Vinyl Cutting Guide
It’s no secret we think crafting with vinyl is a terrific hobby. Not only is it fun to try out new crafts, projects and styles of vinyl in your work, but it’s also a useful hobby. You get to enjoy your successful projects in the form of car decals, decorated mugs and laptop stickers. In addition to being a fun in-the-moment project, vinyl crafting also provides you with years of enjoyment as you get to admire the results of your work.
If you’re starting to discover the world of vinyl crafting, we’re excited to share with you how many possibilities there are to explore. Have you been designing simple projects that only require the use of scissors as you cut your vinyl out? If so, we want to introduce you to the wonderful world of vinyl craft cutters and all the possibilities that come with them.
Today, we’ve compiled this guide to the very best vinyl cutters available, as well as additional tools you’ll want to gather, software you’ll need and some examples of the types of projects you can make with the help of these top-notch vinyl cutters.
What Is a Vinyl Cutter?
A vinyl cutter is a machine designed specifically to allow you to cut vinyl faster, more efficiently and in more complicated designs. They work in a very similar way to computer printers, and if you’re familiar with operating those, you will have no trouble running a vinyl cutter. First, you’ll create a design in the accompanying software. Next, you’ll send this design to the cutting machine, load the machine with your sheet of vinyl and then watch while the cutter automatically cuts the design into the vinyl.
After the machine finishes cutting the vinyl, you may need to do some detail work with a weeding hook, such as clearing out the middle spaces of letters and other similar small spaces. Other than this, however, the machine does the bulk of the cutting work for you. This automation allows you to focus more on creating the design itself and applying it to your chosen surface. Most importantly, a vinyl cutter can cut out far more intricate patterns than most of us can manage with a pair of scissors and our hands, giving us more freedom in the designs we choose.
While most companies design their cutting machines with vinyl in mind, you aren’t always limited to this material. Plenty of models can handle a variety of other materials such as foam, fabric or cardstock. With a good vinyl cutter, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Tips for Choosing the Best Vinyl Cutting Machine
What’s the best vinyl cutting machine? There is no definitive answer to this question. If you’re in the market for a vinyl cutter, the far more useful question to ask yourself is which is the best vinyl cutter for you. To answer this question, here are the categories you will likely want to consider.
- Price: Everyone has a price range, no matter how large or how small it may be. Cutting machines are like any other product in that they’re available in a range of prices, from affordable to more expensive. To begin your search for the best vinyl cutter, start by asking yourself how much you’re willing to spend. It may be helpful at this stage to browse quickly through several top cutting machine models to get a feel for the average prices. Once you know this, you can better decide how much you’d like to spend.
- Portability: Cutting machines are available in a variety of sizes. Some are easily portable, while others will never leave the table where you first set them up. To decide which is better for you, ask yourself how much you expect to move your machine. Will you travel frequently and take it with you? Will you always want to move it from one room in your house to the next? Or will it be more of a permanent fixture in one steady location? Your answer will help inform the type of vinyl cutter you might like to choose.
- Project size: Do you foresee yourself working on large-scale projects? If so, you’ll need to make sure to choose a machine large enough to accommodate these. On the other hand, do you prefer more small-scale projects? In this case, a smaller cutter will easily do the trick.
- Special features: While most cutting machines can perform the same sets of features, some possess additional capabilities. Some models can hold two tools at once, while others include additional scanning abilities and still others feature Bluetooth capabilities. Ask yourself what handy features you might find most useful, and then search for vinyl cutters that cater to these needs.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options with questions like these, you should have a much better idea of which vinyl cutters will serve you best.
What Are the Best Vinyl Cutters?
A variety of vinyl cutters are available today, and while all of them perform the same essential functions, each one brings something slightly different to the table. All of them are perfectly capable of assisting you in your vinyl crafting, but each has a unique set of pros and cons to consider as you choose which one is best for you. To help you make this decision, here are a handful of the best models on the market today, as well as the important things to know about each one. Browse these models and decide which one best suits your needs.
1. Cricut Explore Air 2
If you’re looking for the best all-around cutting machine, the Cricut Explore Air 2 is easily your best bet. Cricut is a major player in the vinyl cutting industry, and this model may be their best offering yet. Not only does this versatile machine cut vinyl, but it can also handle a variety of other materials like vellum, cardstock, fabric and even leather. It's also multifunctional, including cutting, writing, scoring and embossing. No matter what you’re looking to accomplish, your Cricut can handle it.
One major benefit of this machine is the variety of different features and accessories it comes with, such as a cutting mat, extra storage compartments, a magnetic strip for holding tools and a cup-like container for pens. You’ll also enjoy access to Cricut’s accompanying design software, including free images and fonts. Finally, this Cricut also features a cordless Bluetooth connection to your computer for convenience. One potential limitation of this machine, however, is the solid internet connection you’ll need to access downloadable software content. Additionally, the program itself may present a learning curve for some.
2. The Silhouette Cameo 3
The Silhouette Cameo 3 is another great all-around cutting machine, but its real strength is its price tag. If you’re looking to purchase a fantastic cutting machine while still sticking to a budget, this is the model we’d recommend. This highly versatile machine supports many different materials and features a dual-carriage system that can hold two tools at once for maximum efficiency. Additionally, this Silhouette model features a unique feature that lets you create a design, print it out and then scan it back in for cutting.
