Choosing the Right Vinyl for Crafts
Vinyl crafting isn’t just tons of fun. It’s also a practical hobby where the items you create can be functional as well as beautiful. Like any hobby, however, there are specific sets of tools you’ll need to get started.
The best vinyl crafters know they need a good vinyl cutter, any necessary software, weeding tools, transfer tape and any application tools they like to use. But the most critical tool that every vinyl crafter needs to have in their toolbox? It’s the vinyl itself.
A quick glance at your local craft store or online vinyl supplier will reveal many different types of vinyl in a near-endless variety of colors, textures and finishes. With no prior background information, it can be tricky to know where to begin and which vinyl will be right for your next craft. That’s why today, we’re here to talk through how to choose a craft vinyl.
Let’s Talk About the Types of Vinyl You Might Encounter
As you browse the wide selection of vinyl, there are several terms and classifications that you’ll likely notice right away. Let’s examine what some of these terms mean and how they can guide you towards the types of craft vinyl that are be right for you.
1. Cast vs. Calendered Vinyl
Most vinyl that you’ll encounter falls into the category of either calendered or cast vinyl. There are plenty of sub-categories and other varieties that exist under these large umbrellas, but think of these as overarching families, with every vinyl belonging to one or the other. The primary difference between the two is that cast vinyl is thinner and lasts longer, while calendered vinyl is stiffer, thicker and more inexpensive. Neither variety is inherently better or worse than the other. Rather, the two are appropriate for different applications that require different qualities in the vinyl used.
- When should you use cast film? Cast films tend to be highly durable and maintain their color and shape well over time. They are commonly available in an incredible range of colors. They’re also known for being exceptionally thin and flexible, making them terrific at covering irregular shapes. Because of these qualities, cast films are great to use when covering vehicles, furniture or even smaller surfaces like your smartphone.
- When should you use calendered film? Calendered films are stiffer and thicker, which makes them far easier to handle. Additionally, they’re often the more economical choice, have a high resistance to scratches and offer fantastic performance on flat or even gently curved surfaces. These characteristics work together to make calendered films perfect for creating floor graphics, window decals and pre-spaced lettering.
So, which option is better for crafting? While some projects call for the thinner and more flexible cast vinyl, the general trend is that calendered vinyl makes a better choice for the average day of vinyl crafting. Because calendered film easily covers both flat and slightly curved surfaces, it should meet your needs for most projects. It’s also cost-effective, which makes it easier to buy enough vinyl to account for any mess-ups or false starts you run into along the way.
2. Polyester vs. PVC Vinyl Films
Most craft films that you come across are likely to be true PVC vinyl. True vinyl isn’t the only material that these craft films can be made from, however. As you browse for your perfect craft film, you may well come across vinyl that’s made from polyester.
Polyester films often have a high-gloss finish, offer easy cutting and weeding and may be a more environmentally responsible option than traditional PVC films. One of the potential limitations of this film is that it doesn’t always conform well to curves.
Because polyester films are so easy to cut and weed, they can be a terrific choice for crafting. The only potential caveat is that if your project involves decorating a curved or irregular surface, you may be better off sticking with a true vinyl. For most other crafts, however, polyester film is an excellent choice.
3. Craft Vinyl vs. Wrap Films
You may also see a vinyl product described as either craft and signage vinyl or a wrap film. Wrap films are those that you might use to wrap a vehicle or furniture, while signage and craft vinyl is better suited to making signs, graphics and decals.
As you might guess, most wrap films are cast vinyl while most craft and signage vinyl are calendered. Based on these terms alone, it’s easy to see that signage vinyl will typically be a better choice for most of your crafts. Use craft vinyl for projects you’d use calendar vinyl for and use wrap films for projects you’d use cast vinyl for.
Shopping for Vinyl by Brand
Like most products, vinyl is available from many different manufacturers, all of whom put a slightly different spin on their products. While there is a long list of brand names you might encounter, these are the most popular and well-respected brand names you’re likely to come across. When you buy your vinyl from any of these names, you can rest assured that you’re getting what you’re paying for.
ORACAL® adhesive films are an enormous presence in the world of craft vinyl, and it’s nearly impossible to shop for craft vinyl without bumping into their name. The world of craft vinyl is their focus, but they’re branching out into signage and wrapping films as well.
