How To Cut Vinyl With A Cricut Machine: A Step By Step Guide

Your Cricut machine is SO versatile! You can do so much more than just cut paper with it! Here is a step by step guide on how to cut vinyl with a Cricut machine!

Your Cricut machine can be used for more than just cutting paper for scrapbooks; there are tons of other materials you can cut. My favorite material to cut with my Cricut Explore Air is adhesive vinyl. It’s super easy to use, and you can use it to make custom decals, stencils, wall graphics, signs, stickers, and more! Today I’m going to show you, step by step, how to cut vinyl with a Cricut machine!

Learn how to cut adhesive vinyl with a Cricut machine

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This tutorial will show you how to cut vinyl using Cricut Design Space, which is the Cricut design software used for all newer Cricut models (Cricut Explore, Explore Air, Explore One, Explore Air 2, and Cricut Maker). If you have an older Cricut machine that uses Cricut Craft Room, the software looks different from Design Space, but the basics are the same. You should still be able to follow along!

How To Cut Vinyl With A Cricut Machine

Here is what you need to get started cutting vinyl on a Cricut:



Open up your project, or create a new one

The first thing you need to do is open Cricut Design Space and create a new project or open a saved one. You can use Cricut library images, make a Make It Now project, or upload your own image.

NOTE: For continuity’s sake I’m going to use the same SVG file in this tutorial that I uploaded for the previous tutorial

Prepare your project for cutting

If you’re doing a Make It Now project or using an image you found in the Cricut image library, you can probably skip these next couple of steps; those images are usually all ready to go straight to the machine without any additional work!

If you’ve uploaded your own image (either jpeg or svg file), here are a few simple tricks for dealing with layers, colors, and groups so you can get the image ready to cut.

You can test whether your image is ready to be cut by clicking the green Make It button in the top right corner.

Three layered image file ready to be cut out of vinyl on Cricut

If the next screen shows your image, separated into mats by colors or layers, with proper spacing and alignment, then you’re good to go! Skip the rest of this section and head to Send Your Image To The Machine For Cutting. (For example, the image below shows three separate mats, one for each color of the heart, and the shapes are all spaced properly.)

How to cut multiple colors of vinyl with a cricut machine

But if the next screen you see looks “smushed” (like the image below) with the shapes separated out by color, but not spaced properly, then you need to click the grey Cancel button to go back and make a few adjustments before you send the design to your Cricut to be cut.

Cut detached image file out of vinyl on Cricut

In order to keep the spacing of your image correct, the shapes need to be “Attached” in Cricut Design Space. Start by selecting all shapes of one color (in this case, all of the red stripes) by holding down Shift and clicking each red stripe in the image itself. You could also hold down Shift and click each red stripe layer in the Layers panel on the right.

Attach all shapes of one color to cut vinyl in multiple colors with Cricut machine

After everything in one color is selected, click the grey Attach icon in the Layers panel near the bottom right. Attaching the layers will group them together so that they all move together when you move or resize the image. It will also force the layers to line up exactly as they show on the screen when cutting, rather than treating them as a bunch of individual shapes that can be rotated or moved to fit.

Repeat for any other “group” of shapes that needs to be spaced out properly (in this case, the white stripes).

Send your image to the machine for cutting

Once all of your different colors are attached, click the green Make It button to send the image to your machine to be cut.

Your design will automatically be split into different mats based on color. This way you can cut out a multi-colored or multi-layered design all in one project!

Change the Project Copies field to make multiple copies of your project. Then set the Material Size for each mat, and if you’re cutting iron-on vinyl, make sure to toggle the Mirror switch. You can also move the images around on the mat preview to the right if you wish. (This is helpful for lining up the images if you are making multiple copies.)

How to cut multiple colors of vinyl with a cricut machine

Once everything looks good, click the green Continue button.

