Cricut Explore for Home Decor | Part 2: Working With Vinyl

A few months ago, I kicked off a Using the Cricut Explore for Home Decor Series (you can catch up on previous posts here: Intro | The Essentials). As most of you know, along with my sewing machine, my Cricut Explore is how I make custom and budget-friendly decor for our home. There are so many things the Cricut Explore can cut; but next to paper, the main thing I use it for is vinyl! From wall and furniture decals to labels and personalized gifts, cutting vinyl is seemingly a weekly occurrence around here (if not more!). I realize there are many, many blog posts and videos specifically dedicated to vinyl out there on the world wide web (if you need more info or want to go more in depth, I recommend YouTube!). However, over the years and dozens of projects I’ve completed, I’ve picked up some tried-and-true tips and tricks for working with vinyl. Hopefully this post will help the newbies out there get started with vinyl and perhaps show you vinyl veterans some time-saving tricks! Let’s jump in!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Many of the wall and furniture treatments I’ve done over the years have involved vinyl, and almost every single labeling project I do is made out of vinyl too! Vinyl is now available in pretty much every color and sheen (and now even patterns!), making the possibilities for your home and your projects endless!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Gold Dot Wall | Cleaning Kit Labels | Vinyl-Covered Dresser | “Tile” Backsplash

What Vinyl to Buy and Where

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

*affiliate links used

There are lots and lots of vinyl options available these days. Admittedly I haven’t experimented with too many options; but that is mostly because when I stumble upon something I really like, I don’t feel compelled to keep looking for other options. My preference is Oracle 651 vinyl, and I like the high gloss version (but have also used the matte finish on many occasions). Although the 651 is listed as “permanent, non-removable,” I have been able to remove it from most surfaces (with some effort). That said, the removable/indoor option (Oracle 631) is also a great if you want a surely removable choice.

I find it helpful to keep a variety of colors on hand. Beyond blog/home projects (on which I tend to use a limited color palette), I often personalize water bottles, crayon boxes, art kits and other items as birthday presents for Henry’s little friends. Being able to cut a child’s favorite image in their favorite color is part of what makes the gift so special; and having an array of colors keeps me from running to the store with each birthday invitation.

About 18 months ago, I invested in 30 5′ rolls of Oracle 651 for about $100 via this listing on eBay. I have yet to work through it all, and I work with vinyl a lot! Ebay has lots of different “set” options for vinyl (from 6 rolls and up), as well as sets of 12×12″ sheets. Check out all the options here. I also love these packs from Amazon, which gives you a 12×12″ sheet of 24 different colors.

In addition to vinyl, you will also need some transfer paper in order to make your images look clean and professional on your end project. I’ll get more into detail of transfer paper below, but hands down this one by Cricut is my favorite. Not only is clear transfer paper a must (for lining up and layering your images!), but the grids on this transfer paper and its durability make it better than anything I’ve ever used. Order yourself a couple rolls, and keep it on hand!

How to Cut Vinyl with the Cricut Explore

Now that you have your vinyl, you will first need to design your image using Cricut Design Space (which is Cricut’s free online design software). Once upon a time, Cricut’s machines weren’t able to handle intricate cuts and small details, but those problems have been fixed ever since they introduced the Explore line. I’ve never had an issue with a design being too intricate or detailed, so design your little heart out!

Once you design and send your image to be cut, you will be prompted to load your mat into the machine. Before doing so, line up the edge of your vinyl with the leading edge of the mat. Press firmly and smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles.

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

TIP! Notice that I didn’t say “cut a piece of vinyl to fit your design and secure it to the mat.” To save the time and hassle of measuring (and running the risk of your image not fitting), don’t bother cutting down your vinyl. In almost all cases when I cut an image, I secure enough vinyl to the mat to fit my image, then let the rest of the roll sit on the mat (so that it will ride with the mat as the machine is cutting).

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

After your mat is loaded but BEFORE you hit cut, double check that your machine is set to “Vinyl.” Sure you can cut vinyl on other settings, but the machine is perfectly optimized to cut vinyl in order to make transferring the image cleanly and easily.

