Cricut and vinyl go together like peanut butter and jelly, strawberries and chocolate, or milk and cookies. It’s a sweet pairing–that you can’t eat, but hey, crafting is just as good (fewer calories, too). But for real, if you own a Cricut, chances are that one day you’ll be using vinyl as one of your go-to materials. Today could be that day! If that’s the case, not to worry. We’ve put together a guide on using vinyl for Cricut crafting that’s bound to get you started and then some.
What is Cricut Vinyl?
Let’s start with the basics. Vinyl is a type of flexible and durable plastic that is used to make iron-ons and transfers. Cricut’s Premium vinyl (the company’s standard vinyl) is water and UV-resistant, too, making it great for outdoor projects like mailboxes, rustic porch fixtures, and more. You can also cut vinyl for shirt and canvas bag designs, ceramic mugs, window clings, and signs.
Cricut sells its vinyl in rolls typically measuring 12” x 48” with an impressive selection of types, finishes, and colors.
What Do I Need to Work With Vinyl?
Fortunately, because vinyl is so common of a material, you don’t need anything special to work with it. Your Cricut will come with the correct blade and mat for most of the vinyl you’ll be using, but you should stock up on a few things to make the process easier for you.
- Premium fine point blade
- Deep cut blade
- Cricut standard grip mat
- Cricut strong grip mat
- Weeding tool
- Transfer tape
- Burnishing tool
- Heat press
- Vinyl of choice
Cricut will tell you that the premium fine point blade will work fine with most of their vinyl, but the thicker you go, the more difficult it may be to cut the material. This is especially true if your blade has been used several times without replacement. Because of this, have a deep cut blade ready just in case.
You may already be familiar with what a weeding tool is, but in case you aren’t, a weeding tool helps you remove the negative space from a cut design. It usually looks like a small hook, something a dentist would use to scrape your teeth.
A burnishing tool is what will help you apply the transfer tape to your design and the design to your project surface. It smooths the material to get rid of bubbles and ensure a tight seal. Cricut sells burnishing tools, one is a scraper (which looks a little like a gua sha facial tool), and the other is a small roller.
A Note About Transfer Tape
All but one vinyl can use Cricut’s standard grip transfer tape. The glitter vinyl is much heavier than the others and will require the strong grip transfer tape instead. Cricut made this transfer tape specifically to handle the glitter, so you’ll not want to use it for light materials–you could end up ripping your design.
What Kinds of Cricut Vinyl Are There?
The answer to this question is “a lot.” We can break it down into two main categories, each with several subcategories. This section will explain the nature of each type of vinyl. We’ll get into the types of vinyl Cricut sells later in the article.
Adhesive vinyl is vinyl with a removable paper backing used for a wide variety of projects that involve transferring designs to hard materials. There are two types of adhesive vinyl: removable and permanent.
As you may already suspect, you can remove removable vinyl after you’ve applied it to a surface. It shouldn’t leave any residue behind, either. Removable vinyl can last up to two years. Thanks to its non-committal makeup, you can use removable vinyl for:
- seasonal wall and window clings for the holidays;
- jar labels; and
- temporary furniture decals.
Permanent adhesive, on the other hand, is like a tattoo. It doesn’t come off. Well, it does, but not for years. This makes permanent adhesive a suitable choice for outdoor applications or on objects exposed to extreme temperatures and frequent ware like:
- jewelry accents;
- decals for acrylic sets of nails; and
Your choices of adhesive vinyl will be many but again, let’s save that for later.
Iron-on vinyl, also known as heat transfer vinyl (HTV) doesn’t have a backing like adhesive vinyl. Instead, you’ll notice a glossy sheen to the back of the material. This is called a carrier sheet. Don’t worry about ruining the “stick” by touching your iron-on vinyl’s carrier sheet. It’s heat-activated.
You would use HTV for a lot of fabric projects and anything you can apply heat to without having to watch it melt. For instance, cotton fabric doesn’t always handle heat too well. Polyester, however, does.
How to Cut Adhesive and Iron-On Vinyl
The answer should be a no-brainer, right? You cut vinyl like everything else. Yes and no. Yes, in that you load the vinyl onto a mat, load it into the machine, and it cuts away. No, in that iron-on vinyl is the wrench you throw into the works. This section will dive into the differences between cutting the two types of vinyl and how to apply them.
Working With Adhesive Vinyl
Let’s start with the more straightforward of the two in terms of cut. Because you need transfer tape, the application process will look much different than iron-on vinyl.
Before you press the cut button, make sure you do the following:
- Plan your design in Cricut Design Space.
- Load the Fine Point Blade into the Cricut.
- Make sure you have the standard grip mat and standard grip transfer tape.
- Clean and dry your project surface.
You won’t have to mirror your design, so proceed through the cutting process as you normally would.
Cutting Adhesive Vinyl
- In the upper right-hand corner of Cricut Design Space, click Make It. This will take you to the prepare screen, where you can select the size of your material and mirror your image (don’t do this here).
- Continue to the Make Screen, where you will select your material. If you’re using the Explore series, turn the dial to vinyl. If using the Maker, go to the dropdown and select the material.
