Without a doubt, one of my favorite Cricut products is Smart Label Writable Vinyl, a product that allows you to write+cut any label you can imagine in just a matter of minutes. It’s an awesome product for organization lovers, professional organizers, gift givers, party throwers, and the everyday crafter, so it’s probably no shock I’ve gotten lots of questions about how it works, how durable it is, how to use it, and so much more. So I decided to put Cricut’s writable vinyl to the test and I’ve now got answers to (hopefully) everything you want to know (and I do mean everything)!

All About Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl

What Is Smart Label Writable Vinyl?

Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl is a specially-formulated vinyl that is designed to be written on with Cricut Pens and then cut into whatever shape you like.

Pantry labels cut from Cricut Smart Label

What Sizes Does Smart Label Come In?

Cricut’s line of writable vinyl currently comes in three different sizes:

  • 5.5 x 48″ Roll | White Only – Primarily for matless cutting on Cricut Joy
  • 13″ x 3′ Roll | White, Black, and Transparent – Primarily for matless cutting on Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Maker 3
  • 5.5 x 13″ Sheets | White, Black, and Transparent – Primarily for matless cutting on Cricut Joy or mat cutting on any machine
Overhead shot of full line of Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyls

What Cricut Machines Cut Smart Label Writable Vinyl?

Any Cricut machine can cut writable vinyl, but keep these parameters in mind:

  • Cricut Joy – Can cut all 5.5″ wide Smart Label (roll and sheets) without a mat
  • Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Maker 3 – Can cut all 13″ wide Smart Label without a mat
  • Any Cricut Machine (including Cricut Explore Air 2 and older machines) – Can cut any Smart Label that is placed onto a mat for cutting (more instructions below).
Cricut Joy loaded with Smart Vinyl and a gold marker

What Colors Does Smart Label Come In?

Smart Label Writable Vinyl was originally released as part of the Cricut Joy family in white rolls only. However, Cricut’s writable vinyl line has now been expanded to include black, transparent/clear, gold, silver, and holographic!

I have more guidance on the different colors further down in this post.

Cricut Maker 3 shown alongside Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl

What is the Difference Between “Removable” and “Permanent” Smart Label?

Smart Label now comes in both “Removable” and “Permanent” varieties. So what does this mean?

It’s important to know that both versions are removable; whether you use Permanent or Removable Smart Label, you will be able to peel the labels off any surface.

So why the distinction? Here are my observations based on my own experimentation:

  • Permanent Smart Label might leave residue behind (although not necessarily) and will not remove easily. As such, it is not considered repositionable or reusable.
  • Removable Smart Label will not leave residue behind and will remove quite easily. These labels don’t rip or warp as you peel them up, making them repositionable.

Below, I was able to cleanly remove a label made from “Permanent” Smart Label off a cardboard tag.

Hands peeling up Transparent Smart Label off blue tag

Not sure what you’re working with? Both on the Smart Label packaging and on the back of the vinyl itself, you will find the words “Permanent” or “Removable.”

Identification on back of roll of Cricut Smart Label

Is Writable Vinyl the Same as Cricut Joy Smart Label?

Yes. Smart Label was initially released as part of the Cricut Joy family in early 2020; as such, it was commonly referred to as Cricut Joy Smart Label.

The product has now been expanded to additional sizes and colors, so it is now generally referred to as Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl.

A single roll of Smart Label shown alongside Cricut Joy machine

What Is the Difference Between Writable Vinyl and Standard Vinyl?

You might be wondering:

“Can’t I just write on white vinyl? Why do I need “writable vinyl”?

You’ll notice that Smart Label looks A LOT like regular ol’ vinyl. But it’s not. This material has a unique composition that locks in pen colors so they are not only crisp 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 white 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.

Showing difference between regular vinyl and writable vinyl

How to Know You’re Vinyl is “Writable”

If you’re in the habit of unboxing or mixing up your materials, ensure 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.

