Polyurethane or Polycrylic Over Vinyl Decal – Which One is Best?

Vinyl decals are certainly a great thing to decorate your favorite stuff. They are kind of a gamer changer when you use them on your craft projects. However, while using vinyl decal stickers many think they do not need to seal. Many people think it is just because vinyl needs to breathe. Therefore, if once they are sealed by polyurethane or polycrylic over vinyl decal, they won’t last long. But. It is just a myth now.

In fact, sealing vinyl decal is necessary. Otherwise, you will see one of your favorite vinyl decals coming off the surface slowly. Thus, whether you are using an indoor vinyl decal or outdoor or stronger vinyl decal, sealing must be included in the applying process. Nonetheless, when it comes to sealing vinyl decals, people get confused about which product they should use.

Mostly, the confusion creates between two popular sealant products. They are polyurethane and polycrylic. So, if you are also standing on the same page like others and thinking, polyurethane or polycrylic over vinyl decal? Then let us cover you on that. Read the article till the end and know which sealant between polyurethane and polycrylic you should use over your vinyl decal.

Polyurethane or Polycrylic over Vinyl Decal

What is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane sealer for vinyl decal

Well, before you start comparing polyurethane and polycrylic, you better know about the products very well. Polyurethane is a sealer that comes in both water-based and oil-based formulas. Oil-based polyurethane sealant is very popular as a finishing product. It has a lot of use on various surfaces even with vinyl decals.

The most convincing fact about oil-based polyurethane is that it can hold on to the vinyl decal even at a higher temperature. Moreover, its oil-based formula is water-tolerant as well. Therefore, people mostly use this formula for outdoor sealing purposes.

On the other hand, water-based polyurethane is also efficient. It comes with less odor and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Also, it has some fast-drying components for easy and quick use.

What is Polycrylic?

Polycrylic is a good finish for any surface

Polycrylic is also well-known for being a great sealant. It offers a protective coating that comes with an only water-based formula. Unlike polyurethane, the only available formula of polycrylic is water-based. As a finishing substance polycrylic also offers an excellent finish whether you apply it on wood or other surfaces. Also, for outside projects, many people simply rely on polycrylic.

Nonetheless, there are mainly two types of polycrylic available in the market. One is aerosol or spray-on polycrylic and the other is roll-on polycrylic. If you want a very thin layer of coating in no time then the best option for you is the spray-on polycrylic. Probably, it comes with the easiest application method ever.

On the contrary, roll-on polycrylic comes in a can for dealing with larger projects. However, polycrylic is always famous for its fast-drying properties. Since the sealant comes with wider ranges of colors, finishes, and containers, the demand for polycrylic is always constant in the market.

Polyurethane Vs Polycrylic – Which One to Use over Vinyl Decal:

Polyurethane Vs Polycrylic 1

Many people think of polyurethane and polycrylic as the same product by their names, application method, and intentions. It is quite normal for some new DIYers out there since these products are also kept side by side in many stores. Nonetheless, though, both polyurethane and polycrylic protective sealants have the same motive yet they are different.

There are several factors that make them different in many ways. You can also predict them by knowing the advantages and disadvantages of these two sealants.

a. Advantages of Polyurethane:

Polyurethane comes with tons of advantages you can ever predict. Let’s get to know them.

1) Both Formula Available:

It is the most beneficial part of using polyurethane. You can choose whether you want to use the water-based or oil-based one over your vinyl decals. Well, many go for the oil-based one since it comes with multiple benefits.

2) Highly Resistant:

Polyurethane comes with great resistant power. The sealant can protect your vinyl decals from several weather effects including higher temperatures. Also, the sealant is resistant to rainwater so you can use it for outdoor purposes. Again, oil-based polyurethane is resistant and tolerant to scratching and damages as well.

3)Highly Durable:

Another best deal that polyurethane can offer is its higher durability. Especially if you are using oil-based polyurethane. It lasts longer than even you can imagine since its formula is quite impressive.

4) Hard Finish:

Polyurethane is also known as ‘Liquid Plastic’ because it offers a plastic-like hard finish when it dries. this is also a reason your vinyl decals are forever protected and never curled upon themselves.

5) Versatility:

Polyurethane comes with a wider range of finishes including matte, glossy, semi-glossy, high-glossy satin, and all. So, you can customize the vinyl decals with polyurethane sealant as per your wish.

b. Disadvantages of Polyurethane:

Like the advantages polyurethane comes with some disadvantages as well. They are given below.

1) Takes Time to Dry:

Even though only polyurethane is capable of providing a long-lasting finish, it is also the one that takes a longer time to dry and cure. Especially if it is oil-based polyurethane, it is surely going to take a lot of time to dry. Moreover, if the area where you are applying it is not well-ventilated, this product is not going to stick.

2) Complicated Application:

Polyurethane sealant also comes with a complex application process. The process requires carefulness and includes several steps.

3) Clean up is Hard:

Polyurethane also comes with hard clean-up procedures. An oil-based one is even harder. Also, because of its high maintenance, clean up of the sealant is quite time-consuming.

4) Smelly and Toxic:

Oil-based polyurethane comes with a strong and significant odor that cannot be possibly tolerant by many users out there. Many people prefer to use an odorless product. But unfortunately, polyurethane has a strong odor. Moreover, the compounds contain some toxic elements that might affect your health as well.

5) Expensive:

Compared to other sealing agents, polyurethane is quite expensive which is one of the downsides.

a. Advantages of Polycrylic:

Like polyurethane, polycrylic sealant also has some advantages and disadvantages while applying over the vinyl decal. Let’s get to them.

