Vinyl Murals vs. Transfer Murals, What Is The Difference?

When you look at murals online, it is hard to discern the difference between types of murals. A picture of a vinyl mural or even a wallpaper mural (vinyl or otherwise) can look very similar to a rub on transfer mural. “What is the difference?” you ask. “What will it look like in my home?” It would be great if these differences were easy to see on the web, but online, these products can look similar. Transfer murals are quite different from vinyl murals, and vinyl murals can differ dramatically! We are very happy to report here that as of November, 2008, we have found a fabulous NEW material to print on that has the same re-positionable qualities that make vinyl murals attractive and NONE of the drawbacks! You WILL see murals from us on this superior product coming out this month! We have included this new product in our comparison grid along with our transfer murals, which have some pretty great qualities themselves! Our first Movable mural is AVAILABLE now!

Wall Dressed Up

Rub On Transfer Murals

Wall Dressed Up

Movable Murals™
(coming soon!)

Other Vinyl Murals

(these may vary in quality)


Rub (burnish) off transfer paper onto wall like a tattoo. Can be applied to many hard surfaces. Must especially rub the edges down and then peel away backing.

This is a permanent application, but it is so thin you just paint over to remove!

The smaller shapes just peel and stick. Infinitely re-positionable. NO bubbles or creases.

Larger murals, just roll back a bit of backing paper off at the top, stick that part to wall and continue to roll backing paper off as you smooth design on wall.

Back inadvertently sticking to itself not a problem. Simply pull apart.

Peel off backing paper and stick. For non-static cling, be sure adhesive back does not stick to itself or mural can be ruined. You get bubbles of air, and many murals are NOT re-positionable.

Remember: Peel and stick DOES NOT always mean re-positionable!

Larger murals advise the same roll of backing paper method.

How to Remove

No removal, simply paint over! Easy!

Remove from glass and mirrors with acetone nail polish remover.

Lift edge and simply peel off wall. Super easy!

Leaves no residue and you can reposition infinitely. Can be returned to backing sheet and stored. NO damage to walls!!!

Fabulous for dorms or apartments, but elegant enough for your living room!

Static cling? Peel off

Other Vinyl? CAREFULLY peel off as they are not always repositionable and adhesive may be aggressive and may take some paint off. We had this happen with a “horse” mural we tested and the paint came off our wall right down to the drywall-in the shape of a horse 😦 Not good.



Matte- similar to most paint finishes. No shine!
Does NOT look like a sticker!

Samples we tested varied from super shiny gloss to medium sheen (looks like a sticker)


No edge! Incorporates right into paint finish. Looks like it was painted on your wall! Yes, can be translucent in shadows so it blends with your wall color and looks hand painted. Designs can be very fine in areas-even open to let your wall color be part of the design.

Very thin! Barely an edge and edges stay adhered to wall. Artwork right up to edge of design (no clear “halo”) Can be put on textured walls and many other surfaces, like floors.

Edges vary. Some paper like vinyl wallpaper cut outs are pretty thick. Some have clear or white edges of about ¼-1/2 “ around the design

Most say not for textured walls

Bubbles and wrinkles and/or other issues??

This material is so thin that you simply press and/or smooth out any trapped air if it occurs

This is almost like a very fine matte fabric and any air is just smoothed away and not trapped. Will not wrinkle or rip! Also, it will not get ruined if back adhesive sticks to itself, pulls apart easily. If you don’t like where you put it, just move it!

This material is amazingly easy to apply and that is what sold us on printing on this medium.

Static cling does not usually get bubbles but it does not adhere that well either. Other vinyl will get some bubbles and they can be very hard to smooth out. We ruined a few larger when the backing stuck to itself. Others we had to leave with permanent wrinkles as they were not really

Quality of Artwork

High resolution reproduction. Every brush stroke visible.

Printed in the USA

Hi resolution, amazing print quality!

Printed in the USA

This varies tremendously. It seems the designs printed overseas are not very high quality, fuzzy sometimes either in the art or the printing but there are a few that we tested that were well printed!

Customize your design?

Can be layered and many designs are quite customizable.

Sheet size is 15”x24” but murals simply fit together like puzzle pieces.

Full large size “one piece” murals or decorative elements that can be placed however you would like!

Easy to put up and move!

Many of these we ordered were very small. A lot of the graphic designs are larger, but one color (similar to the vinyl lettering) There was one company we found that had large full color vinyl children’s murals with good artwork (made in England) but the adhesive was very aggressive and we got wrinkles and bubbleswe couldn’t get out.


Medium price. Excellent value as these are MUCH less than a custom mural and looks hand painted. Very high quality

Medium price, but EXCELLENT value! This is a PREMIUM material and worth the price!

