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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Viny Cutting Machines: More of What you Wanted To Know

LOTS of interest on this topic! Vinyl cutting is a lot of fun and can be done on LOTS of different machines, including hobby craft cutters. I own a QuicKutz Silhouette but the ProvoCraft Cricut, Xyron Wishblade, Pazzles Inspiration, Graphtec CraftROBO and the Klick-n-Kut Element all have the ability to cut vinyl. Here's how to begin:

1. Get comfortable using your machine. Paper is cheaper than vinyl so experiment with it.

2. Order your vinyl & materials. I prefer Oracal 631 matte vinyl from simply because they are closer and ground shipping costs less. For a list of all the materials you will need to buy, view my blog post on Vinyl Cutting: Everything You Wanted To Know.

3. Start cutting and having fun!

How To Figure The Vinyl Roll Size You'll Need To Buy: Vinyl typically comes in rolls of 15 or 24 inch widths but craft cutters don't accept vinyl that wide so you'll have to cut it down before you can feed it through your machine. A smart thing to do is take the minumum required material width your machine accepts and see if it divides evenly into 15 or 24. For example, my Silhouette requires material be a minimum of 8.5 inches wide (and it does best with 9 inch wide material). Neither one divides into 15 or 24 evenly so I then consider what I will mostly use the vinyl for: small to medium craft projects. Based on that info I buy the 15 inch wide rolls and then cut 9 inch strips from the roll, giving me 9x15 inch sheets every time which are perfect for all the little quick-runs I do. If I know I will be cutting larger vinyl for wall hanging or sign boards, I'll go ahead and order a 24 inch roll, repeating the same steps to cut 9x24 inch strips.

I'm going to describe this fast-cutting technique further, since I know it can be confusing without pictures: Set the roll on it's end so it stands up on it's own nice and tall. Unroll 9 inches of vinyl. Cut the vinyl VERTICALLY (from top to bottom) to produce a tall, skinny sheet that is 15 inches tall and 9 inches wide. Feed this into your Silhouette. Repeat with a 24 inch roll.

What Length Should I Buy? Once you have determined the width you want, it's time to select the length. Rolls are usually 10, 50 or 100 yards long. I personally opt for 10 yard rolls (15 inch width) because I do not sell cut vinyl online and the lower cost per roll allows me to purchase more rolls in different colors. However, less than a year after buying my machine, I am on my third roll of white and second roll of ivory and chocolate brown so if your supplier gives a discount for buying larger rolls, consider this option for colors you use frequently.

Other Vinyl Ideas, Tips & Tricks:

- For the easiest weeding and best-looking results, buy good quality vinyl.
- Application tape can determine whether your vinyl will make it on the wall or rip the paint straight off the spackle. Spend good money here, too. This is extremely important if you intend to sell your vinyl because the general public expects vinyl to apply flawlessly to ALL wall surfaces. Good application tape helps deliver on that expectation.
- To be honest, craft cutters don't cut as cleanly as commercial cutters so you won't be able to cut items quite as small. If you're looking to start a business, skip the craft cutters and consider a 24 inch desktop cutter. You'll be so glad you did!
- If your machine is producing rough-edge cuts but the image appears smooth on-screen, increase the threshold of your auto-trace. If you purchased the graphic in one of those big bulk-packs and are importing it directly into your software (no auto-tracing), it's probably the graphic causing this. For companies to provide so many shapes at regular intervals, quality must be sacrificed.

Frequently Asked Questions from my Inbox:

To cut down on the e-mails I get, here is what you're dying to know about vinyl!

• Why doesn't my machine accept JPGS?

A few do, most don't. Quite frankly this is so the retailer (who is not actually the manufacturer of your machine) can also make money selling shapes you buy & download to cut.

• Why won't my machine import/open/cut JPGS I found online and saved?

Most machines reject these images because a) they aren't clean or smooth enough to cut well and b) so you can't save the online picture of the shape the retailer is trying to sell and have your machine cut it.

• Why don't all my fonts show up in my cutter software when I want my vinyl machine to cut text? Where are they?

Only True Type fonts are available for use in vinyl cutting machine software. The missing fonts are Open Type and cannot be used.

• My machine can't find files that I know are saved on my computer.
Select IMPORT, not Open, to import purchased files. This is true for almost every personal or commercial cutting machine unless you have purchased files with specialty file extensions. Those you can open directly from the software File>Open menu.

• My Silhouette cuts along the edge of text and objects with a dashed line instead of a solid line. The letters are not cut out.

Your software's metafile settings and the image file settings are different colors. Click on Insert>Metafile Settings. The solid line color is red by default. Your image file should also have red lines when it is NOT selected. If your image file has lines any other color than your metafile line colors (red by default) then your machine will cut everything with dashed lines. Change your software metafile settings or, more simply, change the image file line color (Select image>Right Click>Line Settings) and then save over the original with the correct line color.

*Since Robo Master software uses red as it's default line color, I design and package my GSD files with red image lines. They will open and cut without these issues. (Unless you have changed your metafile settings of course!)

• How can I be sure that your designs will work with my machine?

Download my cute FREEBIE, which has all the file extensions we offer in one package. Once you find the file type your machine imports, you can confidently purchase additional graphic packs.

• Why aren't all the shapes in the commercial category also offered in the personal craft cutter category? I want the same shape in SVG.

Some of my designs sold in the EPS file format and are intended for commercial use only. This is to give small vinyl businesses fresh, new designs that grab attention in a very competitive market. It's my way of helping other stay-at-home moms and entrepreneurs provide cut vinyl designs every bit as appealing as the larger, over-priced companies. In order to truly help, and not compete with the businesses I'm trying to assist, I don't offer the shapes for personal cutting use.

Since some commercial vinyl cutters (ie: 24 inch desktop cutters) only import SVGs, I do offer the same exclusive shapes in the SVG file format with a commercial license for the same price as the EPS packs. This is a specialty purchase, please use the Peppermint Creative Contact Form to arrange this option.

• Where do you get your fonts? Are they free or do you have to buy them?

I get nearly all of my fonts from and because I am using them commercially, I do (and must) pay for commercial use fonts. Free fonts can be used for personal cutting projects but they are usually lower in quality than a pay font so make the investment and purchase some pretty fonts that cut nicely; they're usually under $20 each. Who's my favorite? Ronna Penner!!!!!
Please do not download and use illegal font copies! Font designers don't make as much money as you might think and designing a font takes nearly a year. If we want gorgeous new fonts in the future we need to make sure to pay the font designers for their work so they can continue designing!

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