Today’s project is another one using vinyl layering. (To start with project #1 in this series, go here.) We’re going to learn about doing our vinyl layering before we put the vinyl on our project. I’ll also teach you about cutting 2 colors in the same pass, some new weeding techniques, and another way to get the vinyl onto your project straight.
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- Vinyl – 2 complementary colors
- Transfer media
- Weeding tool
- Lint roller (optional)
- Squeegee or gift card
- Project surface
- Painter’s tape (or washi tape)
- Ruler (I’m using one like this)
Step 1 – Start a new file
Start with a clean design page. Measure your project surface to determine the overall size of your design. My project surface has a 5 ½” square area where I want to put my design. You can do it different ways, but I like to set this initially as my page size. That helps me see how the size of the design will look on that area of my project surface when I’m done. I’ll change my page size before I cut (I’ll remind you to as well).
Another way to do it is to leave the page size at 12” x 12” and add a rectangle to the page that is the size of the area you want to put the vinyl on your project surface. This is a handy way to do it if your project surface isn’t white, because you can fill it with color to see how the vinyl colors will look on it.
The only problem is that when you are trying to move images around it’s easy to grab the square accidentally. With Designer Edition, there’s a way to put this into a different layer and lock it in place, but that’s not something I would recommend until you have some experience with the software. If you do decide to do it this way, be sure to delete the rectangle before you cut. Or, set it right now to No Cut so you won’t forget later.
Notice that I also have my Cameo mat selected.
Step 2 – Add the shapes to the page
We’re going to use 2 more of our free shapes. Add the baby stroller and the “adorbs” phrase to the page.
If your phrase is behind your stroller, that means you put it on the page first. When you add images to your drawing area, each new one is placed on top. We want the phrase to be in front, so change the order if you need to (if you need a refresher on how to do that, see this post).
These both come in filled with color. Because this project is only 2 colors, I decided I didn’t need to change the fill colors to match my vinyl colors. But if you need to do that to keep things organized in your mind, go for it.
Here’s another reason I didn’t change the fill. Let me show you what happens when I fill the stroller with pink.
Do you see the holes? They were white before, which you might not notice on a white background. You can see it in my pic above because they aren’t on the page area. They look like they are holes in the stroller shape, but they really aren’t. Instead, they are ovals filled with white and grouped with the stroller. When I changed the fill color to pink, both the stroller and the ovals changed. They are going to cut like holes so that we can weed them out, but they actually separate pieces and not a part of the stroller. This is the difference between a grouping and a compound path, which we’ll discuss in detail in intermediate lessons. I just wanted you to begin to understand why that happened when I changed the fill color.
Step 3 – Resize and position the shapes
Now we want to decide how we want the finished project to look and what size it needs to be. This is an especially helpful step for vinyl layering.
Move your images onto your defined design area and do a rough resizing so that your shapes fit on it. It doesn’t need to be perfect – we can tweak it later. We’re just designing right now and things change during that process. Resize both at the same time or do them individually. It’s up to you. Just make sure to use the corner square to resize so they change proportionally.
HINT: You can click 1 button to have the defined page size fill the screen and be centered on it — the Fit to Page/Window icon in the Quick Access Toolbar at the top.
I’m going to let my phrase sit half on the stroller, half off. That means there will be a small ridge at the area where the letters are off. I’m okay with that in this project. If you aren’t, then just make sure your word fits on the stroller. Once you gain more experience, you can learn to use the Modify options to make the pieces nestle inside one another with vinyl layering. It’s also harder to do vinyl layering that way without gaps, so I don’t recommend it for beginners.
Select both shapes and use the alignment tool in the QAT to centralize them — align them both vertically and horizontally at the same time. While they are both still selected, center them to the page with that icon in the QAT. Tweak the sizing as needed to complete the design phase of the project.
Step 4 – Set the page size
We’re almost ready to cut, but we need to remember to set our page size to the size of the vinyl we’re using instead of the size of our project surface.
We’re going to put 2 colors of vinyl on the mat at the same time. You can put them side by side, or you can put your 2nd color of vinyl below your 1st one. I’m going to walk through the process with just the side by side, but you can apply the same principles to doing it above and below. Just set the page size right now, and I’ll show you more in the next steps.