Varies from very cheap (and you seem to get what you pay for here) to medium/high priced. Quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Vinyl murals can be fabulous. Sometimes they are re-positionable, but not all murals are easy to reposition-you have to ask! They are great in a kids room, but many imported designs look like stickers, with edges that may lift and they have a sheen to the surface. Cheaper vinyl may not last very long if your child likes to stick and re-stick. But the peel and stick quality may be exactly what you are looking for…a temporary fun way to decorate your walls. Some vinyl murals can come in solid colors and simple shapes like circles or colorful patterns. Some are printed, full color, realistic designs. I ordered quite a few vinyl murals when we were deciding what material to use for our line of murals. The static cling were a cinch to put up, but did not stick that well. They are usually simple shapes. The regular vinyl murals were a bit harder to get bubble free. Some are thicker, so they are not recommended for textured walls. You need to make sure the mural doesn’t stick to itself as you are putting it up. They are similar to vinyl wall quotes, but they don’t rub off the paper, most peel off the backing paper and then you stick it to the wall. Removal? Peel off your wall. Pretty easy. Warning: ORDER CAREFULLY as many vinyl murals say they peel off, but the adhesive may be aggressive and may take some paint off. We had this happen with a “horse” mural we tested and the paint came off our wall right down to the drywall-in the shape of a horse 😦 Not good. You may need to repaint if the mural is up for a very very long time and your paint itself fades, but they are not usually up that long in a child’s room! (in the case of the mural that took off the paint it was only up 3 months. Our Movable Murals will come off your wall with ease and will not take off paint or leave residue.

Now what about transfer murals? What are they? Transfer murals are simply printed layers of non-toxic ink and a thin just tacky adhesive on the side that goes on your wall. There is no vinyl involved. There is nothing they are printed on, except the transfer sheet, which separates from the mural when you rub it on your wall. The mural is just like thin layers of dry paint that you burnish (rub) off the transfer sheet, almost like a tattoo for your wall. You never need to remove transfer murals because they are as thin as a coat of paint. Simply paint over them!

As artists, we found transfer murals to be a simply amazing product. It was certainly a EUREKA moment when printing our murals like this became a reality. The difference, other than capturing every brushstroke in amazing detail, is that certain areas shadows can be made translucent, so your wall color “mixes” with the gray shadow to create the illusion that this was painted directly on your wall. This is only done in areas where translucency adds to the effect of blending into your wall. Add that quality to the thin as paint, tattoo-like integration into your wall surface and you can start to see why in many applications you would want to use a transfer mural. When applied to uneven or even textured walls this thin product presses right into the grooves and again looks like it was painted there!

In addition, transfer murals are easy to work with. They burnish onto your wall by rubbing the mural off the transfer paper. Removal? They don’t even need to be removed because special thin non-bleeding, non-toxic inks are used so that the murals can be painted over, just like you would paint over a custom mural. For display/photography purposes, we have painted over many murals and they simply disappear under a coat or two of paint. With vinyl wallpaper stickers (not re-positionables) you may need to remove and wash off adhesive; not so with mural transfers.

Let’s see, are their any other virtues exclusive to mural transfers? Larger murals can be joined without a seam and the place where they are joined is hidden in the artwork. Ah, one of the best qualities is that you can layer and even cut designs. A sheet of ivy can be made into a wreath or cascade around a door frame. This gives you some design flexibility, so your design can be unique to YOUR home! Fun fun! Gerber Daisies can hang from the thin ropes like a curtain or randomly decorate a dresser. Without a drop of messy paint, you can create a custom look. You don’t need to be an artist!

Mural transfers have a more sophisticated quality and can thus be used in the main areas of your home, not just in kids room! They are semi-matte, with no “edge” AT ALL. People will really think you hired an artist to paint directly on your wall. They will run their hand over them to see if they can feel a difference. They will think it’s amazing. We get that response ALL the time!

We are big fans of transfer murals, but vinyl has some great qualities too. Will we ever print on vinyl? Maybe. When and if the qualities of vinyl are exactly what we are looking for in a particular design. We have some interesting ideas on the drawing board. Transfer murals are harder for the consumer (you) to find. There are fewer companies that carry them as they need to be printed in quantity. As our own company, Wall Dressed Up grows, you will see more and more designs from us. We are very happy to report here that as of November, 2008, we have found a fabulous NEW material to print on that has the same re-positionable qualities that make vinyl murals attractive and NONE of the drawbacks! You WILL see murals from us on this superior product!

Oh, I neglected price, but maybe just because the price points are similar for these products. Solid color vinyl may be a bit less expensive, but all in all, either product is a VERY affordable option when compared to custom murals or even wallpaper! Sad as it is to say, you can decorate a wall with either product for less that a tank of gas these days!

I wish these differences were easy to see on the web, but online, these products can look quite similar. Transfer murals are very different from some vinyl murals! Look for a company that offers a full refund if you get your mural and for any reason it is not what you expected, colorwise, sizewise or for any other reason. This holds true for any type of mural. You should be able to send it back, hassle-free before you apply it to your wall if it is not what you expected. It is certainly worth it to try these 2 new types of murals. You will be amazed at what new printing technology can bring you in mural design. It is an affordable and incredibly fun and rewarding way to decorate your walls and bring unique style to your home.


2 thoughts

  1. Do you do large custom work? Her is the inquiry I have been sending to the vinyl companies. Transfer murals sound like a great idea in my case.

    Ultimately the questions I have will be; how and by who does this get applied (one piece or several?), is the surface I describe adequate, how much would it cost, and how do we deal with windows?

    I have a garage for a large truck. The wall in question is 10’6’ high and 47’ long. I would like to see a scene that depicts “Old Main Street”. A 1950s era or older setting. Brick building street front complete with sidewalks or a scene with Victorian style houses with trees and driveways. That type of thing. The other idea I have is to supply a photo of my trucks reflection in a storefront building. The surface is a smooth face paneling that is pre-finished white and waterproof. Similar to a Formica surface. Sheets are 4’x8’ so there are seems and of course nail/screw detents. Is this a realistic idea or too big/expensive to be practical?

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