Sticker Bombing: Everything You Need To Know

doorway covered in stickers
Written by Richard September

Get to know what sticker bombing is, how it’s done and the type of stickers to use. Plus, a few sticker bombing top tips.

From the streets of New York to everyday devices like smartphones and laptops, nothing is safe from being sticker bombed.

And we’ve come a long way since the first self-adhesive sticker was invented by Stanton Avery in 1935. We’re no longer using stickers just for practical reasons but also as a way of expressing creativity through art.

In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about sticker bombing – a phenomenon at the intersection of stickers, art and activism.

What is sticker bombing?

Sticker bombing (also known as sticker art, sticker graffiti and sticker slapping) is where artists and creatives cover surfaces with stickers to promote images, messages and identities.

For graffiti, street art and activism, stickers are placed in public spaces so that images and messages are made visible to the public. Think of stickers slapped on a lamppost of a busy street New York street aimed to catch the eye of passers-by.

Sticker bombing can also be used to personalise belongings, which has a different purpose to placing stickers in public spaces. For example, covering a laptop or a skateboard in stickers to make it unique and to be a reflection of the owner’s personality.

Sticker bombing in Miami (Image credit: Unsplash)

How does sticker bombing work?

The concept of sticker bombing is simple. The goal is to cover surfaces with as many stickers as possible.

It works differently depending on the purposes you’re doing it for, though.

Graffiti, street artists and activists take to the streets to sticker bomb. This allows them to promote tags, symbols, drawings and messages in public spaces to get in front of a big audience.

This can have legal consequences, however, as putting stickers on property you don’t own is considered vandalism in many countries.

For sticker bombing personal belongings, it works by concentrating loads of stickers to a single surface to achieve an artist effect.

Anything can be customised in this way which has made it very popular in recent years. It’s a great way to add individual flair and give an identity to otherwise boring everyday items.

Many brands have embraced the sticker bombing trend in recent years by giving out stickers with things like online orders and in welcome packs. So it’s easier now than ever to find stickers for brands you like and sticker bomb anything you wish.

sticker bombed laptop
Sticker bombed laptop (Image credit: Unsplash)

A brief history of sticker bombing

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when sticker bombing started. But its story began in the late 1960s – early 1970s as graffiti and street art culture started taking urban cities along the East Coast of the US by storm.

As graffiti tagging became popular throughout the 1970s, artists looked for new and innovative ways to leave their names across the city. In came stickers – a quick and easy way of putting your name up with less mess and less risk.

Although many graffiti stickers circulated throughout the 1970s – 1980s, artist and skateboarder Shepard Fairey ran one of the first sticker art campaigns to go mainstream.

Through his iconic Andre the Giant has a posse sticker campaign in 1989, fans of Shepard Fairey’s work distributed hundreds of thousands of his stickers across the US.

This inspired a new wave of sticker bombers across the globe and cemented sticker bombing as a cultural phenomenon. Both as a form of street art and as a way of making stickers a popular medium for personalising items.

Following his successful campaign, Fairey’s recognition saw him go on to produce the famous ‘Hope’ poster for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Plus, he even started a successful streetwear brand based on his iconic Andre the Giant sticker known as Obey Clothing.

Andre the Giant Has a Posse sticker by Shepard Fairey
Andre the Giant Has a Posse sticker (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Different types of sticker bombing

Sticker bombing can be done by anyone. And although the broad definition is to stick loads of stickers on a surface, there are a few different approaches.

The different types are mainly based on the nature of the stickers, an individual or collective’s motivations and the surface they’re placed on.

Here’s a rundown of the most common types of sticker bombing:

Graffiti stickers

Sticker bombing in graffiti culture is a style of graffiti that involves slapping stickers in public places to promote an artist’s name.

There are loads of ways to do this, but the fundamentals stay the same – get your name seen as much as possible by putting stickers up everywhere.

The most common way is for graffiti stickers to be handwritten by using blank stickers and marker pens. With blank stickers acting as mini canvases, writers are able to show off their style through tags, throw-ups and pieces in public.

Blank stickers can be picked up from specialised graffiti and art stores or at big brand arts and craft retailers.

Although a popular way for graffiti writers to sticker slap for cheap is to use free stickers. For example, by using free postal service stickers, which have become an iconic blank sticker in graffiti culture.

Another method is to print personalised stickers with the graffiti writer’s name already on them (take the ICEY ETC sticker in the image below, for example). This saves time writing them one by one, allowing for much faster coverage with less prep.

You might like: 4 Best Markers for Graffiti Stickers

graffiti stickers in street
Graffiti style sticker bombing (Image credit: Unsplash)

Street art stickers

Street art sticker bombing uses symbols and images to show off an artist’s unique style to the public.

Street art stickers are different to graffiti stickers as the aim is to promote their artwork through drawings, images and messages as opposed to a graffiti name (or tag).

Like traditional street art such as murals, the aim of street art stickers is to add colour to mundane environments and seek to improve someone’s day through art. They can also provoke the viewer to think, trigger an emotional response or be humorous.

Street art style sticker bombing
Street art style sticker bombing (Image credit: Unsplash)

Activist stickers

Activist sticker bombing is a form of individual or collective action whereby activists place stickers in public spaces to spread social and/or political issues.

Many activist groups across the globe use this method of social action as a way of putting messages in front of new people to encourage them to take action.

One of the most famous sticker bombing campaigns in the UK within the last few years has been by the activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR). Their hourglass logo can be found dotted around major cities, reminding the public of their cause.

They also use stickers to portray more overt messages, like the ones found in the image below.

Activist sticker bombing by XR
Activist sticker bombing (Image credit: Unsplash)

Car stickers

A more light-hearted means of sticker bombing, cars have become very popular in recent years as a vehicle for sticker slapping.

