Application Tape Versus Transfer Tape

In the world of clear cast vinyl, application tape and transfer tape are considered the same. But if you want to be specific about it, transfer tape is just a category of application tape. The latter encompasses different types of materials used for the application of signs, from pre-masking to pre-spacing to transfer. Transfer tape is primarily used at the end of the process, similar to materials like window tint application fluid.

That said, when dealing with a sign supplies store like AirMark, it’s understood that you’re looking for application tape when asking for transfer tape, although it helps to be clear to get exactly what you need!

What Is Application Tape?

Application tape, particularly transfer tape, is a paper or plastic film that’s used to transfer cut vinyl graphics and printed films from their release liners to the substrate or the surface onto which the sticker is being placed, like a window, sign, etc.

Application Tape Versus Transfer Tape: What’s the Difference?

The terms ’transfer tape’ and ‘application tape’ are often used interchangeably. Generally, they are the same–but if you want to get truly technical about it, transfer tape is only a category of application tape.

Application tape can be categorized by its use:

  • Pre-mask: A stiffer tape that covers the graphic film to protect it for storage, transport, and handling
  • Pre-spacing: An application tape is used to mask cut graphics, maintaining the relative alignment and spacing between letters, symbols, etc. within the panel
  • Transfer: An application tape used for adhesive vinyl to move graphics from their backing to their desired location

Do I Need Application Tape?

Application tape is a bridge that connects your vinyl graphics to its substrate; the former can’t get to the latter without transfer tape.

Application tape is laid in a smooth flat covering over cut and weeded graphics, then pressure is applied with a squeegee to activate the adhesive. When the tape is pulled away, the vinyl comes along and the graphics are transferred to your desired surface.

While you can move vinyl from its backing to a substrate without application tape, it can be difficult to do, especially if there are any spaces or intricate details. So, you definitely need application tape or transfer tape for a clean project.

Types of Application Tape

Most application tapes for vinyl are similar, but they can vary in material, opacity, size, and tack (or stickiness). You can buy them as paper or plastic and in rolls and sheets. It’s important to know what type of application tape is best for your graphics and your substrate and choose accordingly. For most applications, however, clear plastic application tape, which you can get from AirMark, is recommended.

Things to Consider When Choosing Application Tape

When choosing application tape or transfer tape, it’s important to consider the use, material, tack, size, and length. Let’s break down each of these factors:


Are you using the application tape for pre-masking, pre-spacing, or transfer? Depending on the use, you’ll have to consider ink types, the amount and type of liner, and the kind of film.

You’ll also have to think about the storage and transport of the graphics. Some application types might bond over time, which should be avoided if you’re not going to apply the material immediately. This will also affect whether the tape you get should be flat or rolled.


Transfer tape comes in plastic or paper format. Clear plastic tape lets you see your design as you transfer them. Paper tape is a bit more opaque, so it can get trickier to place your designs precisely. That said, paper tape usually has grid lines to help you, which many people find more convenient for measuring.


Application tape labels often display their tack, which refers to the stickiness of the tape. ‘Medium tack’ is suitable for standard adhesive vinyl; it’s also the most versatile option, so it’s preferred by many users. ‘High tack’ has a very strong grip, making it ideal when working with textured or glitter vinyl and uneven or textured surfaces.


The size and length of your application tape will affect the completion of a vinyl project. The standard width of transfer tape is twelve inches, which works with most Summa equipment. You can also get them narrower (six to ten inches) or wider (up to forty-eight inches), depending on your needs.

Transfer Tape and Other Application Materials From AirMark

Whether you’re doing a DIY vinyl project or working with Summa equipment for more large-scale signages and surfaces, you’ll need the best transfer tape and other application materials—all of which you can get with ease from AirMark! Find all the sign supplies you need on AirMark today.

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