The pros you’ll enjoy with the Silhouette Cameo 3 include a wireless Bluetooth connection, the print-and-scan feature and the dual-carriage tool holder. On top of this, this machine doesn’t require an internet connection for increased freedom in your software usage. Best of all, you can enjoy a terrific price that makes this cutter the most budget-conscious item on our list. The only genuine potential drawback to be aware of is that some people may find the software takes a bit of studying to become comfortable with.
3. The Silhouette Portrait 2
When buying a cutting machine, sometimes versatility is the essential consideration, and sometimes, price is your most significant concern. Other times, the deciding factor is portability. If this is the case in your situation, we’d like to recommend the Silhouette Portrait 2. This machine is small enough for easy travel and transportation, all while maintaining the functionality and versatility you’ll need from a cutting machine.
The Portrait 2 has a reputation for being exceptionally durable and lasting years under constant usage, as well as being straightforward to use. With a Bluetooth adapter, Silhouette Studio design software and plenty of exclusive designs, there’s a lot to love about this compact machine other than its extreme portability. One of the limitations you’ll want to be aware of, however, is that its size dictates the size of the projects you can complete. This machine cannot handle vinyl sheets larger than eight inches wide.
What Will You Need to Get Started With Cutting Vinyl?
As you’re beginning to learn more about how to cut vinyl, the best first step is to make sure you have all the proper materials ready and on hand. The first and most important piece of equipment will naturally be the cutting machine itself, and we hope this guide will lead you toward the right model. But beyond this machine, what do you need to get started? Here’s our essential list.
- Software: Most cutting machines will come with a compatible software program, supported by the brand behind that model. If you somehow manage to buy a machine with no built-in or accompanying software, you’ll need to research compatible software programs and download one of them. After all, your vinyl cutter serves a specific purpose, but without the software to give it directions, it can’t accomplish much.
- Vinyl: What use is a vinyl cutter without any vinyl? This material allows the cutter to trace and cut the designs, so you’ll need to stock plenty of vinyl to supply your projects. There are many different types of vinyl, so make sure to buy a variety of vinyl that’s compatible with your machine. And if you purchase a cutter that supports other materials, why not be adventurous and experiment with those as well?
- Weeding tool: Cutting machines are terrific at cutting intricate patterns into vinyl, but some spaces are too tiny for them to handle. For these, you’ll need a weeding tool. This small hook allows you to pull out tiny pieces of vinyl that aren’t part of the final design, such as the space at the center of the letter A. This work is meticulous, but with a trusty weeding hook, it shouldn’t be a problem.
- Transfer tape: This invaluable tool helps you transfer your newly cut design into your chosen surface. Be sure to stock up on plenty of this. You’ll use it for many different projects, and you’ll always want to be sure to have enough on hand to make up for any mistakes along the way.
- Squeegee: Once you’ve cut your vinyl, transferred it onto the surface and removed the transfer tape, the final step commonly involves smoothing the design firmly into place. For this, you’ll want a squeegee. Doing so helps remove any bubbles or ripples in the vinyl and ensures its firm cling to the application surface.
Different projects may require unique sets of tools, but these are the fundamentals every vinyl crafter should have on hand.
What Projects Can You Make With Your Vinyl Cutter?
With a little creativity, plenty of vinyl and a solid cutting machine at your side, you can produce an endless list of projects with your cutting machine. Not quite sure where to start? Why not try exploring some of these fantastic ideas people just like you have been creating with their cutting machines?
- Stickers, decals and signs: Why not give your car’s bumper a little flair? What about creating a fun sign for your bedroom door? Have you tried creating one-of-a-kind stickers for your laptop or phone case? Why don’t you create stencils and stickers to spruce up your favorite mug that’s looking a little plain?
- Wall decorations: There’s no reason to leave your walls blank when you could add a little pizzazz in the form of vinyl decorations. Design a picture, post a quote or create an entire landscape of individual vinyl cutouts. After all, there’s a whole wall to cover.
- Cards: Do you love sending cards, but prefer to craft your own than buy them pre-made? Why not add vinyl into your card-making adventures for a little extra bit of visual interest?
- Clothing: Did you know vinyl isn’t exclusively for hard surfaces? You can also use it to design clothing like T-shirts. Create a unique design for yourself, or make a set of matching shirts for all your friends or a team or club.
- Woodworking: Vinyl makes a great addition to wood surfaces, as well as glass or plastic. Do you have anything wood in your house, such as photo frames, small boxes or bookends? We think vinyl is an excellent way to add a little extra something to these pieces.
This list doesn’t begin to cover all the possible applications for your new vinyl cutter, but we hope it gives you some idea of the sheer range of possibilities available to you.
Stock up on Vinyl Today
Once you’ve picked out your cutting machine, the first thing you’ll want to do is stock up on plenty of vinyl to supply all your future projects. For all your vinyl-shopping needs, we invite you to explore our selection of craft vinyl here at Rvinyl. We stock the top brands in the business, so no matter what type of material you’re looking for, you can always be sure you’re getting the very best.
Are you ready to begin your first project? Browse our full selection of craft vinyl today and get ready to create something amazing.