I’ve told you a million times, I am not a crafter. I despise glitter, I can’t use a glue gun without burning myself, and I can’t cut a straight line with a pair of scissors no matter how hard I try. The only thing that puts me in the “craft club” is the fact that I own a Cricut. And I’m slightly obsessed with it. I use it to cut vinyl decals for coffee mugs, water bottles, journal covers, car windows...I make iron on designs for shirts and pillows and tote bags...custom stencils for wooden signs, fabric, and furniture. It’s the most useful tool in my office and has been a huge part of my business the last few years.
If you’ve got one in your craft room collecting dust because you are too intimidated to try it out, if you’ve been wanting to get one but don’t know where to start, or you use one but you could use a little helping hand...here are some of tips and tricks that have worked well for me. These aren’t basics about how to use your machine….these are just some things that I’ve learned by trial and error that make using the machine a heck of a lot easier. (I own a Cricut, but most of these will apply to any at home die cutting machine, like a Silhouette or whatever brand you’ve got). If you are looking for a full rundown on how to get up and running with your cutter, Payne Hollow Painted has a Cricut crash course, and there are a couple FB groups where you can ask questions from fellow crafters, too.
Ready?? Let's jump in!
-Skip the Cricut vinyl. I’ve used it, and I know I’m not the only one to say this...it’s kinda crappy. It doesn’t like to stick for the long haul and the iron on stuff is just as frustrating. I buy my vinyl online and I’m loyal to the brands I love. For iron on vinyl (for making permanent designs on fabric) I use Siser Easyweed HTV. The name is no lie, its super easy to weed your design, it irons on easily, and stays put. I buy these in large rolls in individual colors (I always try to have at least 5 yards of black and white on hand) to get the biggest bang for my buck. For all other projects, I use Oracal 651. It’s an outdoor grade vinyl that has a durability rating of 6 years (which I believe is for outdoor or high usage...so your average items can last a lot longer). I use this for mugs and windows and water bottles, but I also use this to create my stencils. I find it to be a lot stickier than the actual stencil vinyl, making it less likely to have bleed thru on wood and fabric. When I was just starting out, I made the bulk purchase of all the colors and it saved me a ton of money. I use the less popular colors for my stencils (yellows and browns) and save my more common colors for actual decals. Both of these brands can be found in some big name craft stores, but the cost is quite a bit less online. (Grab HTV here https://amzn.to/2UFOwUS and Oracal 651 here https://amzn.to/2WNUG83)
-Don’t waste money on the name brand tools. Cricut sells fancy picks, tweezers, and scissors at a premium price. Skip those! Go to Harbor Freight or head online and grab a set of picks for a fraction of the price. All you need to weed your vinyl is something with a small, sharp, point. You can even use a simple sewing needle or exacto knife. I like to have a few angled picks for certain projects, but you don’t need anything special to weed your design, I promise. (These are my favorite!! https://amzn.to/3dFTZUr)
-All fonts are not created equal. Your computer likely came with a handful of fonts pre programmed, and they are fine...but you’ll want more soon, trust me. But where do you get the best selection? Skip your Cricut premium fonts and purchase or download your own. If you are just doing projects for yourself, head over to Dafont * com and check out the insane selection. Most are available for personal use with no issues. If you are working on commercial projects, you can usually purchase commercial licenses for your fav fonts on that same site...but I find much better deals on FontBundles * net. They have great deals and you can often get a dozen or more fonts for the price of one. (If you are having a hard time getting your downloaded fonts to show up in your design space, unzip the file and install them, then close your design space out and reopen).
-Connect your letters! If you are using a script or handwriting font….scoot those letters together!! This is the biggest tip I can give to make your work look professional. Cursive letters are meant to connect, but they don’t always link up in your design program. You can adjust the distance between the letters to bring them closer, but often times this doesn’t work perfectly. I prefer to detach the letters and manually move them together, and then weld to remove any cut lines in between.
-Buy extra mats. I started with the 12” x 12” mat. Then I quickly realized I needed the 12” x 24” one. Then a few weeks later I realized I needed more than one. If you are cutting stencils for multiple signs or you are doing designs for multiple projects, you’ll save a ton of time by having a few mats loaded up with vinyl, ready to cut in an assembly line fashion.
-Clean your mats. They are sticky. They are made that way. They hang on to the vinyl by being sticky. Ya wanna know what else will stick to them? EVERYTHING. After a week, you’ll realize they aren’t sticky at all anymore because they are coated in dirt and dog hair and lint and glitter. Grab some Awesome cleaner from the dollar store and spray them down in the bath tub. Let them soak for 20 minutes or so and then wash off with clean water. Let them air dry and then they will be back in action in no time.
-Don’t spend a ton of money on the specialty pens and markers for your Cricut. (Yep, your cutting machine can write for you too!!) If you have some awesome markers that you love but they don’t fit into the pen holder, try wrapping them in rubber bands or those squishy pencil holders that your kiddo uses in school. This will make them larger and then they’ll fit more snug in the clasp that holds the pen.
-If you buy specialty printed vinyl (I prefer to buy mine from Etsy to get the best quality and unique designs), be sure to read the description to see if you need to reverse the image and to see what setting you should cut on. Not all printed vinyl is created equal and some have different thicknesses and need to be cut on various settings, but usually all the info you need will be listed in the description. (Also be sure to read the description to see if the printed vinyl requires a separate transfer sheet or if it comes with one!)
-Skip the expensive transfer tape and get clear, permanent shelf liner instead. It works just as well and is a fraction of the price. I even use shelf liner as a stencil medium when I’m running low on vinyl. It cuts on the same setting as your window decal vinyl and works just as well.
Sooooo, if that was too long, didn't read:
Get yourself a fancy Cricut. Skip all the fancy Cricut add ons. 😆
Does that help?? Think maybe you are ready to dust that old machine off and get your craft on?? Start with a simple design and jump in! And then lemme see what you are working on!
***If you are still on the fence about getting a cutting machine, I have the Cricut Air 2 (Not the newest version, but it does a ton and is almost half the price of the newest model) https://amzn.to/2UFTG37
Or there is the Cricut Maker (If you want the newest model, because it does all the thangs and also comes in champagne gold) https://amzn.to/2UnEjgC
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