Ever wondered how they create those amazing vinyl decals on Pinterest? Do you want to be able to do it, too? Cricut is a cutting machine designed for crafters, whether you do it for fun or for profit – or maybe a little bit of both. It can cut a wide array of crafting materials like paper, thin wood, fabric, leather – and of course, vinyl.
In this write-up however, we’re going to focus mainly on vinyl as the material you’ll be cutting with your Cricut unit. Here’s what you must know:
What’s a Cricut?
Since you’re reading this, we’re assuming that you already own a Cricut and have tested it out using one or two materials. A Cricut is actually a brand that produces a high-tech cutter equipment that lets you do precise cuts on paper, fabric, leather, and vinyl. The product works much like a printer in that you can connect it your PC and use the specialized program to load the image you like and have it cut into your chosen material. There are several versions of this brand but each one is used in more or less the same fashion.
Using Cricut to Cut Vinyl
So let’s say you already have Cricut and you’ve already installed the “Cricut Design Space” program that comes with the unit. Design Space is the primary program that lets you build your project on the screen and see how it would look before actually printing it. The great thing about this is that you can also access several designs from the Design Space so you can start creating quickly without worrying about copyright infringement.
What about the cutting process itself? Here’s what you should do to make sure you get the perfect cut each time.
Step 1: Start with the Target Surface
Where do you intend to put the pattern? Make sure to measure that area first so you’ll know the exact dimensions of your vinyl. The great thing here is that Cricut Design Space also has a measuring pattern so you can quickly make adjustments and know that you’re getting the sizing right. Once you’ve measured the target surface, make the necessary adjustments on the program itself.
Step 2: Place the Vinyl on the Mat
The Cricut will come with a mat that also contains lines to function as a ruler. The mat works as a cutting board so that the blade can only go so far when cutting the vinyl. Note that when placing the vinyl on the mat, you have to start on the uppermost right corner. This is the default starting point of your pattern. Load the mat with the vinyl onto the Cricut.
Step 3: Do a Final Check Before Cutting
Take a good look at the settings and double check that everything is as it should be. Once done, just click “Cut” and watch the machine in action. It will tell you when the cutting is finished so that you can deftly remove the mat and the vinyl from the equipment.
Applying Vinyl After a Successful Cut
After cutting, gently remove the vinyl from the machine and lay it flat on the surface table. This is where patience, precision, and a steady hand comes in handy as you’ll be peeling the vinyl off the paper side in order to place it on your chosen area. Again, think “stickers” for this particular stage as this is exactly what you’d be doing.
Identifying the Pattern
A word of caution however – this is where most beginners make a mistake. Imagine if you cut a stylistic “Dreaming Big” pattern from the vinyl. This “Dreaming Big” pattern won’t separate completely from the main paper, as in the case of cutting with a pair of scissors. Instead, you will get a pattern on the surface which tells you where the cut was made. This pattern would, obviously, be done in the shape you wanted. So in this case, the “Dreaming Big” pattern may be shown on the surface of the vinyl.
Removing the Excess
This cut may be obvious or subtle, which is why it’s not advisable to remove the pattern itself. In our given example, this means that you will NOT be removing “Dreaming Big” from the surface. Instead, you will be removing the excess material or basically, everything that’s not part of the pattern you want. This is called “weeding” wherein you’re removing everything that’s not necessary. In this case, it would be the surrounding vinyl. Typically, a special tool would be used for this part. If you don’t have one yet however, you can try using anything that lets you delicately pry open paper backing from the vinyl. Crocheting hooks would be perfect for this if you have any lying around.
Now, the excess around the “Dreaming Big” pattern would be easy to remove. All you need to do is find the flap on the corner and slowly peel upwards. Once you do this, the text pattern would become more obvious. Understand however that there is also excess vinyl in between the letter. For example, you’d want to remove the circular patterns in the middle of the letters D, e, a, B, and g. This would be the next thing you’ll need to remove and a bit more care is needed here. Note – it’s best to have a tool at this point because badly removing the internal excess can ruin the main pattern.
Using Transfer Paper
Once you removed the excess vinyl, you can then use transfer paper on the pattern. Some people prefer to peel off the pattern themselves and stick onto the target surface. This is possible, too, but it requires a steady hand and excellent precision. For delicate patterns, this technique could really ruin the design.
The transfer paper on the other hand lets you cleanly remove the vinyl sticker off the paper backing and then attach it to the area you want to improve. Start by separating the transfer paper from its paper backing. To use the transfer paper, simply place it on top of your vinyl patter and press. The process is a lot like putting a screen protector on your phone. With a transfer paper however, there are some techniques you can use such as bending the paper in the middle first and then applying it from the center outwards. Doing this will minimize the chances of bubbles forming on the top.
Once the transfer paper is in place, gently press it onto the vinyl. This would make the vinyl stick to the transfer paper. Some crafters have a special tool to help them burnish the transfer paper onto the vinyl. You don’t need this though – even your fingers can get the job done.
Peeling the Transfer Paper
Once you’re confident that the transfer paper has stuck to the vinyl, you can start peeling the transfer paper off, doing so slowly. Keep a close eye on the vinyl – it should separately cleanly from the paper backing. What you want is for the vinyl to stick completely on the transparent transfer paper.
Note that the more delicate the patter, the longer you have to press the transfer paper on the surface. By extension, this also means you have to be gentler when eventually removing the transfer paper so that there won’t be any broken lines.
Transferring the Vinyl on the Target Surface
At this point, the vinyl pattern should be placed completely on the transfer paper. This is the final pattern you want without the excess and the paper backing. Now, you’ll have to put it on your target area. Perhaps on the lid of your laptop or the back of your mobile phone?
Even before you slap that design on the target area, it’s important that you clean the area first. Put some alcohol in a cotton ball and wipe the surface, making sure that it is completely dry before placing the vinyl on it. This is done to make sure that the vinyl sticks to the surface and not on the dust or grime on the target area.
Position the pattern as needed, laying down the center first before straightening down to the corners. This would help prevent bubble traps.
Again, you’re going to press on the design so that the vinyl sticks to the target surface. Use your fingers and gently rub on it for as long as you feel necessary. This is the final step so take your time because you don’t want any of those delicate lines ripping off once you remove the transfer paper.
Ready? Slowly peel off the transfer paper, starting from the topmost right corner and then downwards. A downward motion decreases the likelihood of the vinyl peeling off along with the transfer paper. Some users also try to gently place pressure on the lower surface so that the vinyl stays down until it’s time to remove it.
Admire Your Work
Once you remove the transfer paper completely, it’s time to take a good look at your work. Now, this might seem like a long process but once you get the hang of it, it will only take a few minutes of your time. With this, you should be able to do all kinds of arts and crafts projects.