The Basics of Using Vinyl

This page covers the basics of using vinyl.  Working with vinly is scary at first.  There are so many question.  What kind of vinyl do I need?  Will it come off in the dishwasher?  Whats the difference between 431 and 451?  Which side do I cut?  What do I do if my design uses more than one color?  I’m going to try to answer some of these here.  Later I will get into tools and tips for using vinyl.

Types of vinyl

There are 3 major types.  

        1. Removable
        2. Permanent
        3. HTV or Iron on

I am going to handle each one separately.

The Basics of using Removable Vinyl (Oracle 431 for example)

Just as the name implies, this vinyl comes off.  It is used for walls, mirrors, picture frames, paper etc.  Anything that you may want to take the vinyl off without leaving a mark or damaging the surface.  

Removable Vinyl is essentially a  sticker.  If you want vinyl on your walls, you know those big words that are applied to walls, that you want to put on the wall without anything underneath to stick it to (except the wall obviously) is probably done with removable vinyl.  Ken wants “Live Long and Prosper on our wall, but I’m not ready to show my geekyness quite that much yet.  

I have used it on lamps, compacts, my cricut, and mirrors.  You can do a messy canvas or a subway sign with it.  Removable vinyl comes off sorta easily (but not too easily) with a pick or sharp tool.  And removable vinyl won’t leave a residue behind.

Another use for removable vinyl is as a sticker on cards or scrapbook pages.  It is nice because if there are lots of small parts or intricate cuts, it keeps everything in its place and you can transfer it all at once.

I used removable vinyl on these projects.  The graduation card has lots of little parts and letters and the vinyl worked well keeping them all lined up.  The messy canvas created a seal and let me paint over them making a reverse stencil.  When I was done I just pulled it off and it didn’t pull off the paint below.

The Basics of Using Permanant Vinyl (Oracle 451)

Permanent Vinyl, on the other hand, stays where you put it and is waterproof.  This makes it perfect for dishes, outdoor sign and anything that will be exposed to weather or the dishwasher.  NASCAR actually uses a special kind of vinyl to “paint” the cars each week. 

Here are some of the drink-ware I did with permanent vinyl.  The designs are available in my downloads. I have washed them in the dishwasher a few dozen times and they are fine.

NOTE: Do not put permanent vinyl projects in the dishwasher for about a week.

Honestly, I’m not sure how long they need to cure but I wait a week because others told me to wait, and they last, nothing peels.  I see it as better safe than sorry.
The Basics of Using Iron On Vinyl (HTVor Heat Transfer Vinyl)
The third major type of vinyl is Iron On vinyl.  This type of vinyl needs to be mirrored when you cut it.  This is because it is ironed directly on the fabric (or whatever you are putting it on).  HTV has a protective sheet attached to it that lets you iron it on (Boy I sound redundant).  There is no transfer paper needed for HTV.

These are pictures of some shirts I have made with HTV.

The biggest problem I have with HTV is that I never know what side to cut.  The instructions on the internet say “cut with the shiny side down” or “cut with the waxy side down”.  Every maker does it different.  If you only knew how many times I have cut the wrong side. LOL. Finally I developed a foolproof method.  I use a pick to separate a very small part of the HTV in a space I am going to weed anyway.  Whichever side has the color is the side I put up because that is the material, not the paper.  BTW if you ever cut the wrong side, just turn it over and re-cut.  Most brands the backing is thick enough that you didn’t cut all the way through anyway.  It makes weeding a little more difficult but at least the vinyl isn’t wasted.


Where Do I Get Vinyl

Vinyl is available a lot pf places.  Walmart has a limited amount, Craft Stores like Michael’s and JoAnns have more.  Online the best place I’ve found is  But look around there are others.

2 thoughts on “The Basics of Using Vinyl

  1. Hi I was wondering what would be the best vinyl to use as a stencil for glass mason mugs, I am making wedding favors with etching and I have 60 of them to create with small swirls and leaves? I appreciate any advice you can give .Thank you

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