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When we got our Silhouette Portrait, we immediately knew we could use it to create vinyl decals. But most of the decals we had seen were in solid coloured vinyl, and it got us to thinking. Surely we could use the Silhouette to create any decal we wanted? So we had a little experiment, and of course it could! You can create a decal from anything that you can print, and as long as it is smaller than the cutting area of the Silhouette, you can always protect it, and make it look neat and professional. Best of all, the decals are easily removable with no residue. I chose to make a Star-Lord laptop decal for my friend as that is his favourite Marvel character.

You will need:

  • Silhouette Cutter (we used Portrait)
  • Access to a computer running Silhouette Studio
  • Access to a printer or copier
  • Heavy-ish paper of around 100-120gsm (not essential, but preferable)
  • Clear Vinyl
  • hook/probe tool for weeding waste material
  • A laptop, window, or something else to stick your decal to!

Step 1: Prepare Your Document

First, prepare a new document in Silhouette Studio by ensuring that it set up correctly for your model of machine and paper size. Add registration marks and reduce the inset as much as possible using the sliders on the right.

Add cut marks as close to the registration marks as possible without going into the crosshatched area (we want to leave the registration marks in place when we remove the excess paper from around our image and this will help us to do so. I have used a cut image to show where I position mine.

Once you have done that, you can import your chosen image. It will open in a new document - simply cut and paste it into the document you have just prepared. Rotate and resize it if necessary - at this point you will need to measure the item you wish to stick the decal to to check that it will fit. Remember to leave room around the edge for the offset of vinyl!

Step 2: Trace!

Next, you need to tell the Silhouette where to cut. Select the trace function, then select trace area, and highlight the entire image. Tweak the high pass filter and threshold values using the sliders on the right until, at the very minimum, the entire outline of the image is highlighted yellow, but none of the area around it.When you are happy, select trace outer edge.

Step 3: Print and Cut!

Now that you have your file ready, it is time to print it then cut it. You can use the printer or copier of your choice - laser, inkjet, it doesn't really matter. If possible, though, use paper that is heavier than standard copier paper, but not thick card. If you have it, 100-120gsm is ideal. If not, you can use normal copier paper, but I find that it does not separate from the Silhouette cutting mat too easily. Heavy card of 160gsm or heavier is not ideal, because it will create a bubble round the edge of the vinyl.

Once you have printed your image, fix the sheet to the Silhouette map with the registration marks arrow-first. Send the cut file to the Silhouette and watch as it magically cuts your decal out for you!

Step 4: Weed the Excess and Top With Vinyl

The next thing we need to do is weed out the excess paper from around our decal. We don't want to dislodge the registration marks though, as we will need them in the next step! You will therefore need to carefully cut or tear the very edges by the registration marks. You can then remove the excess paper from around your decal.

Next, top your image with clear vinyl, without disturbing or removing the registration marks from the cutting mat. Start in one corner and slowly press the vinyl to the cutting mat and decal, carefully peeling the backing away as you go. It can be helpful to use a ruler, credit card or similar to push bubbles out as you go.

Step 5: Create an Offset

Next, we need to create an offset cut for the vinyl. First, cut the image from the Silhouette file - once it has printed, it has served its purpose, and it is easier to work without it. Then open the offset menu. Highlight the cutting outline of your decal, select offset on the right, and use the slider to increase or decrease the offset value as you choose. Thicker offset mean that the decal will adhere more securely, but too wide an offset can look unsightly. I chose a 1cm offset for my laptop decal. Once you have done this, delete the original cut line, reinsert the cutting mat into the Silhouette and cut the offset on the vinyl.

Step 6: Stick It!

Once you have done this, your decal is ready! Carefully remove from the cutting mat and stick wherever you like! I hope you have enjoyed this Instructable and that you have lots of fun creating your own decals.

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