TIP! If you change mediums a lot, it might be helpful to post a sticky note or other reminder to prompt you to check the dial before hitting cut each and every time!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Once you hit the cut button, the machine will cut your image with incredible precision. Below, you can see some labels lightly cut for my purse pouches a while back.

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Once the image is cut, trim away the vinyl roll. Not only does this ensure you have enough vinyl for the entire image, but it helps conserve vinyl and reduce the amount of waste/little pieces left over (more on that in a minute!).

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Once the roll of vinyl is cut away, leave your cut image secured to the mat (or re-stick it to the mat if it peeled off while you were cutting away). Most often, vinyl is on rolls; and once you pull it off the sticky mat, is often rolls back up, making the cleaning/weeding process much harder.

TIP! By leaving the cut design on the mat, it remains perfectly flat so you can continue to work on the design to prepare it for transfer.

To clean up the image, simply pull away all the “negative vinyl” (essentially anything that is not part of the final image). If you used the vinyl setting AND have a good blade on your machine, your vinyl should pull away perfectly, often in a single piece. Even if it pulls away easily however, be sure to take your time so that you don’t accidentally pull off small details from the image. Also, try hard to not let the sticky side of the vinyl you are removing stick to any part of the final cut image. Vinyl stretches, and pulling the vinyl apart can often distort your final image.

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Once your image is fully cleaned up and all the negative vinyl has been pulled away, it’s time to transfer it to your project! When I first started working with vinyl, I used to painstakingly transfer one piece of my image at a time (by hand!). This method often left me with distorted shapes and poor spacing between the non-connected elements. The key to perfectly transferring your image from the cut mat to your project is to use transfer paper!

Watch THIS video to see transfer paper in action. Essentially, cut down a piece of transfer paper to fit your ENTIRE image and peel away the paper backing. Then place the transfer paper sticky-side-down onto your cut image. You can’t really smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles once the transfer paper is on your image, so take the time to lay the transfer paper on flat and smooth! Press down firmly to make sure the entire vinyl image sticks to the transfer paper, then carefully peel up the transfer paper (which will have your vinyl image attached to it!)

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

With your entire image safely on the transfer paper, you can now place your design wherever you want it by simply reversing the process. Place the entire stretch of transfer paper (with your vinyl shape attached) down onto your clean and smooth project surface. Press down firmly on all the elements of your vinyl design to ensure the shapes have adhered to your project surface. Then, carefully peel away the transfer paper to reveal your perfectly aligned, bubble-free design behind!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

TIPS! on transfer paper:

  • Vinyl is a one trick pony (meaning, it can’t be pulled off and used again and again), but transfer paper can be used over and over and over again until the stick wears down (usually about 3-5 applications). So save the paper backing and re-use your transfer paper until it doesn’t seem to pick up the vinyl easily.
  • Transfer paper works best when putting vinyl onto hard surfaces; however, you can use it to transfer vinyl to fabric (like I did here) or plastic (like I did below). You just need to REALLY press every millimeter of your image down as much as possible before removing the transfer paper. Even then, you will still need to pull the transfer paper away really, really slowly to ensure the paper release the image onto your less hard surface!
  • Are you mid-project and JUST realized you are out of transfer paper? Painters tape and clear contact paper both do the job almost as well!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Tips and Tricks for Cutting Images from Vinyl

I mentioned earlier that I don’t like to cut my vinyl down to my project size in an effort to conserve vinyl. Here is an example of why. Below is a stretch of vinyl that, as you can see, has been cut from a variety of different sides.

