Updated date:

Best Tools For Vinyl Projects

Understanding the basics of craft vinyls will help you save costly mistakes when you use this medium. Learn which vinyl to use and when,

best-tools-for-vinyl-projects

Vinyl Projects Enjoy New Popularity

It seems that everywhere you turn on the internet, at craft fairs and across the crafting community, vinyl projects have enjoyed new popularity. The electronic cutting machines have made the process and design ability go far beyond anything anyone believed possible.

From beginners to professional crafters, it seems that everywhere you go, vinyl projects are taking the spotlight in the crafting world.

What has made vinyl projects so popular?

  • Cutting machines have come a long way. Crafters from the first attempt are able to create something special from their first attempt. The computer programs on this cutting machines are easy to use.
  • Files to make vinyl projects are easily available. There are both free SVG files as well as commercial files throughout the internet. Crafters have a wide range of choices for home decor and projects.
  • It is easy to get started with vinyl projects. With an electronic cutting machine, some vinyl, and a few tools, you can start creating.
  • Vinyl for your projects is reasonably priced. You can get quality vinyl if you shop wisely at reasonable prices.
  • There is a wide variety of vinyl available. No matter what surface you would like to use, more than likely there is a vinyl available.

Tools That You Need For Vinyl Projects

If you are planning to start creating vinyl projects for pleasure or profit, there are some tools that you will need, Some you may already have in your craft space. Others you may have to invest in. Here is a complete list, then we will go into detail on each tool and what your options might be:

Electronic Cutting Machine

Yes, you can cut your vinyl manually, but cutting machines give you more options, designs, and intricate designs. It saves you time and gives excellent results. There are options from a basic machine to those that have more options. It depends on your needs and budget.

Some electronic cutting machines now come with optional vinyl roller feeders that you can purchase separately. If you are doing a lot of vinyl projects, these can be a time saver and will minimize the waste vinyl you may have,0

Weeding Tools

Once you cut your designs, you need to clean away the excess or unneeded vinyl away from your design. There are several options for weeding tools. You can buy them as individual tools or as kits

Heat Press Tool

With Heat Transfer Vinyl you need a heat source to adhere the vinyl to the fabric. You can use an iron, an Easy Press, or a Heat Press. There are options and price points for these tools for you to consider.

Transfer Tape

A definite must when it comes to adhesive vinyl. This is the material that moves your design from the mat to the project. It comes in different strengths in both sheets and rolls

The Easiest Way To Cut Craft Vinyl

Electronic cutting machines are the easiest way to cut vinyl

Electronic cutting machines are the easiest way to cut vinyl

Electronic Cutting Machines

The first foundation and tool to create your vinyl projects is your electronic cutting machine. There are a lot of choices when it comes to choosing a cutting machine for your use. Each machine has its own pros and cons. But there are a few considerations when you decide which machine is right for you. There is no right or wrong answer here, just the one that is right for you.

Each of these machines uses files called SVG files to create projects that you can cut with vinyl to create custom projects for home and commercial use. There are so many free files that you can access as well as those that you can purchase. If you are planning to create projects for sale, then you have to be sure that the files have been sold or given for commercial use. To do otherwise infringes on copyright laws.

So, what should you consider when making an electronic cutting machine?

1. Functions-What does the machine that you are considering do to fit your needs? What does it have that another comparable machine does not? Is the machine able to be used right out of the box? What other tools are available if you want to get more functions down the road?

2. Software-What free software does the machine come with? What does the free software enable me to do? Are there upgrades to the software? What do the upgrades cost? Will I use the enhanced software enough to cover the cost? Are there restrictions to the software?

3. Cost- What is the price of the machine? Where can I get the best price? Is the machine packaged as a bundle with extra products? What else will I have to buy to have a good function of the machine.

In the end, it is up to you and your budget to make the right decision for your needs

Both the Silhouette and the Cricut Explore and Maker Work equally well.

Name Of Cutting MachineSoftwareAccessoriesCost

Cricut Explore Air 2

Free acess to Cricut Design Space. Upgrades available

The Cricut Explore Air 3 now has a roller feeder as a seperate item that can be added on

$227

Cricut Maker

Free access to Cricut Design Space. Upgrades Available

The Cricut Maker three has a roller feeder that can be purchased seperatly

$369

Silhouette Cameo 4

Basic software available free. Need $49 upgrade to Use SVG files

Built in roller feeder allows you to load and cut materials that are in rolls. Built in crosscutter

Brother Scan N Cut

Free software. Nothing additional needed

Optional vinyl roller feeder

$340

Blades To Cut Vinyl

Most machines have a blade and housing already inserted in the machine. You will want to have an extra on hand to easily replace the blade when it gets dull

Most machines have a blade and housing already inserted in the machine. You will want to have an extra on hand to easily replace the blade when it gets dull

The Blade Of Your Electronic Cutting Machine Is Important

No matter what cutting machine you are using, having the right blade to cut your vinyl is very important. Having a sharp blade that will cut cleanly will make or break your vinyl project. You want a sharp blade to cut the vinyl like butter.

