An Introduction to Adhesive Vinyl

When you first get your Cricut or other digital cutting machine out of the box it can be a little daunting. Not just learning the different functionality, dials and getting to grips with the design software but also what materials you should use for each project.

(If you are still trying to decide which machine would be best for your needs then it'd be good to check out this post first. It gives an overview of different options, their benefits and price points)

In this blog series I’m going to look at the main crafting materials, when they should be used and what variations are best for which crafts. This post will focus on adhesive vinyl, also known as sticker vinyl.

If you're looking to get started with paper or card crafts then check out this post first. Similarly if you're interested in working with Iron on (also known as Heat transfer) vinyl, have a read of this post first.

Adhesive vinyl is easily recognisable because it generally has a matt or gloss coloured front, and a white backing paper on the rear, often with a square line pattern similar to wrapping paper which guide acts as a guide as you are cutting. If you peel the coloured front of the vinyl away from the backing paper underneath of the coloured sheet will feel sticky. (Unlike heat transfer vinyl where the clear backing sheet feels sticky and the coloured vinyl is not).

Adhesive vinyl front back

What is Adhesive Vinyl Used for?

Adhesive Vinyl can be used for a range of ‘hard’ crafts (this refers to the object that the vinyl is going to be adhered to). For example, mugs, glasses, chalkboards, windows, walls, wood, bottles, mirrors etc. It is applied using physical pressure to create a firm stick between the object and the vinyl.

Types of Adhesive Vinyl

There are two main types of adhesive vinyl. Each option and the pros and cons  are discussed below.

Removable Adhesive Vinyl. As you’d expect, removable vinyl can be removed easily and without leaving a sticky residue. This makes it great for projects which you might not want to keep forever. Perhaps you want to decorate the baby’s nursery with zoo animals and the alphabet but know that they might not appreciate it in 10 years time when they have friends over for a sleep over. Or perhaps you want to decorate your windows with spiders and pumpkins for Halloween but would be pained to see them all year round. It would also be great for decorating things which you might want to sell in the future such as laptops, phones etc.

Permanent Adhesive Vinyl. This options is great where your designs will need to withstand a bit more wear and tear. Think frequently used items such as mugs, glasses, coasters or tea and coffee pots! Permanent vinyl will also make them much more resistant to water damage. It’s also a great option for any vinyl projects which will be placed outside. It could be used for house signs, car decals and Christmas or welcome signs!

Removable and permanent adhesive vinyls are available in a range of colours, patterns and styles. Beyond the traditional glossy and matt options you could also opt for glow in the dark, metallic, glitter, patterned and many other options!

Where to get designs, fonts and inspiration

The Cricut design space has a large library of different images which you can use, either for free or for a small charge. You can also get a Cricut Access subscription which gives you unlimited access to their files.

If you want to look outside the Cricut package there are a few things you need to know. Firstly, you want to source SVG files as these can be easily cut by your machine. They can also be easily resized and edited without losing quality. You can source lots of different SVG files free of charge for personal use, online via Google. Always make sure the image you want to use comes with a licence to avoid illegal use and potential copyright infringement.

Beyond Google, I’d recommend looking on the following websites for freebies too: Lovesvg.com, Svgandme.com, Creativefabrica.com and 3dsvg.com. You can also purchase SVG files from designers on these sites, and sites like Etsy, for a small fee if you’re looking for something more specific. Most sites and downloads will come with a licence for personal use. For commercial use, if you are looking to make items to sell, you’ll need a commercial licence. This might also be included or you might need to pay a slightly larger fee for the privilege.

For text based designs I would recommend searching on sites like dafont.com and fontbundles.net. These both have a catalogue of different font options and most can be downloaded for free, with a free license for personal use. Again, check the specifics for commercial use if you’d like to make money from your crafts.

My top tips for Adhesive Vinyl

So now you have the specifics of what adhesive vinyl is available here are my top tips to get you started:

No need to mirror. Unlike heat transfer vinyl, there is no need to mirror your projects before a cut with adhesive vinyl. This is because adhesive vinyl is ready to stick once the backing paper is removed.

Transfer Tape. To remove your design from the backing paper and place it on your desired item in the exact position you was printed and cut you’ll need to invest in some transfer tape. Transfer tape is a layer of removable clear plastic which you cut to the size of your project, peel away from it’s backing paper, and rub directly onto your design. Once it is stuck in place you can peel away the vinyl’s backing paper and stick your design to the object of your choosing. Once stuck in place, carefully peel away the transfer tape to leave your finished design.

Cricut transfer tape
Cricut Transfer Tape

Note: if your vinyl also peels away with the transfer tape, simply replace the tape, rub firmly again (use a bank card for extra pressure if necessary) and try to peel once more.

Wedding memories map

Colour side up. With adhesive vinyl you want the backing paper pressed against the adhesive mat and the colour side facing upwards. I’d recommend using the Cricut green standard grip mat.

Set your Cricut dial correctly. For adhesive vinyl I simply use the vinyl dial setting. If you’re using a slightly thicker vinyl, for example glitter, then you can try either one notch up from this or the ‘Iron On’ settings.

Weeding. Removing the excess vinyl around the edge and in the gaps of your cut is known as weeding and, if I’m completely honest, can be a little bit of a pain when it comes to adhesive vinyl. This is because it is sticky and will quite literally stick to everything it touches - yourself, your mat, the vinyl you want to keep, even your dog if he gets curious and a bit too close!

When peeling away the bulk of the outside vinyl make sure you progress slowly, carefully peeling the vinyl upwards and holding it tight to prevent it touching the vinyl. Snip away any sections which lead in a different direction to the general pull, these can be done separately afterwards. Be particularly careful when peeling away around small sections you want to keep, such as the dot on an ‘i’ as these have a tendency to peel away with the bulk of the vinyl and, once lost, it can be impossible to locate them!

Vinyl castle

Layering. Once you have got the hang of vinyl projects you might want to consider using the layering technique to build more complicated designs. The Cricut will undertake a series of different shape cuts on different colour vinyl sheets. These can then be layered next to or on top of one another to make a more detailed image. For example, if you wanted to create a rainbow wall decal you would first need to cut out each of the coloured bands and then you would place them onto the transfer tape one by one to build up the final image.

Hopefully this introduction to the types, uses and key things to remember has been useful and you are now raring to go with your adhesive vinyl crafts! If you have any questions drop me a comment on my Facebook and Instagram pages and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! Don't forget to share your makes in the comments section there too - I'd love to see how you get on!

I've used adhesive vinyl to make a Memories Map for our wedding, you can find out how here. You could also use adhesive vinyl as an alternative to painting when making your wedding signs too!

Vinyl projects

Happy Crafting!

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