Mug Crafting With Vinyl

Let’s say you’re browsing the internet for cute mugs. Sure, you’ve already got a cupboard full, but who can resist that perfect mug that seems to be calling your name? You scroll past pages and pages of adorable designs — from mugs personalize with your name to pictures from your favorite TV show to fun quotations.

Inevitably, it isn’t too long before the craft-minded person starts to ask themselves — how are these crafty shop owners making these awesome and highly-personalized mugs? Sure, we might not question how large factories and companies can produce similar products, but the sellers on online-marketplaces are usually just everyday people like you. So how are they doing it, and more importantly, how can you do it too?

Today, we’re here to share that the secret is vinyl. With a few supplies and a willingness to learn a new skill, you too can be creating personalized mugs in no time. To help get you started with your first DIY mug crafting projects, we’ve put together this guide to vinyl and how you can use it to create special mugs of your own design.

The Supplies

Before you can begin the project, it’s important to prepare properly by assembling all the supplies.

For our project today, here’s what you’ll need:

  • A vinyl-cutting machine: There are many different brands and models out there, and everyone has their favorite. The more you begin exploring the world of vinyl crafting, the more you’ll come to learn which models you like and work for you and which ones you just don’t love. As long as it’s an electronic cutting machine, it won’t matter too much which one you choose.
  • Vinyl: Vinyl comes in a wide range of styles. For this type of project, you’ll want permanent outdoor adhesive vinyl. This Oracal 651 Intermediate Cal Vinyl is the perfect example of a brand and style that will work well for mug crafting.
  • A plain mug: You can buy this virtually anywhere. Pick one up at your local store, browse online or even feel free to dig out that blank mug someone gifted you last year and use that. This mug can be any size or shape, but it should ideally be a solid color with no design or pattern on it.
  • Transfer tape: This comes in rolls, which you can easily pick up at a craft store. You’ll use it to transfer your vinyl design onto the mug itself.
  • Masking tape: This is another item that can easily be found at most craft stores or even office supply stores, to say nothing of mass department retailers. It will come in handy for securing your transfer tape in place.
  • Weeding hook: This is a bit more of a specialized tool which you may need to acquire at a craft store. It will be crucial for weeding out the pieces of vinyl from your design and working with the careful details. If you don’t have access to a weeding hook, a straight pin makes a suitable substitute.
  • Applicator tool: Visit a craft store to find an applicator tool as well. You’ll use this to smooth the design into place and firmly stick it down. An old credit card will also work well in a pinch.
  • A design: The internet is full of designs you can use for your mug. A quick search will reveal dozens to choose from, or you can create your own design if you’re a savvy graphic designer. Either way, the result will be beautiful and personal for you.

Once you've gathered all these supplies together, it’s time to get started with your vinyl mug crafting project.

How to Complete Your Vinyl Mug Crafting Project

If you’ve never worked with vinyl before, you may be a bit nervous to get started. If so, don’t worry. Vinyl is much less intimidating than it may seem at first glance. Think of it as a large sheet of sticker paper, with many of the same properties. And at its most basic, adhesive vinyl is not much different than a large sticker.

With this in mind, let’s get busy by beginning to create our vinyl mug designs.

1. Cut out the Design

If you’re using a pre-arranged design that perhaps you’ve downloaded from the internet, this step is extremely straightforward. If you’re creating a design yourself on your computer, you’ll need to do this first before you can cut it out.

Either way, once you have a design settled on and saved onto your computer, you’ll need to send the design to your electronic cutting machine, which should be stocked with vinyl. The machine will then read the information from the design and cut it into the vinyl for you. Once this process is complete, you should have the finished design, neatly cut out onto the vinyl in your choice of color.

Don’t have a cutting machine? That’s all right. While this project is a great deal easier with one of these handy machines, it isn’t necessary. You can also attempt to cut the design out freehand. Keep in mind that if you want to try this method, it may be best to choose a fairly simple design. The more intricate the details, the more difficult it will be to freehand with nothing but a pair of scissors or a knife.

2. Weed out the Design

Weeding is a term for the process of removing all the excess vinyl from around your design that won’t be part of the finished design. The spaces in the middle of letters are a perfect example of an area that would need to be weeded out.

Here’s how to complete this step:

  • Cut a piece of transfer tape that’s just slightly larger than your piece of vinyl with the cut design.
  • Peel the backing off the transfer tape and stick it to the front of the vinyl. Use your applicator tool to press the entire thing firmly down and ensure it’s lying flat.
  • Peel the backing away from the vinyl, but don’t throw it away. You’ll need it later. At this point, your vinyl should have transfer tape secured to the front, and the back should have the backing peeled away, with the sticky side up.
  • Lay your combination vinyl/transfer tape down across your work surface, with the non-sticky side of the transfer tape facing down. Secure the entire thing into place with masking tape for stability while you work.
  • Working carefully, peel away the excess vinyl from the design, cutting away the discarded bits as they peel up. Try to avoid letting any extra vinyl stick to the transfer tape, as this could lead to problems.
  • Use your weeding hook or straight pin to weed out the tiny details, such as those spaces within letters that we mentioned earlier.