Making Labels with Writable Vinyl

What Can You Label with Writable Vinyl?

Smart Label Writable Vinyl is first and foremost…vinyl! As such, this product works best on clean, smooth, hard surfaces such as glass, plastic, metal, finished wood, and cardboard.

It is an ideal product for:

  • Pantry Containers
  • Spice Jar Labels
  • Plastic/Acrylic Drawers or Bins in a playroom, garage, bathroom, etc
  • Glass Bottles or Jars for gifts, foods, etc
  • School Supplies
  • Envelopes
  • Cords
  • And so much more!

Supplies Needed

Using writable vinyl to make labels requires just a few supplies, making this one of the easier Cricut labeling options! Here’s what you’ll generally need:

  • A Cricut Machine – all Cricut machines can cut Smart Label Writable Vinyl; only the Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore 3, and Cricut Maker 3 can cut it without a mat.
  • Smart Label Writable Vinyl – in the right size for your machine
  • Cricut Pens – in the right size for your machine
  • Something to Label
Cricut Joy shown alongside Cricut Joy Pens and Smart Label Writable Vinyl

What Size and Shape Labels Can You Make?

Although Smart Label is not normal vinyl from a writing perspective…it IS from a cutting perspective, meaning you can cut it into ANY label shape you can find in the Cricut Design Space library or you upload/create yourself.

Want a teddy bear label? Find a teddy bear shape. Want a heart label? Use a heart shape. Need a set of labels in a perfect size or perfect shape? Design them that way!

To be very clear since I’ve gotten this question a lot: Smart Label doesn’t come pre-cut in circles or squares or rectangles like a sheet of Avery Labels does. Smart Label is a solid sheet of sticky material that you can cut into any shape you want!

Hands placing Transparent Smart Label on a blue tag

The General Label Making Process

For an in-depth guide on how to cut labels from Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl, see here: How to Use Cricut Pens to Make (Gorgeous) Custom LabelsHowever, here is the general process:

  1. Design your labels in Cricut Design Space, ensuring you “attach” the label shape and text together.
  2. Feed Smart Label Writable Vinyl into your Cricut machine.
  3. Your Cricut machine will first draw and then cut out each label.
  4. Peel up each individual label and place on your containers!

Black, White, Clear, Silver, & Gold! What to Know About the Different Colors

When Smart Label was originally released in white, I longed for the day the write-on technology would be made available in other colors. Excitingly, Smart Label is now available in white, black, transparent (clear), silver, gold, and holographic…which really opens up a lot more labeling possibilities.

Grey Cricut Insert card shown with silver Return Address Labels and Cricut Joy Pens

I (of course) couldn’t help but test all the colors to figure out how they each work and when one option was better than others.

Is Smart Label Glossy?

Yes…all three colors of Smart Label Writable Vinyl have a glossy sheen to them.

Black Smart Label coming out of Cricut Maker 3

Is the Transparent Smart Label Perfectly Clear?

No. The clear Smart Label has a slight cloud to it. I would not consider it “crystal” clear.

That said, the “cloudiness” is only really noticeable when it’s placed on dark/saturated colors. Below is the same clear label on a white tag, turquoise tag, and red tag. Notice how the label material itself is hardly noticeable on the white and light turquoise but fairly pervasive on the red.

Transparent Smart Label on different colored tags

As such, I recommend using the clear label on white/light surfaces. Otherwise, you will really notice the cloudiness, in which you might as well use the white Smart Label for a crisper image.

The Best Smart Label Color for Solid Containers

When making labels, contrast is especially important. After all, you want to be able to easily read whatever the label says. When you are placing labels onto a solid-color container, you can use black, white, or even clear, depending on the color of your container. For optimum contrast:

  • Use Black Smart Label on pretty much any color container except dark/moody colors
  • Use White Smart Label on pretty much any color container except white/off white (only because the whites likely won’t match, in which case it’s better to use clear)
  • Use Clear Smart Label on on white or very light-colored containers

The Best Smart Label Color for Clear Containers

You might be tempted to place a clear label on your clear container so that just the words/design are visible. However, you will likely be disappointed by the result.

