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Vinyl Wall Decal Installation – Advanced

I am sure you agree that installing vinyl wall arts is fairly easy, that is if you have done it. Yet for some, vinyl wall decal installation is slightly scary. Of course, I do this for a living so I don’t think much about it anymore. However, with over a decade working with customers and helping many of them through their first install, I can assure you that it is something that just about anybody can do. You need a tad of patience, a dash of elbow grease, and about fifteen minutes of your time. If you have reviewed our article on the basics of installing wall arts you know much more about this process than most. If you haven’t read that, you can find it —> HERE <—. If you are ready for a more advanced look, then please keep reading here.

The basic install process never really changes. Regardless of what you are installing it on the basic steps stay the same. Let’s review them quickly just as bullet points.

  1. Remove the paper backing from the wall art
  2. Place the wall decal, transfer tape and all, on the wall
  3. Rub the down the vinyl portions through the tape to make sure they make good contact with the wall.
  4. Slowly, peel back the tape layer leaving the decal on the wall.
  5. Step and enjoy your successful installation

Sounds pretty straightforward right? It truly is. So now let’s take a look at some of the more difficult installations I have encountered either myself or working with customers.

Vinyl Wall Decal Installation On The Difficult Wall

In the basic install article, I talked a bit about surface preparation. This is an important step. Your vinyl decal is rather sticky but only you can determine what it is going to stick to. If you install it on a dirty surface, it will stick to the dirt. If that dirt decides to fall off, then off comes the vinyl. A slightly dusty wall is one thing, a greasy wall is another. Every wall is different. If installing on a kitchen wall, I would definitely clean the wall with a good cleanser. Even the cleanest house will get a very thin film on the kitchen walls. Use a good cleaner and then if possible a light wiping with rubbing alcohol. Viola! Gone is the residue.

But, what if the wall isn’t really cleanable?

Well, I ran into this with a customer who wanted to install the decal on an unsealed cinder block wall. If you have handled a cinder block, they seem to be eternally covered with a dusty film. It is just inherent in the way they are made. They aren’t really concrete. They have a definite texture and if you simply pick one up, your hands will get a layer of dust on them. Clean them off, and that dust is there as soon as they are touched again. This is due to the dust not really being dust at all but rather the actual cinder block rubbing away.

cinder block

To deal with this I advised the customer to brush the area off where they wanted to install it. Then, take a hair dryer on any setting and use it to blow off the area really well to remove any lingering dust. Then we took a wet rag and blotted the area off making sure not to rub at all. Lastly, we repeated the blow-dryer for a final “rinse” of any residual flaking.

Then they put the wall art in place very carefully. They knew they only had one shot at this. They placed it where they wanted it and rubbed it down really well with a towel. Why a towel? So that they wouldn’t poke any holes in anything since the cinder blocks can be really rough. Then they very slowly started removing the tape.

It was a slow process. The tape proved to be stickier to the vinyl that the vinyl was to the cinder block. It took a great deal of patience, but they made slow progress and eventually got the tape off with the decal left behind. I then instructed them to “blot” the decal down with the towel pushing it rather firmly to get as good of an adhesion as possible. This proved to be a successful vinyl wall decal installation.

In the end, they loved their wall decal. It adhered well and is probably still there today several years later.

The Reverse Install

I am pretty sure that this is my favorite vinyl wall decal installation technique. In this instance, we are talking about using the vinyl wall decal as a stencil. However, normally a stencil is something you paint inside of. With a wall art, you can only paint around it. This problem has been faced by many customers as well as myself. I have a very large wall decal I wanted on my living room wall, but I wanted it on in the paint and not the vinyl. The solution was really quite simple if you are painting the whole wall.

First, you simply paint the area where you want the wall decal to go with whatever paint color you want the wall decal to be. This spot just needs to be painted larger than the decal itself. Let this coat of paint dry thoroughly. Sometimes paint will say “safe for a second coat” in a certain amount of time. This is not the time period you want to use. We need this paint to fully cure and that will usually take at least overnight. This will depend on your paint, house temperature, and house humidity. Your paint supplier can give a better idea of what that time will be.

Second, once this paint is dry, you want to do a basic install of the wall decal on that spot. You will want to work the decal into the little nuances of the texture if there is any, as good as you can. This will give you the good finished product. Depending on the amount of texture, this may or may not be possible. This doesn’t matter on a regular install but makes a difference on this final product since we will be removing the decal.

Are you seeing yet why I love this vinyl wall decal installation technique?

