I am practically giddy over today’s holiday craft project! This is one of those projects that I didn’t really need to do, nor did I really have the time for, but I couldn’t get the idea out of my head and HAD to see it come to life. I am SO glad I decided to see this project through, because not only are these Christmas Character Treat Bag Toppers about the cutest things ever, but now I am well on my way to having Henry’s school class gifts all done and ready for the holiday party next week (which is about an entire week earlier than I normally have things ready!). If you need a super fun and cute way to top off your bags of homemade fudge for the neighbors OR are looking for another reason to buy a Cricut Explore, I have just the project for you!
I think treat bag toppers are such a clever idea. You can take an inexpensive little bag or envelope, fill it with editable treats, stickers, cards, anything (!!!) and transform it into a notable and themed gift simply by adding a paper topper to close it off. Folding and stapling paper over the top of a bag is a great solution for party favors, holiday treats and more…this project just takes it up a notch. Or two 😉
I’ll show you exactly how these cute little guys come together, but if you look closely, they are just variations on the same face: topper, cheeks, eyes, nose and smile. They become Santa, Mrs. Claus, an Elf and a Reindeer by swapping out a few accessories. I really can’t decide which one is my favorite!
What You Need to Make Christmas Character Treat Bag Toppers
I will admit, these do take a bit of time to pull together. But the tradeoff is that they are super inexpensive to make! A handful of colored cardstock, treat bags, craft adhesive and a stapler are all you need to transform your treat bags into adorable Christmas characters!
Oh…and you’ll need a Cricut Explore. You can certainly make these by cutting shapes out by hand (or searching for clipart/graphics on Google and printing them onto cardstock), but the Cricut Explore sure makes this a more manageable endeavor (especially if you’re making 24 of them for a Kindergarten class!) If you have a Cricut Design Space account, I have the cut files all ready for you HERE (the project should open right in Design Space).
Note that these Christmas friends are not a Cricut “set.” I simply hunted and pecked through the Design Space library to find the images and shapes that worked the best to get the looks I wanted. If you’d like to make these on your own or in a different e-cutter software, here are the shapes and elements I used to pull together each character.
Assembling the Treat Bag Toppers
If you are making these for a class, team, troop, or even the whole street, I highly recommend cutting EVERYTHING at once. It makes assembling so much faster!
Here’s another tip! Cut all the big pieces, as well as anything that will hang off the edges, from sturdy paper…
…but cut the itty bitty pieces from vinyl! Instead of fussing with glue for the little eyes and smiles, they went on just like stickers!
Once you have everything cut and ready to go, it’s just a matter of glueing everything together with some craft glue. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Fold the base in half before assembling the character so you can be sure everything will be on the front of the bag once folded over.
Start by placing the cheeks and then build out from there.
The personalities really come to life through the eyes and smile. Don’t hesitate to play around with the placement of these elements to give each one a slightly different look.
Here is a visual breakdown of how each character comes to life:
While these are designed to be Treat Bag Toppers, they would also make super cute gift tags, gift card holders, or place cards for your holiday table!
Attaching the Treat Bag Toppers
So you might be wondering what’s inside my treat bags for Henry’s class this year? I found a few years ago that you can really go wrong with inexpensive little craft sets from the craft store. They are always on sale this time of year and are perfect for all the no food/allergy precautions abundant in school treats/gifts these days. I got these at Michaels for $0.50 each!
I simply slid the bead kit into the bag…
…folded the topper over the top of the bag and stapled it shut on each side.
Once the faces are assembled, putting the bag toppers onto the bags couldn’t be any quicker!
I have everything cut for Henry’s whole class and have about half of them assembled. They do take a bit of patience to get them all cut; but once they are, they come together pretty fast. School-aged kids are the perfect assembly helpers – they can assemble while you prepare whatever is going to go inside each bag! For us, getting Henry to write his name on each one will be the longest/hardest part, lol!
Over the years, I have found that I really enjoy these little craft projects around the holidays. Even though life is busy and there are a million things to do, I really enjoy making extra-special handmade things for the people/kids on our list. I think because I grew up with a Mom who made homemade stockings and ornaments, it just feels like the perfect time to bust out the felt and paper and markers and make something festive! I think Santa and Mrs. Claus agree!
I hope you guys love this project as much as I do! Now that I’ve made them, I can get them out of my head and (finally!) move on to finishing our decorating.
Hope you all have a great weekend! See you back here next week!
