This week for Cricut 101 we are going to talk about vinyl. I’m going to briefly go through the differences in the different types, talk about what tools will make working with vinyl easier, and how to layer.
First, let’s talk about the different types of vinyl:
Temporary (Oracal 631) – This vinyl has a matte finish and lighter adhesive, it removes fairly easily leaving no residue – The outdoor life for the Oracal brand is 3 years while Cricut brand is 1 year.
Permanent (651) – This vinyl has a glossy finish and stronger adhesive, it is more difficult to remove and often will leave residue – The outdoor life for Oracal brand is 6 years for black and white vinyl and 4 years colored vinyl, while Cricut brand is 3 years.
*Please keep in mind all times above are approximate and will depend on the material in which they are placed and the environment in which they are displayed.*
These only need to be mirrored if placed somewhere where the sticky side will be the side displayed, for example on the inside of a frame or shadow box.
Iron on or HTV (heat transfer vinyl) – Siser is my preferred brand. Projects designed for iron-on vinyl will ALWAYS need to be mirrored when cutting! You will place the shiny side of the vinyl down on the mat. You will always want to follow the heat guide for whichever brand of vinyl you are using, but remember it is a guide. You will know the vinyl is applied well when you can see the weave of the fabric in the vinyl.
Stencil – Special vinyl made specifically to be a stencil, typically you will not need to mirror this vinyl unless the specific project requires it (ex. Screen printing). You can also use temporary or permanent vinyl as a stencil. If you are using thin paint or stain or when doing screen printing I would recommend permanent vinyl if your paint or stain is thicker you can get away with removable.
Printable – This vinyl comes in a few different varieties; light fabric printable vinyl, dark fabric printable vinyl, and vinyl sticker paper are the most common. You would use this when a design is very detailed or you are wanting to place a photograph on the blank. You will design a print then cut type image in Design Space, keep in mind the maximum size is 6.75”x9.25” in Design Space regardless of the size of your vinyl.
Weeding is the trickiest part of creating vinyl projects with Cricut. Getting all the small pieces out, making sure you can see all the cut lines, etc. The best way to make sure a design is easy to weed is to make sure it is cut properly. You want to make sure the vinyl is cut through but you don’t want to cut through the backing, if the backing is cut then it will make it harder to weed because it will try to pull it up too. A few tricks to make it easier to see the cut lines: for darker colored vinyl you can use cornstarch, baby powder, facial powder, etc. you will rub it on the design which will allow the cut lines to be easier to see. Another option is using a lightbox, this will illuminate your design from behind allowing you to see the cut lines better.
While weeding you want to keep track of all the small pieces you remove so they don’t end up back on your project and create problems when you go to place the design on your blank. A few options to keep track of the pieces include using a nail polish holder that goes on your fingers, using a Clorox or Lysol wipes container, or simply using painters tape. I recommend just using whatever you have on hand rather than going and buying something specific, I prefer to spend my money on vinyl or blanks.
Once you have your design weeded the next step is to place it on your blank. For iron-on vinyl you do not typically need transfer paper as it comes on its own, so all you have to do is turn your project over and iron it onto your blank. Removable and permanent vinyl requires the use of transfer paper to move the design from the backing to your blank. There are lots of different options when it comes to transfer paper and you have to try a few to find the one that works best for you. I always remind crafters that the transfer paper shouldn’t be too sticky as it should just help transfer the image. A few of the common transfer paper options I’ve seen used are below:
Cricut brand – Cricut has both regular and strong grip, in my opinion, the Cricut brand is a little too sticky. If I use the regular grip I will stick it to my clothing a couple of times prior to using it to help remove some of the stickiness before placing on my project. The strong grip should be used with glitter vinyl only! The easiest way to tell the difference is the regular grip has grey guidelines while the strong grip has purple guidelines.
Dollar Tree/Walmart – Another option is to get transparent contact paper from the Dollar Tree or Walmart. I have been using the contact paper from Dollar Tree and find that it works really well for me.
Glad Press and Seal – You can also use Press and Seal, I have never personally used this however I have seen a lot of people that have had great success with it.
Painters Tape/Lint roller sheet – If you are in a pinch and need to finish a project but don’t have any transfer paper you can use painters tape or a sheet off a lint roller.
I would recommend trying out whatever transfer paper you select on a simpler design to get the feel for it prior to trying to transfer an intricate design. There is nothing worse than cutting and weeding a beautiful, intricate mandala just to have it ruined by transfer tape.
Using multiple layers allows you to have multiple colors in your design, the trick is getting all the layers lined up. One way to do this is to just eyeball it and while this may work well for some designs if you have multiple layers or have a very detailed design this may not be the best option. However, eyeballing it is really the only option you have for iron-on vinyl. Temporary and permanent you can use registration marks, a small shape placed near the image to allow you to line up the shape in order to place the layers exactly where they should be.
When layering iron-on vinyl you will layer from the bottom up, making sure to only press the bottom layers just long enough for them to stick but not the full amount of time. If you were to iron each layer for the full amount of time you will overheat the bottom layers by the time you finish with the top layers. When layering removable or permanent vinyl you will layer from the top-down, picking up the topmost layer with the transfer paper then placing it on the next layer, and so on until the full image is on one piece of transfer paper. Layering will take some practice, I would recommend practicing on some simple designs so you can get the feel for it prior to trying to layer lots of intricate pieces.
That covers what you need to know about vinyl to get started, now all you need is practice. Go get some vinyl and give it a try! Let me know down below if you have any questions.