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Today we’re going to be discussing the different types of vinyl for Cricut and other die-cutting machines so you can choose the right type of vinyl for your project. I’ll also list out some project ideas for each type to get you started!
Sometimes it feels like there is A LOT to learn when you’re starting out with Cricut crafting. Between getting comfortable with the machine, the Design Space software, and all the tools, you also need to learn about all the materials you can cut with your Cricut.
Today we’re going to be talking about one of the most popular materials for cutting – vinyl. More specifically, the different types of vinyl for Cricut and what they’re used for. I know you’re going to love all the fun projects you’ll make after you master the art of vinyl.
Let’s get started!
Types of Vinyl for Cricut
Saying there are only 2 types of vinyl that can be cut with your Cricut is a little misleading. While it’s technically true, there’s actually a lot more to it than that!
The 2 main categories of vinyl are adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl (also known as HTV or iron-on vinyl). That doesn’t mean you will only use plain old HTV for fabrics and plain adhesive vinyl for everything else. Nope! Within those 2 categories of vinyl are subcategories. That’s where the “there’s actually more to it” part comes in.
I’m going to break it all down for you and describe each type of vinyl so you know exactly which type to purchase.
Adhesive vinyl is a thin flexible material usually sold in rolls or sheets and contains a sticky adhesive that allows it to be applied to various hard surfaces – think walls, glass, mugs, wood, etc. Adhesive vinyl has a paper backing and the vinyl is peeled away from the backing to reveal the sticky part.
A very high-level overview of the process for cutting and applying adhesive vinyl is this:
Adhesive vinyl is placed on a cutting mat face-side up and the side with the paper backing touching the mat. The design is cut into the top of the vinyl. The excess vinyl is removed from the design in a process called “weeding”. Adhesive transfer tape is placed over the design and pressure is applied with a scraper tool (or credit card) over the surface. The transfer tape is then removed and (hopefully!) the design has been transferred to the tape, with the adhesive side of the vinyl exposed.
The design can then be applied to the target surface and pressure is applied over the design to adhere it to the surface. The transfer tape is removed leaving only the vinyl design.
With me so far?
Adhesive vinyl isn’t just a one-trick pony. There are different variations available for your crafting pleasure. And the Cricut machine does not cut all vinyl exactly the same. Certain types might be a little thicker than others, which requires more cutting pressure. It’s important to set your machine for the exact type of vinyl you’re cutting.
Permanent vs Removable Adhesive Vinyl
There are 2 types of adhesive vinyl available – permanent and removable. They have different types of adhesive which allow them to be used for different applications.
Permanent Adhesive Vinyl
Permanent adhesive is exactly what it sounds like – permanent, as in not easily removable. Like that sketchy tattoo you got during Spring Break in college just because your friends did it. No? Great! I applaud you and your good judgment.
The adhesive for permanent vinyl is stronger and designed to be long-lasting so it will usually last between 3 and 5 years. You would use permanent adhesive vinyl in applications that might get exposed to water, heat, or cold.
Permanent adhesive vinyl would be a perfect choice for outdoor projects or mugs that will get washed by hand or in the dishwasher. A good rule of thumb is if the object is going to be handled a lot, washed a lot, or is outside, permanent vinyl is the best choice.
Removable Adhesive Vinyl
Removable vinyl has an adhesive that’s designed to let the vinyl easily be peeled off without leaving a sticky residue behind.
Isn’t the goal of applying vinyl to something to have it last forever? Not necessarily. There are plenty of situations when you might not want your vinyl to remain there until the end of time.
Removable vinyl would be good for wall or window decals that you might want to change for different holidays or seasons. Or maybe you’re a renter and would like to dress up your walls or cabinets. Adhesive vinyl won’t damage the paint or finish when you take it off so you’ll be able to get your deposit back if you move.
Removable vinyl is perfect for making your own stencils too!
Types of Adhesive Vinyl
You have plenty of options when it comes to choosing an adhesive vinyl to use in your projects. There are many different textures, colors, and patterns to choose from! No matter what type of project you have in mind, there’s a type of adhesive vinyl for it.
- Solid colors
- Color changing
- Glow in the Dark
Project Ideas for Permanent Adhesive Vinyl
- Coffee mugs or cups
- Wine or pub glasses
- Decals for outdoor playhouses or toys
- Decals for water bottles
- Decals for your car that you want to last
- Labels for outdoor storage containers
- Decals for your grill
- Decals for your stand mixer
- Nail decals
- Christmas ornaments
- Wood signs
- Designs for a notebook or journal
- Decorative bottom for a serving tray
- Homemade gift boxes
- Pencil holders
- Phone cases
- Labels for cookie jars or other storage containers
- Decals for your cutting machine
- Decals for a chalkboard
- As an accent on leather bracelets or earrings
Project Ideas for Removable Vinyl
- Spooky window silhouettes for Halloween
- Wall or cabinet decals
- Car decals that are meant to be temporary – celebrations for weddings, graduations, or other events
- Nail decals
- Seasonal window clings
- Stencils for wood signs, flowerpots, canvas art
- Spice labels
Best Brands for Adhesive Vinyl
Heat Transfer Vinyl
Now, let’s talk about heat transfer vinyl. HTV doesn’t have a paper backing like adhesive vinyl does. Instead, there is a clear plastic carrier sheet that covers the vinyl. This is the “shiny” side of the vinyl and it’s important to know exactly which side that is. The carrier sheet will be removed when you transfer the design to your material.
The other side of HTV contains the adhesive. The adhesive is only activated when heat is applied to it so it doesn’t feel sticky when you touch it.