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Instead of cutting down a little piece of vinyl for my next cut (which would potentially leave me with other small, awkward slices of vinyl), I simply line up my vinyl so that I have a straight edge along the top, no matter how wide it is. TIP! Then…in my Preview Cut Screen (just before you send your image to be cut), you can choose where exactly to place your cut image. I use the grid boxes on both my mat and my screen to place the image where I have enough vinyl to fit the entire cut. In this case, I moved my cut image from the default placement (upper left) to the upper right where I have plenty of vinyl for the cut!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Then, just like last time, I secured the cut to my mat and peeled away the negative vinyl…

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

However, this time, the negative space wasn’t all connected so it didn’t pull off in a single stretch. There were still some cut details inside the image and words that needed to be “weeded out.” As I mentioned in my Essentials post, I by-pass my fancy Cricut tools for weeding and head straight to my sewing drawer for my seam ripper!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

For whatever reason, I find it does the best job at getting all those tiny pieces of vinyl pulled out quickly and cleanly!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Then, just as before and with every, single vinyl project I do, I use transfer paper to move my cut image to my final project…

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

(You can read more about these Linen Closet labels here, and I will actually be sharing these cut files next month!)

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Pssssst – I now have these Household Label Cut Files uploaded and ready for you – and they are FREE! Get access to these 36 PNG or SVG files by clicking the photo below!

Make your own unique labels for everything In your home with these 36 FREE cut files for e-cutter machines!

Storing Vinyl

Unless you buy samples or smaller sheets (often available in variety packs), vinyl most often comes on rolls in order to keep it crease- and bubble-free. Since I like to keep a lot of colors on-hand for any project that might come along, storage can sometimes be a bit awkward and cumbersome. I’ve tried a few methods over the years; but currently, I have all my rolls tucked into a large, snap-lock tupperware. I like that the bin has a lid (so I can store it on it’s side like a briefcase), and it is shallow enough that finding and digging out rolls is pretty easy.

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

This storage methods keeps my rolls from becoming too disorderly (I have to roll and tape them up each time!), and it also limits me to how much I can have on hand!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Despite my efforts to waste as little vinyl as possible, small scraps and cuts are unavoidable. Because it is so easy to place cuts strategically on the cutting mat via the preview screen, I save most anything that is usable in a 12×12 scrapbook storage box. When I am making gifts, cutting single images, or have small details to cut, I often stop here to see what I have before pulling out my large collection of rolls.

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

Cricut Explore for Home Decor Series!

I realize there are so many great tutorials and resources available on the web…many of which I use. But there are also some other tricks and tips I’ve picked up along the way that I can’t wait to share with you guys. If there is something you want me to cover, leave me a comment! Otherwise, be sure to check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the images below:

A Cricut Explore can be used for SO much more than paper crafts! Check out these awesome 30 home decor projects that you can make with a Cricut Explore! Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make home decor? This post breaks down the essentials you need to get started!  One of the best features of the Cricut Explore is that you don't have to buy every image you want to cut! This tutorial shows you exactly how to import and cut your own images!  Attaching Images to one another is one of the easiest yet most misunderstood functions when using the Cricut Explore. This tutorial explains whey, how, and why to use to perfect your projects! One of the best functions of the Cricut Explore is that you can cut words using any font on your computer! This tutorial explains how to download fonts and use them in Cricut Design Space.

Working with vinyl can seem really intimidating at first, but I promise you will get the hang of it in no time! Weeding and transferring the vinyl does take some practice, so I recommend playing around with different images and texts and techniques before making something “for real.” Once you get the hang of it, I know you’ll be addicting to making awesome and personalized items for you, your family and friends! I am sure there are lots of details I forgot, so if you have a specific question, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you!

Are you ready to use your Cricut Explore to make vinyl decor, labels and more? This post breaks down everything you need to know about working with vinyl!

I hope you all have a great weekend! I’ll be back next week with our final room tour of our Kansas home (#sniff!) and then a quick round-up of  my writings over the last few months! See you back here soon!

Megan Signature

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31 Responses to Cricut Explore for Home Decor | Part 2: Working With Vinyl

  1. Hi, is that gold you use or the copper ?
    I was looking to buy that same color shade but hard to tell on amazon

    Thank you!

    • Hi Natalia!

      The color is gold! I bought it on Amazon, but if you’re buying the Oracle 651, I’m sure it will be the same color! Hope that helps!

      Megan

    • Hi Donna!

