Have you tried crafting with vinyl yet? This brilliantly versatile craft material is perfect for personalising, decorating and gifting and, regardless of what you may think, you don’t need loads of fancy tools and machines to start your journey into vinyl craft. The different types of craft vinyl you can buy will let you create your own t-shirt designs, personalised mugs, wall art, window decals, and a whole lot more besides! Take a look at the festive jumper project above – you can craft the tree section of this design cutting by hand with a craft knife or scissors! Have fun exploring the different methods and techniques you can employ to expand your craft vinyl range and repertoire.
How to use craft vinyl
Here are the basic steps you’ll need to craft your own Christmas sweater using iron-on craft vinyl. The trees can be cut by hand, but to add a greeting like the one shown, you will need a more elaborate cutting device like an electronic cutting machine.
- Begin by choosing the top you want to add your craft vinyl design on to. We’ve chosen a 100% cotton sweatshirt with a smooth, non-flocked finish, and with no stretch. Iron-on craft vinyl does not work well with a textured fabric, and, if your garment is super stretchy sportswear you will need to buy a stretchy craft vinyl, too – so non-stretch cotton is a great choice for a beginner.
- Sketch out the design you want to create. We’ve used stylised Christmas trees made up of basic triangles, circles and a single star for our design.
- You will be building up your design in layers so start with the bottom layer first. In our project this is the lilac film. Use your sketch as a guide and cut the vinyl into the shapes you want using a cutting knife and a metal ruler for a neat edge. The heat transfer vinyl has a glossy liner on top which you peel off after pressing, and a dull finish on the reverse which is the adhesive. If you are cutting the vinyl from the back side, you will need to reverse your design, which can be complicated with lettering – but this won’t be a problem with the symmetrical shapes we’ve used here.
- Press your top briefly with an iron to remove moisture and ensure it is flat with no creases. Position the cut vinyl elements onto your top, lining them up with your sketch so that they sit in the position you want them, with the glossy liner facing up.
- Check the time and heat setting you need for the film you are using. Put a soft pressing cloth or a baking sheet on top, and, pressing through the cloth, iron over the design area. The heat of the iron will cause the adhesive on the craft vinyl to fuse to the front of the design. Make sure you do not use any steam and add firm pressure – heat alone will not work. Lift and reposition your iron to cover a larger area rather than sliding back and forth, to make sure you apply sufficient pressure. Allow to cool slightly then peel away the liner from your shapes.
- Cut more craft vinyl elements for your design, positioning them on your top. Work through the different layers and different films, pressing them onto the design each time, making sure you use the pressing cloth or sheet so that your iron does not come into direct contact with the heat transfer vinyl. Check the heat setting and time you need for each film. The shapes you want at the front of your design should be the last ones you add – in our design these are the gold and leopard-skin print, which sit on top of everything else. Once all the liner has been removed, reposition your cloth or sheet and give everything a final 2 second press.
Different types of craft vinyl
Expand the range of vinyl craft projects you make by getting to grips with the different craft vinyls available and the different properties they can bring to enhance your creative crafting.
Self adhesive craft vinyl
If you grew up in the 70s, you will have come to love sticky-back plastic, which featured as part of many brilliant Blue Peter makes. Self adhesive craft vinyl is sticky-back plastic. It is a thin plastic layer that comes with its own adhesive on the back that attaches the plastic layer to anything that you fancy! Maybe you want to add a decorative name to your child’s lunchbox, or embellish their bike with some butterflies. Self adhesive craft vinyl is the simplest way to style these flourishes. Self adhesive craft vinyl is available in different finishes, including metallic, glitter and pearl, and it can be cut with a digital cutting machine or by hand with scissors or a craft knife. You can also cut with a die and a die cutting machine, but you won’t get such a precise cut as with a digital cutting machine.
Heat transfer craft vinyl
Heat transfer craft vinyl aka iron-on craft vinyl is not actually vinyl at all, but usually polyurethane. This is the material you need if you want to iron a design onto a t-shirt or other fabric item. You cut the shapes you need, either by hand, with a die or with an electronic cutting machine, then use an iron to transfer the vinyl onto the fabric, where it will bond and stay in place even after washing. As well as different looks like metallic, glitter and even UV reflective for night-time safety, different heat transfer craft vinyls have different properties depending on how you plan to use them; choose from a wide range of different finishes if you are working with most fabrics, or look for flexible heat transfer craft vinyl for clothing with a big stretch in it like lycra sportswear. Different heat transfer craft vinyls have different heat and time setting for ironing, so check the packaging to see what is recommended for the finish you have chosen.
Window film craft vinyl
Window film craft vinyl is your choice if you are looking to apply any decoration on to glass – it isn’t just for windows! But it is a great material for window decals or adding fancy flourishes to mirrors that will stick to these surfaces, but be easy to remove if you change your mind at a later date. If you have glossy walls, it’s a good choice for making your own giant wall stickers, too. Get it in either transparent or non-transparent finishes, depending on the look you want to create.
Vinyl craft ideas
Looking for some inspiration for projects to try out with craft vinyl? Take a look at these great creative makes.
Personalise a commuter cup with craft vinyl
Tessa from Simply Made Fun shows you how to craft this personalised travel mug using self adhesive craft vinyl paired with a Silhouette Cameo. What a great idea for Christmas gifting!
