Hi everyone! Today I’m going to show you how to create a hand lettered vinyl decal using the Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine. I received this absolutely beautiful machine from my friends at Cricut around the holidays and have only played with it a little bit so far, but I’m already hooked. *This post contains affiliate links, which provide no additional cost to you. I receive a commission on sales made from these links.
If you’re looking into buying a cutting machine, you definitely need to consider this one. I’ve tried a couple of others, and this is by far the easiest to set up and start using immediately. From the time I took it out of the box to the time I finished my first project with it was less than an hour! (And, if we’re being honest, it would probably have been even less time if I’d actually cleaned off a space for it in my craft room beforehand.)
A few things I love about this machine:
- It’s so easy to set up. Until last year I’d never used a cutting machine, so I’m definitely still a newbie in this area. This machine is a million times easier to setup and get started with than the other machine I’ve tried.
- It’s bluetooth enabled, so you don’t have to plug it into your computer every time you need to use it! You just have to be close enough to the machine with your computer for it to pick up the bluetooth connection.
- When it’s time to prepare your project to be cut and to start it, the Cricut Design Space will walk you through every step you need to take and will flash a light on the corresponding button on your machine so you know which button to press. I’m sure as I get more familiar with the machine I won’t really need those visual reminders, but this is so wonderful for me right now since I’m still a beginner with it!
Now let’s move on to the project. I’m going to show you how to make a hand lettered vinyl decal that you can add to just about anything. I’ve added mine to my church journal because my little blank black sketchbook just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
What You’ll Need:
- Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine
- Cricut Vinyl Sampler Pack, Metallics
- Cricut Vinyl Transfer Tape
- Tombow Fudenosuke Calligraphy Pen, Soft Tip
- Tombow MONO Drawing Pencil
- Marker Paper
- Cell phone or scanner
- Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator
Use a ruler to measure the surface you want to apply your decal to. I like to try to physically lettering within this space constraint so I don’t have to resize once I’ve digitized. Create guidelines on your marker paper with your pencil so you know how much space you have to letter within.
Begin lettering. Since I knew this would be a two-word phrase, I felt pretty confident going straight to my pen here but you can letter in pencil first if you want to make sure you get the spacing just right. I lettered the word notes first in a block style, leaving a bit of space to the right for the descender of my ‘h’ in church. Above it, I lettered the word church in a bounce style, pulling down my final stroke of the ‘h’ to fill in that space I had left for it below. (If you’re interested in learning how to create this style of lettering, sign up for my Bounce Lettering Basics online course with Brit+Co!)
Next, erase any pencil marks you have left. This will make the digitizing process easier for you.
If you have a scanner, you can now scan your lettering and save it on your computer. If you don’t have a scanner, you can take a well-lit photo with your phone and then save on your computer.
Bring your photo into Adobe Photoshop and use the Levels Adjustment to create a high contrast image with your lettering being really dark and your background really light. Play around with the sliders until you get as close to stark black and white as possible. Then either save the photo or copy and paste into Adobe Illustrator.
Once you have your lettering in Illustrator, run an Image Trace on it, expand, ungroup, then use the Smooth Tool to smooth out the edges of your lettering. If you’re unsure how to do this, check out Brit+Co’s free class on digitizing your lettering and you’ll have a much better idea of how to complete this step! Once your lettering looks the way you want it to, save as an SVG.
Open the Cricut Design Space, start a new project and choose the Upload Images option on the lefthand side of your screen. Click the Upload Image button and navigate to your SVG file to upload it. The green Insert Image button will become clickable once you’ve uploaded your file.
You’ll be prompted to select any area of your design that you don’t want to keep. Click on all of the white of your background to clear it out. (I’m not 100% sure this step is necessary, so if you’re a longtime Cricut user and it’s not a necessary step, let me know in the comments so I can improve my workflow!) Once you’re finished clearing out the background, click continue and you’ll be prompted to name and save your file on the following screen.
Once you’ve saved your file in the Cricut Design Space, you can insert it into your project and arrange it where you want it to be cut on your mat. Before you’re ready to cut, you’ll need to select all of the layers on the righthand side of your screen (just click the area where the name of your image is), then choose the Weld option so that they’re all welded together. (Again, longtime Cricut users, if there’s a better way of doing this, let me know! It was a little trial and error for me and this was the way that produced the result I needed.) Now you’re ready to click the green Go button up top!
On the next screen, you’ll see a preview of your cut file on your mat. If everything looks good to you here, click the green Go button at the bottom right of your screen. This will pull up another screen to walk you through your next steps at the machine.
Before continuing with the prompts on your screen, you’ll need to get your vinyl ready. Place it on your Cricut cutting mat, lining it up with the guides provided on the mat.
Turn the dial on the Cricut Explore Air 2 to vinyl. Can I just stop here for a second and say how awesome this dial is? I love that you can turn it to exactly which medium you’re using, so you know for sure that you have the right setting! Now you’re ready to follow the prompts on your computer screen. You’ll be prompted to insert your cutting mat (and there are handy little notches that it fits into so you can get it in there exactly the way it’s supposed to fit), then you’ll be prompted to press the Cricut Go button on your machine. You’ll see these prompts on your computer screen and the corresponding buttons on your machine will start to flash when it’s time to press them – easy peasy!
Remove the mat from your machine once it’s finished cutting, then cut off the area with your lettering and save the rest of your vinyl for another project. Now on this small piece you’ve cut off, you’ll need to remove all the vinyl surrounding your letters – including the vinyl that’s on the inside of any of your letters, in the bowls for instance. This process is called weeding. Cut a piece of transfer tape the same size as your lettering.
Remove the backing of the transfer tape and stick it on top of your lettering. Use a credit card or old gift card to press down all over the top of the transfer tape to ensure the vinyl sticks to it. Carefully peel up the transfer tape and watch as the vinyl sticks to it. If parts of your vinyl aren’t sticking, go over them again with your card to get them to stick.
Apply your transfer tape with the vinyl stuck to it to the surface of what you’re wanting to customize – in this case, it’s my church journal. Use a credit card or old gift card to press down all over the top of the transfer tape so that the vinyl adheres to your surface. Focus on getting all around the edges of your vinyl to help it stick. Peel back the transfer tape to reveal your new customized item!