Learn everything you need to know about Vinyl!

If you are getting started with cutting machines, then you've probably seen the plethora of projects that you can make, and many use vinyl. Before getting into tips for cutting your vinyl, we should go over all the possible vinyl materials and what projects they are best for.

  • Indoor removable vinyl
    • For wall decals, can be used as stencil, or on any project/surface that does not need to withstand friction and liquid
  • Permanent outdoor vinyl
    • Great for car decals, mugs, outdoor decorations, and any design that needs to be durable against weather, water, friction
  • Stencil Vinyl
    • As the name suggests, this vinyl serves the primary purpose of being a stencil in your project. I find this vinyl particularly useful for the baked mug/ceramic projects, where I use the stencil vinyl to color in the design with a permanent marker.
  • Etched Glass Vinyl
    • Pretty similar to stencil vinyl, but is made specifically for etching glass. It's supposedly supposed to stick to the glass easier and resist the eroding effects of the etch cream.
  • Glitter, metallic, patterned, chalkboard, and Glow in the dark Vinyl
    • These vinyl have more dimension to them and add so much more pop to your project then a regular solid-color vinyl.
  • Printable Adhesive Vinyl
    • This is really neat for stickers and vinyl projects that may have a lot of different colors and it may be easier to just print the design and cut around it. This will utilize your machine's Print and Cut feature.
  • Heat Transfer Vinyl (a.k.a. HTV)
    • This can also be referred to as "Iron on Vinyl" but its vinyl that is cut and then bonded to fabric with heat.

Once you make decision on what vinyl is best for your project, then we can get started on techniques that work for vinyl.

The most important aspect of cutting vinyl is your blade speed and pressure. Most software will have options regarding the type of vinyl you are using and automatically calibrate the correct settings for your blade. For example, in Silhouette Studio, almost all of the vinyl setting have a force of 10 and a speed of 5. In Cricut you may have a high speed and a blade setting of 3. These settings can always be made manually, and depending on the intricacy of your design, you might have to. Regardless of what material you are using, I always recommend having some extra so you can test your design and cut. If you do need to change the default settings, then it's usually because the design is rather intricate or small. You can decrease the speed to ensure that the smaller pieces are not lifting up.

After cutting your design, you will need to weed out the excess vinyl that is not going to be used in your project. I found that you'll generally two tools, a pair of angle tweezers or a weeding hook tool. Pretty self explanatory on how to use these, but I found the best technique for weeding the really tiny pieces of vinyl (for example the spaces in letters) is to follow more of a scraping motion with the hook.

The last thing you will need to know about working with vinyl is how to transfer it from its backing and onto the surface of your project. For this, you will need transfer tape. After weeding your design, cut out a piece of transfer tape that covers your design, peel away its backing and press it down on your vinyl. Squeegee your transfer tape down and peel away the transfer tape. It should be pulling up the vinyl design with it. If some pieces do not pull away with your transfer tape, lay the tape back down, squeegee once again and pull up. One tip that works really well is to actually peel the backing away from the vinyl & transfer tape, rather than peel the vinyl & transfer tape away from the backing. To do this, lay the design face down on the side with the tape, and slowly roll the backing towards you, and the smaller pieces will stick to the transfer tape much easier. Now lay your transfer tape and vinyl onto the surface of your project, squeegee the vinyl on to the surface, and peel the transfer tape away once again.