Intro: Make a Mirror Checklist
Every day before I leave for work, I quickly check my mirror to see if I did something dumb like miss a spot shaving or forget to put on pants. As someone who also has a tendency to forget my keys, wallet, phone, etc., I wanted to create a small set of reminders for myself to avoid making the mistake before I leave.
At a high level, I took a mirror I had bought cheaply at Target and attached vinyl lettering I designed and made at TechShop San Jose.
Total cost: ~$12
Mirror: $10 (I think)
Black Vinyl from TechShop: $2
Step 1: Design the Checklist
I narrowed down my list of essentials to a few items for me. In order: Keys, Wallet, Phone, Bag, Computer, Tablet, Jacket, and the ever-essential coffee. You of course can make your list whatever you need; a police officer might want handcuffs or a sherpa might want oxygen tanks.
I then used Adobe Illustrator to flesh out the size of the stickers (just a little under half the width of the mirror was what I wanted), to pick out the font I wanted, to design the squares (I used Wingdings and added an outline to thicken the boxes), and to arrange the list visually.
Below is how the design looked digitally:
Step 2: Use the Vinyl Cutter
After taking TechShop's Vinyl Cutter SBU, you can pretty easily transfer your design digitally to their vinyl cutter (I saved my file as a .eps, transferred it via USB to their computer, and opened it in CorelDraw.) There is some art to setting up the vinyl cutter that the class covers at a much better level than I will, but here are some reminders:
-Check the weave settings when you're sending to the cutter. I have cut my lettering before because I set these up wrong
-Triple check the length and sharpness of the cutting blade. The right length makes all the difference after the design cuts.
-Have enough material where if you mess up (likely), you'll still be able to work.
-Give yourself lots of time to remove the vinyl not a part of the design.
Step 3: Finish Off the Vinyl
Once you've cut the vinyl and it looks like the cuts have penetrated the vinyl layer without going through the wax paper, it's time to take out all the bits of vinyl you don't need, bit my agonizing little bit. I recommend using a dental pick or something similar; if it helps, pretend you're a paleontologist. If you mess up and remove something important, DON'T PANIC; you can often replace the piece almost exactly where it belongs, or you can cut that piece again on new vinyl and add it back.
I unfortunately don't have pictures of taking these pieces of vinyl off, but it's pretty straightforward. Below is what it looks like when you're done.
Step 4: Set Up for Easy Transfer
As cool as that list looks, it would be a pain to transfer to the mirror as is. Luckily, TechShop provides a type of adhesive paper that binds slightly more to the vinyl lettering than the vinyl does to its wax paper. Doing this step also protects your lettering until you can bring it back home.
First, lay the wax paper with vinyl in front of the roll of adhesive paper. Next, try to cover the full sheet with vinyl with the adhesive paper. I try to work my way up from the bottom, avoiding creating bubbles between the two sheets because these can mess up the spacing of the vinyl when it gets placed onto the mirror.
Once the adhesive sheet is on top of the sheet with vinyl, run a hard surface over the adhesive paper until it seems as though the lettering is more bound to the adhesive sheet than its original wax paper. (Need a test? Peel back a little bit of wax paper. Does the vinyl lettering stick to the wax or the adhesive sheet? If it sticks to the adhesive sheet, you're doing this right.)
Step 5: Installation
Now that the sticker is prepared, bring it to the mirror or other surface that needs a checklist. Carefully remove the wax paper (make sure no vinyl comes up with it--if any does, run the back of your fingernail over the portion of adhesive paper over the errant lettering until it doesn't come up anymore).
Position the sheet of vinyl and adhesive paper over the spot you want it to go (the vinyl should be facing the surface), check again that it's lined up, then press the sheet hard against the glass, transferring the vinyl once again. Using a hard surface can help to prevent bubbles from forming.
Gently peel back the adhesive sheet. All of your lettering should now be on the mirror, just waiting to help you remember all of the things.
(If bubbles do form in your lettering, you can deflate them using tiny holes, you can sometimes push them out of the lettering, and you can also just try not to think about it. Bubbles are kind of like vinyl's Lex Luthor).