Last Updated on July 9, 2021
A vinyl cutter can be used to create all sorts of shapes out of vinyl, but how do you actually use it correctly, and what are the correct materials you need for it? So that you get the most out of your vinyl cutting machine, we’ve put together the following series of steps on how to use a vinyl cutter that we recommend you follow to use your vinyl cutter correctly.
First things first: make sure that you have everything you need, including your artwork lined up. As a helpful side, you will find that most people use programmes such as Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw for the artwork. These are specifically designed for these sorts of images.
Step By Step Guide On How to Use a Vinyl Cutter
Step 1: Fire Everything Up
After you’ve got everything you need in reaching distance, the first step is to fire everything up. It means turning on and connecting your computer with the vinyl cutting programme and the vinyl cutter itself.
There are several programmes you may wish to use. The likes of Flexi Starter and SignCut are probably two of the most popular options but look around to see which one is compatible with your device.
Step 2: Using the Programme
Choosing the right programme is important because of what it can offer you and whether it suits your needs. Not only does it allow you to work on intricate designs, but it allows you to manipulate the artwork you will be cutting from your vinyl roll.
With a suitable programme, you can arrange a box or weeding frame and make copies of your artwork, so it appears in rows. It will also create the cut lines that the vinyl cutter will follow when it comes to carrying out the actual cut.
Play around with the programme to get used to it. Change the scale and keep working on it until you are ready to get the image cut on your vinyl cutter. It is the point when you send the image to the actual device.
Step 3: Connecting Your Vinyl Cutter
Exactly how you attach your vinyl cutter may vary slightly depending on the model you own, but they do tend to follow the same sort of lines. Most modern versions have a USB cable to connect your computer’s USB port.
Most devices will now require you to install some drivers on your computer to allow the device to be recognised. It may be done be automatically, or you may need to follow some prompts.
Once you’ve followed the instructions on your computer screen and completed the setup, you should then be good to go.
Step 4: Loading the Vinyl Cutter
You then need to look at leading the cutter. Once again, you may find that different vinyl cutters do this in slightly different ways, so double-check your instruction manual.
Vinyl cutting machines are loaded via rollers. The vinyl roll usually sits on the back of the machine, from where it is fed into the vinyl cutter under the set of pinch rollers.
You need to feed the material under those rollers and then up and over the roller bar for it to be held in the perfect position. However, this can be slightly different depending on your make and model, so check it out before loading your materials.
Step 5: Setting Up the Blade
After you’d loaded the machine, you then need to think about setting up the blade.
The blades on a cutter will come in at different angles. They tend to vary from 20 degrees up to 60 degrees. In general, we recommend that you try to stick to somewhere around 45 degrees. This angle will not only give you a precise cut but also partly preserves the blade from damage.
Step 6: The Angle and Force
Aside from the angle, you also need to think about the force of the cutter – which is the moment when the knife comes down and connects with the surface.
To help with the blade height, peel off part of the vinyl to expose the material that forms the vinyl backing. Then grab the blade holder and lower it until you see that it’s at the correct depth.
On some models, you may find that this is done automatically, which makes your life easier. The small knife should have its blade tip in line with the backing. Once this is done, you will be all set and ready to deal with the force part.
Step 7: Checking the Force and Testing
Before you go ahead and cut the vinyl, check that you have the correct angle and pressure.
Create a simple straight line to check the cut process. Begin by having the force set on its lowest setting. The chances are that you will struggle to cut vinyl at this pressure; however, by slowly increasing the force and pressure, you don’t run the risk of damaging your project or making the wrong cut.
The aim here is to make sure that the knife moves in an easy way when cutting, but it doesn’t rip through when cutting vinyl.
Step 8: Send the Image
Once you are happy that the blade will precisely cut the vinyl without tearing the backing, you can send your actual image to be cut. We won’t go into any detail concerning what a negative image or a positive sticker is, as there are many detailed resources on this elsewhere.
However, as you have checked the pressure on the vinyl, your cutter can then use the image you are sending and get to work.
The actual cutting can take a matter of seconds or a few minutes, depending on the complexity.
Step 9: Removing the Image
Once done, you need to remove the image that has been cut out. To do this, release the rollers and free the vinyl. Use scissors to cut the vinyl from the roll carefully.
Step 10: Weed Your Image
If you have set up your cutter correctly, then weeding your image should be easy. It refers to taking out the pieces that were cut to then leave you with the finished artwork.
Make life easier by using a weeding pick to complete this action. By the end of this, you will be left with the positive parts to the surface while all of the negative parts have been removed.
Step 11: Transfer the Image
The final step is to transfer the image you have cut out onto your desired surface, whether that’s a sticker or a T-shirt. You then need to either use the heat transfer or the adhesive vinyl method to make sure everything sticks together properly.
You will want to use transfer tape to hold down the image while it’s being applied, as this stops everything from moving around as much and provides you with a better end result.
Finally, you should now have your desired image on your desired surface.
Start Using Your Vinyl Cutter
Heat transfer vinyl is certainly the easiest option as it tends to stick better when dealing with T-shirts, and washing them won’t lead to the decal coming off.
As you can see, using a vinyl cutter does take some time to get used to, so we do recommend trying a few simple designs before you move onto something more complicated. Also, we suggest that you initially stick to heat transfer vinyl, as it will make your life a little easier. Remember to remove those excess parts after the print is completed. Also, check you are using the correct material for whatever you plan to, then you can heat transfer your image onto. At the end of the day, you don’t want to waste materials, whether they be the vinyl itself or whatever you are putting it onto.