Vinyl crafts are hugely popular right now. After owning a Silhouette Portrait and actually crafting with vinyl, I can see why. It is totally addictive! Over the past few months, I’ve used vinyl for numerous different projects and I’ve learned a few things along the way that I thought I’d share with you. Now, I am by far no vinyl expert but I have collected some useful tips and tricks through my projects that may be of use to you guys. Let’s get into it!
Self-Adhesive Vinyl – This type of vinyl is great for indoor projects and will adhere to many different surfaces. I’ve used adhesive vinyl for nail decals, art projects, and indoor signage. You can use this on both large and small scale projects. I’ve purchased my vinyl online as well as at the craft store. If I know that I need a large amount, I find that it is better to order it online because most places will discount the price when you buy larger quantities. Depending on the type of cutting machine you have, you may or may not have to cut your vinyl’s width before feeding it into your machine. My Silhouette Portrait only supports a width of 9 inches and since the vinyl comes in a 12 inch width, I have to cut it down before using it. I can however cut a continuous length which is great for wall art or signage. Another perk to ordering online is that you can find a broader color choice than if you purchase the vinyl in stores.
Most of the vinyl has guidelines on the back side to assist in cutting. I highly recommend using those so that you maintain straight lines. This is important when you transfer the vinyl from it’s backing onto the transfer tape. If you use the grid lines, your project should be symmetrical and level. I have used scrap pieces of vinyl that didn’t have straight grid lines and it made it more difficult to keep my project straight and level. Make it easier on yourself and use those lines! Speaking of making it easier on yourself, use your tools! I have the Silhouette hook tool and I forget to use it all the time. I’ll spend so much time fighting to peel the edges of my negative space when I could just hook it and peel it so much faster. Trust me, if you don’t have a hook tool you need to invest in one. It saves you so much time and will help you keep your sanity!
I’ve never had any trouble with my vinyl not adhering to a surface. It is recommended that you clean your surface before adhering the vinyl, I almost never do this because I’m lazy. As long as the surface you are applying to is the appropriate type of material for the vinyl, you shouldn’t have any trouble. As I mentioned before, this vinyl will adhere to most surfaces with the exception of fabric, there is a special vinyl for that and I’ll discuss that in the next section.
Heat Transfer Vinyl – This type of vinyl is specifically made for fabric. Do not try to use any other type of vinyl on a fabric surface because you will be disappointed with the results. I know this from experience. Adhesive vinyl will adhere to fabric but it will not last as it is not made to be washed, dried, and exposed to the elements outside. You can purchase heat transfer vinyl online and you can get discounts for larger quantities. This type of vinyl is a little more expensive than adhesive vinyl and is sold by the yard. You can find a large variety of colors and styles such as neon, metallic, glossy, and glitter.
As I mentioned above, my machine only supports a width of 9 inches. The heat transfer vinyl I’ve worked with comes standard at 15 inches so I have to cut mine down a lot before feeding it into the machine. Again, I can cut a continuous length though which is great for outdoor signage. This vinyl didn’t have the cutting guidelines on the back so I had to take more care in measuring and trimming to insure that I had straight lines. I’m not sure if all heat transfer vinyl comes without the grid lines but if you have a choice then choose a vinyl with the lines.
There is a major difference between the heat transfer vinyl cutting process and the cutting process of adhesive vinyl. When you’re using adhesive vinyl, you cut your design or text exactly as it would appear on your project but with heat transfer vinyl, you have to mirror the image. This is because of the application process. The adhesive vinyl is applied with a transfer tape which allows you to apply the tape to the nonadhesive side of the vinyl and then press the adhesive side to your surface. Once you’ve adhered the vinyl, you just pull off the tape and you’re done. Heat transfer vinyl has to be mirrored because you do not remove the vinyl from it’s backing before applying it. You actually use it’s backing in the transfer process. You have to pay extra close attention to which direction you feed your vinyl into the machine and which direction your image or text is facing. The shiny side of this vinyl goes face down into the machine and your image has to be mirrored. Just remember those two things and you should be fine.
Earlier I said I never clean my surfaces before applying the vinyl, well fabric is the exception. You should always wash your fabric before you apply your vinyl. The vinyl I worked with came with application instructions and recommended using heat of 330 degrees for 45-60 seconds. I started out using a standard iron and it was a lot of work. I was working with a very large surface so it was extremely time consuming. If you have a heat press machine or a press iron I recommend using that instead. Luckily my grandmother has one so I borrowed hers to finish my project.
Be sure to always place a piece of thin fabric between your iron and your vinyl so that you don’t melt the plastic backing. I used a pillowcase and that worked out great. As I mentioned before, this type of vinyl is made to be washed and will withstand the weather but I recommend reading the care instructions before you purchase your vinyl to be sure you’re purchasing the correct kind for your project especially if you’re working on something that will be outdoors.
Outdoor Vinyl – This type of vinyl is the same as adhesive vinyl except that it is made for outdoor projects. It has a stronger adhesive which makes it perfect for outdoor signage, car decals, and window clings. You can use regular adhesive vinyl for outdoor projects but over time the weather will wear down the adhesive. Outdoor vinyl is made to last longer when exposed to the elements.
Hopefully I’ve managed to answer some questions that you may have had about the different types of vinyl and how they should be used. If there are questions I didn’t answer, please ask! Happy crafting y’all!