In my experimenting, no matter what pen color I used, the clear label on a clear container was very difficult to decipher, as it didn’t stand out quite enough. As such, when labeling clear containers, I recommend using either white or black Smart Label.

Smart Labels on a clear pencil container

What Cricut Pens To Use With Smart Label Writable Vinyl

There are now lots (and lots and lots) of different pen weights, colors, and sheens (e.g., metallic, gel, etc) available for all Cricut machines. But they don’t all behave exactly the same on the Smart Label Writable Vinyl. I’ve done an extensive amount of testing to identify which pens you should use based on your project and the color Smart Label you pick!

Lines drawn with Cricut Pen on Smart Label

Extra Fine Point Pens (0.3 Weight)

Extra Fine Point Pens will produce the absolute thinnest line with your Cricut machine.

I personally find that Extra Fine Point Pens are ideal for any small, tight text on labels, stickers, or decals. The thicker pen weights (even the 0.4 weight) can sometimes get a bit “muddy” if the letters are too close together or the details are too tight.

That said, the thinner pen line can often feel too light on larger projects or details, so reserve them for small text on small labels like on my popular Cricut pantry labels:

Pantry labels shown with Cricut Pens on Cricut Joy

Fine Point Pens (0.4 Weight)

Without a doubt, the “most compatible” pens to use with Smart Label is the Fine Point weight. These pens (available in the widest range of colors) provides the “heft” you need in order to see the design/text but not so much that the details blur together.

When you pick a 0.4 weight pen in a “standard” finish (not gel, glitter, etc),  you will get the crispest lines that can easily be seen from a distance (the dark black pencil below).

Pencils drawn in different Cricut Pens on White Smart Label Writable Vinyl

Gel & Glitter Pens (0.8-1.0 Weight)

Gel Pens and Glitter Pens are generally not ideal for your Smart Label projects. Not because they won’t stick, but rather because they can create an inconsistent line thanks to the more “fluid” nature of the ink.

Notice in the labels below that the white writing isn’t perfectly consistent across the entire project. It’s not that the pen didn’t write, it’s that the ink didn’t flow out of the pen evenly to create a clean, even, crisp line. Sometimes, this can affect the labels’ legibility.

Made with White Opaque Gel Pen.

Linen closet labels cut from black Smart Label Writable Vinyl

And these labels weren’t a fluke. On the pencils below, notice that the Gel Pen lines have inconsistencies over and over again.

Pencils drawn in different Cricut Pens on Black Smart Label Writable Vinyl

And the same can be true for Glitter Pens. On the label below, notice the blue color isn’t nearly as vibrant and the line thickness isn’t consistent around the entire label or wording.

Different pen colors used on white Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl

To be clear, it’s not that you can’t use Gel or Glitter Pens with Smart Label. Just be prepared for some slight inconsistencies in the coverage.

Markers (1.0 Weight)

Using Markers with Smart Label can produce a similar result as the Gel/Glitter Pens. Not only will they produce a thicker line (that can quite easily get muddy on small labels), but getting these pens to draw consistently across your projects can sometimes be challenging.

Below, I used the Gold Metallic Marker on all my pantry to add a thicker frame/line around each set of words. If you look closely, you’ll notice there are some lines that aren’t as consistently clean and clear across every label. Again, the Markers will draw on the Smart Label; the stroke variety is just something to remain aware of.

Pantry labels cut from Cricut Smart Label

Which Cricut Pens Work on Black Smart Label?

If you’ve ever tried to draw on any kind of black surface (e.g., paper, posterboard, etc), you likely know that not just any pen will produce a clear, crisp line. And that is most certainly the case for the black Smart Label.

In order for your pen lines to show up on the black writable vinyl, you MUST use either “opaque” or “metallic” pens and markers.

