How To: Personalize Your Hobby or Workroom with a Vinyl design
The purpose of this instructable is to show how I personalized my hobby area with a vinyl logo design. I chose this project to be my entry into the Make It Stick contest back in 2012 because I wanted to have an entry that uses as much adhesive as possible. In total, I used 15 square feet of vinyl, 15 square feet of transfer tape (much like a big masking tape product) and 3 feet of standard masking tape.
Whether it's in your garage, home, office or vehicle, you can improve the appearance of your area with a simple vinyl sticker.We'll do this by crafting a logo digitally, fabricating it and then placing it on a wall. You aren't limited to walls--you can use a surface of your choice (walls, windows, vehicles, craft projects, paper or signboard). I have used the method I'm describing now many times in the past to label electronics projects when I couldn't silk screen the chassis or order a fancy part. You may also use the reverse of the design as a paint mask/stencil.
The steps are easy and can hopefully be followed by everyone. Even if you don't have all the equipment, there is information included to help you pull off something cool too with help from your local sign shop. If you design the graphics yourself and do all the installation work, then it won't be expensive at all. If anyone has any questions or needs assistance completing their own project like this I will be happy to help in any way I can.
I have included photos of my own project where I created a logo for myself & my space and placed it on the wall.
►IMPORTANT NOTE CONCERNING THE EXAMPLE IN THIS ARTICLE: The name "Lowther Digital" is a name I've given to my non-profit, personal "business" entity. It is used here as an example. While it is not a real, registered company name, I do own the domains and I use (and will continue to use) this name on my products, designs and donated services. You simply need to use your own company name, slogan or whatever in place of minewhen you do this project for yourself.
Step 1: What You'll Need | Where to Get It | What Is Vinyl & How Do You Use It?
YOU WILL NEED (or need access to):
• A computer with a Vector-Based Design Software (Adobe Illustrator, Freehand, QuarkXPress, Inkscape…etc.)
• Vinyl or other adhesive film for sign making (see local sign shop; online merchants)
• Vinyl cutting device (if you do not own this, a sign shop can cut your design for you inexpensively)
• Transfer tape (if you have a large or complex design you need this; available at sign shop or online)
• Craft knife with a new blade
• Patience & Time (I have no idea where to find these.. I'm still looking for both; if anyone spots a deal online let me know)
• Camera (to document your ‘before’ & ‘after’)
Improvement Uses for Adhesive Vinyl Designs:
Indoor & Outdoor Signs, vehicle signs & advertising, labelling, window stickers & decals, decoration, paint masking, masks for glass etching, mailbox numbers, house numbers, murals, ..etc.
Types of Vinyl:
Indoor & Outdoor, permanent ,semipermanent, temporary, Glossy, matte, thick, thin, film-type, metallic, patterned, printed, foil, solid colors...etc.
What is Vinyl and how is it used?
Sign-making vinyl is a thin sheet of paper-backed or plastic-backed PVC material rolled up onto a cardboard tube much like a roll of electrical tape. "Sign vinyl" has adhesive on one side and a nice finish on the other. The vinyl isn't rolled up onto itself, but has a paper backing just like a sticker or stamp. The only difference is that it is one HUGE plastic sticker.
This roll is either cut into smaller sheets or placed on a roller and fed through a computer controller cutting system called a Vinyl Sign Cutter. This is basically a graphing plotter that uses a swivel knife instead of a pen. These can be fancy with lasers and other options such as on-vinyl printing or they can be very very basic. Mine is a basic model that is 36" wide. I can use the knife or I can put a pen or marker in it.
Step 2: What Was My Motivation for This Project?
Before I go any further, let me explain why I'm doing this.The motivation for this project is that I want to improve my work room by putting my logo up on the wall with adhesive vinyl. I want to make the area my own unique geeky workroom. Until I become independently wealthy and own my home, I will need to use non-permanent decoration. I don't want to repaint a room when I move out, so this is a nice deal. I wanted to paint this, but using this medium instead makes it easier to change things up every once in a while.
I have a room in my house where I study, design and fabricate my electronics projects & other geeky inventions. This is also where I have my computer graphics equipment. I’m always looking for a way to improve this area. I also like sharing the tools and talent that I have with others. ⇒ If, in the course of making your own version of something like this you need assistance, please send me an email. I'll do whatever I can to help out.
