Last month, Cricut revealed their newest cutting machine…Cricut Joy…and along with it, a whole host of new materials! Without a doubt, my favorite is the new Cricut Joy Smart Label, a product that allows you to write+cut any label you can imagine in just a matter of minutes. I wrote an in-depth tutorial on how to make labels with Smart Label here, and have even shown you them in our own pantry, drawers, and laundry room. It really is an awesome option for organization lovers, professional organizers and the everyday crafter, so it’s probably no shock I’ve gotten quite a few questions about how it works, how durable it is, and more. I decided to put a roll of Cricut Joy Smart Label to the test and I’ve now got answers to (hopefully) everything you’ve been wondering about!
Before I dive in…I have a quick disclaimer! This post is very much an “investigative” post and isn’t chock full of the prettiest photos. I tried to do my best to visually capture the Smart Labels‘ attributes without stressing over styling or fussy projects. That said, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the answers you want to know, so let’s dive in!
What Is Cricut Joy Smart Label?
Smart Labels is specially-designed vinyl that is intended to be written on with Cricut pens and then cut into whatever shape you like. It is (currently) only available in white, and comes in a roll 5.5″ wide by 48″ long. Smart Label is considered “smart” because it feeds directly into a Cricut Joy machine without a mat.
Can’t I Just Write on White Vinyl?
In the picture above, you will notice that Cricut Joy Smart Label looks A LOT like regular ol’ white vinyl. But it’s not. This newest material has a unique composition that locks in pen colors so they are not only clear and vibrant but also don’t smudge, fade, bleed, or wipe off.
To illustrate the difference, below is the same label I made on both Premium White Vinyl and Smart Label. You can barely even see the label on the white vinyl, plus it easily wiped away since it “beaded up” on the surface of the vinyl. On the other hand, the pen on the Smart Label is clear and vibrant and doesn’t smudge, bleed or wipe away.
If you’re in the habit of unboxing or mixing up your materials, be sure you’re using writable Smart Label by looking for the green grid/letters on the back and the word “Writable” under the Smart Vinyl indicator:
What Size and Shape Labels Can I Make?
Although Smart Label is not normal vinyl from a writing perspective…it IS from a cutting perspective. The roll is 48″ of solid vinyl material, meaning you can cut it into ANY label shape you can find in the Cricut Design Space library. Want a teddy bear label? Find a teddy bear shape. Want a heart label? Use a heart shape.
To be very clear here since I’ve gotten this question a lot: you don’t buy rolls of circle or square or rectangle labels. Smart Label a solid sheet of white material and you can cut any shape you want!
How Do I Go About Designing My Own Labels?
I have a VERY in-depth, step-by-step guide to desinging and cutting your own labels with Smart Label here. I cover EVERYTHING from how to find shapes, how to attach your text, how to change pens and load the Smart Label material.
What Pens Write Best on Smart Label?
Cricut suggests that only Cricut-brand Extra-Fine and Fine-Point Pens (in any color) be used on the Smart Label. In fact, if you set a word or line to be drawn in Glitter Pen, Gel Pen, or Marker, Cricut Design Space will let you know those pen styles are “not recommended.” However, none of the Cricut machines are able to detect which type of pen you put into the clamp, so you can really use whatever you want.
So what happens if you use those “non recommended” pen types?
Your lines just wont be as clear and consistent. I used the Gold Metallic Marker on all my pantry and laundry labels, and they look great. But if you look closely, you’ll notice there are some lines that aren’t as consistently clean and clear across every label. I also noticed the Markers don’t dry quite as quickly as the Pens and can sometimes smudge while the machine is cutting. As such, I suggest letting your labels sit for just a minute or so (after writing), before inserting the blade and cutting to reduce the possibility of smudging.
Below, the blue label was done with a Glitter Pen. Notice the color isn’t nearly as vibrant and the line thickness isn’t consistent around the entire label.
After playing with lots of different pens, both the Extra-Fine and Fine Point pens really do produce the best results.
Can I Use Smart Label with my Cricut Maker or Explore?
Yes! As I said before, the Smart Label is “smart,” meaning you can feed it into a Cricut Joy machine without a mat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t load it onto a traditional mat and cut it with your Maker or Explore!
