In today’s beginner project, I want to teach you about simple vinyl layering and show you a new application technique. (To start with project #1 in this series, go here. Each project builds on the information in previous projects, so if you don’t do each one you might get confused.) We’re also going to learn a bit about working with small designs. Let’s get going!
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- Weeding tool
- Transfer media
- Project surface (you can put this on anything, but I used a clear glass ornament)
- Painter’s or washi tape
Step 1: Open existing file
In project #6 we cut a snowman from vinyl. I attached mine to a glass ornament. (If you’re doing that, make sure to not get a full ball one — it’s very hard to get the vinyl flat on that. A flat-ish one is better). We’re going to go back to that project to learn about basic vinyl layering. If you don’t still have that project, no worries. Just go ahead and make another before continuing.
Open your saved file. I do hope you saved it, because we’re going to need to know the right size because we’re going to add a new shape on top of the snowman.
If you have the completed project but didn’t save the file, open a new one, add the snowman and resize it (you can measure the shape on the project with a ruler).
Step 2: Add a new shape to the page
We going to add the shape called Snowflake to the page. Find that in your library and open it onto the drawing area. This one comes in without a fill color, so add one now. You want to have a different fill color than your snowman so that you can see the snowflake more easily.
HINT: If you are using white vinyl, you can actually fill the snowflake with white. It won’t look any different on your screen initially, but when you put it on top of another shape you will see the white fill. Also, this helps you see order better and filled shapes are easier to grab.
This snowflake would be great for either vinyl or paper or any material. That’s because it’s all a single piece. Compare it to this doily, which has MANY pieces that aren’t connected.
That doily would be a good design for vinyl, because the transfer tape would help you keep all the parts together. If, however, you cut it from paper, it would a bit of a nightmare to attach all the pieces and keep them properly spaced. You want to begin to learn to evaluate in this way the designs from the Silhouette Design Store before you purchase them. There’s no sense wasting your money on a design you can’t use.
Step 3: Resize the shape
We want the shape to fit on the bottom ball of the snowman for basic vinyl layering. If it didn’t, there’d be a visible ridge where the snowflake extended beyond the edge of the snowman. Here’s an example on a different project:
That’s because where it’s on the body is 2 layers, while the part off the body would only be 1. That different in thickness would result in the ridge. Once you’re comfortable with the basics in the Silhouette Studio software, you can start learning to use the tools in the Modify panel to adjust your shapes to fit together like a puzzle instead of layering.
Make sure to use one of the corner squares to resize the snowflake so that it stays in proportion. Here’s what mine looks like:
Now you can move the snowman shape off to the side of the mat that’s showing in your drawing area. We don’t want to cut that — we were just using it to know what size to make our snowflake. We could leave it and use the No Cut feature, but since our snowflake is at the bottom of the snowman we would be wasting vinyl around it. You don’t want to delete it because you’ll want to save the file with both pieces intact. So moving it is the easiest solution.
Step 4: Check the page size
If you did project #7 (the teapot), you should still have a piece of vinyl that has just a rectangle of material removed from it. Let’s use that piece if the colors work for your project. Your page size will be the size of that piece of vinyl.
You also want to measure to see where that weeding box was already cut. Then move your snowflake so that it is in the area where there is still usable vinyl. Add a new weeding box around the shape.
If you want to use a different color, you can cut a piece of vinyl that you know is large enough to have some space around the snowflake. In other words, if my snowflake is 1 ¼” wide, I want a piece of vinyl that’s around 2” square so that’s what I set my page size to. Center the snowflake on the page.
Or if you liked the method of keeping full widths of vinyl like we did in that teapot project, set your page to the full width of your roll of vinyl but just as tall as you need it. Add a weeding box if you go this route.
Step 5: Check the cut settings
Before we send our project to cut, we need to check our cut settings. You want to select Vinyl, Matte as your material type. Make sure the Action is Cut and the tool is the Autoblade. You also, as ALWAYS with vinyl, want to check the box to turn on Line Segment Overcut.
If you haven’t been cutting vinyl today, do a small test cut first. See here for info about test cuts.
Since the snowflake is somewhat intricate and small, there’s 1 major adjustment I suggest making to to cut settings. Any time you are cutting small or intricate designs, it helps to lower the speed. Since vinyl is a pretty thin material that isn’t very dense, the default speed is 5. The general rule of thumb is that the thicker or more dense the material, the lower the speed. So this 5 is right in the middle.