Blade Tips

  1. Always have a good-sized ball of aluminum foil near your machine. Remove the blade from your machine and push it through the ball several times. It will help to keep it a little sharper and cleaner
  2. If the blade seems to be dragging, remove the blade from the housing. Check to make sure that there are no bits of paper or vinyl caught in the blade.
  3. Always have an extra blade on hand. That way is the blade you are using is shot, you have an easy way to complete the project
  4. When using a Cricut cutting machine, the fine point blade is the blade of preference when cutting vinyl.

How To Clean Your Cutting Machine Blade

An important maintenance step is to keep your blade clean and sharp

An important maintenance step is to keep your blade clean and sharp

Cleaning Blades- Every Time You Use Them

Having sharp blades is crucial especially when cutting vinyl. If your blade is not sharp enough it will drag and rip the vinyl rather than cutting it. So taking a few steps to keep your blades clean and sharp on a regular basis will help you get better results not only on your vinyl but on all of your other projects as well.

The Aluminum Ball

The aluminum ball has been used for a while as a tool for sharpening your cutting machine blade. Take a good-sized piece of aluminum foil and roll it into a tight ball. Keep it close to the area where your cutting machine is stored.

  1. Expose the blade from your housing, but do not remove it. De[ress the blade into the aluminum ball up to 50 times. Doing this on a regular basis will keep your blade sharp.
  2. Another way to do this is with a slicing motion. It is another way to sharpen your blade.

Removing Residue

If your blade has a lot of residues, you can remove the blade to give it a good cleaning. Remove the blade from the housing and blow on it. You can also soak it with some soapy water. Make sure to be careful so that you do not cut or stab yourself. Make sure the blade is dry, before you place it back into your housing and back into your machine.

Blade Settings For Cutting Vinyl

Some machines like the Cricut have blade settings in their software. So when you chose custom settings, a list of different types of vinyl comes up and you simply select the vinyl you are working with.

Other machines require you to select the setting for the vinyl. These are called blade settings. The blade setting You need to know the right blade setting to cut the type of vinyl you are using.

The blade level is so how far the blade is exposed. This allows the blade to adjust to different levels depending on the thickness of the material. The auto blade will automatically adjust itself to the thickness you have set in the software.

The speed of the blade is generally one of the most forgiving settings in the cut panel. This setting is fairly straightforward as it indicates the speed at which the project is cut. Most projects will cut just fine at the default settings. But with some machines, you may have to make adjustments.

Double Cut/Passes– This feature will cut the material once, and return and cut it again. The double cut is useful if there are any problems with your first cut.


Speed And Thickness Matter Too

As we said before, some machines like the Cricut adjust the blade factors by you choosing the material you want to cut. Other machines require you to set the factors that determine things like how deep the blade goes, how fast it cuts the materials and how the blade is set.

Having the right settings is important to the success of your vinyl projects. Often the manufacturers will offer the settings for their particular vinyl. Follow their guidance or refer to your owners manual for the right settings for your machine

Silhouette Cameo Blade Settings For Vinyl

Blade SettingUse

1

Thin materials such as vinyl and smooth heat transfer material

2-3

Medium-weight materials such as paper, cardstock and flocked heat transfer material

4-6

Thicker materials such as textured cardstock and pattern papers

Test cuts are best done when working with a new vinyl or a different brand

Test cuts are best done when working with a new vinyl or a different brand

Do A Test Cut Before Cutting A New Vinyl

Anytime you are planning to cut a new brand or type of vinyl, it is smart to do a test cut before creating your final project. The reason that you will want to take this extra step is that there can be variants in blades and how a machine may run (based on age) A test cut helps you make adjustments, if necessary so that you do not waste your vinyl or waste time recutting your project.

When Should You Do A Test Cut?

  • Anytime you are cutting new material or a different brand of material
  • Anytime that you switch to a new blade
  • Anytime that you switch to a new cutting mat
  • Anytime that you switch to a new machine

All you need is a small square of vinyl. Cut a triangle or other simple shape.

Things To Watch And Correct In A Test Cut

  1. Make sure that your blade is sitting correctly in the housing.
  2. Make sure that the blade is clean and free of any scraps or debris
  3. Make sure that the mat you are using is free of dirt and is sticky enough to hold your vinyl in place
  4. Make sure that the rollers of your cutting machine is free of any tape and moves freely.

