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Many people new to vinyl cutting assume that the machine does everything.
You simply load in your design, feed in the roll, and out pops a bunch of stickers ready to be pasted on to signs, cars and crafts.
If only it were that simple!
A vinyl machine is merely Step 1 in the process.
We also need to think about steps 2 and 3:
- Weeding the vinyl
- Transferring the final design
OK, let’s look at how this is done, so you have a complete picture of the cutting process.
Weeding is where we remove all the unwanted waste vinyl from its paper backing sheet after our machine has done the cutting.
The first part is easy. We simply grab the edge of the sheet and peel away the excess, like a giant sticker.
Take your time as you peel, especially if the design is intricate and full of small details.
You will be left with the basic outline of your design.
Chances are, there will be inner elements of the design that still need work.
For example, letters like ‘a’ and ‘e’ have center spaces:
Weeding involves the removal of these extra details using tweezers or a fine blade.
This is simple with basic letters, but it gets tricky if you have a fine-detailed design, particularly one that relies on long thin strips. In these cases, it is better to save the more delicate areas until after you have finished transferring to the receiving surface.
Transferring Vinyl to the Receiving Surface
Again, this is normally pretty easy.
But it gets trickier as you increase the complexity of your cuts.
To transfer vinyl to the receiving surface we use application tape (transfer tape), which looks like a giant roll of masking tape, and comes in many different sizes.
The first rule of using application tape is to be generous about how much of it you use!
If your machine cuts up to 16 inches, then that is the minimum width of the transfer tape you should buy.
Make sure you can comfortably cover your entire design and anchor the tape on a flat surface to avoid any twists or tangles as you carefully cover the work.
Once your application tape covers the vinyl, smooth the surface with long slow sweeps using a squeegee or a credit card. This prevents air pockets that can distort the design.
Next, carefully peel the tape off the vinyl backing sheet.
Your design should be safely attached and ready for transfer to the receiving surface.
When placing your design on the receiving surface, you may wish to spray it with some application fluid beforehand. This prevents the vinyl adhesive from sticking to the surface for around 30 seconds. Long enough to correct any mistakes.
We recommend this if you have an intricate design (or non-flat receiving surface), or simply if you’re a beginner who isn’t yet fully coordinated to the task.
Once the design has been placed, go over it again with the squeegee or credit card whilst gently forcing out any air bubbles.
All looking good?
Now simply grab the corner of the application tape, carefully pull it away, and your vinyl design is complete!
Note: For complicated designs with extra fine detail that you missed in your original weeding, now is the time to go back and very gently cut away the waste vinyl. It’s best to leave delicate cuts until after the transfer.
If the process sounds complicated, trust us — it’s not. You’ll master it in no time.
Here is an excellent visual guide to weeding vinyl and application, for those who prefer photo tutorials.
Whether you are somebody who wants to get better at cutting vinyl, or somebody who has to get better as part of a business venture, there are two primary skills and one major tool.
The key skills:
- Creativity to produce great designs using software, or the ability to source them from around the web.
- Attention to detail in understanding your machine and carefully weeding and transferring your graphics.
(It helps if you’re naturally good with your hands!)
And the one major tool:
The cutting process is fun, addictive and incredibly rewarding.
Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll do our best to answer them.
For more tutorials and guides aimed at helping you get the most out of your machine, be sure to visit our How To section.