When I am brainstorming blog topics/ideas in general, I often find myself saying “Why bother writing a post about that, there are so many out there already.” This Cricut Explore for Home Decor series definitely fell into that category because there are indeed SO many great resources and tutorials already published on the web. Despite that, however, these posts are becoming some of the most popular on my site, and I have been getting questions and requests to cover different aspects of working with the Cricut Explore and in Cricut Design Space. One of the main questions I get (and have seen on other tutorials and message boards) is how to get your images/text to cut/write exactly as they appear on the design screen in Design Space. It seems like it should be an easy thing (and it is!), but it’s not an obvious or intuitive part of the design process. Today, I am going to teach you how to master the “Attach” function in Cricut Design Space so your projects turn out just right, every time!
The “Attach” function in Cricut Design Space (Cricut’s online design platform) is best explained and understood through a series of different projects. Here we go!!!
How and Why to Use the “Attach” Function in Cricut Design Space
I was recently making some quick labels for our identical kitchen trash cans to help Henry out. I picked out two symbols (trash and recycling), as well as two circle borders to go around each one.
I then used the “Align” functions (right there on the toolbar) to center the symbols inside the circle frames.
When everything was spaced to my liking, I clicked the green “Go” button to send my design to the cutter.
On the cut preview screen, my spacing is completely undone; and each element is going be cut individually rather than as a single image (which conserves vinyl and makes for easier transferring).
Raise your hand if this has happened to you, and you’ve grown exasperated trying to fix it!!! Well, my friends…the solution is easy, albeit not very intuitive. In order to get your images to cut all together as you have them designed:
Select all the images you want cut together
“Attach” essentially means you are attaching the selected shapes to each other. The instinct for many is to “Group” the items rather than “Attach” them. (Grouping is only used when moving, sizing, copying items in the design screen and does not translate to how a design is cut). However, once the images are attached to each other and you hit “Go,” you end up with your images ready to cut exactly as you designed them!
Why is this such a big deal? Well…if your image(s) are cut in separate units, it will be up to you to transfer each one individually to your final project. Not only is this a bit more work since you will be transferring one item at a time, but you’ll have to eye-ball your spacing to get it right. Also…it uses up extra material since the images are more spread out.
With your images attached and everything cut as a single unit, all you have to do is weed out the excess vinyl and transfer your image once, leaving all your perfect spacing in tact! (Click HERE for some help with weeding and transferring vinyl!)
Using the “Attach” Function to Make Patterns
The “Attach” function ultimately ensures that the spacing you set in the design screen is translated to your final cut. This is especially helpful when trying to make patterns.
Let’s say you want to cut out 30 hot pink vinyl circles to do a wall decal project.
The Cricut Explore is automatically set to conserve material, so if you send one circle to be cut, you can adjust how many you want/need in the cut preview screen. By typing in a number and hitting “Apply,” the program will automatically determine how to cut out the circles in order to save space.
This method is ideal if you are going to randomly place your circles onto your final project by hand (like I did on my Dot Wall here). And even if you need to work around specific prints or space on your cutting mat/materials, you can drag and drop the circles to different places right on the cut preview screen.
But let’s say you want your circles to be in a very specific pattern. Sure you can drag and drop in the cut preview screen, but it’s pretty hard to get the spacing precise. So instead, you spend the time to perfectly space each circle and line everything up back in the design screen…
Once you hit “Go” though, all the circles yet again lump together to conserve space on the cutting mat.
BUT….if you go back to the design screen, select all the circles, right click, and select “Attach,”…
…your spacing will translate to the cut preview screen and ultimately your project!
So now you might be wondering…
“Do I need to ‘Attach’ my images every single time?”
Not necessarily…it all depends on the nature of your project. My dresser project from earlier this year illustrates this perfectly!
Here is the pattern I designed for the dresser:
If you look closely, you can see the basic shapes I used to create the pattern. Let’s look at the red first. The first row has 4 of the same flower-frame shape all in one line. I then rotated the shape 90 degrees and offset them for the next line. Although this pattern was created out of dozens of the same shape, I wanted them cut in this very specific arrangement (so I wouldn’t have to place each one by hand). As such, I “attached” all the red images to each other so that the entire design was cut (and eventually applied) in a single iteration.
But now let’s look at the blue flowers inside each red frame. I knew that trying to apply all the blue flowers just right during a single application (so that they ended up in the centers of the red frames) would be frustrating and near impossible. Plus it would waste a TON of vinyl since the blue flowers are so spread out in the final design. As such, I decided NOT to “Attach” the blue flowers to each other and just let the machine “autofill” them on my mat.
