Learn how to print beautiful full-color waterslide decals at home, cut them on your Cricut, and apply them to tumblers, ceramics, and glass!
Last week I did a Print Then Cut project for a T-shirt… but how about one for a Cricut mug or tumbler? About a year or so ago, someone asked if I’d show them how to make a waterslide decal for a mug. And I remember thinking, water-what? So, if you were like me and not sure what a waterslide decal is, this is a really great way to get full-color designs onto smooth surfaces like tumblers, mugs, and glasses. It’s called waterslide because you soak the decal paper in water, which allows it to slide off the paper backing and onto your surface!
So here is a glitter tumbler with waterslide decals at the top and bottom, front and back. It’s vibrant and transparent — you can even see the glitter right through it.
This is a white ceramic mug with a waterslide decal containing words on it.
This is a wine glass with a waterslide decal sunflower.
I printed all of these decals at home on my inkjet printer and cut them on my Cricut. How cool is that? They look like something you’d buy in a store!
For this project, you’ll want to start with a smooth surface — you can use a glitter tumbler as I did. I have an entire tutorial on how to make glitter tumblers from start to finish. Or you could use a mug, glass, plastic, or even wood.
You’ll also need a printer — I made mine with an inkjet printer, but they also sell waterslide decal paper that works with a laser printer. I link to the printer I used in the materials list below.
And you’ll need the waterslide paper itself — I have links to the exact paper I used, as well as several other good ones, in the description. I recommend the transparent paper if you want to be able to see the surface through it, which is what I’m using. The exact waterslide paper I used for this tutorial is linked in the materials below.
Other supplies and tools you’ll want to have on hand are a can of acrylic sealer, a bowl of tap water and some paper towels.
Oh, and you’ll need a design! You can make your own, buy one, or use my flower garden design — the garden in this design is filled with images of my paper flowers and paper butterflies! I thought that would be fun! If you make your own, keep it simple — no little bits or thin lines. A rectangle or circle shape works best, but if you’re applying your shape on something like a wine glass, it’s better to go for a precise shape that conforms to the edges of your design.
This step-by-step video tutorial shows you how to make a waterslide decal and apply it to a tumbler, mug, or glass:
I’m so excited to teach you how to make waterslide decals for your tumblers, mugs, and glasses! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.
Materials for Waterslide Decals on Tumblers, Mugs, and Glasses
- Printable Inkjet Waterslide Decal Paper (Paper for inkjet printers, but you can also get this decal paper for laser printers if you have a laser printer instead)
- Acrylic Sealer Spray (Gloss) (I used this exact spray sealer)
- An inkjet printer (I used this exact printer)
- Something to put your decal on, such as a glitter tumbler, ceramic mug, or glass
- Rubbing alcohol (to clean your surface before applying the decal)
- A bowl of tap water large enough to completely submerge your largest decal
- Paper towels
- A way to cut your decals (I used the amazing Cricut)
- Design #143 – My flower garden design (available in my free resource library—get the password at the bottom of this post)
How to Make and Apply Waterslide Decals
Step 1: Find or Make a Waterslide Decal Design in Cricut Design Space
If you’d like to use my Flower Garden design (Design #143), you can get my free Flower Garden and Sunflower design in my resource library (get the password for it at the bottom of this page). Don’t forget to unzip it.
If you don’t have a Cricut, you can skip the next part. But if you DO have a Cricut, head on over to Cricut Design Space and upload the Flower Garden design. Click Upload, Upload Image, Browse, then locate the unzipped file you downloaded. You’ll note that inside there are several files — some are labelled smooth and some are labelled precise. If you intend to use the decal on a tumbler, use the smooth versions — these are easier to handle and apply, and you won’t be able to see the edges of your decal after you seal it. If you intend to use the decal on a wine glass, use the precise versions — that will minimize how much extra decal you see around the edges of your design. For mugs, you can use either one — if you are new to applying waterslide decals, go for the SMOOTH versions — they are a lot easier to apply.
So let’s go ahead and select a smooth version of the Flower Garden design. Click Open, then click Complex, and then click Continue. Make sure your image is set as a Print Then Cut, then click Save. Once the file finishes saving, select it and click Insert Images.
Now when your image first comes you, you’ll need to resize it. I have this image set to a higher resolution so it prints nicely, but that means it’s larger than it should be when first uploaded. So select the image and use the Size boxes at the top of the Cricut Design Space screen to change the height to 9.25 inches.
And that’s it! Your design is now ready to be printed from within Cricut Design Space. I’ll show you how to do that, but first let me just say that if you plan to make your own decal, I recommend you put a white box or circle behind the images just as I’ve done here. For example, let’s go find an image, click this sewing machine here. Select it and click Insert Images. Now click Shapes and select a square. Change the square to white, resize it so it is a bit bigger than the sewing machine — you can click the Unlock icon in the lower left corner to unlock it. Once it looks to be a good size, click Arrange then select Send to Back. Now select everything — the rectangle and the sewing machine and click Flatten in the lower right corner. And there you go — a decal ready for a waterslide!