Set your page width to the full width of the mat – 12”. Set the height to at least 1” greater than the height of your stroller (since that’s the biggest piece).
Step 5 – Position the images on the page
Now move your images into place in the upper left and upper right corners. This is going to minimize waste. Be sure to leave a little room around the sides for margin.
Step 6 – Cut the vinyl and put it on the mat
It’s time to cut our 2 pieces of vinyl. Since we’re putting 2 on the mat at once, we need to make sure of 2 things:
- That we cut the vinyl the correct size.
- That we know where to put the vinyl pieces on the mat so that our images cut on them.
There are many methods for doing this, but here’s the one I like. Draw 2 rectangles – 1 for each color of vinyl. They should be approximately 1” taller in height and wider in width than your shapes. That gives you adequate margins on each side. Place them behind the shapes in the upper left and right.
- My stroller is approximately 4.5” tall x 3.25” wide. The rectangle representing the vinyl for that (the yellow one) is 5.5” x 4.25”.
- My phrase is approximately 1.25” tall x 5” wide. The rectangle for that (green) is 2.25” x 6”.
By doing this, I can make sure I know what size pieces of vinyl I need and that my images are in the right spot in my software. Once you’ve positioned these, you can move your images around or resize them as needed.
Cut pieces of vinyl the size of your rectangles and put them on the mat, corresponding to what you see on the screen. You don’t want any of your pieces of vinyl overlapping on your mat. Then delete the rectangles or set them to No Cut.
Here’s what we’ve done.
- We set our page width the full width of the mat so that we could place our rectangles of vinyl at the extreme upper left and upper right of the mat. Even though our piece of vinyl for the stroller isn’t really 12” wide, this allows us to put another piece of vinyl on the right side of the mat for the phrase. If we hadn’t done that, we couldn’t cut on that right side.
- We set our page height to the height of the tallest piece of vinyl so that the stroller will fit.
How many can I do at once?
You can put as many pieces of vinyl on your mat as you like at the same time, as long as you —
- set your page size to the correct width and height (or leave it at 12″ x 12″)
- know the sizes of your pieces of vinyl
- for reference, create rectangles of the same size on your drawing area and position them in the same place you put the pieces of vinyl on the mat
- put your images within the boundaries of the rectangles
- do not overlap any pieces of vinyl on the mat
- delete the rectangles or set them to No Cut
If you don’t like using the rectangles, another option is to turn on the grid in your drawing area. That will give you reference points for sizing and placement. If you have Designer Edition, you can use guidelines.
Step 7 – Cut both
Since you’re using vinyl for both images, you only need to have 1 set of cut settings. That means you can cut with Action by: Simple. Go to your send area and select Vinyl, Matte as your material type. Just for a refresher, here’s our 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.
- If you haven’t used this vinyl before, test cut completed.
Send the job to the machine. Check the cut before you unload. Once you’re sure it’s cut through well, unload and remove the vinyl from the mat.
Step 8 – Weed the stroller
We’re going to do some different techniques as we weed each piece of vinyl. For the stroller, it’s pretty easy to remove the background around the stroller. Go ahead and do that.
Small pieces, like the dots here, can be a pain to weed. Here’s a time-saving tip. Take a lint roller (or a piece of painter’s tape) and roll it over the dots. Because they are small, they don’t have much adhesive holding them to the backing paper. The adhesive on your lint roller or painter’s tape should easily pick them up. You may need to gently hold the stroller down, depending on the strength of the adhesive on your lint roller.
Even if the lint roller doesn’t grab all the small vinyl pieces, it’s great for grabbing those little pieces off the weeding tool. When you’re done weeding, you can just toss the sheet from the roller.
HINT: If you haven’t picked this up by now, painter’s tape is a great tool to keep in your craft room. A lint roller is pretty handy too.
Step 9 – Weed the phrase
Weed the middles of the letters with that lint roller again, but don’t weed the rectangle around it yet.
I told you the reason the lint roller works is that the dots don’t hold strongly to the backing paper. For getting rid of things, that concept is a plus. For keeping pieces, it’s a negative. Something that helps with this is reverse weeding. Thin parts like the ends of our phrase tend to lift off the backing paper as you weed because they have less adhesive that can hold them to it. We’ll get used to the concept of reverse weeding in this project and do more in our next one.
