RTA Vinyl Lettering: Ready to Apply Vinyl Lettering

Ready to apply (RTA) vinyl lettering is a popular option for customers looking for a DIY sign-ready project. Miracle Sign Co. offers high quality RTA vinyl lettering products. We are more than happy to help you customize your RTA order based on your sign project needs. Read on to learn more about RTA vinyl lettering to find out if it’s the right product for you.

What is the difference between RTA vinyl lettering and vinyl lettering?

Both RTA vinyl lettering and vinyl lettering are made from the same material, polyvinyl chloride or PVC, a resin plastic. The ordering process is also the same – the customer selects the vinyl grade, color, and design. The difference, however, is in the installation.

RTA vinyl lettering is picked up by the customer in pre-designed precision cut sheets consisting of three layers: Paper backing, vinyl letters, and tape mask. The customer must install the vinyl lettering on their own – don’t worry, we give you a set of instructions. But installation can be tricky, especially for a newbie. Once you apply or stick it, it’s stuck.

We’re all for our customers installing their own signage – there’s real pride in do-it-yourself projects. However, if your sign project calls for a large order or large scale of vinyl lettering, we recommend a professional installation.

What are the advantages to using RTA vinyl lettering?

RTA vinyl lettering is budget-friendly, especially for smaller projects. It’s a time-saver too, for customers who prefer to install on their own time terms. RTA vinyl lettering is a great option for small non-commercial applications, home décor, and general purpose signage (e.g., restroom, exit, entryway, etc.).

What are the disadvantages to using RTA vinyl lettering?

The biggest disadvantage is the risk of poor or faulty installation. Uneven or crooked placement is likely to happen if the RTA vinyl sheet is not positioned securely to its surface. Air bubbles and wrinkles result when the surface is not thoroughly cleaned prior to installation. Air bubbles and wrinkles are also the consequence of poor application during the ‘smoothing-on’ phase.

Temperature also affects RTA vinyl installation. If the vinyl is too cold, it is not pliable. If the vinyl is too hot, it gets soft. Either way, you’re left with a material that has lost its sticking ability, its adhesiveness. The same can be said of the surface where the RTA vinyl lettering is to be applied. If, for example, the window is too hot, the vinyl will get gummy. If the window is too cold, the vinyl will stiffen. In either situation, the RTA vinyl lettering is difficult to work with and damage ensues.

Vinyl is one of the easiest signage materials to work with, but only under the right conditions (read tips to installation for more information).

What types of RTA vinyl brands are there?

Miracle Sign Co. has been in the sign-making business for thirty-five years. So, we’ve come to trust the best of the best when it comes to vinyl brands. We use Oracal, 3M Scotchcal, 3M Controltac, and Arlon.

We’ve got a great selection of RTA specialty vinyl, too, in every color of the rainbow. In need of frosted sunshine yellow RTA vinyl lettering to complement your frosted sunshine yellow store front? Got it. Been searching for blue metallic RTA vinyl lettering for the tailgate of your pickup to promote your tree trimming business? Got it. The selection is endless, the only thing you won’t find at the end of the rainbow of colors is a pot of gold.

Are there any installation tips for RTA vinyl lettering?

Yes, there are several tips that can help you achieve a better RTA vinyl install. Here are the most important:

  1. Read the instructions that accompany your RTA vinyl order.
  2. Be sure to read those instructions.
  3. Have the proper materials on hand prior to installation: isopropyl alcohol, cotton balls, 1” – 2” wide masking tape, and a Teflon squeegee or similar straight-edge tool.
  4. Be free from distractions. Talking on the phone, attending to customers, and even eating can increase the likelihood of poor or faulty installation.
  5. Ensure the temperature and weather conditions are ideal at installation time.
  • Ideally, any vinyl product should be at room temperature or between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, before, during, and immediately after installation. However, different manufacturers have different temperature guidelines for their vinyl products (this information is printed on the instructions that accompany your order). Moisture and humidity also affect the vinyl’s ability to adhere to the surface. A dry working environment is best at time of installation. And, just because you’ve wiped away the rain from the surface with the back of your hand, doesn’t mean it’s clean. Rain pollutants and hand oils are not vinyl-friendly. Be sure to store any remaining RTA vinyl lettering in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. And, don’t store vinyl for long periods of time because it loses its adherence properties.

Remember, once you stick, it’s stuck. The good news is that if you do end up having to tilt your head sideways to read a crooked puckered up sign, you can always re-order and re-install. Just make sure the added cost is worth a second, third, or even… Yikes! a fourth DIY go-around of your RTA vinyl lettering.


Still unsure if ready to apply RTA vinyl lettering is right for you? Give us a call or email and we’ll do our best to help you figure it out. In the meanwhile, check out our last post about the difference between vinyl lettering and digital printing.