1) Fast-drying Compound:

Surprisingly, polycrylic comes with quick-drying formula. Hence, the process is not time-consuming at all.

2) Odorless Formula:

Another good thing about polycrylic is that it comes with odorless formula. So, you do not need to be worried about the ventilation system. Also, if you want to use a sealant for indoor purposes or confined areas then polycrylic is a good option.

3) Best for Light Wood:

Polycrylic works great on light wood including maple, birch, and all. It offers great protection to the wood pieces and also the vinyl decals that are applied on their surfaces.

4) Low Maintenance:

Polycrylic does not require hard clean-up. It comes with an easy and quick cleaning compound. Once you apply this protective sealant over a surface, it becomes low maintenance which is a plus point.

5) Versatility:

Polycrylic also comes with various options of compounds for versatile application. It comes at a semi-gloss, high-gloss, and satin finish.

6) Less Expensive:

Another reason why people are more into using polycrylic as a sealing agent is its price. It comes with a lower price and is way affordable than some other products.

b. Disadvantages of Polycrylic:

We have already mentioned, polycrylic also has some downsides that you should acknowledge.

1) Hard to Apply and Manage:

Since polycrylic provides a thin layer of coat, managing it becomes way challenging. Also, the formula of this sealant is quite runny which is why its applying process is complicated. You barely can determine an accurate amount of the compound that you will need for your task.

Also, if you fail to apply an even coat, it will end up delivering a white appearance on the surface. Therefore, polycrylic is not the best when you are up to use it on the dark wood surface.

2) Only Water-based Formula:

It is where polycrylic lacks. It comes with only water-based formula whereas other many excellent sealants have oil-based formulas as well. Therefore, the texture is runny and inconsistent.

3) Not So Hard Finish:

Polycrylic provides a thin layer of finish that is not that hard. So, you won’t be satisfied enough with its finishing.

4) Not Durable Enough:

Since polycrylic is not capable of delivering a plastic-like hard finish, it is also not that durable on vinyl decals.

Which One to Use over Vinyl Decal:

Well, now that you know everything about both polyurethane and polycrylic, it will be easier for you to make a decision. However, you cannot come with only one decision since it depends on various facts. Let’s discuss the topic of polyurethane or polycrylic over vinyl decal.

1) In case, vinyl on a rough surface:

vinyl on a rough surface

If you have already put your vinyl decals on rough surfaces like stainless steel, woods, and all, you better seal it. Since oil-based polyurethane is available, it will work great on rough surfaces delivering a tight finish. But also, remember the fact that polyurethane can cause a yellow stain later on your vinyl decal. If you want to avoid it then polycrylic should be your choice.

2) In case of quick applying of sealant over vinyl decal:

Well, many want to be done with this task quickly. For them, polycrylic comes in a spray can. Using the spray, you can actually cover big surfaces within time. But unfortunately, there are chances of having curled vinyl decal later if you spray a heavy coat of polycrylic. In this case, it is suggested to go for the painting system that allows having a hand-brushed coat.

3) In case of outdoor us:

If the vinyl decal is situated outdoor, you need to seal it with a sealant that is highly resistant to all kinds of environmental impacts. It must be resistant to rainwater and high temperature and other impacts. So, oil-based polyurethane can help you with that.

4) In case, you want to use a less toxic product:

Many people want to use an environment-friendly product that does not contain any toxic elements or odor. Unfortunately, polyurethane does not offer these privileges but polycrylic does. So, if you want to use a product that is safe for both you and the environment then use polycrylic.


Question: Can you put a clear coat over vinyl decals?

Answer: If you want your vinyl decals to look good and be protected at the same time, spraying a clear coat over them is in fact a great idea. Clear coat prevents the vinyl decals to be curled or peeled off after a certain time. Also, applying the clear coat over vinyl decals helps to keep the surface clean always. So, yes, you can put a clear coat over vinyl decals.

Question: How do you seal vinyl decals on wood?

Answer: If you have applied your vinyl decals on a wooden tray then sealing it is a bit tricky. Yet the process is easy when you know how to do it. You can simply spray paint over it trickily using the polycrylic sealant. You can also use epoxy resin or polyurethane to have a long-lasting sealing. If you do not want to spray, just hand paint over the vinyl decals.

Also, if you want a thick coat finish, you can apply multiple layers of polycrylic. But make sure you allow to dry each layer first before applying another layer.

Question: How do you seal stickers on wood?

Answer: Like the vinyl decals, you can also seal other stickers on wood following the same method. But, be aware of some facts, if you are using polyurethane to seal the stickers make sure you do not apply multiple layers. Only a light coating of the sealant can do the work. However, you can use other products as well like polycrylic, epoxy resin, mod podge, glossy accents, triple thick, and all.

Question: Does the printable vinyl need to be sealed?

Answer: Vinyl decals are already very resistant and do not come off easily if they are used indoor. If they are used outdoor, they require to be sealed for everlasting durability. However, if it is printable vinyl, it will not require any sealing. It is because printable vinyl is resistant to tear and scratch. It is also waterproof and very durable. So, printable vinyl does not need to be sealed.

Question: Can you paint vinyl decals?

Answer: Indeed, you can paint vinyl decals. You can make your very own creations by spraying paint, acrylic, or other stains on your vinyl decals. To have the best paint for vinyl decals you can go for either water-based or urethane-modified acrylic stain. Since this paint is very flexible, it offers to add many dimensions to your art.

Last Updated on March 13, 2022 by Rogers Weber

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