A Beginners Guide To Working With Cricut Vinyl
If you’re a Cricut beginner looking for some great Cricut tutorials, this is the one for you. If you’re intimidated by Cricut vinyl, have no fear. This tutorial is all about A Beginners Guide To Working With Cricut Vinyl, and it will help any beginner master their Cricut machine.
Maybe you’ve had trouble with Cricut vinyl in the past. No more! With these vinyl tips and tricks you should be a vinyl pro in no time! Just think about all the amazing craft projects you’ll be able to make with your die cutting machine. The possibilities are endless!
A Beginners Guide To Working With Vinyl
In this tutorial, we’re going to show you step by step how to easily work with vinyl and your Cricut machine. Follow along with the video above or the written tutorial below.
The first step is always, always, always to measure your surface. You want to be sure to size your design properly so that it fits well. We recommend using a measuring tape for accuracy. It’s perfect, even for curved surfaces, and it doesn’t take up much storage space.
Downloading Your Chosen Cut File
Choose the cut file you want to work with. Of course, we’re grabbing ours from our Makers Gonna Learn membership site. Since our sign is wider than it is long, we’re looking for a cut file that is also similar dimensions.
Simply click on the download button for the cut file you want to use. It will download into a file folder for you to use.
You’re then going to head over to Cricut Design Space and click on “Upload” to add your file there. Click “save” and then go to your recently uploaded images to add it to your workspace.
Sizing Your Design
Go to the top of your screen in Design Space and you’ll see dimensions there. Change those dimensions to the size you’d like your finished design to be. Once you type those dimensions in, you may find that your design looks huge and is hard to work with on the screen.
Simply go to the bottom of Design Space where you can use the plus or minus signs to change your view. This doesn’t alter the size of your actual design – it simply makes it look smaller on your screen.
You may also find that once you’ve adjusted the height of your design, it has now automatically changed the width to something that is much too big. This can be easily corrected. You can simply click on the arrow in the bottom right corner and drag until sized as you wish.
You can also go to the lock in the bottom left corner, click to unlock it, and then change your width measurement to whatever you want it to be. Remember that unlocking it and resizing it that way can then make some of the design look a bit distorted and out of proportion, especially if you’re trying to make big changes.
This is when we like to get the measuring tape out again. We measure out the size of our design on the surface and just make sure that it’s exactly the way we want it to be. When you’re happy with it, go ahead and click “Make It”.
Choosing Your Settings in Design Space
Design Space is going to show you what your design will look like on your cutting mat. As you can see here, we’re making a large project, so we’re using a 12 by 24 mat, but you can simply make a smaller project with your 12 by 12.
Remember that if you’re using Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV), you need to mirror your image. We aren’t so we can skip that step today.
Next, we’re going to make sure to choose the correct cutting material for our craft project. In this case, it’s regular vinyl. We’re also setting the blade to cut with more pressure. This is because our cutting blade has been used quite a bit and it’s a little dull. You don’t need to do this with regular vinyl if you’re using a new blade.
Prepping Your Cutting Mat
At this point, the machine is waiting for us to load our mat so it can cut out our design. Of course, we need to get the mat ready with the vinyl first.
When using Cricut vinyl, remember it has these helpful grid lines on the back. These help you make straight cuts – the straighter you cut the vinyl, the straighter you’ll be able to place it on the cutting mat to get the best results.
We’re going to place the Cricut vinyl with the right side up and the grid side down. As you can see, today we’re using the blue mat which is Cricut’s LightGrip mat.
Other mats available are the: green StandardGrip mat, the purple StrongGrip mat, and the pink FabricGrip mat.
We prefer to work with the vinyl still on the roll whenever possible. It’s easy to line it up on the cutting mat. Use the two corners of your vinyl and the two corners of the grid on your cutting mat and take your time! Once you have this lined up perfectly, everything else pretty much falls into place.
Next, start from the top and use your hands to start smoothing the vinyl onto the mat.
Then, when you have the top edge and a few inches of the vinyl adhered well to the mat, here’s our favorite trick for applying the rest of the vinyl without getting air bubbles in it. Flip the roll over, unroll and apply it carefully and slowly this way.
This make look unusual, but it works so well! Since you’ve taken care to get it lined up and adhered at the top, it will now go on nice and straight and much smoother!
Once you have the length of vinyl you need (the grid lines and measurements on your cutting mat make this so easy!), simply use a craft knife to cut away the remainder of the roll. We love to use the Cricut TrueControl Knife – it’s so easy and so precise! We use ours every day.
Once you’ve made your cut, simply pick up your roll of vinyl and roll it up and away from the mat. Perfect!
As an extra step to make sure the vinyl is really securely adhered to the cutting mat, you can burnish over it with your scraper tool. This will help to make it stick even better and to get rid of any of those last few air bubbles you might have.