One of the most important things to remember when you’re working with HTV is that the shiny side is placed face-down on your mat. The design is cut into the adhesive side and it should be mirrored, or flipped.
Woah, wait a minute. What?
Let’s talk about this. With HTV, the side with the carrier sheet acts as transfer tape and it’s going to be removed so you wouldn’t want to cut your design into that side. The side with the adhesive is going to be placed against the material you’re applying the design to so the design needs to be mirrored or else it will be backward.
It takes some time to wrap your head around that but eventually it’ll be second nature to put your heat transfer vinyl face down and mirror your design. It only takes forgetting that one time before it’s burned into your brain. Trust me, I know this from experience. Design Space will also give you a warning to mirror your design if you picked some type of iron-on vinyl when you’re setting up your project to cut.
Don’t worry, you’ve got this!
You can put heat transfer vinyl on more than just fabric, too. You can add it to canvas, wood, and even metal. Heat is what activates the adhesive so if the surface you want to apply it to isn’t going to melt under high temps, go for it!
Types of Heat Transfer Vinyl
A lot of the same options that are available for adhesive vinyl are also available for heat transfer vinyl too. There are a few types of HTV that are meant to work with fabric only like flocked vinyl which gives a textured look (it’s similar to suede), and there’s also stretch vinyl which works with athletic fabrics like spandex or other stretchy fabric.
Here are some of the options you have for heat transfer vinyl.
- Glow in the Dark
Project Ideas for Heat Transfer Vinyl
There are way more projects you can do using heat transfer vinyl than I can list here. The sky is the limit. And remember, there aren’t really any rules in crafting. Try it and see if it works. If so, great! If not, try again. It can be a lot of fun to experiment with different materials to see if you can come up with something that maybe hasn’t been done before.
Here are just a few ideas for heat transfer vinyl projects to get you started.
- Onesies (so cute!!)
- Cute facemasks
- Journal covers (although I’d test this first to make sure the cover reacts well with heat)
- Cute designs for shoes
- Wood signs
- Canvas art
- Custom pet collars
- Metal signs
If you really want to get fancy with your vinyl designs, try printable vinyl! You can use printable vinyl with the Print Then Cut feature on your Cricut. This is a great way to use a pretty multi-colored design and NOT have to cut, weed, and layer a bunch of separate colors of vinyl. You can use a JPG or PNG image file and send it to your printer.
The awesome thing about using printable vinyl is that you aren’t limited to a certain amount of colors. You can have every color of the rainbow in your image or design and your printer does all the hard work. And there’s no weeding! It prints and then your Cricut will cut around the edges of the design.
One important thing to know about printable vinyl is that most of the brands on the market are meant to be used with inkjet printers only. There are a few brands that say they’ll work with laser printers. Check the details, specifications, and most importantly the reviews to see what others have to say about it.
And there is printable vinyl available for both adhesive and heat transfer. That’s double the projects (or the trouble) you can do.
As you’re shopping for printable adhesive vinyl you may see that there are two types you can buy – printable sticker paper and actual printable vinyl. There is a difference between the two. Sticker paper tends to be thicker and I don’t think the adhesive is as strong as vinyl. I made some labels using printable sticker paper and while the design looked fine, I noticed a few days later that the edges were already starting to come up.
Printable HTV is usually sold separately for use with light and dark colored fabrics. It’s super important that you read the directions for the brand of printable heat transfer vinyl you have because some styles will require you to mirror your image before you cut and some don’t.
Best Brands for Printable Vinyl
The Cricut brand of printable adhesive vinyl is probably the best. It seems to be durable and because it isn’t as thick as sticker paper, it’s easier to work with.
Project Ideas for Printable Adhesive Vinyl
- Planner labels and stickers
- Monograms for journals, mugs, or water bottles
- Phone cases
- Decoration for Easter eggs
Project Ideas for Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl
- Kitchen towels
- Beverage bags
- Canvas art
Working with Glitter Vinyl
Life would be pretty boring without glitter so lucky for us there’s also glitter vinyl available!
Working with glitter vinyl is going to be a little different than plain vinyl. For one thing, glitter vinyl tends to be a thicker material so it might take a little more work to get it to lay flat and adhere to the cutting mat. If possible use a new cutting mat with plenty of stick on it. If it still won’t fully stick, you can use extra transfer tape or even painter’s tape around the edges to make it behave.
Also because it’s a thicker material, your cutting machine will need to use more pressure to make a clean cut all the way through. Make sure your blade is sharp and that you’ve set the base material to glitter vinyl when you set up your project to cut. For Cricut Explore machines, you’ll need to set the dial to custom and pick it from the tools and materials screen. For Cricut Maker, there is no dial so you’ll also have to pick it from the custom materials list.
The thickness of glitter vinyl can make it a wee bit difficult to see the cut lines when you’re weeding too. Try to weed under a really bright light or use the Cricut BrightPad which is designed to help with weeding.
Use glitter vinyl in any project you want to add some sparkle and shine to like water bottles, labels, or decals.
Where to buy Adhesive and Heat Transfer Vinyl
They each have their own brands of vinyl including patterned and other specialty types. And they also sell the most popular brands like Oracal and Siser.
Amazon is also a good place to check out if you’re looking for a specific pattern or color.
You Are Ready to Tackle World – with Vinyl
I hope this post helped to demystify working with the different types of vinyl for Cricut. If you been a little scared to try a vinyl project, don’t be! Now that know you the different types of vinyl for Cricut projects, you’re ready to tackle a vinyl project. The best way to learn and grow as a crafter is to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things.
Here are some other posts you should read next!