Vinyl Crafting: 10 Must-Haves to Getting Started

Maybe you’d like to make a cute diy farmhouse sign or maybe a funny diy t-shirt. When it comes to vinyl crafting, there are so many vinyl projects you can make and create. But how do you even get started? What supplies do you need? What even is a weeding tool? Keep reading to find the answers to these questions and more.

craft vinyl supplies

Vinyl Crafting Supplies You Need To Get Started

Having these 10 essential items will make it possible to bring your vinyl crafts to life!

1. Vinyl Cutter Machine + Software

This goes without saying, but first things first, you need a vinyl cutter machine and design software for cutting vinyl. Most vinyl cutter brands have their own software for cutting that is free to use.

Vinyl cutter machines are so fun to use and the ones listed below can not just cut vinyl; they can also cut various other materials like paper, cardstock, and some fabrics. They also have different tools and add-ons like rotary blades and sketch pens to allow for more than just cutting. The creative possibilities are endless!

Popular Vinyl Cutters

The most well-known vinyl cutting machines for crafting are Silhouette and Cricut, but other machines are available also such as the Brother ScanNCut.

All of the software associated with the cutting machines below support the basic file formats of design files like SVG, DXF, PNG, and JPEG that are used most for vinyl crafts.

silhouette cameo
  • Silhouette: Silhouette has 3 machines for vinyl cutting: Silhouette Cameo, Silhouette Curio, and Silhouette Portrait. Each have different cutting functions and size capabilities. Silhouette Cameo is their flagship model and the one I personally use. I absolutely love it!

    Silhouette’s software is called Silhouette Studio. Silhouette Studio is free, but it does have a paid upgraded version called Designer Edition which offers several additional perks including the ability to import SVG files, making the upgrade well worth it for this and other reasons.

    With the basic version of Silhouette Studio, an SVG file would need to be converted to an image file format (PNG, JPEG, etc.) before importing into the software. Just a reminder, the basic version of Silhouette Studio will, however, import the DXF file format, which is like the SVG format in that it is cut-ready as soon as you import it into the software.

  • Cricut – Just like Silhouette, Cricut offers multiple machines. Cricut’s vinyl cutter offerings are Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore, and Cricut Maker. The accompanying free software for Cricut is Design Space.

  • Brother – Brother’s vinyl cutting machine is the ScanNCut. Canvas Workspace is Brother’s software and is free.

2. Craft Vinyl

There are two main types of material that fall under the category of “craft vinyl”: adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl, sometimes called iron on vinyl or HTV. Adhesive vinyl is for making things like car decals, decals for tumblers, wall decals, etc. Heat transfer vinyl is for making designs for t-shirts, tote bags, or other fabric products.

Adhesive Vinyl

My top-pick for craft adhesive vinyl is the Oracal brand. Oracal is the creme de la creme of adhesive vinyl. This is what the professional sign makers use so it is good, quality stuff. It can be applied to pretty much anything with a flat surface: glass, finished wood, plastic, ceramic, car windows, doors, windows, mirrors, laptops, appliances, and many other types of vinyl crafts.

Oracal Vinyl Types

There are two types of Oracal vinyl most used by crafters.

oracal 651 glossy vinyl
  • Oracal 651 Outdoor Permanent Vinyl: Oracal 651 is made for outdoor use so it can be placed on anything that will be outside in the elements (e.g., car decals, mailbox decals) or has the chance of being exposed to moisture (e.g., any type of drinkware, cutting boards). Oracal 651 has a glossy finish.
  • Oracal 631 Indoor Removable Vinyl: Oracal 631 is for indoor use and can be used on anything that won’t be outdoors or exposed to moisture. I use this for all of the wall decals that I make and it works wonderfully. Oracal 631 has a matte finish.

Side Note: In the descriptions above, one says permanent and one says removable. To clarify, they are actually both removable, but the Oracal 651 is meant to be more for long term and therefore has a higher tack.
Oracal 631 could also be considered permanent or long term as long as it is placed indoors away from the elements and moisture and not on anything that has paint with non-stick qualities such as teflon, silicon, stain guard, etc. I have made many, many wall decals with Oracal 631 and it will stay put for years.