Cricut Pens that work best on black Smart Label

Opaque Gel Pens on Black Smart Label

Currently, the only options for these pens are white, neon colors (e.g., blue, pink, yellow, and orange), and a few metallics…all in a 0.8-1.0 gel formula. So while these pens do show up on the black writable vinyl and look quite striking as a result, they can be prone to that same line “inconsistency” and smudging common with Gel Pens.

Pen design drawn on black Smart Label with 7 different Cricut Pens

Keep in mind that not all Cricut Gel Pens are opaque. Below, I used a standard set of Cricut Glitter Gel Pens. And while they showed up a bit, they are not necessarily vibrant or clear on the black writable vinyl.

Black Smart Label Writable Vinyl shown with glitter gel pens

For absolute best clarity, using either opaque or metallic (gold/silver) Gel Pens is recommended:

Black Smart Label Writable Vinyl cut into clothing labels

Metallic Markers on Black Smart Label

The 1.0-weight metallic Markers show up beautifully on the black writable vinyl. However, as mentioned above, these thicker markers produce a pretty heavy line, so they should only be used on larger products or bigger details (e.g., borders).

Monogram drawn with Metallic Markers on Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl

Does the White Pen Show Up on Clear Smart Label?

Yes! But it can be a bit difficult to see, depending on the design. Because the transparent Smart Label isn’t “crystal clear” the white-on-white doesn’t produce the crispest contrast.

White Opaque Gel Pen

Blue tags with labels created with black and white Cricut Pens

How to Reduce Pen Smudges on Smart Label Writable Vinyl

In my extensive label making, I’ve noticed that BOTH Gel/Glitter Pens and Markers don’t dry quite as quickly as the other weight pens. As a result, you can sometimes experience smudging while the machine performs the cutting part of the project.

Black Smart Label Writable Vinyl cut into clothing labels

I suggest letting your labels sit for just a minute or so (after writing), before starting the cut process.

  • For Cricut Joy users: just wait a little while to swap the blade and press “Go” button.
  • For Cricut Explore/Maker users:
    • Simply press “Pause” between the drawing and cutting operations.
    • Loading the rolled up Smart Label onto a StrongGrip mat can also keep the material more flat, which can further reduce smudging.

Cutting Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl

Mat-Free Cutting

By default, all Smart Label Writable Vinyl is designed for mat-free cutting on Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore 3, and Cricut Maker 3. Whether you are using the larger/longer rolls or the flat sheets in whatever color, they can all be fed directly into the machine without a mat.

Linen closet labels cut from black Smart Label Writable Vinyl

Cutting Smart Label With a Mat

If you don’t have one of the Smart-compatible cutting machines…or if you have scraps that are too small to feed into your machine…you CAN cut Smart Label with a mat using ANY machine!

Smart Label placed on a green Cricut mat

Smart Label has a quarter inch vinyl-free margin on either side of the vinyl (that is how it loads into the machine feeds without a mat). To cut the Smart Label with a mat, I recommend lining it up off-set to the left margin by 1/4″. This positions the actual cuttable vinyl on the upper left corner of the mat. See below to see what I mean:

Lines showing Smart Label alignment on a Cricut mat

Before cutting, you will then need to ensure all of your designs are positioned correctly to be drawn/cut on the Smart Label. When on the Cut Prepare screen in Cricut Design Space, just drag and drop your images into a layout that matches the specific dimensions of Smart Label on your mat.

Troubleshooting 13″ Roll Cuts

All of my label projects cut on the 5.5″ wide (Cricut Joy) roll and the 5.5″ wide Cricut Joy sheets turned out practically perfect every time.

However, I had quite a bit of difficulty getting crisp, clean labels on the wider 13″ roll of Smart Label. The vinyl just didn’t want to lay perfectly flat and smooth for the pen/blade to run over it without issue.

If you find that the rolled up vinyl is producing poor results, I very much recommend cutting it down and loading onto a StrongGrip cutting mat for cutting instead.