From here you can just basically follow the on-screen instructions! Make sure your Cricut machine is on and shows up in the Connect Machine window at the top of the screen. Set the Smart Dial on your machine to Vinyl (or if you have an older machine without a smart dial, check out Cricut’s cut settings guide for vinyl).

Load first cutting mat into Cricut machine to cut vinyl

Stick a piece of vinyl to your cutting mat, making sure the paper backing side is down.

Adhesive vinyl on Cricut cutting mat

Then load the mat into your Cricut machine by pressing the flashing Load/Unload button.

Load cutting mat into Cricut machine to cut vinyl

Once the mat is loaded, the screen will tell you to press the flashing Go button.

Cut vinyl in multiple layers or colors with Cricut machine

The screen will show a progress bar as your machine completes the cut. When it’s finished cutting, the screen will tell you to press the Load/Unload button to unload your cutting mat.

Load second vinyl color into Cricut machine to cut vinyl in multiple colors

If you only had one color, you’re done!

If you have a second or third color to cut, gently peel the vinyl off the cutting mat then place the next color of vinyl onto the mat. Load the cutting mat into the machine by pressing the Load/Unload button, then press the Go button when it starts flashing. Repeat until all mats have been cut.

When the final cut is finished, unload the cutting mat and click the green Finish button on your screen to return to your project.

How to cut vinyl in multiple colors or layers with a Cricut machine

And you’re done!

Now you can weed away the background vinyl and apply it to your project! If you have multiple pieces and want to keep the spacing correct when transferring the vinyl to your project, use some transfer paper. Just peel the backing off the transfer paper and press it down on top of your weeded out vinyl (press really well so it sticks!), then peel up the transfer paper and the vinyl design should stick to it. Position your vinyl where you want it and press it really well onto your project, then gently peel away the transfer tape leaving the vinyl on your project.

See some great Cricut project ideas here, or learn more about your Cricut machine with these posts!

Want to share this tutorial with your friends? Just click any of the share buttons on the left to share with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.!


Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Edward Pena says

    4 years ago

    Caveat: I don’t own a machine. I am trying to get an (I’m supposing) new user to do this on my behalf.

    It seems cricut has limitations with intricacy. I have a few black and gray hand drawn sketches I’d like to see on vinyl for transfer. If I remove the background, the operator would have black and gray to work with. As I understand things, this would result in two mats/cuts. However, she would also end up with a lot of small pieces she would need to reassemble, like a jigsaw puzzle. That sounds tedious, with a lot of room for error. Think long, flowing black hair, with white and gray for highlights and shading.

    What is the most detailed piece you have done, successfully?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      Yeah, cutting out intricate shapes can lead to a lot of weeding away little background pieces of vinyl. The machine can certainly handle the intricacy of the cut, but it’s just a matter of preference for you if you want to weed away the extra pieces. Another option is to use printable vinyl; that way you could print the sketch on printable vinyl and then have the machine just cut it out exactly around the edges so that it is one piece of vinyl.

  2. Jane McGill says

    4 years ago

    Can I cut heat transfer vinyl with my cricuit expression. It is an older machine and I do not see anywhere that indicates a vinyl cutting setting. Thanks for the help.

  3. Shelby says

    4 years ago

    Do you have a favorite transfer paper you use? And what type of Vinyl would you recommend for an outside sign?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      I’m not super picky about my transfer paper, though I do find that the Cricut brand transfer paper is sometimes not strong enough to pick up thicker materials. I usually just buy whatever is on sale at Expressions Vinyl. 🙂 And for an outdoor sign I would suggest Oracal 651 or any vinyl labeled “outdoor” or “permanent”. Those vinyls have a stronger adhesive that is designed to be used outdoors.

  4. Gloria says

    4 years ago

    Good information, thank you. How do you bring your images (self made) into Cricut in colors? Mine always come in black??

    How do I color them once they are there if I can’t bring them in color?

