Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Vinyl Cutting Hints and Tips

At some point in your cutting life, you will want to cut vinyl. Would you like the good news?
Vinyl is easy to cut. The bad news is that it can be hard to handle, what with being stretchy, strong and sticky. That means it will stick where you want it to and where you don't!

I have to confess, that most of the time I cut vinyl it is because I am glass etching. Like on this mirror.


So how do you make sure you get a great finished result rather than a dose of frustration?

Firstly, choose the right vinyl for the job. There are a couple of main brands out there that cater for every possible need. I can't advise specifics, since I have been using vinyl that is unbranded, that came with my previous (second hand) cutter.  It may be stating the obvious but if you want vinyl for outdoor use, you must make sure it can cope with it or your project won't last long.

Be prepared to set aside a small sample to test cut. Check your blade - for intricate cuts you may want to change to a fine one or at least a new one.  Cutting through the top while leaving the backing untouched is a fine line but one well worth finding.  I always use a mat under it, some people don't. If you have a big project it may not be possible to use a mat, which makes this testing even more important.

Prep your surface. It needs to be clean, dust and grease free. I even go over my placed vinyl for etching with an alcohol swab to make sure there is nothing between my etching paste and the glass.

So, you've got your surface prepped and the vinyl is cut. Now comes the fiddly bit, the weeding. There are tools that make this easier. Dental picks. Get some off Ebay cheaply. Warning- these are sharp!


Now the whole point of weeding is to get rid of the bits you don't want. Make sure you realise which bits those are! It is easy to think one thing when it really should be the other.  

To weed easily, start with the smallest bits, those are the ones which get forgotten. Weed by pulling towards yourself, from inside the bit you want to remove. (My photo is not quite correct because I needed my right hand to take the photo). If you have bits like the 'v' shape to the left of the pick, make sure you pull away from the inside bit or you will be fighting the bit you want left behind.


Quick Tip - If using a mat, use masking tape around the edges of the vinyl to help keep it in place. When done, take it off and have it sticky side out - so you have somewhere to drop the weeds.. like this.

So much easier than catching them on the desk or on your fingers, the stickiness  makes them adhere to that instead of the pick.

Once your design is weeded, it is time to apply it. It is possible to buy transfer paper but you can also use masking tape, dry wall tape (see picture),

 removable sticky back plastic (sold for book covering), or even adhesive sprayed cellophane. Just make sure the adhesive is a temporary one or you'll get into a right mess!
Don't even think of trying to manoeuvre it by hand, it won't line up and will look unprofessional.

It's a good idea to mark the centre points both of  the edges on the item and on the design to make sure it goes on straight.
Apply the design carefully, making sure to remove any air bubbles. If it is a flat project, an old credit card is handy for smoothing out.  Make it easier by starting in the middle and working outwards. Take your time, don't do it when you should be doing something else, that is a recipe for disaster.

Above all, have fun being creative, that's what it is all about!

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