ORACAL® calendered films come in eight different distinct lines, each of which is also available in a huge variety of colors. Just a few of these different lines include:
- ORACAL® 341: An indoor vinyl that’s extremely affordable and available in 21 different colors
- ORACAL® 651: A vinyl that’s suited for indoor and outdoor use as well as use on items that will experience repeated washings
- ORACAL® 8710: A dusted vinyl that’s perfect for decorating windows, mirrors or glass storefronts
In addition to their impressive lineup of calendered films, ORACAL® also has a lot of cast films to offer. These high-grade films all have unique properties and are excellent for outdoor applications. Find them in a vast range of colors and use them to transform your outdoor settings into something special.
If you’re looking for vinyl films that are backed by a leading brand, cutting-edge technology and a name you can trust, it’ll be hard to beat the offerings of 3M™. 3M™ dominates the world of vinyl wraps and for good reason. With equal capabilities in the world of both cast and calendered vinyl, you can always feel confident that you’re getting their very best.
3M™ offers four distinct lines of calendered films as well as excellent cast vinyl and polyester film. Among their calendered films, you can find gems such as:
This brand has plenty of unique cast films as well. A few of the notable varieties include
- Controltac™ 180mC, which works well on either flat surfaces or simple curves
- Scotchcal™ 7125, which boast seven-year outdoor durability and is perfect for computer cutting.
3. Avery Dennison®
The third and final major player in the craft vinyl industry we’ll discuss is Avery Dennison®. They manufacture everything from craft and signage vinyl to reflective wrappings. A major household name, you can feel confident that, if you’re buying from Avery Dennison®, you’re sure to get your money’s worth. Avery Dennison® has options for calendered and cast vinyl as well as polyester.
Their selection of cast films offers such choices as:
Among their calendered vinyl products, you’ll find options such as:
What to Look for When Shopping for Craft Vinyl
It’s one thing to be aware of all the different types of craft vinyl. It’s another to know how to choose between them, especially when each brand and variety seems to represent excellent quality. Rather than looking at which is the best vinyl out there, we recommend running through this checklist to help narrow down which type of vinyl will be best for your current project.
Ask yourself these questions as you begin your craft vinyl shopping:
1. What Surface Will I Be Working With?
If you’re working with a hard and flat surface, then your job is easy. Nearly any vinyl will work well on these types of surfaces. If you’re working with a gently curved surface, your job will be a bit trickier, as not all vinyl is up to this task. Finally, if you’re dealing with a highly irregular and curved surface, you’ll need to be very selective when you shop, as not many vinyl varieties can handle these surfaces. Once you establish the answer to this crucial question, pay close attention to the specifications of any vinyl you’re considering to see if it will be suitable.
2. Will This Surface Be Indoors or Outdoors?
Some vinyl is built to last through sunshine, rain, snow and wind, while other varieties are better suited to a relatively easy life indoors. Even if you are thinking of crafting vinyl for indoor usage, ask yourself what kind of wear and tear it will incur. Dishes, for example, will need washing. If you’re planning to craft a decal for a mug or water bottle, you may want to consider an outdoor vinyl that can withstand many washes. Always check any vinyl you buy to see if it’s recommended for indoor or outdoor use.
3. How Permanent Will My Craft Be?
Different types of vinyl have different lifespans. Some only last three years while others can last ten or more. This variation is useful because it allows you to tailor the vinyl you choose to how long you want it to last. If you’re crafting a decal that you’ll want to swap out for something new in a year, it makes sense to choose a vinyl with a shorter lifespan, for example.
4. How Important Is Color to Me?
Some vinyl comes in virtually every color of the rainbow, while other types come only in black or white. If color is important for your project, and you enjoy having a large variety to choose from, opt for a line that includes plenty of color options. If you’re more interested in how the vinyl performs than what color it is, you may be happy with an option that offers only a few basic color choices. Additionally, if you’re looking for vinyl in one particular color, you’re limited to products that offer this color, regardless of other specifications.
5. What Crafting Processes Will I Be Using?
Unless stated otherwise, you can use craft vinyl cutters on most vinyl. Despite this near-universal compatibility, however, some vinyl is intended to work especially well with certain name brand cutting machines. Additionally, other vinyl is engineered to make for easy weeding. If you plan to complete intricate vinyl cutting and weeding, it might be worthwhile to search out vinyl that’s designed to work well for these processes.
Shop High-Quality Craft Vinyl Today
The key to shopping for vinyl is to know exactly how you plan to use that vinyl. Once you know this, you can search for products that have the exact specifications you’re looking for. Over time, you’ll soon start to learn which types of vinyl you like, and which work best for certain kinds of crafts.
Are you ready to start buying the vinyl you need for your next big project? Get started by browsing our selection of name-brand craft vinyl today.