Drivers have found themselves drawn to sticker bombing as a way to customise their cars and add personality. Both on the exterior and interior of their cars.

However, depending on the country, sticker bombing the exterior of a car may be an illegal modification. For example, in the UK, sticker bombing is considered decal plastering which can decrease visibility at night and also distract other road users.

It’s best to play it safe and keep the sticker bombing to the interior of the car, like sticker bombing your dashboard or radio.

Sticker bombed car exterior
Sticker bombed car exterior (Image credit: Pinterest)

Gadgets, lifestyle and household items

Because pretty much anything can be sticker bombed, people have found creative ways to sticker bomb personal items to give them a distinct and eye-catching look.

Here are some common items to cover in stickers:

Laptops, phones & speakers

Laptops, smartphones and other tech have become popular gadgets to sticker bomb.

Because of their smaller size (compared to something like a car), laptops and phones don’t require loads of stickers to cover them completely. This makes it attractive for creatives with a small sticker collection to get started on.

A word of warning when sticker bombing tech though – make sure not to cover any fans, sensors or other sensitive hardware. You’ll have a tough time trying to make a call if your network sensor is covered up by a sticker.

If you want to sticker bomb your laptop or phone without sticking them directly on the device, use a case and layer the stickers over that instead of the device.

Skateboards & helmets

In sports like skating, BMXing and snowboarding, sticker slapping helmets has become a very popular way of adding personality to a boring but essential piece of equipment.

Like other small gadgets, helmets don’t require a massive amount of stickers to cover partially or completely, so they’re a good option if you don’t have loads of stickers laying around.

Skateboards are another popular victim of sticker bombing. Skate brands like Supreme produce loads of different stickers and often give them out for free with customer orders. What better place to stick them than your skateboard?

Although remember that stickers on a skateboard will get worn down fast, so maybe save your prized stickers for something else.

Wardrobes, doors and dressers

Plain coloured wardrobes, doors and dressers can be boring to look at. So what better way to customise these mundane items of furniture than covering them with stickers?

Sticker bombing furniture can require lots of stickers, however, so make sure you have enough to do a good job. Although remember that you don’t need to cover the whole thing. For example, you could only sticker bomb the doors of your dresser instead of the entire dresser.

Just make sure you’ve got the thumbs up from the furniture owner beforehand. Breaking the news that you’ve stuck a super adhesive sticker to your Great Grandma’s handcrafted antique wardrobe might not go down well.

Musical instruments

For musicians wanting to personalise their instruments without breaking the bank, sticker bombing is an excellent option.

Instruments like guitars (both acoustic and electric), drums and microphones have become popular with sticker bombing. This allows artists to add their own individual flair to their instruments.

Although be warned that it can be harder to sell the instrument later down the line if it’s been sticker bombed. So it’s best to avoid if you want to preserve the instrument’s value.

Sticker bombed guitar
Sticker bombed guitar (Image credit: Unsplash)

What stickers are used for sticker bombing?

Vinyl stickers are the most common type of sticker used for sticker bombing. This is because they are more durable, more water-resistant and less likely to peel than cheaper paper stickers.

Vinyl stickers are much more vibrant and long-lasting too. Mostly because of both their matte and glossy vinyl finish depending on the type of sticker. This means they can survive for much longer on a surface, especially outdoors.

Paper stickers shouldn’t be ruled out completely though. Just make sure the surface you place paper stickers on isn’t going to be outdoors or isn’t going to get wet. Otherwise, the paper sticker will fade and begin to peel off quickly.

Is sticker bombing illegal?

Sticker bombing or placing stickers on any property you do not own is illegal. Many countries would consider this vandalism and offenders could get into trouble if they’re caught.

However, sticker bombing on personal property or with the property owner’s permission is completely legal. No one’s stopping anyone from putting stickers on the interior of their car, or sticker bombing household items and gadgets. So you can go wild.

Sticker bombing top tips

Before sticker bombing anything, here are a few top tips to achieve the best results:

  • Choose the right type of sticker. Vinyl stickers are the best stickers for sticker bombing in most scenarios as they’re the most durable compared to paper stickers. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use paper stickers. But just remember that they’re prone to peeling and fading – especially outdoors.
  • Avoid putting stickers directly on expensive items. Putting stickers directly on things like laptops and phones can affect their value if you decide to sell them later on. Even if you manage to peel them off, residue may hang around. Stick them to the device’s case instead.
  • Have more stickers than you think you need. If you’re trying to achieve a truly sticker bombed look, make sure you have loads of stickers. Otherwise, you may be left with gaps or stickers that don’t overlap with each other. You’ll be surprised at how many you’ll need, especially if you’re trying to cover big areas.
  • Be safe. If you’re sticker bombing as a graffiti writer, street artist or activist, remember that putting stickers on someone else’s property is considered vandalism in many countries.

Got something cool you’ve sticker bombed or have an expert tip for beginners? Drop a comment and let me know.

About the author

Richard September

Growing up in London, I've always been fascinated by the graffiti that covers the cityscape. From seeing it around where I lived to reading it on the train lines, I was hooked straight away. For over 15 years, I've been painting graffiti and immersing myself in the culture. I graduated from the University of Sussex in 2019 with a BA in Sociology and Media Studies. My final year research project, entitled "Vigilant Vandalism or Mindless Mischief: A Narrative Analysis of Graffiti Writers in London & Brighton", exposed me to the lives of graffiti writers in the field and better shaped my understanding of the culture. I created Graff Storm in 2021 with the mission to help new artists learn more about graffiti culture, find the right tools and avoid toy status.

Leave a Comment