So once you have your decals ready to go, click Make It and you’ll see your images appear on the mat preview screen. Note the black box around your image — that is necessary for the Cricut to locate and cut it precisely. So go ahead and click Continue.
Step 2. Print Your Waterslide Decal FROM WITHIN Cricut Design Space
Now it’s time to print!
To print your decal from within Cricut Design Space, click Send to Printer. In the box that appears, turn off Bleed and then click Advanced Settings.
If you’re not using a Cricut, just go ahead and open the PNG (or whatever design you’re using) in an image editor and send it to your printer.
Print your decal design on the waterslide paper with print settings on glossy photo paper with best quality print. Be sure you print on the glossy side of the paper.
Wait 5 minutes after printing your waterslide decal paper to allow it to dry before moving on to the next step.
Watch my video to see this process!
Note: If you have issues getting Print Then Cut to work, please check out Cricut’s Print Then Cut Troubleshooting Page.
Step 3: Seal Your Waterslide Decal
In a well-ventilated place, spray acrylic sealer over the entire surface of your now-dry printed sheet.
Wait several minutes and repeat with another coat of acrylic sealer. Then repeat one more time with one more coat of acrylic sealer.
When finished sealing, there will be three coats of acrylic sealer on your printed sheet.
Step 4: Cut Your Waterslide Decal
Now you can just use scissors to cut out your waterslide decals.
But if you have a Cricut, here’s how you do it. Go back to Cricut Design Space and click Browse All Materials, search on Medium Cardstock, and then set the pressure to More. You may want to do a test cut to make sure it cuts all the way through, as your waterslide decal paper might differ a bit from mine. These are the settings that worked best for me.
Put your decal on your cutting mat and load it into your Cricut.
Watch my video to see this process!
Step 5: Prepare Your Surface
Clean the surface you plan to put your waterslide decal on with alcohol.
Step 6: Apply Your Waterslide Decal
Get a bowl of water large enough for your decal to be completely submerged in. You can use regular tap water for this.
Submerge your decal in the water for 30-60 seconds. While you’re waiting, get the surface of your tumbler, mug, or glass wet (this will help it slide on easier).
Slide the decal off the backing and onto your surface.
Watch my video to see this process!
Step 7: Dry Your Waterslide Decal
Once you have the waterslide decal in position, gently wipe the excess water off with a dry paper towel. I recommend working from the center and lightly moving outward. This also helps eliminate wrinkles.
Wait at least three hours for your waterslide decal to dry before moving on to the next step. Keep your decal out of direct sunlight during this time.
Step 8: Set or Seal Your Decal
Once your decal has had a few hours to dry, you need to either set it (for ceramics and glass) or seal it (for tumblers).
To set ceramics or glass, follow the directions on your waterslide decal package. Mine said to bake it in an oven at 230 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
To seal a tumbler, do another coat of epoxy. You do not have to seal it again before putting on the epoxy, but you could if you really wanted. I did not.
Note: Even though your waterslide decal is now set or sealed, you must still gently handwash them — this does not make them dishwasher safe. You’re welcome to experiment with dishwasher-safe Mod Podge on ceramics, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet to know how it will work. I will try it and update this post later if it seems to work!
Watch my video to see this process!
Answers to Your Questions About My Waterslide Decal Tutorial
Q: Can you print your own waterslide decals? Can you use a regular printer for waterslide decals?
A: You can print your own water slide decals using a home printer. Most waterslide decal paper is designed to be used with an inkjet printer, but there are some options for laser waterslide decal paper available as well.
Q: Do you have to seal a waterslide decal after applying?
A: Yes. If you don’t seal your waterslide decal after applying it to your tumbler, the ink may wash off when you clean the cup.
Q: How do you apply a waterslide decal?
A: This tutorial is a great place to start. One of the first things I recommend is to watch and read through the tutorial and check out the materials list — it will give you a step-by-step process and answer many of the questions you have.
Q: Should I use warm water when applying water slide decals?
A: Cool or room temperature water is usually recommended for soaking waterslide decals, though some crafters have success using warm water to help mould their decals onto more irregular surfaces.
Q: Why is my waterslide not sticking?
A: Some reasons why your waterslide decal won’t stay adhered to your surface are moving the decal around too much, soaking the detail too long, using too warm of water, not soaking the decal long enough, not using the right sealant (or not sealing it at all), or accidentally printing on the wrong side of the waterslide decal paper. If your waterslide decal isn’t sticking, print and prepare a new one following the directions in this tutorial and try again.
Q: How long do you leave water slide decals in water?
A: I recommend soaking your waterslide decal in water for 30-60 seconds. Waterslide decals only need to be submerged for a little bit of time to activate the adhesive.
Q: How long do waterslide decals need to dry?
A: Wait at least three hours for your waterslide decal to dry before moving on to the next step. Keep your decal out of direct sunlight during this time.
Get my Flower Garden Decals FREE!
Download my free flower garden decals by subscribing (free) below to get the password to my resource library.