What Is a Vinyl Cutter: Cutting Intricate Designs Made Easy

what is a vinyl cutter

Last Updated on July 9, 2021

You may have even heard about vinyl cutters at some point, but then there’s often a great degree of uncertainty as to what it is. Most vinyl cutters will cut both vinyl and other materials. So, in that sense, the name is slightly misleading. So we are here to discover what is a vinyl cutter and what is it used for.

Basics of a Vinyl Cutter

The basic concept of a vinyl cutter is that it is indeed used for cutting vinyl. A vinyl cutting machine will then be capable of cutting shapes out of vinyl, which can then be used in many different ways.

So, the short answer as to what is a vinyl cutter is that it is indeed a cutting machine. However, there’s clearly a bit more to it than just this simple answer.

The best vinyl cutters, and we aren’t only talking about the expensive ones here, will cut cards, paper, sometimes leather, and fabric. However, you will need to check the model you own to see what they are capable of. Also, if buying one, think about the materials you will be using to make sure it fits in with your needs.

The first thing to know about a vinyl cutting machine is that the modern versions will be computer operated. Most of the home models of vinyl cutters also closely resemble a desktop printer, so that gives you a sense of how big this machine is going to be.

What You Can Do With a Vinyl Cutter

Before heading into more details about how vinyl cutters work, what are the sorts of things, you can do with a vinyl cutting machine?

Well, there is a multitude of things to do with vinyl decals, so how about a shortlist?

  • Applying designs to t-shirts
  • Creating signs
  • Creating stickers
  • Stencils
  • Greeting Cards
  • Decorations
  • 3D objects

To be honest, the list is pretty endless. However, you will probably get a better idea of what you can do with it after we explore more about vinyl cutting machines.

The Best Part About Vinyl Cutters

One of the best things about vinyl cutters is that they don’t take up too much space. Also, you don’t even need to worry about too much excess material with home versions.

Think about the space a computer printer takes up; this machine is almost the same.

Also, setting it up is basically going to involve you adding in a few cables. Most work via a USB port, and then you just need to plug it into the mains.

The panel on the machine will even be less complex to operate than your printer. That’s because there are fewer adjustments to be concerned about with your cutter as the materials are always fed in the same, and there are no cartridges to change.

These items are simple to set up, easy to run, and easy to maintain. Oh, and they help you to produce some pretty cool items that will stand out.

The Possibilities Are Endless

With a vinyl cutter, you can use it to create real depth to a project.

Take the greeting card as an example. You can use your vinyl cutter to produce various vinyl figures or items that you can then transfer to the card itself. You can use one piece of vinyl to create the different items, depending on how you lay them out in the software. Then, you simply apply each layer and use tissue paper between layers to protect them, and next thing you know, you have an amazing greeting card.

To be honest, the best thing to do is to check out some examples online of what people have produced from a vinyl cutter. However, be aware that it does take some time to build up your understanding of how it works.

The Different Types of Vinyl Cutters

There are several different vinyl cutters out there, so let’s check them out.

Cricut

Cricut is one of the most popular craft cutters on the market. It can be used to cut out more materials than a number of the other vinyl cutters out there.

You can even buy some versions that can cut fabric and leather, but they are not as common as some of the other cutters.

Silhouette Vinyl Cutter

Another version is the silhouette cutter. This too can cut more than just vinyl material, and it’s another popular craft cutter that doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
This machine offers you some precise cutting, and thanks to the blades on this version, it can often be used with thick materials.

Also, the silhouette cutter will be capable of handling different materials, but it is often the machine capable of cutting from wider vinyl material than other vinyl cutters. It means that this vinyl cutter can be used for larger projects while it still offers you the same precision you are looking for with your craftwork.

How a Vinyl Cutter Works

But the best way to actually explain everything you need to know about vinyl cutters is to go through how they work. So, we need to begin with the very first point, which is the image that will emerge from your new vinyl cutter.

Design Software

In order to get your vinyl cutter to work, you need software. There are actually two types of software you need to be aware of to get the most out of your cutter.

The first software is connected to producing the artwork. Most people will opt for either Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. Both are good, and both can be used to create graphics in the format that is then compatible with the design software for your actual vinyl cutter.

Vinyl Cutter Software

You need to have your own software for your cutter to get your machine to work. This software allows you to work on the intricate designs you have created on either Corel Draw or Illustrator and then turn them into print images that can then be fed to your cutter.

The software program allows you to arrange the end image. You can create the weeding out areas, the scale of the image, whether it needs to be repeated, and generally just play around with it.