Honestly though, if you have followed all of the previous steps to place your vinyl onto your mat, there’s very little chance you will need to take this extra step. That’s how well these tips work!
Loading the Cutting Mat into Your Machine
Now it’s time to load the cutting mat into your Cricut machine. There are these two little “catchers” – one on either side of your machine – and you need to load your mat under these.
Once you have it lined up properly to load it in, you want to press the flashing “Load” button. When the machine has grabbed hold of your mat, you will see that the Cricut button is now flashing. Before you press that button, make sure that there’s plenty of space behind your machine for the mat to come out. Now press that button!
Once your machine has finished cutting, you’ll see that “Load” button flashing again. That’s your signal that it’s done and time for you to unload the cutting mat from the Cricut machine. Simply press that “Load” button and take your mat over to your work area.
Weeding Your Cut Vinyl
Now, it’s time to get ready for weeding your vinyl. The tools you’ll want to have on hand are: your weeding tool, your Cricut TrueControl Knife, your Pin Pen weeding tool, a pair of good scissors, and your burnishing tool.
We’re going to weed on the mat (our favorite way!). Begin by using your scraper tool to burnish the vinyl and make sure it’s really well adhered to the cutting mat. If you don’t do this, your cut pieces of vinyl will want to lift up along with your negative space vinyl that you’re trying to weed away.
You can use your craft knife to cut away the excess vinyl that wasn’t used for this project. Put that in your scrap box to use for another craft project.
To weed, we like to begin at one of the corners. Use your weeding tool and pick up the corner. Start peeling away slowly and carefully.
We like to switch away from the weeding tool and use our fingers to continue peeling up the negative space vinyl away from our project on the cutting mat.
When we reach a point where the weeded vinyl starts to get a bit overwhelming, we like to come in with a pair of scissors and cut away the excess. This gets it out of your way so you can keep weeding easily!
Weed slowly, especially as you get into smaller and more intricate parts of your design. One thing to really keep a close eye on is the dot over the letter “i”. It often wants to lift away with the negative vinyl. That can be one of those parts that trips up even seasoned die cutting crafters!
Go section by section, cutting away excess vinyl as needed. If you find a section that is sticking a bit, you can try to help it along gently with your finger or weeding tool. You may also find it helpful to go back in with the scraper and burnish some more before trying to peel it away.
Once you have removed the majority of the negative space vinyl, you can go in with your Cricut weeding tool to get the rest – the centers of letters for example. This works well for the larger pieces. For smaller pieces, we like to use the Pin Pen instead.
Applying the Transfer Tape
Double (and triple!) check your design to make sure you got all of the little pieces weeded away. We’ve seen projects where people missed the center of one of the letters and didn’t notice until it was completed. Now is the time to try to find all of those and weed them away!
Next, you’re going to need some transfer tape. We like Cricut Transfer Tape as well as the more affordable masking tape style paper transfer tape. The paper tape isn’t as large as Cricut’s tape and it’s not as strong, but for basic projects like this one, it works beautifully.
Apply some transfer tape to your cut and weeded design, using your scraper tool to burnish. You can work with the tape still on the roll, unrolling and burnishing as you go.
Or you can cut a piece of transfer tape off of the roll and apply it using the “taco” method. You want to gently bend it in the middle and apply it to your design working from the center out to each edge.
This next part is one of our favorite tips! Instead of peeling our design away from the mat, we’re going to flip it over and peel the mat away from the design. While your design is still upside down on your work surface, go ahead and use your scraper tool to burnish it down one more time.
Prepping Your Surface
Before applying the design to your surface, you’re going to want to prep your surface material. When working with something metal, glass, ceramic, or similar non-porous materials. you want to clean it well with some rubbing alcohol. This cleans away oils and fingerprints and will help your vinyl stick to the surface really well.
Wipe it down with some rubbing alcohol on a paper towel. Let it dry naturally or use another paper towel to dry it before applying your vinyl.
Applying Your Design to the Surface
Carefully peel the backing away from your vinyl design. Now, we’re ready to apply it to our surface. Sometimes it can be helpful to trim away any excess from the sides – this can help you line it up better.
Once again, you can use the taco method for laying your vinyl down on your surface if you’d like.
Grab your handy dandy scraper again and burnish your vinyl down to the surface. Start in the middle and work your way out to the sides.
Once it’s well burnished, peel away the transfer tape. If any of the design starts to lift with it, simply put it back down and burnish again.
If you’d like to seal your finished project, we’ve got a great post that will break down the options for sealing vinyl decals here.
There you have it! A beautiful die cutting craft project you have created yourself. What will you make first?
Tanner, Courtney, and the rest of the Makers Gonna Learn Team are all here because we love die-cutting and especially love sharing fun projects and tutorials with fellow makers. We are all great friends and are always having a blast when we are together- you will see this on camera, especially during live streams! We are here to inspire and support you in your crafting journey!