Once this is finished, your design should be entirely cut out and ready for the next step.

3. Prepare Your Mug

There’s nothing worse than trying to stick a vinyl design onto a mug that’s dirty and grimy. Not only does this make for a surface that’s not conducive to sticking, but you may well end up with flecks of dirty stuck beneath the vinyl.

Avoid this possibility by giving your mug a good clean before you attempt to stick anything on it. Wash it by hand with warm soapy water, or run it through the dishwasher if it’s safe to do so with your particular mug. To be extra sure the mug is spic and span, you might even rub the surface down with rubbing alcohol.

4. Place the Vinyl on the Mug

It is, of course, entirely possible to simply pick your design up and place it on the mug at this point. All you would need to do is peel it up and eyeball the design as you place it onto the mug. You’re certainly able to do this, and if that’s what you want to do, then feel free to go ahead.

The problem with this more haphazard method is that it’s challenging to achieve a smooth finish this way. There are likely to be all sorts of ripples and bubbles that show up because the vinyl was not properly and carefully applied. To avoid these types of blemishes, here’s an alternate method of applying your vinyl. There are a few more steps, meaning it’ll take a little longer, but the result will be far more professional.

  • Replace the vinyl backing onto the vinyl, with the shiny side facing down. Now, you’ll be able to easily position the vinyl where you want it on the mug without it accidentally sticking before you’re ready.
  • With the vinyl design now carefully trapped between the transfer tape on one side and the vinyl backing on the other, slide your design into position on the mug. It may be worth trying out a few different positions as you decide which one you like the best. Once you’ve found a position you want to stick with, secure it into place with a strip of vertical masking tape, right down the middle. The design may flap slightly on either side of this tape. This is fine.
  • Working with the half of the design to the left of the masking tape, slowly peel the backing away until you reach the tape. Cut away the extra backing with scissors so it doesn’t remain there and get in the way.
  • Use your fingers to smooth this half of the design down into place. Work slowly and methodically, starting at the center of the design and working outwards. This will help push bubbles towards the edge instead of trapping them in the middle and should result in the smoothest finish.
  • Move to the opposite side of the tape and peel away the rest of the backing. Repeat the same method of smoothing the vinyl into place as before by starting at the center and working towards the edges.
  • Peel up both transfer and the masking tape to see the finished product. Use your applicator tool to firmly press everything down and make sure every single piece of the design is firmly secured into place. Smooth out any additional bubbles or wrinkles.

5. Wrapping Things Up

You may be tempted to immediately run and pour yourself a cup of coffee in your new mug. We understand — it’s so much fun and looks so appealing. But patience is essential during this stage. The design needs to cure, and if you get it wet or are rough with it too soon, the design may peel up, and all your hard work may be for nothing.

For the best results, let the design cure for a minimum of 24 hours. This will help the adhesive to set and prevent the design from peeling up or otherwise becoming damaged.

Once these 24 hours are up, the project is finished. The only thing that remains is to enjoy a steaming mug of coffee or tea in your very own personalized creation.

Caring for Your Personalized Vinyl Mug

After the care and effort you put into brightening up your blank mug, you want to ensure that it will last as long as possible, and won’t become ruined after just a handful of uses. This means learning the proper way to care for your new mug. The most important thing to remember when it comes to caring for this mug is to keep it away from the dishwasher.

Dishwashers are notorious for being rough on some of our more delicate items. They don’t know how to discriminate between dishes that need a gentler treatment or that may be a bit more fragile. For this reason, stick to hand washing your mug, and you will likely find that the design lasts longer.

Purchase Craft Vinyl to Get Started on Your Personalized Mug Today

As you can see from these instructions, crafting your own personalized mug is neither as difficult nor as intimidating as it may seem from the outset. With the right materials and a little determination, you too can have a one-of-a-kind mug that will have all your friends asking where you bought it.

All of this starts with a reliable craft vinyl, however. If you’re looking for the vinyl you need to get your project off the ground, look no further than our wide range of products here at Rvinyl. We offer more than 100 colors in a variety of different styles so that whatever your project is and whatever stunning design you want to create, we have something that will work for you.

For your personalized vinyl mug project, we think you may be interested in trying out our Oracal 651 Intermediate Calendered Film. Available in a rainbow of colors, this vinyl film is rated for six years of outdoor use, meaning that it has the durability you need to make it through repeated washings, dryings and use on a well-loved mug. Purchase this Oracal film today, or browse our wider selection of craft vinyl to choose a different one that works better for you.