Heat Transfer Vinyl (Iron On Vinyl)

Siser Easyweed is what I use for all of my iron-on or heat press projects. It is versatile and can be placed on many fabric materials including cotton, polyester, triblends, etc.

siser easyweed roll

Siser Easyweed comes with a clear plastic carrier sheet affixed to the vinyl itself. The carrier sheet protects the fabric and the iron on vinyl when heat is applied with a heat press or iron. When feeding the vinyl into your cutter, the carrier sheet goes face down so that the blade is cutting the vinyl and not the carrier sheet itself.

Before cutting your heat transfer vinyl, the design needs to be mirrored in the design software. Otherwise, the design will be backward when heat pressed or ironed onto the garment or other product.

Also, note that the garment care recommendation for anything that has a heat transfer vinyl decoration is to wash inside out and in cold water.

Vinyl Sheets and Rolls

Both adhesive decal vinyl and heat transfer vinyl are sold in various sizes. You can get them in rolls or sheets. The more common vinyl cutters for crafters have a max material width of 12” so this is good to remember when buying your vinyl.

Please note though that there are machines that have different size capabilities. For instance, the Cricut Joy has a max material width of 5.5”. Be sure to know this detail for your particular machine as it will help when you are picking out your vinyl.

I go through a lot of vinyl, so I always get my vinyl in rolls which is cheaper in the long run if you know you will be using a lot of it. If you won’t be using that much, you can get the vinyl by sheets. The most popular size for the sheets is 12”x12” and 12”x24” for adhesive vinyl and 12”x12” and 12”x15” for heat transfer vinyl.

Where to Buy Craft Vinyl

There are many options when it comes to buying craft vinyl. I mostly get my vinyl online from various places depending on what I’m needing. I’ve listed websites that I have personally ordered from below.

expressions vinyl adhesive vinyl
  • US Cutter: US Cutter is where I get most of my vinyl. I’ve ordered from here ever since I started my vinyl crafting journey years ago. They not only sell vinyl, but also many other craft vinyl supplies.
  • Expressions Vinyl: Expressions Vinyl has been around for a long time also and they even have their own brand. I especially love their brand of glitter adhesive vinyl and always order my glitter vinyl from here.
  • Amazon: Amazon is a convenient option if you are a Prime member because of the free 2-day shipping. There are lots of bundle options on Amazon that I love, however, it can sometimes be hit or miss depending on the seller who is supplying your order.
  • Michaels, Joanns, Walmart: Some of the big box stores carry various brands and types of vinyl. What they sell is typically in smaller quantities, so the price is higher than if you were to get them online at a specialty shop. However, these stores are excellent options if you are just starting out, are just needing a small amount, or you’re in a pinch and can’t wait for shipping.

3. Designs For Your Project

You’re gonna need a design to cut for your project! You can use a pre-made design that someone else has made (cut file) or create a design yourself.

you cant buy love but you can rescue it SVG cut file display

Cut File Designs

If using a cut file, it will need to be in a format that your particular cutting machine supports. See the first section above where I explain more on that. Cut files are most commonly in the SVG file format, but other formats these files can be in are DXF, PNG, or JPEG.

SVG and DXF file formats are cut-ready upon importing into the software. Image file formats like PNG and JPEG will need to be traced in the design software to make them ready to cut.

Create Your Own Design

Unleash your creativity and make your own diy designs in the cutting software! You don’t need expert art skills either. There are different design tools within the software that can assist you in creating your design. You can also make text-only designs with various fonts or if you draw your own design, you can upload those into the software to convert into cut files.

Where to Find Designs for Cricut, Silhouette, and Other Craft Cutters

Countless websites exist that have vinyl cut files. Here are some of my favorites. Some are free and some are paid. Most sites or designers always include multiple file formats for each design, so they will work with the particular machine you have.

