Introduction: 10 Tips for Great Vinyl Cutter Decals Through Careful Tool Selection

About: Based in San Francisco I strive to incorporate custom lettering in the art that I design, print, and make.

When working with your tools it is a good idea to perform a test print initially to make sure that the settings on the machine match up with the tools that you have. A test print on the machine will print out a star that looks like this picture.

When test printing using the test label on the vinyl cutter make sure to weed the vinyl and test that the depth of the cut is adequate before cutting large areas. When using a blade depth that is slightly too little you can spend up to an extra 25 minutes weeding a single final piece. 

measure twice, cut once,
"Test twice", "vinyl cutter print once"

I made it at TechShop
Submitted by SFlettering for the Instructables Sponsorship Program

Step 1: Knife: 1 Sharp , 1 Dull

Using a knife that is sharp and sometimes another that is more dull is the best combination for tools. You always want to use a sharp knife when cutting out vinyl decals / stickers and a dull knife is useful when weeding the vinyl.

With a light amount of pressure a sharp knife will also allow you to cut only the vinly and not the backing to make weeding easier. 

Step 2: Weeding Tools

A variety of weeding tools will improve your final product. Sometimes when you're starting out the tool with a sharp tip is easier to pick up the very small pieces of vinyl that you want to remove from your final decal. A less sharp tool is better when you have accidentally picked up a piece of the final decal and want to put it back in place.

If you use a sharp tool to put the vinyl back in place you can sometimes leave pressure points on the final which looks like a dimple and is difficult to get rid of on the final product. 

Step 3: Vinyl Cutting Blade

A sharp vinyl cutting blade at the right depth is essential for making a high-quality vinyl production piece. If the blade is placed too far out it will cut through the back of the vinyl and if the blade is too far in it will not pierce through the vinyl well enough to be able to produce a solid great-looking final decal.

Step 4: Vinyl Cutter

I made this at TechShop . A vinyl cutter comes in a variety of configurations and levels of industrial use. At the techshop they have a 48 inch vinyl cutter. For most purposes a 24 inch vinyl cutter will provide much of the same necessary cutting space

Step 5: Seal Healing Cutting Board and Clear Ruler

Having a seal healing cutting mat is essential for cutting apart the final sheet of decals. Without a cutting mat and a ruler the likelihood of making a mistake is too high and given the great effort you put into to get to the final sheet of decals it is worth taking time this stage and using the proper equipment to get the best and most even cuts

Step 6: Clear Sheeting for Decals

Use the clear sheeting to prepare the decal for putting it on a surface. Pay special attention to keeping the clear plastic sheeting free from creases and anything that could make the final decal application less-than-perfect.

Note: even a small crease in the plastic sheeting will produce an unsatisfactory result.

When using contact sheet (or plastic sheeting) for decals make sure to match the size of your completed set of decals to your cutting surface. Attempting to cut decals on wood or a 2 level surface will produce tier 2 or worse decals. 

Take your time, be patient, and get great results.

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