But I find that if I lower the speed, it really helps prevent pulling on small designs. Since we’re making this one pretty small, I recommend a speed of 1 or 2. You can cut too fast, but you can’t cut too slow. It’s better to err on the side of caution because you’ll save time, money and frustration in the long run.
Step 6: Cut the shape
Cut your piece of material (if necessary) and attach it to the mat in the upper left corner. Or, if you want to use a different area of the mat, just make sure what you see in your software is what you see on your actual mat.
Load your vinyl and go over the cutting checklist.
- Vinyl, matte set as material type.
- Action on Cut.
- Correct tool (Auto-blade) selected.
- Settings for blade number, speed, force, passes (should only need 1 pass) checked and adjusted as needed.
- Line Segment Overcut on.
- Cut Preview checked so you know ahead of time what will cut and what won’t.
- Vinyl adhered on mat.
- Blade loaded and locked correctly.
- Mat loaded.
When the cut is finished, don’t unload until you’ve checked to see if you can easily weed your design. Remember that we want to get into the habit of always checking the cut before we unload.
Step 7: Weed the design
First remove the vinyl from around the outside of the snowflake. That would be your weeding box or, if you just cut a small square of material, the outer part.
To remove the inner parts, it really helps to have a weeding tool. You are most likely going to use one frequently, so I recommend going ahead and getting one to keep in your craft area. I linked a set above, but I also really like the test probe set from Harbor Freight tools. You can also use a straight pin, seam ripper, or anything with a sharp point.
Weed out all the inner parts of the snowflake. (My snowflake is white, but I used a brand of vinyl that helpfully has a blue backing).
Step 8: Apply the transfer media
Cut a piece of transfer tape or paper that is slightly larger than your snowflake. Remove the backing paper of the transfer media and lay the transfer tape on top of the snowflake. Burnish the top.
This is the first project where just eyeballing it as we apply the vinyl won’t work. We would really like it to be centered on that snowman when we do the vinyl layering. I’m going to show you a couple of tricks for getting it centered.
First, trim your transfer tape so that you have an equal margin all the way around your snowflake. Even if you use the vinyl layering tricks I’m going to show you, your eyes will sometimes argue with you. They will want the square you have to be centered on the snowman. If the snowflake isn’t centered on the square, it’s harder to see if you have it centered on the snowman.
In the pic here, you can see that the edge of the transfer paper isn’t equal all the way around.
And here I’ve trimmed it so that it is.The next trick is in the next step.
Step 9: Basic vinyl layering
Next we’ll layer the snowflake on top of the snowman. Learning about vinyl layering helps make your projects more interesting and neat.
Rip off a piece of your painter’s/washi tape that is wider than the square of your transfer media. Depending on the width of your tape, you may need to cut it to a smaller width since our project is small. Put the tape on the edge of your table so you can grab it easily.
Without removing the backing paper, lay the snowflake over the bottom ball of the snowman. Move it around until you are satisfied with the placement – so as centered as possible.
Hold your square in place with 1 hand while you get your tape with the other hand. Lay the tape across the width of the square and attach the tape to the project to temporarily hold the square in place. I put mine about 2/3 of the way down since it’s small (after I took the pic below I ended up moving my tape down and adding a bit more on each end for security). At this point you can even hold your project up to the light to see if your placement looks good and adjust as needed.
Once you are satisfied with your centering, gently pull down the top of the square. Peel the backing paper up to the spot where the tape is. Rip or cut that much of the backing off.
Starting right where you cut, roll the vinyl onto the surface of the project. Work from the middle outward to press and burnish the snowflake. Your vinyl and transfer tape are now holding the square onto the project surface.
Remove the painter’s tape. Lift up the bottom half, remove the remainder of the backing paper and attach the rest of the snowflake as before.
Remove the transfer media and you’re done with your first vinyl layering project.
This is called the hinge method of applying vinyl (one version of it). We’ll use it again in project #10 when we put a large piece of vinyl on a wall.
In our next project, we’ll learn about easy way to weed small pieces in a vinyl design and cutting multiple colors on your mat. We’ll also talk more about vinyl layering and application.
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