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve published a few Design Space tutorials…you can see the whole series here (and I have another one going live tomorrow):
      http://thehomesihavemade.com/category/cricut-explore-101/

      I am always looking for more tutorial topics that will benefit my readers, but I must admit I am not familiar with what you are looking for. Do you have a link or image you can show me?

      Thanks, and have a great night!
      Megan

  2. Hi Megan, I received my Cricut Explorer for Christmas 2015. I finally pulled it out this weekend to do some magic. I am stumped on how to make my own design, and cut it out in vinyl. Every time I press go, the machine starts, but stops before it cuts to tell me I need to print my design on white paper. What step I’m I doing wrong? If I print my design on white paper, how will I cut it out on vinyl. PLEASE HELP, I am at my wits end.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      I am sorry you are so frustrated. It sounds like whatever you are trying to cut from vinyl is actually a “Print and Cut” image which is why it’s telling you to print on paper first. Do you mind sending me the link to your Cricut Design Space project so I can see what you’re trying to do?

      I’ll try and help if I can!
      Megan

    • Hi Jackie,

      I honestly don’t remember 🙁 It’s been so long and used for so many different things over the years, but I want to say Target.

      I’m sorry I can’t be of more help – good luck!
      Megan

  3. Thanks for the great info! I have vinyl but haven’t tried it yet as I felt a little intimidated with the material.
    With reference to water bottle, does the vinyl stay put when washed repeatedly? Or does it need to be sealed? Thanks again for your great blog!

    • Hi MK,

      I have found that the vinyl stays put on water bottles, and holds up to regular washings. That said, you should probably test the specific products you’re using to make sure!

      Good luck!
      Megan

    • Hi Aleigh,

      You place the vinyl onto the mat right-side-up (paper backing side down). The machine will cut it regularly unless you tell it to cut it mirror image. When you are working with vinyl fabric transfer, you cut it backwards…but for regular cutting, there is no need to adjust beyond the basic machine settings.

      Hope that helps!
      Megan

  4. I’m sorry if this has been asked before. As I’m trying to hold my 10 month old and go through these instructions at the same time lol. My question is can you use the regular 651 vinyl on fabic? or can I only use the heat transfer vinyl do you know? I want to make a quick thanksgiving onsie for my baby and only have the 651 oracal vinyl on hand. Thanks for you help!

    • Hi Jan!

      You can certainly try it, but I’m not sure how well it will work and/or how comfortable it would be? My suggestion would be just to try it (don’t iron or wash the vinyl; I would just stick it on like a sticker). If you don’t like the way it looks/feels, I would grab a roll of the iron-vinyl.

      Hope that helps, and good luck!
      Megan

    • You are most welcome! I am glad you find my Cricut Tutorials helpful If you think of any topics you’d like to see covered or more info on, please let me know!

      Megan

  5. Thank you for your informative series on using the Cricut Explore. I’ve been “borrowing” my mother’s Cricut, and have to this point only made stencils on freezer paper for t-shirts. I’m looking forward to working with vinyl next.

    I have one question: when using vinyl on washable items, such as coffee cups and stainless steel tumblers, which type of vinyl should one use? And would gloss vs. matte make a difference in durability of the vinyl to last through washes (hand-washing with dish soap)?

    • Hello!

      Thank you so much for your comment and great question! I have used the glossy Oracle 651 for cups/tumblers without an issue. I’ve both hand-washed them and run them through the dishwasher. I personally find the glossy is a bit more durable than the matte, but that is just a casual observation. Like with anything, I would try a test before doing a big project.

      Hope that helps!
      Megan

  6. What transfer paper do you recommend for glitter vinyl? I know the cricut glitter vinyl comes with one sheet of stronger transfer paper but I can’t find anywhere to buy that on its own. And for the 651 glitter vinyl I’ve been using clear packing tape so that it sticks but that’s not really ideal. Normal transfer paper and contact paper aren’t strong enough. Help!