Cutting Tips For Electronic Cutting Machines

Cutting Mats -A Must Have Tool

Most machines have at least one cutting mat that comes with the machine. It is a good idea to have at least one extra on hand

Most machines have at least one cutting mat that comes with the machine. It is a good idea to have at least one extra on hand

Cutting Mats Are Another Tool You Will Need

The Silhouette Cameo 4 does not need a mat for cutting vinyl projects. But for smaller cuts and other cutting machines, you will need a cutting mat.

These mats have adhesives that hold the vinyl on the mat for cutting. The adhesive on the mats will get "dry" after a while, so make sure that you have at least one extra mat on hand.

There are generally two sizes of mats available. The most often used size is 12" by 12". For bigger projects, there is a mat that is 12" by 24".

Once you are done with your project, use the scraper to clean any leftover bits on the mat. Then wash the mat with dish detergent and water. Allow the mat to air dry/ Always cover the mat when not in use to prevent dust and dirt gathering on the mat.

Home Irons To Apply Craft Vinyl

The question is always asked-can you use a home iron to apply Heat Transfer Vinyl (iron on ) to fabric projects.

The answer is yes and no. A large part of that statement has to do with the type of iron that you have at home. More often than not, most folks have a steam iron. There are two reasons why that may not be the best option.

First, they are often very light weight. You need enough weight in your iron to get the pressure needed to get your transfer permanently on the project. This irons are often very light so that they are not too heavy when you add water. Well, since you never use steam to apply vinyl, it will be difficult to get enough pressure on the iron to get the vinyl to stick properly.

Second, there are holes in the bottom of the plate of these irons. The more holes in the plate, the less pressure that will be on the project. You need a flat surface to get the best from your iron on vinyl.

You may want to consider a dry iron that has no holes on the bottom plat and is heavier than the standard steam iron.

Best Heavy Weight Dry Iron

Cricut Easy Press

What is so delightful about the Easy Press, is that it is a few steps up from the dry iron but does not require the space and financial demands of the heat press.

There are three sizes of the Easy Press which is manufactured by Cricut.

Cricut Mini Easy Press

This is the smallest in the Easy Press Line. It is compact and perfect for those very small projects. Good for small items like socks, hats, shoes, ect. It is about 1.1 lbs with three heat settings. It's average cost is about $49.

Cricut Easy Press 2

The next size up is the Cricut Easy Press 2 9" by 9 " square. This is the model for anyone who wants to do things like tea towels, pillowcases, napkins, aproms and more. It has heat settings up to 400 degrees. All you have to do is enter the temperature and time setting About $189

Cricut Easy Press 2

Easy Press 2 is one of the most popular items in the group. The 12" by 10" size is perfect for larger t shirts, sweatshirts, banners, blankets, large towels and more. You get professional results in 60seconds or less. It features a temperature control up to 400 degrees. All you have to do is entire the time setting and the temperature. About $239


Heat Press-Another Option To Apply Heat Transfer Vinyl

best-tools-for-vinyl-projects

Heat Presses Options

The heat press is another option for applying Heat Transfer Vinyl. It is very popular with those crafters who love making fabric projects. It is also very useful for anyone who is creating projects to sell online.

Most crafters that are using heat presses, use what is referred to as a clamshell heat press. It opens and closes as a clam would.

You need to have extra space to be able to accommodate a heat press. The smallest ones are at average 15 by 15 inches. And they go up in size and price from there.

Whatever heat press you decide on. make sure that the top and bottom plates have Teflon coatings. This will help prevent any damage to the material that you are working on.

Also, make sure that you can plug the unit into a standard 110 v plug. Some of the bigger units may require special wiring.

What Are The Advantages To A Heat Press?

  • You can get higher temperatures ( some go up to 500 degrees)
  • More even distribution of heat
  • Even and more pressure making a better vinyl application

Prices start at $209 for the smallest and go up from there

What Kind Of Heat Press Should I Buy?

More Tools For Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)

There are a few other tools that you should consider when working with Heat Transfer Vinyl. You may have these in your home, but all of them are reasonably priced.

  • Parchment Paper-protects your surface when applying a heat source
  • Ironing Pad-This pad protects your work surface

Heat Press Mat

Transfer Tape

Transfer tape, also known as application tape, is a paper or plastic film that can be placed on the top of the sticker or piece of vinyl to make the sticker easier to apply. Transfer tape allows the installer to see exactly where they are placing the sticker on the surface of the project. You use the tape to lift the design and place it on the surface of your project.

Transfer tape comes in both sheets and rolls.