Applying Cricut Smart Label Writable Vinyl

Smart Label Writable Vinyl may look and feel (and even act) like traditional adhesive vinyl, but there are some things you should know about applying it to your projects!

How to Remove Writable Vinyl 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 the best options for getting your labels to come away cleanly:

Use a Pointed Tool

A weeding tool allows you to carefully lift up one corner/edge of the label so you can pull the rest off with your fingers. If you don’t have a weeding tool on hand, a seam ripper works perfectly too!

Hands using a weeding tool on a Smart Label

Fold Back the Paper Backing

You can also sharply fold back the carrier sheet (white paper backing) to help the corner of your label “pop” up. However, I find that this method is not quite as quick or easy as using a weeding tool.

Hands peeling up a label

The Best Way to Place Smart Label on a 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.

Hands placing pantry label onto empty canister

Can Writable Vinyl Labels Be Repositioned?

If you’ve cut your labels from “Removable” Smart Label, you will have better luck peeling up and moving your label.

If you’ve cut your labels from “Permanent” Smart Label, your best chance of moving it is to do so before it’s all the way down on 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.

Torn label made from Smart Label

Removing Air Bubbles Behind Writable Vinyl Labels

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.

Hands smoothing down a Smart Label

Do You Need Transfer Tape with Smart Label?

It’s totally awesome that Smart Label doesn’t require transfer tape, 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.

Memory Box label being placed with Transfer Tape

Here’s why:

  • Smart Label material is thinner than normal vinyl. 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!

Memory Box label on a white box

Layering Smart Label

Again, Smart Label is a lot like vinyl, in that you can layer it over other vinyls to create a two-toned look.

Two layers of labels

That said, the white Smart Label in particular is pretty thin, so your under-layer will partially show through the white label layer. So no matter what color you place under it, your labels won’t have a bright white appearance.

If you’d like to layer your labels, using black Smart Label as the top layer will yield the best results!

A "Toy" label with a black background

Testing the Durability of Smart Label Writable Vinyl

Although I’ve covered a lot so far…the main questions I’ve received about writable vinyl 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.

Does Writable Vinyl Smudge?

I’ve already addressed smudging during the cutting process, but what about long after the labels are dry? Will the pen ink 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:

Finger rubbing pantry container label

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!

Pantry container label

Is Writable Vinyl Waterproof?

It seams like every blogger, myself included and even Cricut, has used 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…

Pantry container label smudged with fingers

The black Fine Point Pen ink most definitely, bled. Boo. But wait!

Pantry container label wet

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…

Pantry container label rinsed

…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 considering they were submerged in water!

Pantry container label dried off

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 Point line and the Marker line bled a bit, but both Fine Point lines look pretty good (except for the line start). (Another pro for using the Fine Point pens!)

Lines drawn with Cricut Pen on Smart Label smudged with water

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).

Lines drawn with Cricut Pen on Smart Label

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 Reusable?

If you’ve cut your labels from “Permanent” Smart Label, you will most likely not be able to remove them in a way that preserves them really well. Even peeling up and removing “Removable” labels might leave you with rolled corners and less-than-tacky adhesive.

So in general, I would say labels made from Smart Label Writable Vinyl are one-time use products.

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, candles, essential oils, etc
  • Gift Tags – make a personalized gift tag for any occasion and stick it right to your gift, no ribbon required!
  • 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! Learn how: 2 Easy Ways to Make Custom Stickers with Cricut Joy
  • Return Address Labels – make a whole sheet at once and keep them on hand! Learn how: How to Make Return Address Labels with ANY Cricut Machine!

What Other Questions Do You Have?

Megan with Cricut machines

I really hope you found this post helpful! I tried to cover as many questions as I could think of based on feedback I’ve gotten from fellow label enthusiasts. If there is something else you need to know before working with this clever material, be sure to leave me a comment and I’ll add to this post as more questions come up!

See You Soon!