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Moffit Makerspace: Vinyl Cutter

Moffitt Makerspace Tutorials

Introduction

This is a tutorial to introduce users to the process of creating vinyl stickers using Silhouette Studio and the corresponding Cameo printers found in the Moffitt Makerspace. The tutorial is broken down into the following sections:

  1. Installing Silhouette Studio
  2. Silhouette Studio Introduction
  3. How Vinyl Stickers "Work"
  4. Drawing Your Own Sticker in Silhouette Studio
  5. Finding Stickers Online
  6. Printing Your Stickers
  7. Applying Stickers

Step 1: Installing Silhouette Studio

  1. To install Silhouette Studio, click on the following link to navigate to their software downloads website: https://www.silhouetteamerica.com/software
  2. Identify the “Current Version” of their software, and click the corresponding download link in accordance to your computer’s operating system (Windows or Mac)
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  3. Save the file. Once it has finished downloading, locate and double click the file to run the installer. Follow the installer’s instructions to finalize the installation process.

Step 2: Silhouette Studio Introduction

  1. What you should see:
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  2. Explanation for each numbered section:
    1. Drawing Toolbar
      1. These are the primary tools needed to create and modify shapes and text.
    2. Panel Toolbar
      1. These panels contain tools that allow you to further modify existing shapes and images that are on the current Design workspace.
    3. Quick Access Toolbar
      1. When you select an item on the workspace, this toolbar will populate with most frequently used Panel tools.
    4. Navigation Tabs
      1. These four tabs serve different functions. For the purposes of this tutorial, we will only be needing Design, where you create and modify your files, and Send, where you send the files to a printer.
  3. Tutorials Tab is a good reference point for a lot of this information, as well as some other topics that this tutorial will not be covering.
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Step 3: How Vinyl Stickers "Work"

The biggest lesson is that lines are cut, not drawn.

  1. Take this smiley face as an example:
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  2. This may be how you would typically draw a smiley face, given a pen and paper. However, this is not how vinyl cutters will interpret these lines. The software will see these lines as places to cut. Imagine using scissors, or an Exacto Knife to cut along the lines in this smiley face. While you’ll be able to remove the circular face from the rest of the paper, you won’t be able to see the eyes or mouth because it’s just a slit in the paper, no material has been removed. In order to correct this smiley face, then, we have to edit it until it looks something more like this:
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  3.  Now if you were to cut along the lines, you would end up being able to remove the eyes and mouth, thereby making the smiley visible. You can imagine using a “fill bucket” tool to see what the final sticker would look like:
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  4. Notice how the cuts on the original one are not pronounced at all. Keep this in mind when you are drawing your own vinyl stickers.

Video Tutorial

Parts 4, 5, and 6 are explained through the video below.

Step 4: Drawing Your Own Sticker in Silhouette Studio

The video tutorial will guide you through the process of making a simple stick figure sticker using most of the tools in the Drawing Toolbar.

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Quick Tips:

  1. Use the shape tools to quickly define generic shapes like squares, circles, and ovals that you can then manipulate into a shape closer to what you want.
  2. Use the text tool to quickly create letters and such without the need to draw them by hand. These will automatically be "bubble" letters, so you don't need to worry about the problem clarified in Step 3.
  3. Keyboard shortcuts are your friend, if you intend to make detailed stickers by hand, you should get acquainted with these keyboard shortcuts to expedite your creation process:

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Step 5: Finding a Sticker Online

General idea: Use anything you like, but be careful with copyrights, and in general don't sell things you don't own the rights to.

Useful keywords when searching: "vinyl sticker outline," "silhouette," "high contrast," "vector"

Google Web Search

Step 6: Printing Your Stickers

The Moffitt Makerspace uses Cameo 3 Printers. If you are using a different printer, the instructions may vary, but the general principles still apply.

  1. When resizing stickers in Silhouette, it will show you its dimensions. Use that to resize the image to exactly how large you want it to be. Recognize that material is limited, so be efficient with spacing, try to rotate items around to minimize unused space.
  2. Be cognizant of the dimensions of the material you are using. If you are reusing a piece of vinyl that has the upper left corner cut out, move your stencils away from the upper left corner of the screen in Silhouette to avoid trying to cut material that doesn’t exist.

Step 7: Applying Stickers

  1. Peeling/Cleaning
    1. Cut out the area of vinyl that you have printed on for each individual sticker you created
    2. Carefully weed (remove) unwanted vinyl (i.e. whitespace, areas that should not have material, what will not be in the final sticker) by either carefully peeling it off with your fingers or sticking a thin item (toothpick, needle) under and removing
    3. Cut out a piece of transfer paper a little larger than your final sticker size
    4. Apply the transfer paper on top of the weeded vinyl sticker
    5. Rub transfer tape firmly to ensure adhesion
  2. Pasting
    1. When ready to apply the sticker, remove the vinyl backing so that you have the sticker on the transfer paper
    2. Apply the sticker to the desired location by first dropping one corner, then slowly smoothing from that corner out into the rest of the sticker paper to avoid creating any bubbles that might distort the sticker
    3. You can use an ID card or other soft rubber/plastic to squeeze out any air pockets that slipped by
    4. Once firmly adhered, slowly peel away the transfer paper to reveal the final product
  3. See the Quick Reference video link below to see a demo of the above steps.