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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vinyl Cutting Machines: Best Info & Advice Compiled Here

I still get LOTS of questions about vinyl cutting machines & digital die cutting machines (like the Cricut, Silhouette and Wishblade) that can also cut vinyl.

If you are JUST starting out, researching what machine to buy or want to know what type of vinyl & supplies you'll need, please see this post with ALL the information you'll need:

If you still have questions, check out my "More of What You Wanted to Know" post here:

This post will answer some of the more random, detailed questions I have been getting.

• What is chalkboard vinyl and where do I get it?

Chalkboard vinyl is a special black (or other colored) vinyl that allows you to write on it with chalk. You can purchase it from You can also use Oracal 631 matte black vinyl like chalkboard vinyl for small projects, like putting chalkboard labels on buckets, glass jars, etc. Simply cut the label shape from black matte vinyl (my favorite label shapes are Miss Mint's Labels for Vinyl Cutting Machines) and stick the label on your bucket.
IMPORTANT: Before writing on ANY type of vinyl, but especially 631 black matte vinyl, use a paper towel to smooth the writing end of your piece of chalk until it is domed and soft with no sharp or rough edges. This way the chalk won't scratch, mar or indent your vinyl label and you can erase & re-write it as many times as you'd like. Just ALWAYS smooth your chalk in this way! Use a lightly damp rag to erase.

• What is whiteboard dry erase vinyl and where do I get it?

Buy it at I haven't used it myself but I do know you need to use specialty dry-erase markers with it and even dry erase marker cannot be left on for longer than a week without it staining the vinyl. (Chalkboard vinyl is more popular than whiteboard vinyl if you are looking to invest in only one.)

• Can vinyl go in the dishwasher?

NO! The same vinyl you use on your interior walls cannot go in your dishwasher! The washing & heat dissolve the vinyl adhesive and the letters fall limply from your plates & cups.

• Can any of my holiday decor with vinyl lettering on it go in the attic?

NO! Attic storage where temperatures exceed 75° at ANY time of year has the same effect on your vinyl lettering as a hair dryer does: it will cause the vinyl to "shrink" and curl up from your project, ruining the decor piece. Wrap your vinyl decor to protect the face of the vinyl from scratches and store it indoors. (This is expecially important where I live in the southern US where March his hot enough to ruin vinyl in the attic and August is hot enough to ruin vinyl sitting within 5 feet of the front door!)

• How do you measure & cut wood and vinyl for your BlockART designs?

See an example of finished BlockART here and here!

Select and cut your wood first, then cut vinyl to fit your wood once you have checked the actual wood block measurements. When you purchase wood boards keep in mind that their width is 1/2 inch off their actual size. So if you purchase a 1x4 the wood is actually 1/2 inch x 3.5 inches, not truly 1x4 inches. I use a chop saw to cut my 1x4 and 2x6 wood boards into square blocks. They measure 3.5 x 3.5 inches (from 1x4 boards) and 5.5 x 5.5 inches (from 2x6 boards) when cut down this way. I cut my vinyl in 3 inch or 5 inch square sizes respectively, sizing the LONGEST edge at 3 or 5 inches and allowing at least 1/4 of an inch (0.25) room from the edge of the vinyl to the edge of the wood. So a 3.5 wood square would accept a 3 inch square cut of vinyl with a 1/4 inch border, giving the appearance of a perfect fit!

• Can I cut and sell any design I find online? How do I know if that is legal?

My commercial designs are intended for just that - cutting and selling! The price includes a commercial license which never expires, meaning you can use it forever to cut as much vinyl as you would like. Same with my commercial use freebies. They are meant to grow your business while trying out our new designs. Plus the graphics are unwelded, which means you can use individual elements, like a heart shape for example, independently and cut it as many times as you want simply because it came in a pack with other commercial designs.

With any graphic you intend to use, you must check on licensing before using it to ensure you are not infringing on any copyright or useage terms. If you know the graphics are suitable for this type of commercial use (meaning they were sold to you with the intent for vinyl cutting, such as a Vector Graphic CD from your vinyl supplier) then you are within the graphic product's legal terms of use. While fonts and dingbats can be cut on just about any machine, you need to make sure you are using a legal copy of the font and that the font type you have purchased is approved for commercial use. A few dollars to support a font designer means they will continue making new fonts which you can use in the future to continue to expand your business!

• Can I cut vinyl on my Cricut, Silhouette or Wishblade to sell?

Yes, you can! It's a great way to recoup the cost of buying your machine and supplies, even if you only sell vinyl locally to friends, neighbors and on local community websites. Many church and neighborhood groups have ladies craft days and they often need someone local to supply the vinyl if a craft calls for it. (See info about selling complete craft kits below.) Local craft fairs are also a great way to sell pre-cut designs directly to the public without having to bring your machine up and cut on-site. In my experience people either want finished vinyl crafts or 'everyday' vinyl that is ready to be put up on their walls and can stay up year-round.

Keep in mind that your digital die cutting machine is a hobby machine and will limit you on the size you can cut which also means some designs simply will not cut at certain sizes. Keep this in mind and do some test cuts before accepting orders from clients.

• What are vinyl craft kits and how do I get into selling them?

Vinyl craft kits are premade kits that contain all the elements needed to sit down and complete one craft project. They typically include cut vinyl, a wood block or glass block (depending on the project) and a direction sheet. The kit purchaser is responsible for buying craft paint, paint brushes, ribbon and other embellishments desired to complete the craft to match her personal decor. These kits are purchased both by individuals, small groups of friends for girls craft nights and in bulk for church and neighborhood craft activities. In a world where everyone wants to get a little crafty but most people lack the power tools and knowhow, they are extremely popular. Calculate ALL your expenses and figure a good per-hour labor cost then price your crafts wisely and resist the temptation to accept more orders than you can reasonably fill. You WILL get more orders than you can fill! Do not use any material or item, such as glass blocks, that you cannot get readily at a moment's notice. Set up wholesale accounts with local or online suppliers if you must to guarantee access to the materials promised to your clients.

You will need a nearby Postage & Shipping store or company that can help you package and ship heavy boxes filled with wood blocks more easily than taking them to the post office and waiting in line. The best craft kits have each kit wrapped in plastic cellophane with an individual instruction sheet but this is not necessary. Just be sure none of the pieces are damaged during shipment and that there are enough instruction sheets to go around. One or two extra vinyl cuts are always appreciated because mistakes do happen and crafts do get ruined and the best craft kit suppliers are used over and over again.

You can sell craft kits on eBay,, your own website or any number of other websites, including a blog. You'll need to provide your potential clients with pictures of the completed project, the cost of the kit, materials you will not be supplying (like paint) and an e-mail where they can contact you to place their group order. If you require a minimum purchase state it clearly on your site. Most craft kit suppliers find they do not get burned out if they rotate the kits they offer, switching them out every so often and retiring any craft kits that are more stress than they're worth. This will keep clients coming back for more!

Most of my customers buy my BlockART designs for this very purpose since they are easy to cut for craft kits and make adorable finished projects! We always have a FREE graphic you can download and occasionally it's one of our new BlockART designs so be sure to grab the current freebie and try it out for yourself!