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Stickers, printed bricks or nothing at all...
I was having a discussion about this with someone elsewhere and wondered what you good people thought. Chances are this topic has already been aired before (and will be again), but I'm going to plough on regardless...
I rarely hear anyone have a good word to say about stickers. Those on a single brick are usually tolerated, those across multiple pieces are cussed at. In any event, they have a shelf life - eventually they'll fade, peel, or get damaged unless they're wrapped in cotton wool (figuratively and/or literally) when packed away.
Printed bricks are more robust, but if you're a builder who (unlike me) takes a set and then uses it to build MOCs, then as often as not that printing renders a brick unsuitable for other structures (not always, but sometimes).
So the third option is no stickers or printing, but just have our LEGO creations made from plain bricks. I'm no fan of stickers, but I have to admit that they can make a good set look great.
So what do people prefer? Obviously with a sticker you have the option of not using it, but once I've seen a finished set, I look at an unstickered model as 'not quite complete'.
Is there an ideal solution? I guess if you go back far enough there were no stickers or printed bricks (one for the historians - I'd be curious to know when stickers and printing made their grand entrance), but Pandora's box has been opened now, so are they here to stay?
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I think on single bricks it would be best if it was printed IMO. But you cannot do much when design needs to go over multiple bricks, stickers are usually required. However I think LEGO could do better with what they use to adhere the stickers to the plastic (heck stickers of 10 years ago are better than what they use now)
My strategy is that for all sets where I feel the stickers are important I buy extras on BrickLink. If the set is new and still carried by retailers, BL prices are very low for stickers on most sets - a few pennies usually. For large exclusive sets they may cost a few dollars. The most I have paid for a sticker-sheet was $10 for a retired exlusive set.
If you leave the sticker on the original sheet and store it in a ziplock bag, it will last pretty much forever. I usually buy 3-5 for each set where I want to preserve the stickers. I apply the original stickers and if in a few years I see that they are starting to deteriorate, I just replace them with the extras. If you leave stickered sets out of the sun, they will last some years.
I also buy sticker sheets for random decorations. They are quite fun and can really enhance a MOC. Basically every time I shop at BL, I see if the seller has any stickers, and if I find some that looks interesting I add them to my order...(c:
I hate printed pieces that really don't have any re-use ability, Dashes, license plates, screens ,and other items are useful, but the printed parts in sets like the Toy Story series are practically useless.
*Achieve a 'multiple brick' effect just to avoid using actual bricks, usually for 'walls'. These leave me feeling the set is cheaply designed, and abandons the heart of lego being a construction toy.
*Achieve the exact same effect that another set has the printed piece for. (AAAAAGH! This one reeeally ticks me off more than it should, but it just (aargh!) does. All i end up asking myself is: why is my set stuck with the bl**dy sticker, when that set has the printed piece!? The Shire Map... Wooden Planks... etc)
*Used to replicate the IP artwork in a Licensed Set. HEY! NO! This box of bricks has cost more because of that bl**dy license, so let's have these bricks with the licensed artwork ON them, not just the box (that went in the bin) and a sheet of stickers. I want to see that Star Wars Imperial Logo printed, a printed Ghostbusters sign, a printed Death Star panel, etc.
I can see the value of stickers if they want to create an unusual effect, but ultimately it then clashes with my sense of purity within the brick, as I see LEGO as a creative puzzle too. Creating something from the bricks is the challenge, which in turn renders a fancy sticker slapped over for that illusion something of a 'cheat'.
It's partly the same reason for not liking large one-piece moulded cockpits, etc. They take some of the construction aspect away. I much prefer the old planes that you had to build nose to tail.
I've mentioned this before, but my worst set for stickers is #10219 Maersk Train. I can't bring myself to apply the stickers across multiple pieces (even though I keep it on display - it's a beautiful set), so it just looks half finished.
Conversely, one of my favourite sets in my collection is #5988 The Temple of Anubis. The printing of the hieroglyphs is amazing, and haven't aged a day. This is from when Lego were extravagant and going down the pan though.
Too bad they can't come up with a modern equivalent of old school model water decals. Those were nice because you had a few moments to align them perfectly before they dried in place. Then you might want to avoid #10241.
Personally, I probably prefer printed parts but I'd be just as happy with neither in many cases. With only a few exceptions, details that require printing or a sticker are details that aren't really necessary anyway.
Jeez, I leave for a few months and everything changes :(
I enjoy collecting the printed bricks, though. Sometimes I'll go out of my way to get a set with a printed piece in it, like that mushroom cap in #41023-1, or #3750-1 even though I have no Life on Mars sets.
To get *the look* I apply most stickers. Someone here mentioned hobby knife and my applications with that method are better. I draw the line at those awful Friends stickers. They just make me gag ... and the minidolls ... but those yummy colors and clearance prices keep me buying the dang sets.
I'm totally in the printed parts camp - I hate applying stickers. I hate trying to align them. I hate how they peel then get bits of hair or fluff stuck to them. I'd be happy to pay a little extra to get all printed parts in sets.
Only if I consider that the stickers are absolutely necessary do I try to put them on my lego. They almost never go on properly aligned.
I blame my big fingers and static electricity.
They are used for almost everything now
The glue/adhesion of new stickers, compared to old, stink.
I have no issues if the sticker is needed, like over multiple parts or again on Windows. However it seems like LEGO is using them for everything.
But, as it is a cost cutting measure they are here to stay.
Generally, I enjoy stickers as I think of them as just another part of the building experience. But I also have a number of very specific sticker-related pet peeves. I generally prefer white-backed stickers to clear-backed ones unless it's going on a transparent part in such a way that a clear-backed sticker is necessary. I also prefer for stickers to line up with at least some of the edges of the part they're supposed to be applied to — it frustrates me when there aren't any edges to line up in order to be sure you're applying a particular sticker straight, as is often the case with stickers on aircraft tail pieces.
Obviously, I hate STAMPs (Stickers Across Multiple Pieces), and I don't know anyone who likes them — thankfully, though, the LEGO Group has gotten MUCH better at avoiding them, and the only sets that still use them tend to do so for trademark-related reasons (for instance, the last two Maersk sets — I suppose Maersk doesn't want the LEGO Group mutilating their trademarks or logos).
I don't like stickers on minifigures, and again, thankfully the LEGO Group has not done that kind of thing in a long time.
There are not any instances I can think of in recent sets where a set has used a print that I would have preferred as a sticker. At the same time, I am perfectly happy with printing being reserved for parts that are "special" in one way or another. The LEGO Group only produces a certain amount of elements at any given time, after all, and I think it would be silly for them to reserve a slot in their production facilities for each and every decorated element they want to include in a set.
Also, I wasn't thinking of the Ferrari sets as "recent", but I guess there were some with minifigures in 2009... I guess I just didn't think about how recent those were because I didn't collect those sets myself.