This meant I had to place each flower individually (which was actually easier than trying to apply all of them at once)…since the machine did not preserve my designed spacing.
So whether it is to conserve your material, control your spacing, or control how you apply cuts to your final project, there is certainly a use for both the “Attach” and non-attached function!
Using the “Attach” Function with Text
A majority of the questions I get regarding the Cricut Explore is about text: “When I design my project in the design screen, my text is on top of my shape. But when I send it to cut and write, it’s not in the right place! How do I get the text to write right on my shape?”
Any guesses to the answer? Yep!!!! You have to “Attach” the text to the shape!
I carefully centered all of my words on the white circles and even selected to “Group” them, which really only allows me to move these items around the screen and/or size them all together. Even though they are “Grouped,” you can see in the side panel that the circle and the text are still two separate elements.
As such, when I send them to be cut…my spacing is not maintained.
But if I go back, select the white circle and the word I want on it, right click, and select “Attach,” you will notice they become an attached item in the side panel. Once I attach each word to each circle…
…the machine will write and cut the labels exactly as I designed them!
If you want to see how these labels come together, click HERE!
The “Attach” Function Summarized
I hope these few project examples help fully illustrate how to use the “Attach” function to get your projects to turn out right. In summary, here is how I determine if I need to “Attach” my items or not:
Use Attach When…
You want your images to cut exactly as it is designed on your Cricut Design Space design screen, with all of the sizing and spacing perfectly maintained
You want text written directly onto a specific shape and/or in a specific place
Things are the same color and can/should be cut together (by attaching two images, both shapes will be cut from the same color)
Don’t Use Attach When…
You need (many) cuts of the same (or different!) shape in the same color, but don’t need the spacing/pattern maintained because either:
You are going to place cuts individually, by hand, onto your final project
You are trying to conserve your cutting material
You want an image cut in a very specific spot on your cutting mat. Instead, drag and drop the image to where you want it on the CUT PREVIEW screen.
Cricut Explore for Home Decor Series!
I realize there are so many great Cricut Explore tutorials and resources available on the web…many of which I use. However, I’ve picked up some useful tips, tricks, and shortcuts along the way, and this series is all about sharing and explaining these skills! If there is something you want me to cover, be sure to leave me a comment! Otherwise, be sure to check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the images below:
I hope this post clears up a very simple yet often-misunderstood function of the Cricut Explore! Once you master it, getting your project spacing to turn out just right will become quick and intuitive!
I hope your week is off to a great start…I’ll be back here on Thursday with my end-of-the-month recap which will include a pregnancy update, moving-in update, and more! See you then!
Before I dive into today’s organization freebie, I have to take a moment to thank you all for the tremendous outpouring of love and support in response to the news I shared last Thursday! That was one of the hardest posts I have ever written…and I was honestly SO nervous about publishing it. I spent a good hour lying in bed wide awake the morning it went live, too scared and nervous to look at my phone to see the reaction. The amount of genuine joy, love, and empathy for our little family was incredible and overwhelming…making this part of our journey even more special! Thank you for sharing in our joy and for taking the time to send along prayers and well wishes! We can’t wait to share this next chapter with you all!
Okay! As promised, I am checking in really quick with those household label cut files I promised last week. I pinky-swear promise I am not trying to milk this project and drag it out, but when I lumped everything into one post, it was way too long. So, this is just a quick little announcement that these files are now uploaded for you in The Organization Toolbox…and while I’m at it, I’ll share a quick tutorial on how to use them!
*affiliate links used
For those of you looking for a super easy, no-fancy-machine-required, “print and cut” option for these exact same labels, I refer you to this post HERE. All of the labels you see in this post are available in PDF format in 6 different colors. All you have to do is print them off your home computer/printer, cut them out and apply them wherever you need them!
However, if you are a bit like me and want to be able to cut these labels from paper or vinyl in any size and color you’d like, this is the tutorial for you! As you can see, instead of using the print-and-cut versions in my linen closet, I chose to cut the labels from gold vinyl and put them on chipboard rounds.
To save you the trouble and headache of designing similar labels yourself, I am sharing both the PNG and SVG versions of these 36 labels! For those of you with e-cutter machines and software, feel free to import the SVG files and get cutting right away (no image editing necessary)! If you prefer to work with PNG files (for e-cutter machines or even to edit and use them in other ways), I have those for you too! (Psssst – if you need help working with PNG files in Cricut Design Space, check out this step-by-step tutorial HERE!).