Making the best of sudden brilliant ideas (yes, I do have them once in a while) & creative inspiration is all about being able to act on them quickly. I've learned that setting aside a small space for important work or hobbies guarantees that I can have my fun when I'm ready or when the ideas strike. But customizing and improving that space, no matter how small, is what makes it fun, inspiring and truly my own. It also serves as a reminder of my priorities while I'm using this area. No doubt I'm a geek.
With this in mind, I will briefly walk you through the steps I took and will attempt to outline the process.
Let’s get started…
Step 3: Creating a Vector Design | Helpful Design Hints
Using Adobe Illustrator, I created a logo primarily of standard type. I did very little to it except for arranging it and adjusting the leading and kerning. Great logos and text-based graphics are designed to show off the distinctive beauty of the lettering you choose.
This won't detail WHAT to do in designing something to put on your wall. But it will tell you HOW to go about doing it by showing you what I did. As you design your logo, sign or graphic please try to keep the tips listed below in mind:
2. Using color is fine, but going overboard is just plain tacky...unless you sell inks, crayons or paint. My mentors always taught me that if your design looks great in black and white, then you’ve got a great start. I always start with black & white and then add color choices later. After all, at some point printed ads will eventually feature you and they may be in only black and white. Make it work at this level and it will move up with you when you go to color.
3. It’s fun sometimes to add a doodad, symbol or some small, uncomplicated clipart. Resist the urge to “scrapbook” your design--sticking everything you find on it to embellish it. Keep it minimal. Be sure that the ‘object’ you include in your design works with it and reflects the essential theme, idea or field of interest. Ask yourself, "What could others see & think of when they look at this?" "What does this do for my image or how does it improve me or my _____(area, garage, home..etc)?"
4. Try more than one design.Flush out your ideas so that you can move ahead. Dont' get hung-up on 1 idea.
5. Walk away every so often, and then after a while return and re-evaluate. Seeing your work with fresh eyes helps you to make better design choices.
The pictures below show the designs I came up with during this project. I also show an intermediate snapshot and a final design snapshot.
Step 4: Importing & Exporting Your Design
When you are finished designing,the design needs to be converted to “outlines” or “paths” and then “grouped”. See your software manual for this exact process. It’s easy enough to find through the tools menu. You are basically converting text-based information into vector/mathematical information for a plotting or cutting device to use.
You then need to save the file and import it into the cutting application. Saving this as an “.AI Illustrator” file or “.EPS postscript” file will make it possible to import it into your signmaking application.
NOTE: Just remember, depending on where and how you plan to display your design, you may have to flip it horizontally. This may be true especially if it is to be adhered onto the inside of a storefront window for outside viewing.
Step 5: Import & Cut It! | Alternative Method for Those W/o a Cutter
If you have a vinyl cutter or plotter, then import your design into your application. Once you’ve done this you can refine the sizing prior to cutting. The unit I am using is a few years old and came with an adequate but not very fancy cutting application. There are a few nice cutting applications that are on the market today, but they are insanely expensive as this is typically a tool for the sign making and advertising industries. At this point, be sure your cutter is online and send the design to it by clicking the "CUT" menu item.
If you do not have such a device and/or software, there are usually local sign shops who will cut this for you on vinyl film. Since you are doing the designing and supplying the computer files, their work is fairly minimal. If you can weed vinyl (trim the unwanted sections) and install the design yourself, then it shouldn’t cost much at all. I will show you how to do this labor yourself to save money, but you will not be saving yourself any time.
►NO VINYL CUTTER METHOD: If your design is simple, you may print it out on paper (use poster print if needed) and lay it out over a sheet of vinyl. Use this as a guide and cut it out with an exacto knife. As an art student I logged hundreds of hours with a craft knife each quarter. You'd be surprised what you can do with one of those insanely sharp knives. Vinyl is avilable in small quantities from ebay, sign shops and amazon. You may even get some scrap pieces from a local sign shop for free.
I am including pictures of the cutter that I have so that anyone not familiar with these devices will have a better idea of what a simple, inexpensive one is.
Step 6: Weeding the Design
Using a fresh blade, take a craft knife and slice into the unwanted areas of your design to carve up the large and intricate spaces. We need to cut in-between letters, for example, so that as we remove the unwanted parts, we never have to peel off a piece of unwanted vinyl that is bigger than 3 or 4 inches.
The reason why we are carving-up the extra vinyl like this is because of a risk. The risk is that if we lift up and peel away too much at once, then the vinyl can fall back onto the design and stick to it, sometimes ruining it. The best way to control the lifting process is to properly slice the areas up into small section. I put cuts every 3 or 4 inches. You do what works best for you. Some designs won’t need this step.