Smart Materials, including Smart Label, have a quarter inch margin on either side of the vinyl (that is how they load into the Joy feeds). To be able to use as much of the Smart Label material as possible, I recommend lining it up off-set to the left 1/4″. This positions the actual cuttable vinyl between the 0-5″ on the mat. See below to see what I mean:
You will then need to ensure all of your label designs are lined up on your mat to be cut down the Smart Label material. When on the cut screen in Cricut Design Space, just drag and drop them into a vertical layout within the 0-5″ margins.
I suspected my regular Cricut Pens (that fit into my Maker/Explore) would work on the Smart Label (instead of Cricut Joy pens), and I was right. Both my Fine and Extra-Fine Explore/Maker pens worked great while the Markers gave really poor results (see below).
How Can I Make the Lines Darker?
You may find yourself in a situation where you aren’t quite satisfied with the quality/thickness of your drawn line on the Smart Label. This can happen when the pen gets turned around in the clamp, or you just simply want a darker/thicker line for aesthetic reasons. Thankfully, you can easily enhance the quality of your lines by just running it again!
What do I mean? Below are two runs of the same labels design. On the right, the red marker lines were drawn once. But on the left, the red marker was run a second time, resulting in a thicker, darker line.
So how do you re-run the design?
First, you CANNOT re-run your design (and expect it to line up right) if you’ve already unloaded the mat/material from your machine. This only works with your material STILL loaded.
For Cricut Joy:
Once your design is done, you will get a message to either “Rerun” or “Unload.” Instead of unloading, click “Rerun.” You will be asked to put the correct pen back in the clamp and the project will go again.
At anytime, you can cancel out so a project isn’t re-cut or certain lines aren’t re-drawn.
For Cricut Maker/Explore:
Cricut Design Space will not prompt you to re-run. However, BEFORE unloading the mat, you can just hit the flashing Cricut button to re-run your design again. To pause/cancel at any time during the re-run, just hit the Pause button on the machine.
NOTE: The Cricut Joy and Cricut Explore do not have “tool sensors,” so you can leave out any pens/blades in order to re-run/not re-run certain aspects of the design. The Maker does, so you won’t be able to run the machine without a blade inserted.
What’s the Best Way to Remove the Labels from the Paper Backing?
One of the most exciting things about using Smart Label for your labeling projects is that it doesn’t require transfer paper to move the labels from the paper backing to your project. However, once cut, the labels aren’t exactly easily peel-able either. Here are my best tips for getting your labels to come away cleanly.
First, remove all the excess vinyl around your label shapes. This is most easily done using a weeding tool or peeling from a corner.
I have the most luck using a weeding tool to carefully lift up one corner/edge of the label and pulling the rest off with my fingers. If you don’t have a weeding tool on hand, a seam ripper works perfectly too!
You can also sharply fold back the carrier layer (the vinyl backing) to help the corner of your label “pop” up. However, I find this not quite as quick or easy as using a weeding tool.
No matter how you peel your label off the backing, you need to keep in mind that this Smart Label material is VERY thin and prone to tearing. Thin designs, decorative corners/edges and other small details can VERY easily tear if you’re not careful. I’ve had the most success peeling up really simple, clean label shapes.
What Is the Best Way to Place the Labels on My Container?
Although it may seem a little uncomfortable (especially to those who work with traditional vinyl a lot), the best way to put the labels onto your projects is to peel them up and place them down by hand. I find it best to lay the center down (no matter the label shape) and smooth outward to the right and left.
If you need to reposition a label, your best chance is to do so before it’s all the way down onto your project. I’ve had a lot of success peeling up (partially-laid) labels on plastic containers. However, once it’s all the way down, the repositioning results aren’t great (see more below).
If you lay down your label and end up with really annoying bubbles, try covering your label with wax paper or freezer paper and smooth them out with your fingers or scraper tool.
Can’t I Just Use Transfer Paper?
It’s totally awesome that Smart Label doesn’t require transfer paper, but if you’re super particular about placement and/or bubbles, you might be tempted to use transfer paper anyway. I gave it a go and my verdict is: don’t bother.
- As I said above, the Smart Label material is SUPER thin. I had a really tough time getting the sticky transfer paper off my Smart Label label without tearing my actual label.
- The tack of the transfer paper is stronger than the tack of the label, so getting the transfer paper to “let go” of the label wasn’t quick or easy.
