Vinyl 101: How to Cut, Weed and Apply Adhesive Vinyl

Today in our Getting Started with Vinyl Series I am going to walk you through how to cut, weed and apply adhesive vinyl. Once you know the steps it really is an easy process, but there are also some tricks of the trade that you need to know to save yourself some frustration or ruined projects. Don't worry though- we got this!

If you missed any of the other posts in our adhesive vinyl series I've included the links to them below:

Part One- Vinyl 101: Getting Started with Adhesive Vinyl

Part Two- Vinyl 101: The Best Places to Buy Vinyl (and Where I Avoid!)

Part Three- Vinyl 101: The Best Tools and Accessories for Working with Adhesive Vinyl

How to cut, weed and apply adhesive vinyl. Step-by-step getting started with vinyl guide.

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How to Cut, Weed and Apply Adhesive Vinyl Step-by-Step

I wanted to create a simple project to show the step-by-step process of using adhesive vinyl, including the difference between "weeding" and "reverse weeding". My daughter just started babysitting and I knew we needed to organize her money so it wouldn't disappear in her room or the convenience store.

We have our kiddo divide up the money she earns. She sets aside 10% as a tithe to the church, 10% for her savings account and the rest she can spend or save as she sees fit. Keeping up with the money isn't the easiest process though, so I decided to label these pencil pouches and put them in a three ring binder. I have included the tithing pouch as the example project today.

Prepare the Design in Cricut Design Space

Measure the Surface

The first thing you will need to do is decide on where you want to apply the vinyl and determine the dimensions. These are just basic pencil pouches you can find at Wal-Mart or the dollar store. I measured the clear area and it was 7" wide x 4.5" tall. 

Upload image or create design in design space

I need help visualizing, so I inserted a rectangle that size and made it colored so I would have a reference when adding the text. I used a Cricut font called Four Seasons Home Decor. It is my go to font for many of my projects. I also inserted the arrows to make it not so plain looking.

If you would like to make it yourself, you can find the Design Space project here. When you open it you will notice that I have deleted the pink reference rectangle and only the text remains. I have also attached all of the items so it cuts just as it looks on the screen. In my example I didn't attach the top part with the scripture because I knew I wanted to work with them separately to show you two different ways to weed vinyl.

vinyl 101- tithes envelope cut screen

Prepare the cutting mat and machine settings

Apply the vinyl to the Cricut mat with the vinyl side up. (Don't confuse this with HTV/iron-on vinyl that has to be placed "shiny side down").

Take your scraper tool and make sure there are no bubbles and that it is adhered to the mat well.

Getting started with adhesive vinyl- use scraper tool to press vinyl onto cutting mat

I am using my Cricut Maker but the concept is the same with the Maker or the Explore machine. You can see from the photo below that Design Space looks a bit different than the previous photo. I often design on my desktop computer and then switch to my Ipad to do the cutting.

Getting started with adhesive vinyl- prepare cut in Cricut Design Space.jpeg

Once you have the design ready, click the small green circle in the bottom right corner that says "Make it". It will then open the preview screen that shows your cut on the mat.

A several things to take note of on this screen:

  • The title of the project is at the top left corner. You can change it by clicking edit it if you want to.
  • Under the title is 'project copies'. It will have a 1 in the box to the right automatically. This is where you would change the number if you wanted more than one of the exact same thing cut.
  • Under 'project copies' is a small image of the cutting mat. In this project we are only using one mat, but if there were several you would see them here one underneath the other. 
  • To the right of the small image of the cutting mat is an icon of pair of scissors. That lets us know that this is going to be cut out. The other icons are a pen for writing mode, what looks like a pencil with dashes underneath for scoring mode, and a printer for print-then-cut.
  • Material size shows 12"x12". You can also change it to a 12"x24" mat and the preview will change to that size as well.
  • Under material size it says 'Mirror (for iron-on). When using adhesive vinyl leave this OFF. It only needs to be selected if you are using heat transfer vinyl (iron-on).
Getting started with vinyl- preview cut screen

Click the small green circle in the bottom right again and it will bring up the next screen.

If you are using the Cricut Maker, the screen will look like the photo below. You will select the vinyl setting on the screen.