If you would like these Household Label Cut Files, I have them ALL available for FREE download over in The Organization Toolbox right now! Hop on over and grab your files, then come back to see how I used them!
If you need access to my Organization Toolbox, simply subscribe to THIHM Newsletter below and the Organization Toolbox Password will be delivered straight to your inbox (along with a free gift!)!
(Pssst – if you’re already a subscriber, the password was delivered in the June newsletter! If you just subscribed but didn’t receive the final password email, please check your Spam/Trash folders! Please use ALL CAPS!)
Already have access? Visit the Organization Toolbox HERE to access your free Household Labels Cut Files!
Once you have the files downloaded to your computer, import them to your e-cutter design software and clean up the files as necessary (if you are using Cricut Design Space, use THIS tutorial.) Once the cut files are uploaded and cleaned up, you can add them to a new project and customize them for your needs.
Start by sizing them according to your preference…
…then cut them from either vinyl or paper.
Next, weed out the images to prepare them for transfer using THESE tricks…
…and then transfer the vinyl labels to your final label surface using transfer paper.
The last step is to fasten your custom labels to whatever it is you’re labeling. In my case, I used brass paper fasteners to attach the chipboard rounds to my baskets!
When I first shared these labels in PDF format months ago, I realized there were limits to their usability since PDFs can’t be easily modified. For those of you that wanted to change their size, shape or color, you were kinda out of luck. I knew there would be some (including myself!) who would really love to have these in a more usable format (like PNGs or SVGs) to be able to truly customize them for your home and use them with e-cutter machines. With just a bit more work, I was able to transform these files into formats that allow them to be used in a variety of ways! I hope you find them helpful; and if you do use them for projects/labeling your own home, be sure to let me know how it turned out!!!
Later this week, I’m going to be closing out the month with a huge THIHM Around the Web round-up…sharing all sorts of posts and projects that have hit the web this summer. Then starting next week, I’m sharing the first glimpses of our new house with our stuff in it (eek) and revealing the first few projects we’ve tackled in this home! Thanks for bearing with me during this month of news and transition…see you back here Thursday!
While we get settled into our new house (which is painfully taking longer than normal!), I want to pick back up with my Using the Cricut Explore for Home Decor series by sharing a tutorial for one of my favorite Explore function and uses: importing your own images! (By the way, you can catch up on this series here: Intro | The Essentials | Working with Vinyl). Part of the reason I am “Team Cricut” is because I love their vast collection of images (including trademarked images) in the Design Space library. And even though I have a Design Space subscription (which I personally think is worth every penny and talk more about HERE), I still find there are times when I just can’t find the “right” image for my project. It’s instances like these that instead of settling for one of Cricut’s images, I import something I make myself or find via Google images…and in a few simple steps, it can be sized and cut however I want. This process is easier than you might think, and I’m going to walk you through it today!
*affiliate links used
As an example for this tutorial, I am going to use the linen closet labels I made for our previous linen closet. You all might remember that I made and offered linen closet labels as a free printable a while back. But when I was putting my own linen closet together, I didn’t want to use printed versions (mainly because my baskets were white). Instead, I imported the same images and words into my e-cutter software (Cricut’s Design Space) and cut them from gold vinyl. The results were simple, easy-to-read and descriptive labels for our linen closet!
Finding Images to Cut
So let’s say you want to cut something you create yourself (like your own hand lettering) or something that wouldn’t be commonly found in an image library (like school/work/team logos or an image you find online). If you have a JPEG (or a PNG is even better!), you can most likely turn it into a pretty clean cut file. I will preface this tutorial by saying that I have the most experience with and best luck importing and cutting relatively simple and clean images. I find these by searching Google Images using words such as “clipart,” “icon,” and “symbol” (for example, I would search “light bulb clipart” to find a simple light bulb image). I then look for images that already have a clear background (here is an example), are a single color, and have good resolution. Once I find a good contender, I save it to my desktop and then open it Cricut Design Space.
Importing and Cutting Images with a Transparent Background
When you are creating and/or looking for images to cut, it is easiest to use PNG images, which often already have a transparent background. How do you know the background is transparent? You will usually see little boxes or lines in the background indicating it doesn’t have a solid background color (here is an example). Once you have a PNG with transparent background downloaded to your computer, open up a New Project in Cricut Design Space. Over on the lefthand column, click the button that says “Upload Images.”
