Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vinyl Tutorial

As promised, I'm going to show you how to cut vinyl on your Cricut. If you have a different cutting machine, the application process should be the same.

The picture above is a quote that I put in my classroom this year, and I love it.

The tutorial that follows is for doing smaller projects. To do something like the quote I have above, you probably want to use a software program like Sure Cuts A Lot. It will use less vinyl that way because you can squish your letters closer together. You can also stretch and squash them vertically and horizontally. Also, you'll want to use the 12" x 24" cutting mat for the larger projects.

But for our purposes today, I'm just using the 12" x 12" cutting mat.

Once you decide what you want to cut out of your vinyl, you just smooth your vinyl down onto your cutting mat the same way you would with card stock. Please, do not peel the sticker backing off your vinyl sheet. That would be baaaaaaad.

Next, load your mat into your machine. So far nothing should be different than what you're used to doing with paper. Well, except that you're using vinyl. Doy.

This next step is so very important, so pay attention, okay? You are going to want to do a very small test cut on your vinyl. Just one little one inch letter would be sufficient. I want you to put your machine on low pressure, then do your test cut. 

The test cut is so you can make sure the blade cuts through the vinyl, but not the sticker backing sheet behind it.

Very, very important. Once you've tested this, you are free to cut. Here is a picture of my test cut. 

You can see that the sticker backing paper is still there when I peel away my test cut letter. Feel free to use a scrap piece of vinyl for this step. Vinyl is expensive and you don't want to waste it. I've cut a lot of vinyl on my machine, and low pressure is my sweet spot. Yours might be different. I'm sure it depends on how sharp your blade is.

Here is a word I cut on a piece of vinyl. After I cut it, I cut a rectangle around the word so I know how big a piece of Transfer Tape I need to transfer my lettering.

The Transfer Tape is on the left and the vinyl is on the right. You can find it wherever Cricuts are sold. Lately I've been buying my vinyl at Wal Mart because it's $9 a package there vs. $10 at Michael's. I've been buying the Transfer Tape at Michael's because my Wal Mart never has it. It makes me crazy. My Michael's also has a serious problem keeping it in stock. Lucky for me, Girl Genius works there so I just have her snag it for me when the truck pulls up. I'm a Transfer Tape Junkie and she's my pusher. I love her so much.

The next step is my favorite part. I grab my Cricut Captain Hook tool and start pulling away the extra vinyl. You have to do it slowly and pull at a 45 degree angle so you don't tear your letters, but it is oh so satisfying. I like to peel skin from sunburns though, so that might just be me.

I'm easily entertained.

Here you can see my image with all the excess pulled away.

Here I've cut a piece of Transfer Tape that is about the same size as my image. Sometimes I piece scraps together. You don't have to have a continuous piece of Transfer Tape like you do vinyl. Feel free to be frugal.

Next, start peeling the Transfer Tape from its sticker backing sheet. Don't pull it all the way off though. It's like Fly Paper and it sticks to everything. It's kind of like the clear scrapbooking stickers in that when you get close to something with it, it has a magnetic force that sucks it into exactly the place where you do not want it. It's extremely annoying.

So, as I was saying, just pull back enough to get it started.

You can see here how I've started sticking the Transfer Tape to my lettering. Take it slowly and ease it onto the vinyl.

I didn't take a picture of this next step because I don't have three arms, but you want to use something to smooth the Transfer Tape onto the vinyl. Okay, that's a lie. I forgot, okay? Nobody's perfect.

A credit card would work fine. The idea is to run the edge over the surface to make the Transfer Tape stick to the vinyl so it will pull it off the sticker backing sheet without tearing the vinyl. It's a tricky, slow process.

After smoothing the Transfer Tape down, you can start peeling the Transfer Tape away from the sticker backing sheet, making sure that the vinyl is coming up with it. Again, go slow at a 45 degree angle. If you have sections that don't come up with the Transfer Tape, back it up just a tad, smooth it down, and try that spot again. Sometimes it's a process of two steps forward, one step back.


Since this piece is relatively small, I was comfortable enough hovering over the spot where I wanted to stick it, then smacking it down before I could lose my nerve.

You could say there's no turning back now.

The final step is to slowly and carefully peel the Transfer Tape away. You sometimes have to back up, smooth, and ease sections off with this step as well.

Whew! That was a little stressful, wasn't it?

I assure you, it gets easier the more you do it. Just dive in and give it a try.

This bucket was a little trickier and I had to notch my word so it would wrap around the curved surface of the bucket without puckering the letters. Sadly, these notches were not enough.