If you are using a Cricut Explore, the screen will show whatever setting your materials dial is set to on your machine. You will need to change the dial setting to vinyl on your actual machine. 

Select custom material setting as vinyl

Once you have the material setting to vinyl, load the mat into the machine and press go to cut.

Getting started with vinyl- cut screen

Cut, Weed and Apply the Vinyl

Weed the Vinyl

After the design is cut it is time to weed the vinyl. 'Weeding' means to remove any of the vinyl that you don't want, including any insides of the letters.

Some people prefer to add a 'weeding box' around their image when they cut. They then pull up the box around the image and continue to weed from there. Some people also prefer to weed while the vinyl is still on the cutting mat so it is still stuck down in one place.

Personally, I just pull the vinyl sheet up and cut around my image. There are many times I am just using a small piece of scrap vinyl. If I weeded it right on the mat my arm would be sticking to it!

I haven't been lucky enough to get a Bright Pad yet, but as soon as I can afford it I plan on it. It makes it so much easier to see the cut lines since the light shines up through them, especially on more intricate pieces.

getting started with vinyl- weed vinyl

Apply Transfer Tape and Apply to surface

After the design is weeded it is time to apply the transfer tape. I cut a piece off a little bigger than my design. One of the best tips I can give you is to take the tape and press it against your shirt several times so it isn't too sticky. The tape needs to be sticky enough to hold the vinyl in place, but not so sticky that it won't release the vinyl once you have it where you want it. 

Press the transfer tape against your shirt and then lay it over your design being careful to make sure it is flat with no wrinkles or bubbles. Next, take your scraping tool and rub over the top several times to make sure the tape is attaching to all of the pieces of your vinyl.

Remove the paper backing from the vinyl slowly. If at any point it isn't releasing easily stop and rub with the scraper again.

Once the paper backing is removed it is time to apply the design to the surface. Carefully line it up where you want it and place the design down. Depending on the surface and the vinyl used you can sometimes lift it back up an adjust it, but don't count on it. Do your best to get it right where you want it the first try.

Getting started with adhesive vinyl- apply transfer tape

Burnish and remove transfer tape

Once the design is where you want it, take the scraping tool and burnish (rub) the transfer tape again. This will cause the vinyl to adhere to the surface and hold in place. Slowly peel back the transfer tape. I usually get the best results when I start at a corner and peel at an angle. 

Peel slowly to make sure the vinyl is releasing from the transfer tape. If it isn't, lay it back down and rub more with your scraper. 

Getting started with adhesive vinyl- use scraper tool to burnish vinyl and then remove transfer tape

When and Why to Reverse Weed

Anytime your vinyl design is small I recommend reverse weeding. If I had tried to weed the scripture with all of its little letters, most likely when I pulled up the vinyl some of the letters would have pulled up with it. Reverse weeding allows everything to be held in place before you even start to weed

Apply the transfer tape over the top of the design and then turn it over and peel the paper backing away. The entire design will be stuck to the transfer tape. 

Weed the design as you normally would. It will be a bit harder to get the unwanted pieces to release since they are on the transfer tape but it is sooooooo worth it. I'm not afraid to admit I've shed some tears not doing this when I should have!

How to reverse weed adhesive vinyl
How to reverse weed adhesive vinyl

Apply vinyl to surface and remove tape

Once you have all of those little pieces weeded, apply the design to the surface as you normally would. Rub it well with your scraping tool and remove the transfer tape.

In this case I could tell the tape was still too strong and it wasn't releasing the letters no matter how much I burnished it. Notice in the bottom photo below how I have my scraping tool pressing down right against where I am pulling the tape up. I am applying pressure with scraper and it is keeping any of the other letters from coming up with the tape. At the same time I am pulling the transfer tape firmly against the scraper. 

reverse weed and apply adhesive vinyl

And there you have it...the basics of cutting, weeding and applying vinyl. If you are like me, your husband or friends will be looking at you with a raised eyebrow as things begin to be labeled at warp speed. 

Getting Started with Vinyl project- Tithes Envelope

Please pin this post to remember it for later!

The fourth part of our Vinyl 101 series is a step-by-step guide on how to cut, weed and apply adhesive vinyl. We also look at when and why to reverse weed.

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