- Finally, my transfer paper left a slightly tacky residue along the label once I finally got it peeled all the way off.
Although using (standard) transfer paper didn’t work so well, low-tac Contact paper or painters tape might be worth a try!
Can I Layer Smart Label?
Yes, you sure can! Again, Smart Label is a lot like vinyl, in that you can layer it over other vinyls to create a two-toned label.
That said, let me re-iterate that Smart Label is SUPER thin, so your under-layer will partially show through your white label layer. As such, no matter what color you place under it, your labels won’t have a bright white appearance.
Does the Ink on the Smart Label Smudge?
Although I’ve covered a lot so far…the main questions I’ve received about the new Smart Label all focus on how durable it is. So I put it to the test in a bunch of different ways, using one of my pantry jar lids:
First up, does it smudge?
Although it was hard for me to do (because I genuinely wasn’t sure if it would hold up), I went ahead and (really roughly) pressed my fingers all over this container lid:
The Result? No smudges! (Admittedly, I was pleasantly shocked!) After pushing and prodding all over the text with dry fingers, my text still looked perfect!
Is the Ink on the Smart Label Waterproof?
It seams like every blogger, myself included and even Cricut, has used the Smart Label for kitchen/pantry labels. So that begs the question…can these kitchen containers get wet or be washed?
Okay – here we go!
I started with just wet fingers…as if I was working in the kitchen, making dinner with damp hands…
The black ink, most definitely, bled. Boo. But wait!
Next, I took the lid over the the sink and rinsed it under running water, like I would if I was washing dishes. Notice how washing it actually cleaned off all the smudged ink…
…and once I dried it off with a towel, the writing looked pretty darn good! Color me impressed! There is indeed a tiny bit of smudging (on the P, for example) but in general, these labels look pretty good considered they were submerged in water!
I was curious if all the pen weights had the same reaction to water. It’s really hard to tell, but below, the strip of Smart Label is completely wet. Notice that the Extra Fine line and the Marker line bled a bit, but both the Fine Point lines look pretty good (except for the line start). (Another pro for using the Fine Point pens!)
Below, I wiped away all the water with a paper towel. I was able to wipe away the Marker lines, but the other three lines look pretty good (again, except for the starts).
I’m not sure I have a clear verdict for you here beyond these few observations:
- I personally wouldn’t be terrified to get these labels wet since they seem to, generally, do just fine.
- Markers and Extra Fine Point lines don’t appear to hold up as well as Fine Point lines when saturated.
- If your lines/writing do smudge from water, go ahead and rinse away the ink to clear up the fuzziness.
Are Smart Labels Permanent?
You will notice both on the Smart Label box and on the back of the vinyl itself it says “Permanent.” If you place these labels on paper or cardboard, they will likely NOT come off cleanly. However, when placed on plastic…
…they come off just fine and leave NO residue behind!
Are Smart Labels Reusable?
I have had to remove a few of these labels and so far, I haven’t been able to do so in a way that preserves them really well. Notice above how rolled up my label was once I peeled it off. I tried to un-roll it to re-use it, but as you’ll see below, the ink not only smudged but the label also tore and became quite wrinkled. Although, with patience, you may be able to carefully remove and reuse labels made with Smart Label…in general, I would say these labels are one time use.
I’m Not an Organizer…What Else Can I Do with Smart Label?
Even if you’re not into labeling every item in your home like I am, you might be surprised to find other clever uses for this product…like:
- Labels for homemade gifts, especially jars and containers like jelly, jam, honey, cookies, etc
- Gift tags – make a personalized gift tag for any occasion and stick it right to your gift!
- Sticky notes – make custom notes to stick to sandwich bags for kids lunches, party favors, etc
- Stickers – you can change pretty much any image in the Cricut Design Space library to “Draw” and then cut them out to make your own personalized stickers! Hhmmm..that’s a tutorial I might need to do!
What Other Questions Do You Have?
I really hope you found this post helpful! I tried to cover as many questions as I could think of for this post, based on feedback I’ve gotten from you all in recent weeks. If there is something else you need to know before working with this fun new product, be sure to leave me a comment and I’ll add to this post as more questions come up!
More About Cricut Joy
Check out these other comprehensive tutorials about Cricut’s newest machine!
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! See you back here next week!
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