Today, I am showing how to make layered vinyl decals with the Cricut Joy because vinyl decals are one of the easiest crafts you can make. They are really fun and give you a lot of bang for your buck especially when done in the smaller sizes that the Cricut Joy can accommodate.
In this tutorial, I am making some layered vinyl decals with a hiking theme since my husband and I have recently started hiking again after a few years. We live in Denver, Colorado and so the mountains are pretty close but it still takes about an hour to even get to the foothills from where we live. With full-time and weird hour jobs, getting to the mountains has been pretty challenging in the past.
But since we are now both fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and the weather is getting warmer, we have been inspired to try hiking again and so far, we are loving it. We take these pretty basic plastic water bottles with us every time and I decided it was time to make them more fun with some layered vinyl decals.
The designs I choose are fairly simple and the layering is easy, even for a beginner. I used two colors of vinyl and two different brands to see how well each would work. For my opinion on the vinyl, check the written tutorial below.
Please check out the video tutorial below or scroll down for instructions with photos:
Insert Images into a New Cricut Design Space Canvas
The hiking SVG designs I used are from Creative Fabrica and linked below in the Supply List. I uploaded them to Cricut Design Space (see this tutorial for details on uploading images) and opened a new project to get a blank canvas in Cricut Design Space. To bring in the designs, click on the Upload icon on the bottom of the left-hand tool bar.
To select the images I want to use, I simply clicked on them (a green box appears around the one(s) selected) and then click the Insert Images button in the lower right.
I inserted these designs one at a time (personal preference) and just repeated the same “select and insert images” step for each until I had both on the canvas.
Create Offset for Vinyl Decals in Cricut Design Space
The software automatically groups each design and all of its layers together. So click anywhere on the “Hike” heart design to select it. Then, click the Offset tool in the upper toolbar.
A fly-out menu will appear that allows you to change the distance of the offset by pulling the slider shown. The default is .25″. You can see the offset appear around the selected design and can see how it looks as you change the distance of the offset with the slider. I was good with .25″ so I left it as is. You can also change the corners from rounded (the default) to sharp with the radial buttons on the menu but again, I liked the default so left it alone. Click Apply to create the Offset around the saying.
Click on the offset layer and drag it away from the original image (or vice versa). You will notice there are several holes in the offset because Design Space creates an offset around all inside and outside edges in the design by default. I want a solid shadow layer so need to fix that.
Repeat this step for the second design.
Fill Holes in the Offset Layers in Cricut Design Space
To fill the holes in the offset layers, click on the Shapes icon on the left tool bar and select a circle.
A circle will appear on the Canvas. Drag it on top of one of the offset layers so it covers as many holes as possible. If necessary, resize the circle by dragging the corner handle in the lower right of the box that is around the circle. Make sure that the entire circle is inside the offset layer.
When the circle is positioned over as many holes as you can cover without going over the edges of the offset layer, hold down the Shift key and click the offset layer so both are selected. Then navigate to the bottom of the Layers panel on the right and click the Weld icon.
The circle should disappear into the offset panel as will the holes it covered, leaving the area of the offset layer filled in. Sometimes the color of the offset layer will change to match that of the circle, since the circle is on top.
Cricut Design Space only allows you to weld two layers at a time, so repeat this step as many times as necessary until all of the holes are filled and the offset layer is now a solid shape.
Repeat these steps to make a solid offset layer for the second design as well.
Change the color of the offset layers by clicking on the Fill box and selecting a new color from the flyout menu. For my designs, I made one offset layer gold and one white with the opposite color for the design on top of it.
Align & Resize the Designs in Cricut Design Space
Design Space bumps welded layers to the top, so click on one of the hiking designs and then go to the Arrange tool on the top toolbar and click Send To Front to bump it back to the top.
Drag the design on top of its offset layer and then click and drag to select both the design and its offset. Click on the Align tool on the upper toolbar and select Center. The design will now be perfectly centered over its offset layer.
With both layers still selected, check to make sure the lock is closed in the lower left corner of the box around the layers. If it isn’t locked, click on it to lock it now. Then go to the Width box under the Size section of the upper toolbar and change the width to 2.5″ (or whatever width will work for your water bottle; check by measuring). Because the locked is locked, the height will also change in proportion to the width and the entire design will shrink to a size that will fit the water bottles.