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’ve actually never worked with glittery vinyl (I need to soon!), but my sister has lots of experience with it so I asked her. Here is what she wrote:

      *******

      I use two things to transfer, painters or scotch tape or this:

      https://www.amazon.com/Vinyl-Ease-Application-Transfer-Silhouette/dp/B008CEQR26/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1480955442&sr=8-4&keywords=transfer+paper+roll

      I think this is the right one. Glitter vinyl is very resilient and strong, most of the time I peel it up and use it like a sticker, unless it’s a big image. Glitter iron on is different, and I also have not used the new cricut glitter vinyl…it hasn’t been on sale, haha. My glitter vinyl is perfectly smooth though, not rough like glitter iron on or glitter card stock. Wasn’t so expensive I would probably use it for everything . I love it.

      *****

      I am sorry I can’t be of more help, but if I come across something, I will be sure to let you know!
      Megan

  7. Great tips! I’d like to give you a few – when you store your vinyl in a roll, try to keep the roll 3″ or bigger – tighter rolls tend to make the vinyl not want to go flat any more.
    Also, many sign shops will discard smaller pieces of vinyl. If you contact one in your neighbourhood, they may be willing to save the scraps for you if you promise to pick them up regularly.

    🙂

  8. Thanks for all the tips! I needed the help after my fail with vinyl today. Any other tips for how you keep it from bubbling when you put it on the mat?

  9. I’m sure this question is stupid but I just received my Cricut…I have no idea what to do with it. I have been serching the web, not for projects but when do I use what material on what? I can think of a million projects. Vinyl is sticky on its own? Is vinyl used for shirts? Also I hear a lot of people talking about mirror image. When do I have to use a mirror image? You gave great tips that I will use just as soon as I figure out what material is used on what projects. I just don’t know where to start. I think I am most interested in making shirts & onesies but do not want to limit myself. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Sharla,

      Thanks for your email and I am sorry it’s taken me so long to respond (this comment came in the day I was in the hospital giving birth!).

      In short, you can make anything with the Cricut! Vinyl is sticky and not laundry safe so it is best used for home decor and kid projects. It can be used to personalize things like water bottles and school notebooks etc. For fabric, there is specific iron-vinyl, which would be better for onesie type projects.

      The best thing to do is just get your machine out of the box and start playing. No need to limit yourself, but after playing with it, you’ll find what you enjoy best!

      Hope that helps!
      Megan

  10. Hello Megan, I received a cricut for a gift and it doesn’t have a “key pad.” Where do I type my info? Also, I find your info much more helpful than the actual cricut site. Hands down they should hire you. Happy New Year and please keep posting. Debbie

    • Hi Debbie!

      Thank you so much for this – I am so glad you find my tutorials helpful! I am always looking for post ideas, so if there is something you need help with as you learn your machine, please be sure to let me know!

      As far as a keyboard, the old machines had a keypad, but the new machines run completely off the computer software. So you design online and send your files to be cut either through a cord or wirelessly. If you let me know which machine you received I can point you to some more help!

      Good luck!
      Megan

  11. I got a cricut explore for Christmas with the intention of making stencils for etching on glass. My thought was to use the vinyl to make a stencil, but I’m wondering if there is a better option. I haven’t tested it too much due to time but do you have any tips/tricks or recommendations?

    • I use clear contact paper for making stencils to etch on glass. It’s very inexpensive ( I buy mine at dollar tree). Before you put the contact paper on the glass, I always clean the glass and wipe it with rubbing alcohol first to make sure there is no dirt or oil. Rub the stencil onto the glass really well. I use a popscile stick or the cricut scraper and run in on the stencil to make sure it’s on really well before I apply the etching cream. It works like a charm every time!

  12. oh girlfriend stop spending your money on cricket transfer paper. go to the dollar tree and buy rolls of clear shelf paper liner it works absolutely beautifull and you can also reuse it several time if you decide to reapply it back onto the paper it was attached too.

  13. Hi,
    You have been so helpful. I got my machine for Christmas and I am just starting to warm up to it. I am having a hard time lining my vinyl up on my block of wood. I think I’ll try the contact paper stencil and paint it on.
    Linda

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