However, the best part is that the software puts the image into the correct order for your vinyl cutter to then be able to interpret the image and then produce those precision cuts.

Without software, the machine won’t work.

Getting the Image to the Vinyl Cutter

Your vinyl cutter is going to be linked to your computer, and the image on the software is then sent to the control panel on the cutter. In this sense, it works in the same way as a computer printer. You can then use that panel on the cutter to change some settings depending on the image you are creating.

The Material

Like a computer printer that needs paper fed into it to produce an image, the same concept works with your vinyl cutter.

Whether you are using adhesive vinyl, card, or even fabric, you need to feed it into the vinyl cutter from the rear of the machine. Rollers hold the material, and as the vinyl cutter works through the image, it feeds the material through with it, then using a small blade to cut out the design.

Thanks to the program, we are talking about it having an accurate cut that goes beyond what you would achieve on your own. Thanks to the precise cut that these machines can produce, it gives you a certain creative freedom to produce even more intricate images than ever before.

Blades

The blades on a cutter play a key role. You can often adjust the angle, but it’s best to keep it around 45 degrees. Also, you want to adjust the force used on the blade, as well as the depth. You don’t want it to rip through the backing of the vinyl since that will ruin your entire project.

Dealing With the Cut Image

After the machine has alerted you that it has finished, you then need to remove the image from the machine and trim off the excess vinyl.

But this is only part of the process.

With a vinyl cutter, you then need to remove the waste vinyl that has been cut out to leave you with your completed image. This is called weeding out, and it makes sense when you consider you have to weed out those parts that need to be removed.

You can even use a special weeding out tool to make life easier, and this is advisable, especially when using thinner materials. The ease with which you can damage whatever has been cut out, or even the parts left behind, is quite scary.

By the end of cutting it out, you should have the perfect mirror image of what was designed on the software.

Using the Image

But all of this discussion of how it cuts out the image and feeding material into your vinyl cutter is fine, but how do you go about using the end product?

Well, how it is used will depend on your intention.

So, let’s walk through an example to show you how a vinyl cutter can transform so many items.

Applying an Image to a T-shirt

You have a plain t-shirt, and you want to spruce it up a bit. You design a logo on Illustrator and then move it over to the software for your vinyl cutter.

Once you are happy with the image, your machine cuts it out. Now, you should be using heat transfer vinyl as the adhesive version won’t work in this project. You need the heat to make the vinyl stick, whereas adhesive will break down when washing the shirt.

Get the image, and then use transfer tape to press the image down onto the shirt effectively. You then want to get an iron and hold it over the image for up to 15 seconds. That will then lead to the image being transferred over to the shirt.

It really is as simple as that.

The End Result

Whether you are involved in some contour cutting, whereby there are so many raised and lowered parts to your image, or whether you are going for some simple words written on a t-shirt, a vinyl cutter is an impressive machine to own.

Also, don’t worry about terms such as using a heat press. In the case of a vinyl cutter, something as simple as iron can transfer your image onto the fabric or even put it onto a card. You don’t require any specialist equipment to do this.

A vinyl cutter can also vary in price quite considerably. Do shop around to determine which one is best for your needs. Don’t pay too much attention to how fast the machine works or anything like that. In fact, one that works quite slowly is perfectly fine, especially when dealing with something intricate.

You can go online to see numerous examples of crafts and items that a vinyl cutter has created, and this is something you should do to feel inspired.

Unique 3D objects, elaborate greetings cards with 3D items sticking out and completely personalised, signs or sayings to hang up in your home in a frame; as we said earlier, the list is endless.

Final Points to Consider About a Vinyl Cutter

As mentioned earlier, there are multiple ways a vinyl cutter can transform your craft project, and it’s a lot of fun experimenting and seeing just what is possible.

Spend time practising with simple items first, and then try to develop something more difficult. The software you use can handle everything, as can your machine. It’s merely a case of you having the skills and confidence to develop your vinyl cutting skills.

The hardest part for you is working out what to do next with it. That’s why it’s best even to watch some videos on how to use your vinyl cutter before you go ahead.

Do You Own a Vinyl Cutter?

So, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about a vinyl cutter. Thanks to discussing a Cricut vinyl cutter, heat transfer vinyl, how to use it, the design software, and so much more, we have covered a lot.

However, the only thing left for you to do is go out there and give it a go. Being able to cut the vinyl into intricate shapes to then use in your project is amazingly satisfying, so have a shot, and you may be surprised at what you can produce.

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