There are different types of transfer tapes

  1. Paper Transfer Tape-This is a paper-based film coated with adhesive. You might think of it as industrial masking tape. It tends to be softer and more flexible than other tapes. It comes in low, medium, and high tack tapes. More often than not, you will want to stick to a medium to high-tack paper tape.
  2. Clear Transfer Tape-Clear transfer tapes tend to have a lower tack (stickiness) than paper transfer tapes. Since some vinyl products need that more aggressive stickiness, this tape may not be suitable for all uses. This kind of tape also attracts static, which can cause debris and dust to collect. The end result may be bubbles in the vinyl design application. This tape cannot be used for any project that requires heat. The heat requirements for heat transfers would melt this tape. Some clear transfer tapes have grids on them. This is especially useful if you are doing a project that has words or lettering.

Which Transfer Tape Should You Use?

Understanding which transfer tape should you use with your adhesive vinyl? Here is a simple guide you can use for your projects:

Standard Transfer Tape

  • Standard vinyl
  • Holographic vinyl
  • Premium vinyl
  • Premium glossy outdoor vinyl
  • Dry erase vinyl
  • Stencil Vinyl
  • Adhesive Foil
  • Adhesive foil, matte

Strong Grip Transfer Tape

  • Glitter vinyl
  • Premium vinyl shimmer-permanent
  • Chalkboard vinyl

Comparison OF Different Transfer Tapes

Transfer Tape Tips

Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your transfer tapes:

  1. You can reuse your transfer tape over and over. Never through the piece, you used away. It can be used for several projects
  2. When using transfer sheeting (which is used to transfer the vinyl to its final surface) make sure to keep the roll of the vinyl and the roll of the transfer sheeting in the same direction. If you apply the transfer sheeting at a 90-degree angle to the natural roll of the vinyl you will get bubbles and creases.
  3. Let your mat be your third hand. Leave the design on the mat to anchor the project.
  4. Toggle the transfer tape. Bow it in the center. like a taco. Place that bowed center in the middle of the design. Then work the tape outwards on each side, smoothing as you go.
  5. Take a scraper and run it along the entire project to make sure that the tape is secure.
  6. Peel the mat off the design. Just remove the mat carefully off the mat.
  7. Burnish the back of the design. Remember, you can never over rub the tape to make sure that it lifts correctly
  8. When removing the backing paper, make sure to keep it taught. Gently fold it back
  9. If you are applying a decal to a curved surface, snip all around the decal to make it easier to apply

Weeding Tools

Most common weeding tools that you need to clean excess vinyl from your projects

Most common weeding tools that you need to clean excess vinyl from your projects

Wedding Tools

Wedding tools are a necessity for all vinyl crafters. There are a variety to chose from. If you buy them in sets, they are generally more economical then buying them one by one

You can purchase a kit or items as separate items. Buying the kit is usually a more economical way to go. If you are just starting out, get a basic kit then add on to tools later

What should you kit contain?

  • A pair of longer fine nosed tweezers-helps you get up the little bits of vinyl
  • At least one hook weeder-this is the actual tool that will get the pieces up
  • At least one scrapper- helps you burnish your vinyl and clean your mats
  • A spatula-helps lift vinyl off the mat of your cutting machine

Extra Tools That may come in your kit

  • Scissors-helps cut vinyl pieces
  • Ruler-helps you measure pieces of vinyl or transfer tape to cut
  • Craft knife used to cut vinyl
  • Cutting mat-you cut on it rather than your craft surface
  • A stand or pouch to hold your tools


All In One Weeding Tool

Cutting And Weeding Tips

Guide To Weeding Tools

Best Scrappers Available

Burnish Your Adhesive Vinyl

If you are using and making projects with adhesive vinyl, then you know that the transfer tape is needed to lift and place your design on the project. To make sure that the vinyl will lift the design, you need to burnish the tape onto the project.

Burnishing is the process of attaching the tape to the vinyl design by rubbing the tape onto the vinyl, usually with a scrapper.A scrapper with the right amount of pressure is the best tool to get the job done, You get more even pressure over a butter knife or a craft stick.

A Scrapping Tool

A scrapping tool is used to burnish or rub the transfer tape into the vinyl. There are different sized scrappers. If you are a paper crafter or use an electronic cutting machine you probably already have one. I prefer to use the larger scraper. That pretty much covers all areas of my projects rather than using a smaller one where I may have to go over an area over and over again.

You can purchase scrapers as a separate item, or you can purchase them as part of a weeding tool set.

Make sure to clean your scrapper periodically with soap and water. The edges often pick up dirt and debris. You want a clean edge to get the most amount of clean pressure on your design.

You can use other things like butter knives, craft sticks, old gift and credit cards. But I have found that I get the best results from using craft scrappers

A Light Pad

A light pad works to help you see the cut lines in your project. It can be a light pad like a Cricut Bright pad, or another brand. Make sure if you purchase a light pad, you get one with multiple light settings.

Or it can be a bright light from something like an Ott light. Anything you can use to add light to your workspace will help you find the excess vinyl that you need to remove.

Light Pad Tips And Ideas

© 2021 Linda F Correa

Related Articles