Cut a piece of transfer media large enough to cover your completed, layered design. That’s the height of your stroller and the width of whichever image is wider, depending on the choice you made in Step 3, plus some margin all around.
We’re going to put the transfer media on the phrase, including the rectangle around it, centering it on the image. It will be much taller than the phrase, but we’re going to use this for the stroller as well. Because my work table is usually messy (whose isn’t?), I don’t like to get all the gunk from it onto my transfer media. So here’s a trick. Remove the backing from the transfer media but keep it handy. Put your transfer media sticky side up (tape the edges if you need to) and lay the right side of the vinyl onto that.
Burnish the vinyl onto the transfer media and remove the backing paper from the vinyl.
Now remove the rectangle from around the phrase. Notice how the transfer media is better at holding those thin ends of the phrase than the backing paper is.
Step 10 – Cover the sticky parts and trim
Take the piece of backing paper from the transfer media and cover the sticky parts of the vinyl and transfer media, making sure to put the slick side of the backing onto the backside of the vinyl+transfer media. In other words, your vinyl and transfer media are sticky side up and your backing paper is slick side down.
At this point, it’s a good idea to square up your vinyl+transfer media since we’ve been moving parts around. Trim the sides as needed, but as little as possible. We still need to be able to cover the stroller. We’re just making sure we’re working with a transfer media that’s not skewed on the image.
Step 10 – Mark the middles
I have the HARDEST time getting pieces straight on my projects, so I want to show you another technique for getting the pieces lined up with vinyl layering.
Lay your ruler across the top of your phrase+transfer tape piece. Mark the middle of each side with your pencil. Remember to measure in relation to the design, not the transfer media, as your design may not be centered or straight on it. I like to draw lines all the way across, but am careful to not press too hard (that would indent the vinyl).
Now take your weeded stroller and do the same but just at the outer edges. Notice this time I’m marking on the backing paper where I weeded around the stroller.
Step 11 – Vinyl layering: vinyl on vinyl
Those markings you just made are going to come into play now as you do your vinyl layering to put the phrase on the stroller. Get a piece of painter’s tape ready, as we’re going to use the hinge method again. Line up the marks on all 4 sides.
Now lay a piece of painter’s tape across the whole thing.
Fold back the transfer media on one side of the painter’s tape, remove the backing and lay the phrase onto the stroller.
Remove the painter’s tape and adhere the second half in the same manner. Your vinyl is now layered and ready to apply to your project surface. It’s usually much easier to do the vinyl layering on your flat table instead of on a project that might not be flat.
Step 12 – Prep the project surface
I’m assuming you’ve already prepped your project surface. If you haven’t, stop and do that now. Need a refresher? See this post.
Since my project surface is a square, I really want to get this design on straight with even margins around every side. But even if you offered me $1 million, I could not eyeball it and get it right. So here’s a trick I use.
I’ve used painters’ tape to mark the middle of each side of my project, just as I did on my transfer media. One edge of the tape is at the middle and I draw an arrow on the tape with my pencil to remind me which edge. On something like glass, you can do it on the reverse side with tape or a dry erase marker. If you don’t have a square project area, you may at least want to mark a level line.
Step 13 – Apply the vinyl
We’re going to visit our old friend the hinge method again. Use the same techniques to align the vinyl using your marks and painter’s tape.
Put your painter’s tape across to hold things in place. Working one side at a time, fold back the layered design, remove the backing paper and roll the vinyl onto the project from the middle outward. Here, I’m applying the second half.
Make sure to burnish well before removing your transfer media. This is one way to minimize bubbles of air under the vinyl.
Step 13 – Add the extras
Add some embellishments to your project if you like. Mine’s for a sweet baby girl’s room, so I added some feminine ribbon and just a little bling.
We’re almost done with our basic beginner projects! Next time I’ll show you how to cut longer than the mat by not using one and how the hinge method works on a large project. We’ll also talk about using Auto-weld on cursive text and using reverse weeding to keep small details on your design. You definitely don’t want to miss that one!
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