How to Use Adhesive Vinyl (Craft Vinyl) With Your Electronic Cutting Machine

New to vinyl? No problem! Let's break down how to use adhesive vinyl.

Before we jump on in, here's what you're going to need to get started:

  1. Adhesive Vinyl: Any type of craft vinyl with backing paper/release liner will work. You don't want to accidentally use heat transfer vinyl (HTV).
  2. Cutting machine: You can use scissors, die cutter or an Xacto knife to manually cut the vinyl, but having a cutting machine like the Silhouette or Cricut will make this a far more enjoyable experience!
  3. Weeding Tools: We recommend a weeder, squeege, scissors and a pair of super-fine tipped tweezers.
  4. Transfer Tape: NOT ALL TRANSFER TAPES ARE CREATED EQUAL! Choosing the right transfer tape can makе a world of difference, it can be the difference between a smooth, satisfying project and one that leaves you feeling like you’re wrestling with a roll of sticky tape or wasting more than transferring vinyl.
  5. Something to put your vinyl on: This is the best part about vinyl, the world is your oyster! If it has smooth and solid surface, it is begging to be customized.

Ok, let's get started!

Step 1: Prep Cut File

The first step in crafting with vinyl is to prepare your cut file in the cutting machine software you are using. If you do not have an electronic cutting machine like a Silhouette or Cricut, you can cut vinyl by hand, but it is just more difficult to get intricate designs. The most common cut file type is probably SVG, but you might be using a .Studio, .png, .dxf, or .jpg file depending on the software you are using. Once you have your design and surface picked out, you need to measure your surface to determine how big you will need to cut the design. Open up your cut file design in your cutting machine software, and then scale the design to the size you want. 

Step 2: Cut Your Vinyl

  1. Place vinyl on cutting mat: It is possible to cut vinyl directly from the roll without a mat using on certain machines. Check Machine settings for the same. Whichever mat and machine you are using, put your adhesive vinyl release-liner side down onto your mat so the coloured side is facing up. If your vinyl came in a roll, you can cut off a piece to fit on your mat.
  2. Adjust Cut Settings and Cut: You will need to adjust the cut settings in your software or on your machine to work with the material you are using. This process will be a little bit different for every cutting machine, but just make sure to choose the settings for the particular type of vinyl you are using (glitter vinyl may require different settings than regular glossy vinyl, for instance). When cutting adhesive vinyl, the goal is to not cut all the way through the paper backing. You only want to cut the vinyl. But, you don't want your blade to cut to shallow either, then it becomes a weeding nightmare. Typically most electronic cutting machines on the market today have vinyl presets, and about 90% of the time they work great...the other 10% of the time it can be frustrating. So to save yourself the headache, ALWAYS DO A TEST CUT!

Step 3: Weeding

Weeding is a term you will hear often when working with vinyl. And just like you weed a garden to remove the unwanted plants, weeding vinyl is simply removing the unwanted pieces around your design. 

When your cut design is considerably smaller than the piece of vinyl you cut it from, then we recommend first trimming off the extra vinyl before weeding. You can just use a pair of scissors and trim around your design. This allows you to use the rest of your vinyl piece for another project. 

If you have any difficulty seeing your cut lines, you can try gently bending your vinyl or holding it up to a light or window. Using a Tracing Light Pad is another option. Once you find your cut lines, use your weeding tool to gently lift up the edge of the negative space and pull it up off of the paper backing. 

Step 4: Use Transfer Tape

Now that you have your design all weeded, you will have a bunch of separate pieces of vinyl positioned on your paper backing, and you need to move them from the paper backing to your final surface. To do this easily and keep all the pieces where they need to be, you need transfer tape.

As mentioned before, all transfer tape is not the same. Ideally, you want it to be tacky enough to pull the vinyl from the paper backing but still able to release onto your desired surface. For this to work, the vinyl has to have a stronger adhesive than the tape but also not leave any residue behind on the vinyl that you then have to go back and clean.

Once the transfer tape is applied over the vinyl, use an squeegee or a brayer to adhere it to the vinyl and remove any air bubbles.

Then starting in one corner, slowly peel the transfer tape and the vinyl decal up off of the release liner.

Step 5: Apply Vinyl Decal

And that's it, your awesome DIY vinyl decal is applied!