If you require precise alignment or plan to layer cut vinyl, clear tape—sometimes with grid markings—is your best bet.

As for wet or dry application methods, we’ll delve into that in a future article.

For now, have fun experimenting with different tape brands to find what works best for you. And remember, don’t look for transfer tape at Staples; you’ll be grateful for this tip.

Quick Summary

  • Tack Level
    • Low Tack: Ideal for large graphics and printed vehicle wraps.
    • Medium Tack: Perfect for average-sized decals; popular choice.
    • High Tack: Best for intricate designs, textured surfaces, and beginners.
  • Material
    • Paper: Cost-effective and non-stretchable.
    • Clear: Great for precise alignment and a bit stretchy.


Q: What is tack?

A: Tack is a measure of the adhesive quality of the tape.

Q: Can I use masking tape from Staples?

A: No, household masking tape is too sticky for vinyl applications.

Q: Should I use paper or clear tape?

A: Paper is more budget-friendly and sufficient for most applications, whereas clear tape provides better alignment and is slightly stretchy.

Q: What is the wet or dry application method?

A: We will cover this in a future article. For now, either method depends on the specific project you’re working on.