I started peeling my sticker backing sheet away and it was too hard to keep the word from sticking to me and the spot I didn't want it to go.

So I ended up cutting the word into three separate pieces so I could have a little room to work. It worked much better this way.

Pretty nifty, eh?

Now that you've suffered through this little tutorial, I have a little surprise for you. Back in April, I joked in this post about how I wanted to put up a bunch of vinyl sayings in my house, and one of them was going to be "PICK UP YOUR CRAP!" Well, some of you thought it was a splendid idea so I went ahead and did it.

I put it in Peanut Head's Man Cave because it's such a pigsty. Pigsty with a capital "P."

I kid you not. When Stinkerbell was five she walked into Peanut Head's shop and exclaimed "Daddy, pick up all this crap! It's a disaster in here!" I promise you, I am not lying. It even made it into our Christmas letter that year. These are the sorts of proud parenting moments we brag about in our annual holiday letter.

It's that juxtaposition thing that I'm so fond of.

See what I mean about the mess? Actually, this is a horrible example. He just cleaned it up. But it will not stay like this, mark my words.

So what I'm saying is that Peanut Head deserves this little gem.

And he needs to stop talking like a sailor because Stinkerbell has been using inappropriate language appropriately since she was three. And it's very hard to discipline your child when you're laughing hysterically and rolling around on the floor. Very hard.


  1. Thanks so much for this tutorial! I have not gotten a cricut yet, hoping I will get one for Christmas, and now I know how to use vinyl! It's not nearly as hard as I thought it would be! Thanks again! Chris

  2. Thanks for posting this. I've had a Cricut for a while...actually I have 2 and I have just been too chicken to try the vinyl. With your great tutorial, I'll have to give it a try ;o)

  3. This is a great tutorial...just what I need. I'd love to add something to the wall in my kitchen. Thank you for taking the time to share.

  4. While I appreciate the tutorial and all, I would rather you just make the dang vinyl labels for me. For that matter, you can come apply them for me too. Make sure they are straight, though. You know I cant stand crooked things.

  5. Very nice!! I also like the "Welcome" banner by your door. Did you make it also?

  6. LF, yes, I did make the "Welcome to 6th Grade" banner last year when I went back to the classroom. It was a lot of fun.

  7. You are so funny that I just read this entire post and had no frigging idea what a Cricut was until now. Thanks for the laughs and the education. I don't think I'd have the patience, but man, those buckets look great! (I dream of someone organizing my life and home... sigh... a place for everything...; although who am I kidding? A week later it'd be the same old thing. Piles everywhere.) And Peanuthead's lair looks very neat to me.

  8. Girlfriend, that $10 item at Michael's is only $6 when you use your %40 off coupon, which you can almost always find online and print out AS MANY AS YOU NEED THAT WEEK. try here:

    or just do a google search

  9. You make my day everytime you post something new. I am such a follower of your blog that I tend to look several times a day. Perhaps you could quit your job so you could entertain me more full time!
    I darn near wet myself with excitement when I see a new post! Your humor and awesomeness make me happy! Thanks

  10. Thanks, Carolyn. What a sweet thing to say. :)

  11. Oh I agree with Carolyn. Who needs a job? I check your posts often for new little insights. Absolutely love the tutorial and cannot wait to try it out. Thinking of going to Michael's today. Now if I can just decide on one quote! Thanks again.

  12. Ohhhh Jill, you make me want a Cricut so badly!!!!!

    that is soooo awsome. I bought a sign on vacation once, it's just vinyl on a board, but it says "Pirates don't take baths." I'll have to take a pic once it's up in my bathroom.

    I agree, when kids say something inappropriate, it's really hard not to laugh. Darn sit com television, ruining our parenting!!! :-P

    As always, thanks so much for sharing!

  13. Great tutorial!! LOVE the Christopher Robin Quote as we use this one often around here:)

  14. Fantastic tutorial!! Now I want a Cricut!

  15. I stumbled across this post from Tip Junkie....I love this idea for classroom use! I'm an Elementary School Teacher and while I'm currently staying home with my twin infants, I SO plan to do this when I go back. Do you have a post with pictures of your entire classroom? I would love to steal....{ahem} borrow more ideas from you! It looks like you made a sign using your cricut as well? SO many classrooms are bare, hospital-like spaces. I'm betting yours is nice and cozy. I would love to see it! :-D Most of my experience is with the 5th Grade, so your ideas would probably work really well in my classroom!