Third, you are going to paint over this spot with your top color of paint for the wall. You don’t have to worry about being careful here, just go right over the top of the decal. Now go to step four BEFORE the paint dries.

Vinyl Wall Art as a Stencil

Fourth, peel the wall decal off the wall while the paint is still wet. You typically won’t have any problem seeing it as the paint really won’t be adhering to it that well. The easiest way to do this is with an exacto knife that a very narrow sharp point. This will allow you to get an edge of the decal easily. Once you get the edge, you can slowly pull each piece of the vinyl off the wall. This will take a bit of time and patience but is not at all difficult to do. However, this method is better suited to larger wall decals that have large pieces or letters.

If you have removed a wall art before, then you know it can be tough at times. However, that is normally after the wall decal has been up for a very long time, sometimes a decade. When you remove this wall decal that has only been in place an hour or two, it should come up quite easily. Of course, each wall, and each type of paint acts differently. I would always recommend you do a test spot first with some scrap vinyl to perfect your technique. Many companies will throw in some scraps for free if you ask them to. To us, it is simply garbage.

And always my favorite last step, take a step back and appreciate your work. You now have a perfectly painted on wall quote or design.  Now you know why this is my favorite vinyl wall decal installation technique.

The Multiple Piece Install

Some wall decals can be quite large. At Scripture Wall Art, they sell a version of the scripture Joshua 24:15 that is 59 inches tall. That is taller than some people and can be a handful to install.Joshua 25 Full Text Vinyl Wall DecalThe process doesn’t really change though. You are basically just applying the basic vinyl wall decal installation technique multiple times. You are most likely just installing your wall art in several pieces. So the trick is that you making sure they are aligned properly. Then each piece just installs as normal. Have a chalk pen of something you can mark on the wall with to give your self some reference points will make this type of install much easier.

This type of vinyl wall decal installation can also be done if you want to modify the design of a wall decal or want to use it a manner not anticipated by the designer. For example, maybe you want to use the words individually to wrap around a mirror or picture. Or maybe you want to install it in a straight line at top of a wall or above the door. These are great ways to use a wall decal.

In this case, you are simply going to cut the decal into the individual pieces you want to install. This may mean that each word is cut apart, or that you just cut each line of text apart. The important thing is that you cut the wall decal apart while all three layers are intact. This will make your install the easiest.

Here is a great photo of a user that cut a wall decal into each individual line of text and then installed each line onto one stair riser. What a great effect it gives and it was very easy to do.

vinyl wall decal installation example on stairs

Vinyl Wall Installation Technique For Other Very Creative Uses

I can’t even imagine all the different ways that wall arts can be used. People are very creative by nature and wall arts just bring out the creativity in some. I have had customers install our vinyl wall decals on pumpkins, rocks, mirrors, cars, furniture, RV’s, washing machines, floors, ceilings, bathtubs, toilet seats, and more. I am sure the really crazy ones I don’t even hear about.

vinyl wall decal installation example

The Bottom Line

Vinyl wall decal installation techniques come in a myriad of ways. They adapt to so many surfaces and so many creative uses that they are just plain fun. Hearing about all the stories from customers over the years has been a lot of fun. I absolutely love hearing success stories from customers who have used these decals in unique ways.

I hope you received some good information from this article. Maybe it answered a tricky installation or two, or maybe it got your creative juices flowing. Or maybe you still have a question that I haven’t covered. Either way, just leave me a comment below and I will help you out in any way I can. Let me know the trickiest install, the most creative install, or the most frustrating install you have encountered. Or let me know what tricky install you are planning.

Also, we just love getting pictures of wall arts that have been installed. Send them to us to use on our website and we will shoot you back a coupon for a discount on a future purchase.  You can email them to us —> HERE <—

Remember, if you missed our basic install article you can find it —> HERE <—

As always thanks for reading.


This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Hi there , really great information on how to install vinyl wall decal. It really easy and I think I want to install it in my house to make it more attractive

  2. I was just reading this for fun but it actually gave me a few new ideas for vinyl wall decal installations in my basement.

    I have these ugly yellowish windows that I wanted to cover up and add comical images too but I never thought to place them on the stairs going up.

    Going to keep reading some more of your posts and see if I don’t get inspired to try something else as well.

    1. Thanks, Eric. Hopefully, I have inspired you. They are very fun. We have some great Elvis portraits for those basement windows LOL. Or perhaps a Rocky, James Dean, or Einstein.

      Thanks for stopping by.


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