- Place your vinyl adhesive side down on the standard grip mat, making sure it is as smooth as possible.
- Load the mat into the machine.
- On your machine, you should see a blinking “C.” Press the button to start cutting.
- After your Cricut has stopped cutting, remove the vinyl from the mat by pulling the mat away from the vinyl, not the other way around.
Weeding Adhesive Vinyl
Unless you’ve chosen a kiss cut, a cut option that cuts through the vinyl and adhesive backing, you will need to weed your design. Take your weeding tool and carefully remove any vinyl that isn’t a part of your design (the center of Os, negative space, etc.). Do not remove the vinyl backing!
Once you’ve finished this process, you can transfer your design to your project surface.
Transferring Adhesive Vinyl
- Cut a sheet of transfer tape a little bigger than your design. Pull away the backing of your transfer tape and place it, adhesive side down, on top of your weeded design.
- Using your scraper or burnishing tool, burnish the transfer tape on the front and back of the design, starting from the inside and moving outwards. Be sure that the tape is on smoothly, with no bubbles.
- Gently peel away the vinyl backing. If the design doesn’t fully transfer to the transfer tape, fold the vinyl backing back to the original position and try burnishing again.
- Once successful, place a small section of your design, vinyl adhesive side down, on your project surface.
- Following with the burnishing tool, apply the rest of the design, smoothing as you go.
- At a 45-degree angle, slowly remove the transfer tape. Your design should now be transferred!
Working With Iron-On Vinyl
When you’re cutting iron-on vinyl, there are some pretty big differences. In fact, you should treat HTV like a whole new material (even though it’s still vinyl). You’ll also need a heat press to transfer your designs to your project surface. Cricut sells its own heat presses, including one specifically made for ceramic mugs.
Cutting Cricut Iron-On Vinyl
You’ll want to follow the same basic cutting steps for adhesive vinyl with the following changes.
- When you place your vinyl on the mat, you should place it adhesive side up, color side on the mat.
- In Cricut Design Space, when you are in the prepare screen, make sure you select “mirror.” This will cut the vinyl properly, so ,it’ll come out in the right direction when you heat transfer the design.
- Set your cut settings to do a kiss cut. This will cut through the vinyl and the carrier sheet. No weeding is necessary.
Weeding Iron-On Vinyl
Keep the backing on your iron-on vinyl if you decide to do a traditional cut (not a kiss cut). You’ll need to weed it like you do your adhesive vinyl.
Besides eliminating the need to weed, the benefits of a kiss cut are that you can gift iron ons as you would patches. Or, you can make in bulk to apply on an as-need basis.
Transferring Cricut Iron-On Vinyl (HTV)
Depending on the type of iron-on vinyl you’re using, you’ll need to adjust the settings of your heat press. Cricut has a complete guide on their website to help you figure out which setting is the best for what you’re using.
Essentially, the process is the same, even if the settings aren’t.
- Preheat your project material with your iron or press for about 5-10 seconds. This will help the adhesive adhere to the material.
- Position your iron-on vinyl shiny side down on the fabric. Have the plastic backing facing up towards you (this is why we mirrored the design).
- Place a protective sheet or thin piece of fabric over your design to ensure it doesn’t get too hot when pressing it.
- You’ll then apply the heat press for a prescribed amount of time. Turn your material over and press from the back for the same time.
- Once complete, peel away the plastic sheet on your iron-on vinyl. If it doesn’t stick, reapply the heat press.
- Some Cricut iron-on material will require either a cold peel or warm peel. A cold peel means you need to wait for the design to cool down entirely. A warm peel means you can peel away the plastic while the design is warm (not hot) to the touch. Not following the cold/warm peel instructions could result in a poor transfer.
Working with Glitter Vinyl
Glitter vinyl is a lot of fun to use but also has its challenges. The actual cut and design process remains the same, but your technique will need to adapt. Because the material is thicker than most of your other vinyl options, you’ll need to use the Cricut strong grip transfer tape and the Cricut strong grip mat. You’ll also need to work slowly and deliberately, possibly cut twice if using the fine point blade, and have patience–it can be a learning curve.
The Wonderful World of Vinyl
So what kind of vinyl is at a Cricut user’s disposal, you ask? Here’s an (almost) complete list:
- Cricut Premium Removable Vinyl (55 colors)
- Cricut Premium Permanent Vinyl (47 colors)
- Cricut Glitter Vinyl
- Cricut Holographic Sparkle Vinyl
- Cricut Metallic Vinyl
- Cricut 3D Textured Vinyl
- Cricut Patterned Vinyl
- Cricut Shimmer Vinyl
- Cricut Frosted Vinyl
- Cricut True Brushed Vinyl
- Cricut Mosaic Vinyl
- Cricut Metallic Vinyl
Your iron-on options include:
- Stretch (great for athleticwear)
- Printable (you would use the print and cut technique for this one)
Cricut comes out with new material options every so often, so definitely keep an eye out for new products.
Working with Cricut vinyl is par for the course with the machine, so make sure you’re set up in advance for vinyl products. Believe me. You won’t be taking up space with unnecessary investments–these are simply tools of the trade.