  16. I love that saying at the top of this post!! After this tutorial I want a cicut more than ever!!

  17. I could scream I'm so excited you posted this. I just got a personal cricut on black friday 2010 and have used it about 5 -7 times and still learning but one ting was we wanted to try Vinyl.. but had no idea how.
    Your tutorial was awesome!! thank you so much!!!
    thanks for all the tips on pressure and where to buy stuff. I mean you were great on the details, thank you thank you thank you!!!!

  18. Quick question please...instead of buying vinyl and transfer tape could you use contact paper?

  19. you should check out the prices of vinyl on this website, it is my favorite!!

    signup for their newsletter too, they send out coupons for 10% quite often!

  20. I love the quote! Would you be willing to sell me one? I dont have a cricut!

  21. I Love the quote... do you know where I can get a wall decal like that or are you wiling to sell them? I dont own a cricut!

  22. Alicia, You didn't leave your contact information so I have to respond to you in the comments. You can order it from Thoughts in Vinyl. I give the details and the direct link in this post:

    Janae sells it for $24.50 and her quote looks a lot better than the one I cut myself.

    I hope this helps.

  23. I love the quote for your students. I was wondering how you made your welcome banner? That is so cute.

  24. I just came across this through Pinterest and love it! Also, the welcome sign below it is great too, where did you get that?

  25. @Heather and Lisa, I made the welcome banner for my classroom. I've made several paper banners like this, and I have a tutorial for a Halloween banner at the following link:

    I hope this helps!

  26. Does the "Sure Cuts a Lot" still work with the Cricut? I had read somewhere that it will not work. Just checking with you since you mentioned it. Also, great tips and fun to read. THANKS!!

  27. @Shaelynn, The Sure Cuts-A-Lot program no longer works with the Cricut. Apparently there was a lawsuit and they are no longer able to sell their software. I'm sorry. :(

  28. I just found your blog! I love it! I would like to know where you got your Welcome to 6th Grade sign below the pooh quote. :)

  29. This is SO great! I love the tutorial! I will be pinning for sure..

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

  30. Did you know you can use contact paper from dollar tree for cheap vinyl? you have to be careful with blade depth though.

  31. Hi, love your stuff! Just stumbled across you on Pinterest and am wondering if there is a simple to follow tutorial for cutting the letters to use for vinyl. How do you set it so they are spaced right and the same size as each other. I would really love to etch glass using the vinyl negative space. Any ideas? Please email me if possible. Thanks in advance!

  32. Love this!!! I got a circuit on my Christmas list and this is amazing! Thank you

  33. Thanks! I have a circut on my Christmas wants!! This is a great tutorial!

  34. you are awesome! this is the first tutorial that i actually understand. and the visuals are great! btw, you have a great sense of humor!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thanks so much....i'll be a follower for sure!

  35. Thank you so much for sharing. I received a Cricut Expression 2 for Christmas and haven't used it yet. My main reason for wanting one is so that I can do the vinyl on lot's of things. This post was so helpful.

  36. Loved your tutorial! Quick question, when you are doing a multiple line quote do you use a large piece of transfer tape and transfer all words together or do you transfer each word seperately to the wall?

    1. I transfer a line at a time, not a word at a time. I think it would be a nightmare to try to get the words lined up if you did it one word at a time. It's a long tedious process regardless. So yes, I do use a large piece of transfer tape to accomodate an entire line. Sometimes I'll piece a line together if I have a line that's longer than my transfer tape though.

  37. Thank you for the tutorial, but what caught my eye on this sight was your welcome to 6th grade sign. Did you make it or did you buy it? If you made it, how did you do it and if you purchased it will you please tell me where?

  38. I made the banner. I did a post that was a banner tutorial here:

  39. Wonderful instructions, finally!!!! Thanks for walking through it with pictures and explaining each step, I'm finally comfortable with moving forward with my projects now. I work full time and don't have the time to think some of these things through, this was a great help!

  40. Great toutorial, I was surprised how well it adheared to the textured area of the bucket. btw I thought I was the only one who nicknamed her daughter stinkerbell, she's 24 now and finds it less I try to refrane but long held habits are hard to break, every once in a while oops there it is.

  41. Thanks for the info!
    is the vinyl permanent on glass? just wondering how that works for wine glasses!
    or do we need a special vinyl?

  42. A great place to get vinyl is your local sign shop. I asked them if they had any scraps they were going to throw out. I left there with my arms loaded - for FREE!

  43. Thank you so much for the tutorial!!! I think I had the pressure set too high. Bridgette


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