Repeat this step for the second hiking design and its offset layer.
Attach the Design Layers in Cricut Design Space
Click on the “Hike More” design so the entire group is selected and navigate to the bottom of the Layers Panel on the right. Click on the Attach icon (paperclip).
You must attach this group together in order to keep it in the arrangement you see on the Canvas. If you skip this step, the software will pull each layer of the design apart and rearrange them on the mat to cut the elements using the least amount of material possible. You don’t want this to happen, but if you forget, click Cancel after going to Make It and then Attach the Group together.
Repeat this step to Attach the layers of the hike heart as well.
Mat Settings in Cricut Design Space
If you have more than one Cricut machine registered, make sure the Joy is selected from the drop down menu in the upper right. Then click on Make It in the upper right corner of the screen.
The screen I call the Mat Screen appears and a pop up box asks how you will be cutting the material – Without Mat, On Mat, etc. Choose ‘On Mat’ (you could also choose ‘Multiple Ways’ and set the second mat now).
Now the Mat Screen shows two different colored mats. In my case, I have a white mat and a gold mat because those are the fill colors I choose for the different design groups and offsets. For the white vinyl, I will be using Oracal 651 Permanent Vinyl, so the setting of On Mat is correct.
But, I am going to cut the gold layers out of Cricut Smart Vinyl so I need to change the mat setting here since Smart materials don’t need a mat. To do this, click on the second mat tab to highlight it and its mat appears in the middle of the screen.
On the left-hand tab, click on the dropdown menu under ‘Material Load Type’. Change the selection to ‘Without Mat’.
Click Continue in the lower right of the screen.
Select Base Material for Mat One in Cricut Design Space
The program will now connect to the Joy machine (make sure it’s on) and the screen will switch and ask you to Select Base Material for the first mat. Click the Browse All Materials link to the right.
Cricut Design Space only gives you choices for Cricut materials in the drop down list, but you can create your own material for non-Cricut materials (like Oracal 651). But instead, I go the easier route and select Premium Vinyl from the list, under the Vinyl section.
The screen will now show Premium Vinyl as the Base Material for Mat One. Head on over to the Machine.
Load the Mat with Vinyl and Cut with the Cricut Joy
Cut a piece of white Oracal 651 vinyl to 3″ x 6.5″ and stick down, shiny side up, in the upper left corner of a Standard Grip Cricut Joy mat.
Load this mat into the Cricut Joy by feeding it under the mat clips on either side and pushing it toward the rollers until the machine grabs it.
Go back to Cricut Design Space and click Go in the lower right corner. The Joy will begin cutting the white vinyl.
Check the Cut and Unload the Mat from the Cricut Joy
Once the Joy finishes cutting the designs on the first mat, it will push the mat forward so you can inspect the cut. Using a weeding tool or in my case, a pin pen, WITHOUT UNLOADING THE MAT carefully check to see if the designs have cut through the top layer of the vinyl sheet.
If the designs are cut through, click Unload in Cricut Design Space and the mat will push out of the machine. If the designs are not fully cut, click on Rerun in Design Space and the Joy will cut the designs a second time. Repeat until the designs are properly cut from the top layer of the vinyl and then click Unload in Cricut Design Space. I’m happy to report that my designs cut properly the first time, in case you were wondering.
Select Base Material for Mat Two in Cricut Design Space
In Cricut Design Space, the second mat should now be queued up to start cutting. But first, you need to change the base material from Premium Vinyl to Smart Vinyl, Matte Metallic. Do so by clicking on Browse All Materials again and selecting Smart Vinyl, Matte Metallic from the list under the Vinyl section.
Return to the machine.
Load Smart Vinyl into the Cricut Joy & Cut
I used Champagne Smart Vinyl from the Cricut Smart Vinyl Gala Sampler that comes with one 5.5″ x 12″ sheet of Champagne, 1 sheet of Party Pink and 1 sheet of Corn Flower Blue metallic vinyl. To load the Champagne sheet into the Joy, feed the edges of the vinyl under the mat clips on either side of the machine and push it toward the wheels until the machine grabs it and pulls it in.