Find the vinyl craft tutorial on Simply Made Fun
DIY bathroom wallpaper design
You don’t need any fancy cutting equipment to cut your craft vinyl into triangle shapes to augment your walls for a coordinating bathroom finish – though Christine from Where The Smiles Have Been did use her Silhouette Cameo to cut her triangles for speed! Simple to install and easy to remove if you want to mix up your look, this is great project to make the most of craft vinyl’s multiple uses.
Find the vinyl craft tutorial on Where the Smiles Have Been
Craft vinyl yourself an Instagram mirror
Find the craft vinyl tutorial on My Craft
Make the most of a flocked vinyl
Here is a stunningly simple idea for a kids t-shirt which makes the most of simple heart shapes to show off a flocked finish with iron-on vinyl. The hearts can be easily cut by hand in increasing sizes, and ironed on to the fabric drifting upwards toward the neckline. Simple solid shapes like this are ideal for showing off the different finishes you can get with iron-on craft vinyls.
Find the vinyl craft tutorial on A Pumpkin And A Princess
Add pizzaz to your drinks
There is something about adding a touch of metallic that makes an item seem so much more luxurious. For this vinyl craft tutorial, Miss Bizi Bee has used her Silhouette Cameo to cut lots of little circles from matt gold self-adhesive vinyl, and arranged them onto glasses so they look like bubbles. But we recon you could get a pretty similar effect combining a hole punch and matt gold self-adhesive vinyl with no cutting machine required! Now that’s a budget vinyl craft idea worthy of cracking open the champagne.
Find the vinyl craft tutorial on Miss Bizi Bee
Vinyl up a new look for your headboard
Here is a large scale vinyl craft project that you can really sink your teeth (or your craft knife) in to! Craftaholics Anonymous shows you how to makeover your bed’s headboard using a roll of craft vinyl, working up a design that is twice the width of the craft vinyl using transfer paper. She has used her Silhouette Cameo, but you could work a similar project using a cutting board and craft knife. As she suggests, mock up a paper version first so you can be sure how the design comes together, then use this as a template for your hand cut, and you’ll soon be sleeping sweetly under a whole new headboard look!
Find the vinyl craft tutorial on Craftaholics Anonymous
New baby birth board
Stephanie from Crafting in the Rain has come up with this great idea for craft vinyl – using it as a mask to create a painted birth sampler for a new baby. You can buy specialist stencil films which are cheap, and translucent with easy peel adhesives that are designed to give you crisp edges and not react with your paints. Style up the newborn’s details, cut into different font styles and sizes using an electronic cutting machine or your selection of dies and a die cutting machine, and arrange them onto a painted panel as you want your finished design to look. You then apply a layer of contrasting paint over the top, allow to dry and peel off the film to reveal the shape left underneath. There’s no need to needlepoint a birth sampler ever again!
Find the vinyl craft tutorial on Crafting in the Rain
Craft a confetti chair
Ikea’s a great place to shop for inexpensive plastic furniture, but what if you want to style your home a bit more elaborately? You can pile your chair with homemade fabric throws and quilts, but add colour to the chair itself using A Kailo Chic Life’s tutorial for a confetti chair! She’s cutting confetti using her Silhouette cutting machine, but it will work just as well freehand using a coin as a template, or crack out your circle dies.
Find the craft vinyl tutorial on A Kailo Chic Life
Vinyl crafts for you car
Not just for inside the home, you can use your craft vinyl skills on your car too! Cut Cut Craft are walking you through preparing and applying a window film decal for your car step by step, including tips and tricks on the styles that work best for a hand cut and how to prepare your surface to make sure the window vinyl decal will stay put. There really is a vinyl craft project for every occasion.
Find the vinyl craft tutorial on Cut Cut Craft
Keep Covid at bay with personalised office mugs
Find the craft vinyl tutorial on My Craft
Vinyl craft accessories
You have seen now that you don’t need loads of fancy tools to start discovering the vinyl craft projects you can make. But different tools and accessories will influence the style and detail of the vinyl craft projects you can complete. Here are some of the vinyl craft accessories you may want to bring into your vinyl crafting to expand your options.
Craft knife: You can cut craft vinyl with scissors, but you’ll get a much smoother finish if you use a craft knife instead.
Cutting mat: Protect any surface you are using your craft knife on with a cutting mat to make sure you don’t accidentally slice through your tablecloth while you are cutting your craft vinyl.
Electronic cutting machine: These clever machines, like the Silhouette Cameo let you digitise your cutting file and will do the blade-work for you. Silhouette cutters are versatile and easy to use with a wide selection of different tools allowing you to cut a diverse range of media from paper and card, adhesive vinyl and heat transfer materials and so much more, using the Silhouette Cameo’s dedicated roll feeder for speed and ease. This lets you create far more intricate cuts and elaborate designs with your craft vinyl than you could achieve with other cutting tools. Shop Silhouette digital vinyl cutters on My Craft
Craft dies and die-cutting machine: Beloved by papercrafters but a very useful tool for vinyl craft enthusiasts, you can combine a die cutting machine with craft dies to cut more intricate shapes than you could cut by hand, but you’ll need a die for each different shape you want to cut. Die cutters may not be ideal for some types of heat transfer vinyl.
Transfer tape: This is the ultimate material for positioning your vinyl cuts together when moving them to a new home. This clear adhesive sheet keeps all the parts in place while you transition them to where you want them to go. Shop transfer tape on My Craft.
Application tool: Think of this as being like a big plastic squeegee that lets you press your craft vinyl down securely and work out any air bubbles that would stop it from sticking as it should. Shop application tools on My Craft.