  • SVG Spree: We have a variety of free cut files at SVG Spree like these: funny svg free files, dog svg free files, home decor svg files. We are always adding more designs and our downloads also include DXF, PNG, and EPS formats (for use in Adobe Illustrator) so you are covered no matter what file format your machine uses.
  • Design Bundles: Design Bundles is a marketplace that designers can sell their designs on. Design Bundles features cut file bundles and other design resources. They offer free and paid cut files.
  • Etsy: Etsy is another marketplace where sellers offer their cut file designs.
  • Silhouette Design Store: If your vinyl cutter is a Silhoutte Cameo or other Silhouette machine, the Silhouette Design Store offers many design files, fonts, and projects for you. They offer free and paid files and often feature design bundles and deals.
  • Cricut Access: If you have a Cricut machine, Cricut Access is a paid subscription available with designs, fonts, and ready-to-make projects. There are also other perks to Cricut Access that include discounts on machines and other craft vinyl supplies through Cricut’s website.

Free Fonts for Vinyl Designs

You can make some super cute vinyl designs with text using free fonts. Here are some of my favorite places to get free fonts:

  • Font Bundles: Font Bundles is a sister site to Design Bundles and they have free and paid high-quality fonts.

4. Vinyl Weeding Tool

vinyl weeding tool

These things are lifesavers! The vinyl weeding tool is a hook that can remove or “weed out” all the excess pieces of the decal or heat transfer cutout. All designs will have some form of excess pieces that need to be weeded, and oftentimes, these pieces are small and part of intricate designs, making this tool essential for stress-free vinyl craft projects!

Silhouette Vinyl Weeding Hook Tool

5. Transfer Tape

(Adhesive vinyl only; Transfer tape IS NOT used with heat transfer vinyl.)
Transfer tape is used to move the cut adhesive decal to the surface you wish to place it on. Because these types of decals are not a solid shape and usually are intricate designs, if you were to peel off the decal and try to apply it by hand, it would be a big ol’ jumbled mess.

Here is a quick rundown of how to use transfer tape:

After a decal is cut and weeded, transfer tape would be placed on top. This would make three layers: transfer tape on top, vinyl decal in the middle, and decal backing on the bottom. Next, the backing of the decal is removed leaving two layers: transfer tape on top and decal underneath. The transfer tape and decal would then be placed together onto the desired surface. A tool called a squeegee (see next item below) would be used next to smooth out any air bubbles and make sure the decal is completely flat. Once this is done, the transfer tape can be removed and only the decal is left, positioned nicely on the surface.

Just like most other items on this list, there are various types of transfer tape available. Some are more flexible and easier to work with than others. Some have a higher tack and stickiness than others. There are clear types that are made of a plastic-like film and paper types which looks similar to masking tape. Some are lined with a backing and some are not.

All have pros and cons, but the transfer tape I’ve found that works best is RTape Conform 4075RLA in high tack. It works with both indoor and outdoor vinyl. It is a paper type and is more flexible than the clear type. It is also a product that sign makers use and is the industry standard for that profession. Recommended: RTape Conform 4075RLA

I love the look of clear and, presentation-wise, it looks nicer. However, I don’t use it because for the larger projects, it can be nearly impossible to get the vinyl to release from the transfer tape during application and this can easily cause the decal to tear and be ruined. I know this from experience. 😱

There are other brands and types that are popular among vinyl crafters and here is a video below of Angie from The Country Chic Cottage testing them out to find which are the best. I have not personally used these brands, but you can see in the video how they work and also look at their reviews to see how they worked for other crafters.

Spoiler alert! All of the brands mentioned in the video work, but the Vinyl Ease and Expressions Vinyl were the top picks when factoring in the price as well. Here are links to the brands mentioned in the video:

6. Cutting Mat

Cutting mats are used to hold material in place while the machine is cutting. They have an adhesive surface that will grip the material so it doesn’t move while your machine is doing its magic.