Once you click that button, you will be given the option to select Image or Pattern Fill. Select “Image.”
You will notice that you have the option to upload several file types: .jpg, .png, .gif, .bmp, .svg and .dxf. To upload your file, select “Browse.”
From there, find your downloaded file on your computer and select “Open.”
You will notice right away why importing PNG files is so easy…the background is already cleared away, leaving a pretty clear cut path. Once the image populates on the left-hand box, pick the right “type” of image it is. If you stick to single color images like I try to do, pick “Simple Image.”
From here, you can clean up the image. You can erase any parts of the image you don’t want cut or clean up any fuzzy details. You can use the “Preview” button on the bottom center of the screen to see how the file will be cut. Because this image already had a clear background and good resolution, I just hit “Continue.”
Here is the most important step if you are uploading an image TO BE CUT. Make sure you select the right-hand button that says “Save as a Cut Image.” Sometimes that box takes a second to show your file, but it will usually pop up eventually. I also suggest you label your uploaded images so they remain easy to find even after hundreds of uploads!
After you hit “Continue,” you will be taken back to the “Upload Image” screen, but this time you should see your newly-uploaded image in the Library below. Select your image and click the green “Insert Image” button.
Once inserted into your project, you can re-size, color, edit out areas even more, and use it in conjunction with other images and files just as you would one of Cricut’s pre-made images!
And as you can see, the precision at which this imported image was cut is perfect!
Importing and Cutting Images with a Solid Background
Admittedly, sometimes finding the right images with a transparent background is near impossible. Thankfully, editing out a solid background to reveal a clean and perfect cut path is also pretty easy!
Just as before, navigate to the “Upload Image” tab on the left of your screen in Design Space, select “Upload Image,” “Browse” for your file and click open. This time, I chose a JPEG file that had a solid white background, but still had pretty good resolution, a single color, and really clean lines. As such, I selected “Simple Image.”
Unlike last time, notice this image doesn’t have the blue/white checkered background (indicating it’s transparent). If we were to preview this image, it would essentially cut the outside perimeter square and none of the first aid kit or words.
To clean up the image, play with the the three tools on the upper left toolbar. With the middle “wand” selected, work through your image clicking on any area that you would like to be transparent. Use the zoom buttons on the right if you need to get in close to clean up tiny details. And just like before, be sure to use the “Preview” button to make sure the image is fully cleaned up. This handy button will show you if you’ve forgotten to weed out the insides of letters of if you have a strange border that still needs cleaning up!
Cleaning up your image, depending on how complicated it is, can take a bit of time. But once you do, the process moving forward is exactly the same. Be sure to “Save as a Cut Image,” name your file, and then “Save” it to your library.
Once inserted into your project, you can size it, edit it, and color it specifically for your project!
With my images imported, I cut them all from vinyl and used THESE tips for transferring them over to my wooden rounds.
And with just those few easy steps, I had a slew of coordinated labels for our linen closet…all made from images I found via Google instead of paying for them through Cricut!
Cutting your own images is one of the BEST features of the Cricut Explore (at least in my opinion!). Being able to import any file you have or find and cut it with perfect precision truly allows you to make ANYTHING for your home, for gifts, and more! I still think having a Design Space subscription (which gives you access to thousands of images) is worth it, but also having the ability to import whatever you want keeps you from having to pay for even more cut files when what you want isn’t available!
Cricut Explore for Home Decor Series!
I realize there are so many great Cricut Explore 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, be sure to leave me a comment! Otherwise, be sure to check out all the posts in this series by clicking on the images below:
Part of the reason I was able to put my labels together so quickly is that I was able to save all of my label images (that I shared here) into high-res PNG files. After putting this post together, it occurred to me that you all might like to have those files too (since you can’t really upload the PDF files I already shared into Design Space), so look for these (and more!) cut files coming next week! Up next on Thursday though, I’m sharing a very special announcement you won’t want to miss! See you then!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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).
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!
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.
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!).
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.
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!)
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!
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!
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.
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!
Then, just like last time, I secured the cut to my mat and peeled away the negative 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!
For whatever reason, I find it does the best job at getting all those tiny pieces of vinyl pulled out quickly and cleanly!
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…
(You can read more about these Linen Closet labels here, and I will actually be sharing these cut files next month!)
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!
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.
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!
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.
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:
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!
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!