    Thank you so much

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      All uploaded images default to black, but you can change the color after it’s uploaded. Just select the piece or layer that you want to change the color of, then click on the little black square in the Edit toolbar at the top of the screen (next to the Linetype drop-down menu); that will bring up the colors window and you can choose a new color.

  5. Rallou Matzakos says

    5 years ago

    I am a new user to Cricut. how can I make 20 of the same layered decal? Do I have to do them one by one or can i do it so that all cuts are done on one sheet and then another? I ask because when I recently did some monograms – it mixed up all the letters to get the most out of the vinyl sheet but I don’t want my shapes mixed up.


    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      If you are making 20 copies of exactly the same design, then the software should automatically separate it out by color for you, but then put 20 copies of each shape in that color on the mat so you can cut out all 20 shapes of one color from the same piece of material.

      The software normally does that jumbling up thing to try to save space and material, but if you want everything to be cut out exactly as you have it laid out, try using the Attach feature:

  6. Sandr says

    5 years ago

    When it cut my image it only cut a square around it……why didn’t it cut the image out? I am new to this and since I bought it from someone I have no instructions. Please help

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      Is it a Print Then Cut image, or a regular Cut image? When you upload an image or design file to Cricut Design Space it allows you to save the image as Cut or Print Then Cut. If you want each individual color separated out into different layers to be cut, save it as a Cut image. If you want the entire image to be printed out like normal on your home printer, then just cut out around the outside, save it as Print Then Cut.

  7. Lauren says

    5 years ago

    Do you know of a product that you can add overtop vinyl cut outs on a mug to ensure it will Stay on? I had very thin letters that I am worried will peel off. The cut out is on a insulated water bottle. Maybe a sealant?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      5 years ago

      Yep, I recommend Mod Podge; it’s perfect for sealing vinyl on mugs and tumblers! Mod Podge comes in a ton of varieties but I usually just use matte or glossy original formula Mod Podge. They do make a “dishwasher safe” version but it takes 28 days to cure and I’ve never actually tested it; I always just hand-wash vinyl glasses anyway.

  8. Jalynn Caldwell says

    5 years ago

    After I press “Make it” , Mirror, Continue, my computer tells me to select a cricut device and i click the only one which pops up, but after it says change machine mode so I click change and it does nothing

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      5 years ago

      Which machine do you have? Can you email a screenshot of the error you’re getting ([email protected])? It’s not one I’m familiar with… The only other suggestions I have are double check that the firmware is updated for the machine (from the home page of Design Space, click the three lines at the top left then choose “Update Firmware” from the menu), and then try disconnecting the machine from your computer or device, disconnecting it from power, and leave it for ten minutes before plugging it all back in and trying again.

  9. Aria says

    5 years ago

    Just wondering about the safety of using vinyl for craft projects? I’m interested in using them for coffee mugs & also with wood engraving & acrylic sheets, but been reading about the whole PVC and toxicity of gasses using vinyl so just wanted to hear your take on it. Thanks!

  10. Jessusa says

    5 years ago

    I have the cricut explorer one.
    I’m cutting decals on 651 oracal and I have it on the easy dial vinyl cut but it’s going all the way through. What can I do?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      5 years ago

      Aww bummer! There are a few things you can try…first, sometimes the machine just gets a little wonky and loses its calibration after some use. A lot of times when I have issues with the cut, just turning the entire Cricut machine off for five minutes and then back on works. Like a little reboot! If that doesn’t help you can try turning the dial down one click so it is one below Vinyl (also called “Vinyl -“), and if that still doesn’t work then turn the dial to Custom and just choose adhesive vinyl from the custom materials settings in the Design Space software.

      • Carrie says

        5 years ago

        I am having the same issue…it’s pulling the letters off while cutting..
        Where is the”dial”. You are referring to? Thanks carrie

        • Jessi Wohlwend says

          4 years ago

          The Smart Dial is only on Cricut Explore machines; if you have a Maker then you’ll just set the material inside of the software when you send the project to your machine to be cut out.

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