Crafting with Vinyl

Monday, March 26, 2018

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Are you someone that likes to create his or her own crafts? Perhaps you are thinking about giving this a go for the first time? No matter whether you are creating something for your home or you are creating a gift for a friend, there is a lot of fun and pride that can come from making your own crafts. However, there is also a lot to consider too. One of the aspects you need to think about carefully is the material that you are going to use. There are many different materials you can use to create your own crafts, and one of these options is vinyl. In this post, you will discover everything you need to know about crafting with vinyl.

What types of vinyl can your work with?

One of the first decisions you need to make is what type of vinyl you are going to work with. There are two basic types of this material: heat transfer vinyl and adhesive vinyl. There are then different styles and types within both categories.

So, what are the differences between the types of vinyl? Adhesive vinyl, which can also be referred to as sticker vinyl, is a material that is flexible and thin, and it comes with an adhesive that is sensitive to pressure. It can be cut in any design and applied to all hard and smooth surfaces. Well, heat transfer vinyl, which is also known as HTV, T-shirt vinyl, and iron in vinyl, is the same, yet it features an adhesive that is activated when heat applied. This is for the purpose of working with any surface that can withstand heat, in particular, fabric. Therefore, the vinyl you choose to work with will mainly depend on what other surfaces you are working with, i.e. fabrics or a hard surface.

You can choose from a wide range of finishes and colours if you go down the adhesive route. However, such vinyl is always going to have paper on the back, and when you peel this off, the vinyl can be sticky to touch. There is no paper backing on heat transfer vinyl. Instead, covering the top of the material is a clear plastic carrier sheet, and the adhesive is on the other side. It is not tacky or sticky to touch.

Once you have decided between adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl, the decisions do not end there. You then have a variety of styles and types of vinyl to select from, ranging from glossy outdoor permanent vinyl to matte indoor removable vinyl. The latter is ideal for stencils, indoor signs, and wall decals, or for any other type of temporary application. The former is better suited to mugs, car decals, outdoor signs, and anything else that you want to last for a long time and withstand different pressures and elements.

Matte and glossy are not the only styles you can choose from. There are various other specialty and fun vinyl in all kinds of styles, patterns, and colours. A handful of examples include etched glass, metallic, stencil, glitter, and patterned vinyl.

Do you need an electric cutting machine?

A lot of people assume that they are going to need an electronic cutting machine in order to work with vinyl. This is not the case. You can always use a craft knife or scissors to cut this material. However, if you are planning on working with intricate designs and you do want super clean cuts, an electronic cutting machine will make your life a lot easier. Cricut and Silhouette machines are a great place to start.

What other tools will you need?

The tools you are going to need will depend on the type of vinyl you are going to use.

Some of the tools you will need for heat transfer vinyl crafting include:

A craft iron

Ironing pad

Multi-use paper or parchment paper

A Cricut easy press, heat press or iron

Some of the tools you will need for adhesive vinyl crafting include:

Masking tape

Application tool

Transfer tape

Some of the tools you will need for all types of vinyl crafting include:

Straight pins

Wedding hook

Cutting mats



Electronic cutting machine

Getting started: Make the most of online designs

You don’t need to be an artist or a creative genius in order to create beautiful vinyl signs and crafts, whether for your home or business. Nowadays, there are plenty of great online options for you to make the most of. You can find a free SVG file that matches your requirements on the Internet. These are the easiest crafts to begin with, as it is all about transferring a design onto your vinyl material. Once you have mastered this, you can then move onto more advanced crafts. There are so many great SVG files online, including those that are required for practical purposes, i.e. to warn people that you have a dog in your house, as well as those that simply contain nice quotes that you may want to place around the home so you can add personality to your place.

Before you cut into vinyl...

Once you have cut your material, there is no going back! Here are a few of the questions you should ask yourself before you start cutting. This will ensure that you have not missed anything important and that you're indeed ready to cut the material.

Have you mirrored your image if you are utilising heat-transfer vinyl?

Have you made sure that the shiny side of the vinyl is down when you were putting the heat-transfer vinyl on the cutting mat?

Have you checked that your blade is on the right setting?

Have you made sure that your design is inside the cut lines in the Silhouette Design Software?

Have you grouped your image?

Have you added boxes at the top of your design to assist you in terms of lining up the layers once you have finished cutting them?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to all the questions above, you are ready to start cutting.

How to cut and craft with adhesive vinyl

The first thing you need to do is prepare your cut file using your choice of cutting machine software. Once you have done this, you should place your vinyl onto the cutting mat. No matter what machine or mat you are using, you will need to make sure your vinyl paper is backing side down when placed on the mat. This means that coloured vinyl side will be facing you.

After this, go back to your software and adjust the cut settings, and then you are ready to start cutting. The process that is entailed will depend on the software you are using. You can find guides for various software and cutting machines online. If this is a material you have not worked with before, it is always a good idea to do a small test cut. It is better to make mistakes during the test cut rather than when you are doing the real thing.

You want the blade to cut cleanly through the vinyl, yet not cut cleanly through the backing, creating what is known as a kiss cut. This makes it much easier to separate the backing from the vinyl. If you have cut through both materials during the test cut, you probably need to lower the blade setting or depth/thickness.

Once you are happy, you can cut your vinyl. You will then need to weed out any of the excess vinyl that is around your design.

How to cut and craft with heat transfer vinyl

Last but not least, let’s take a look at heat transfer vinyl. Again, you need to start by preparing the cut file. After this, scale the design, and then open up the cut file in your chosen cutting software. You then need to flip or mirror your design horizontally. This is because you are going to cut on the back side of the vinyl when working with heat transfer vinyl.

You should then place the vinyl on a cutting mat, and follow the same steps as above in terms of adjusting your settings and cutting. You then need to weed out the excess vinyl. However, unlike adhesive vinyl, there is one final step, and this is to iron the vinyl to the fabric. It is better to use an ironing pad, rather than a folding board, as you are going to need to apply some pressure to activate the adhesive in the vinyl.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding the potential of vinyl when it comes to craft making, including some great tips on how to work with this material. The only thing that is left to do now is get started. Good luck and happy crafting!

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