Materials like adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl don’t always need a cutting mat because they are lined with a backing. Materials without a backing, like cardstock or other types of paper, will always need a cutting mat.

cricut cutting mat

So when do you need a cutting mat for vinyl? When the vinyl piece you are working with is too small to be fed under the rollers of the machine. Since you most certainly will have many vinyl scraps and smaller pieces leftover from past projects, cutting mats allow these pieces to be used for other projects and not go to waste.

Most cutting machines do come with a cutting mat as an included accessory if you are buying them brand new.

7. Scissors

Yay! Something you probably already have laying around the house! I think we can all appreciate the value of some good scissors. You will need scissors for various reasons, but most often to cut your piece of vinyl from the roll before or after your machine makes the cutout.

Scissors are also good to have around to trim the final product to make it look nicer if you are giving the decal as a gift or sending to a customer.

8. Tape measure or ruler

stanley tape measure

A measuring tape is another one of the craft vinyl supplies you may already have on hand. I use my measuring tape for measuring the surface I will be placing my design on to make sure I know what size to make my decal or heat transfer design. I also measure the piece of vinyl that I am going to be cutting on.

Here is the one that I personally use. It is lightweight and the perfect size for getting quick measurements: Stanley Tape Measure

9. Vinyl Application Squeegee Tool

vinyl application tool

A vinyl application squeegee is a tool that is rubbed over the transfer tape during application to smooth out any air bubbles. This is to make sure the decal is flat against the surface before the final step of removing the transfer tape.

Vinyl application squeegees are mostly only used for adhesive vinyl; not heat transfer vinyl. There are some instances where you may need to use this tool for HTV like if you are adding a carrier sheet. As mentioned above, Siser Easyweed HTV already has the carrier sheet affixed, but there are some types of HTV that a carrier sheet would need to be applied to before use. Recommended: Vinyl Application Squeegee Tool

10. Heat Press Machine / Iron / Cricut Easypress

(Heat Transfer Vinyl only)

To apply your HTV cutout onto fabric, you will need an iron, heat press machine, or Cricut Easypress.

heat press machine

I currently use a heat press machine but for many years, just used a regular household iron and it worked just fine. The reason I switched to a heat press was that I was selling shirts for a moment and sometimes would have larger orders. The heat press helped speed up the process greatly.

Recommended Heat Press: Powerpress Heat Press Machine

Just an FYI, if you plan on using an iron, I recommend using one that is lightweight like the one I’ve linked here, especially if you are doing alot of projects. It is similar to the one I used for years and it is under $10 at Walmart. The larger, bulkier irons will tire your arm out really quickly if you have multiple things to pressing.

Cricut EasyPress
Another option is the Cricut Easypress. A Cricut Easypress is like a heatpress/iron hybrid. The heat plate is a solid square like a heat press, but it has a handle like an iron.

This machine would have been so handy in my ironing days. One downside of using the iron is that sometimes it can leave behind a crease in the shape of, you guess it, an iron! Another downside it that sometimes the heat isn’t evenly distributed in an iron. The Cricut Easypress solves these problems!

Another great thing about the Easypress is it works just like a heatpress, without being big and bulky. A heatpress can take up a considerable amount of room, so if your crafting space isn’t the biggest, a heat press machine may not be the best choice.

Recommended: Cricut EasyPress

The Easypress comes in 3 different sizes: 12”x10”, 9”x9”, and the Mini 1.92” x 3.25”. The Cricut Easypress Mini is perfect for applying HTV onto not-so-flat and hard to reach surfaces.

Check out this video of the Cricut Easypress in action.

Wrap Up

Ok, so there it is. If you’re looking to begin vinyl crafting and not sure where to start, I hope this information is helpful for you! This list is all the basic necessities that you need to enter the exciting world of vinyl crafts! However, the sky’s the limit and once you get the basics down, there is so much more to explore. Do you use any items from this list? I would love to hear your thoughts on these or other items you’ve tried and recommend!

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