Once the Smart Vinyl is loaded, click Go back in Cricut Design Space. The Joy will cut the gold elements out of the gold vinyl.
Repeat the cut check once it finishes and click Unload in Cricut Design Space once it is cut well (mine did it the first time).
Weed the Layered Vinyl Decals
Trim the Smart Vinyl down to close to the size of the cut designs to make it easier to weed. Use a weeding tool or pin pen to carefully peel up a corner of the cut piece of gold vinyl. Gently pull the excess gold vinyl off and away from the cut design that should remain on the backing sheet.
Once the bulk of the gold vinyl is removed, use your weeding tool to remove any cut pieces left inside the design elements until the design is completely revealed on the backing sheet.
Repeat this process with the white vinyl sheet until completely revealed.
Put Top Layer Decals on Offset Layers
Cut apart the vinyl designs so you have each design and its offset layer on separate pieces of backing paper. Cut pieces of transfer tape to approximately the size of each top layer for the design and one at a time, burnish the transfer tape down on to the design with a scraper, credit card or your fingers.
Carefully peel back the backing paper from the back of the vinyl design until the front of the vinyl design is now completely on the transfer tape.
Carefully line up the design on the transfer tape above its offset layer and press in place on to the offset layer doing your best to center the design on the offset. Burnish the design on to the offset layer with your scraper or fingers.
Repeat this step for the second design.
PLEASE NOTE: The Smart Vinyl hike heart was an absolute nightmare to get onto the transfer tape. It would not come off the backing paper without many attempts to push edges down on to the tape with a fine point tweezers. I don’t even want to talk about the tiny elements – ugh! Eventually I got it there, but it was no fun and I DO NOT recommend it.
Transfer Layered Vinyl Decals to Water Bottles
If desired, for ease of placement, use a permanent marker to mark the center of the edges of the designs on the transfer tape. You can also fold the ends of the transfer tape just a bit to mark the centers.
Then, carefully peel the backing paper off of one of the offset layers.
Clean the sides of the bottles with alcohol to remove any dirt, oil, etc. and help with vinyl adhesion. Let dry. Use pens with caps to hold the round water bottles in place on the flat surface.
Hold the layered design above the side of the bottle, eyeballing the placement for center (use marks for help) and doing your best to place it straight up and down. When ready, press the center of the design down on to the bottle.
Smooth the edges of the design down on to the bottle by pushing from the center out. If necessary, cut small slits in the transfer tape to allow the design to bend easily around the curve of the bottle.
When completely down, burnish in place and then carefully peel away the transfer tape to reveal the design.
Repeat for the second bottle. Enjoy!
Maintenance Tips for Layered Vinyl Decals on Bottles
There are a couple of tips for maintaining the life of your vinyl decals on mugs, tumblers, bottles, etc. Here are the ones I’ve used:
- Only hand wash the containers that have vinyl on them
- Seal the design to the container by coating with Polyacrylic or Dishwasher Safe Mod Podge (you have to coat the entire container, not just the vinyl) and let set per directions of sealer (can be multiple days depending on the sealer)
- Accept that this is a temporary thing and don’t worry about it. – My personal favorite!
Honestly, Oracal 651 holds up really well, even in the dishwasher, so I will probably just throw them in there and see what happens. To be honest, I think the Cricut Vinyl is going to die long before the Oracal will just because it was so tough to work with. If I was giving these as gifts, I would seal them but since they are just for personal use, I am going to let fate and/or the dishwasher gods decide. Lol! These were so easy to make, that making more when I need to won’t be a problem.
Questions or Comments?
If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you soon. Want to just tell me how much you loved this tutorial? Please leave me a comment below – lol!
I would also appreciate any ideas you may have for topics to cover related to the software for Cricut (Design Space), Silhouette (Studio) or Brother (Canvas Workspace) and any suggestions you may have on projects to create with the Cricut Maker, Cricut Joy, Silhouette Cameo 4 or the Brother Scan N Cut DX. Please leave any requests you have in the comments. I appreciate you taking the time to visit and read my blog. Thanks!
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