NOW, LIFT AWAY THE UNWANTED VINYL WITH YOUR CRAFT KNIFE
Once you’ve carved the unwanted parts, stab a small section with the tip of your craft knife. Don’t go through the backing of the vinyl film. Once the blade is under the vinyl, rotate it so that it is flat-side up. Lift up and pull away all unneeded areas of vinyl. This works best if you start lifting from a side or corner. Discard these pieces.
When you’ve finished your design will remain.
Step 7: Applying Transfer Medium/Tape
“Transfer tape” is like a giant roll of masking tape. The only difference is that it is designed to grab vinyl and release it later on. The adhesive is usually formulated to work with a particular type or brand of vinyl. There are a few types and these are typically indoor, outdoor, premium thin and premium thick. Depending on the type and finish, you have to use the proper transfer tape or you may find that it doesn’t work for you at all.
By covering your design with this tape, we can then peel the vinyl design off like it is one giant sticker and then apply it to the surface we want—preserving the exact layout. Some designs are simple enough that they do not need this step. My design is 4 feet long by 2 ½ feet tall. I need the tape to be sure everything gets transferred to the wall and is in the right place when it gets there.
>> Let's do this, then:
1. Layout your cut vinyl design on a flat, clean surface.
2. Unroll transfer tape so that you have a strip that will go from the top of the design to the bottom. It will take many passes/pieces.
3. Cut it off and apply to your design starting at one side. Work from one side to the other. You will overlap the tape 1 inch as you go along. Later on, you will peel this off starting at the opposite side of where your began this step. By applying the tape in strips vertically, we can make it easier for working with large wall and window designs. You’ll see why later. >> Cover the entire design thoroughly.
4. After each piece, go over it with the squeegee to be sure it is perfectly flat with no bubbles – starting from the center or from one edge. Be gentle until the strip of tape is completely flattened, then go over it with more pressure.
I'm including some photos of my process. Hopefully they can better illustrate what you need to do to get the best results on this step.
Step 8: Applying the Design to the Target Surface
1. Prep the target surface and clean it thoroughly. Place any necessary measurement guides or marks that will be helpful.
2. Carry the design to the wall or window. If it is a small design you can peel it off the backing and immediately place it wherever it needs to go. Then simply remove the transfer tape until it is totally revealed.
3. If it is a large design like this one, you will need to have it marked off and measured for proper placement. You may consider taping the entire design onto the wall (backing included).
4. Starting from one side, peel back the tape with the vinyl attached. Then, cut the backing away so that the vinyl can be applied. Once that is applied, do the other side.
>> It’s is really nice to have a lovely assistant at this point. If you don't have one, then I guess a regular assistant will do! You may also need a 3 foot level, a long metal ruler and a very sturdy ladder.
5. Once you have applied the design to the surface, you need to be sure it stays there. Using a squeegee designed for this (you can use a credit card) push down on the tape and rub the design. This puts pressure on the adhesive and activates the full adhering effect. If you do not do this, it will likely come off when you remove the tape.
Step 9: Remove Tape & Enjoy!
Follow the guidelines in the included pictures to remove the transfer tape. This will leave your design on the chosen surface!!
>> Take it nice and slow.
Remove the transfer tape by pulling down and away at a 45 degree angle. This works really well for most designs. If you have sharp and narrow angles in your design then you cannot pull toward that portion because it will lift up. You have to pull the tape off “away” from it. Experience is about the only teacher for this step.
If you notice the vinyl pulling away, then slowly push it back and rub down again with the squeegee. If that doesn’t work, then check that the surface is clean and that adhesive can stick to it. If that doesn't work then you're on your own...pick a new location. Probably would be best to try a piece of extra vinyl in that location prior to the effort. Some surfaces work great, but there are a select few that don't do well.
>>> The whole point of this instructable is to show you the easiest way to do the job while retaining the most control possible. remember that “easy” doesn’t mean “quick”. The photo shows what my final design looks like.
Thanks for reading. I enjoyed creating this personal ID/logo and documenting the process so that others could learn more about how they can personalize their creative work spaces making them more enjoyable.
I didn't cover things exhaustively. If you have any questions or need clarification pls let me know.
Thanks for reading,
*NOTE: THIS IS AN INSTRUCTABLE OF A FICTIONAL COMPANY. The primary purpose is to further my enthusiasm in various digital projects. This is just my own idea of improving my Geeky workroom through the use of adhesive products.