Design Your Own Car Decals

Use your computer when designing your own car decals.

Designing your own car decals requires the use of a vector software program. Vector software allows you to create car decals that a vinyl cutter/plotter can interpret. Vectors are made up of mathematical line and curves, connected by points or “nodes.” Bitmap images created in a photo-editing program may be imported into the vector software and traced with the pen tool or by automatic tracing functions. Follow the principles of design when designing your own car decals, creating a professional design.



1. Open a vector software program. Select “File,” then “New” creating a new file. Size the document to fit the final size of your car decal.

2. Select “CTRL/CMD”+”R” if the rulers are not visible. Create margins by holding down the mouse button and dragging a guideline from the right side or top of the document to the desired position on your layout. Release the mouse button when the guideline has been placed.

3. Import a bitmap file into your vector software by choosing “File,” then “Place” or “Import.” Drag the squares on the corners of the design, fitting the graphic within the margins. Hold down the “Shift” key maintaining proportions of the design.

4. Select the “Trace” function from the “Objects” menu at the top of the document. Select a preset or customize the tracing using the slider controls according to the instructions of your specific design program.

5. View the tracing in the “Outline” or “Wireframe” mode. Choose “Object,” then “Expand” to view the points in your vector design.

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6. Manipulate the tracing as necessary, by using the pen tool functions. Consult the “Help” file of your specific program for more information.


7. Create typefaces that are clear and readable. Don’t use fonts that are too small or your car decal message will become unreadable at a distance.

8. Keep colors consistent for easier readability, according to Sign Use bold lettering to make your car decal expressive.

9. Alter fonts and shapes to fit your needs, enhancing the design. Import a bitmap format text item into the vector program.

10. Use the pen tool to trace the font. Use the “Shift” key to draw straight lines. Create the first point by clicking on the layout. Create additional points.

11. Join the paths after you have created the last point by clicking again on the first point.

Text on a Path

12. Create “Paths on a curve” by creating a shape, such as a circle. Hold down the mouse button on the “T” or tool selection bar, revealing the alternate selections. Select the “Path on a curve” tool.

13. Click on the shape and type the text. Use the handles on the text points, creating custom lettering, if desired.

14. Follow the four principles of design, when designing your own car decals. Use contrast by making unlike objects different. Alter line thicknesses, color size or type. Use colors opposite to each other on the color wheel for a bold appearance.

15. Repeat elements of your car decal. Use “color, shape, texture, spatial relationships, line thicknesses, and size repetition,” according to Robin Williams, author of the Non-Designer’s Design Book.

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16. Reduce unnecessary clutter and add organization to your custom car decal by grouping similar items. Group smaller items in close proximity, in multiples of odd numbers, creating a single visual unit.