So you have a Cricut Machine and are ready to cut out decals… what is the best vinyl for decals? It depends on the surface you’ll be sticking it to and how long you’ like it to last. Let’s talk about the options so you can choose the best vinyl for your decal!
When it comes to creating decals with your Cricut cutting machine, selecting the right vinyl is just as important as choosing a cute design, after all… you want it to last, right? Or peel off of the wall when it’s time (been there!). With SO many different kinds of vinyl available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when deciding, “What vinyl should I use for decals?”.
In this vinyl for decals guide, I’ll chat the best vinyl choices for creating amazing decals for a variety of surfaces that will stand the test of time… or be easy to remove.
This post is created in partnership with Cricut and all materials used in this post were provided by Cricut. Even when I’m creating my own projects outside of the blog, I choose Cricut Materials. You can see all of my policies here.
What is Adhesive Vinyl
This post specifically is looking at adhesive vinyl. If you are looking to transfer your designs to fabric or wood, I like to use iron on vinyl, also known as heat transfer vinyl. Adhesive vinyl is essentially a sticker and is used on anything from mugs to waterbottles to phone cases to mirrors and more. It’s best for hard surfaces.
Let’s start with biggest thing you need to decide first. Do you want your decal to be removable or more permanent? There are two main categories of adhesive vinyl.
Removable Vinyl VS Permanent Vinyl for Decals
Removable vinyl is a great place to start crafting. Because you can remove it and reposition it, it’s easy to work with and perfect for beginners. It’s perfect for decals you would like to have the ability to remove without leaving any residue behind.
This type of vinyl allows for easy repositioning and works well for temporary projects like wall decals, party decorations, wedding signage, or seasonal displays. I also love this product for my kids rooms where we might change up the decor every year or two.
Permanent vinyl is more durable and long-lasting compared to removable vinyl. It’s slightly (juuuust barely) thicker and often comes with a shinier finish. It’s often marketed as ‘outdoor vinyl’. When durability and longevity are key, permanent vinyl is the way to go. It’s marketed as lasting up to three years even outdoors- but I’ve had some projects that have been kicking even longer.
This adhesive vinyl provides a strong bond, ensuring that your decals stay in place for years to come. Permanent vinyl is perfect for projects that require a lasting finish, such as outdoor signage, car decals, and products that will be exposed to harsh weather conditions or… washing. I also love to use permanent adhesive vinyl for mugs and waterbottles. With permanent vinyl, your decals will not only withstand the elements but maintain their vibrant appearance (less prone to fading).
If the word ‘permanent’ stresses you out… I want to assure you that you can remove permanent vinyl off of most surfaces with heat (hair dryer) and a scraper. Just be patient and remove excess residue with lemon essential oil or a specific adhesive remover. Obviously, you can’t do this on porous surfaces like leather without damaging them, so keep that in mind when choosing.
What kinds of adhesive vinyl are available for Decals?
Ohhh, this is where things get wild. There are SO many options available for adhesive vinyls, both permanent and removable. Below is a list of my very favourites and what I might use them for. I’ll note if they’re available in permanent or removable or both.
- Glossy Permanent Vinyl is the standard permanent/outdoor vinyl option available from Cricut. This is demonstrated in all of the decals you see on drinkware in this post. I’ve had great success with it on glass, plastic and even run through the dishwasher. There are SO many color options of this basic.
- Matte Removable Vinyl the standard removable option of vinyl available from Cricut is matte finish. This is an easy way to tell the two vinyls apart, but Cricut also prints the type of vinyl on the back of each backing sheet so it’s easy to identify. You can see the difference between the light blue matte removable vinyl vs. clay glossy permanent vinyl flowers. Since this is a basic, there are SO many color options available.
- *Smart Materials offer matte permanent vinyl*
- Heat Activated Color-Changing Vinyl or Cold Activated Color-Changing Vinyl (both permanent) is a fun option for mugs or tumblers. These will change colors with heat or with cold respectively so they’re really fun for drink ware. There’s less color options available than regular permanent vinyl, but all of them are so fun.
- Holographic Vinyl (permanent or removable) is another fun specialty vinyl if you’re looking for unique decals. While the removable holographic vinyl is only available in a few colorways right now, permanent is also available in sparkle, rose, bubbles, art deco, crystals and threads patterns. I’ve found this vinyl to be a bit thicker so keep that in mind for intricate designs.
- Adhesive Foil comes in a few different options as well! You can find regular removable adhesive foil, matte removable foil or Metallic removable (shinier), Brushed metallic vinyl (permanent) and Textured metallic vinyl
- Pearl permanent vinyl is the metallic version of the every day permanent vinyl. It’s perfect for outdoor decals you’d like to add a bit of shine to. I’m thinking pool storage bins with a mermaid theme ;)
- Chalkbaord vinyl and Dry Erase Vinyl (both removable) are a fun way to add functional decals to a space.
- Glitter vinyl (removable) is a fun way to add shine to your DIY decals, I love these for my daughters notebooks. If you’re looking for a permanent option for tumblers, you’ll want to look at either the Permanent shimmer vinyl or the permanent holographic sparkle vinyl.
- Shimmer permanent vinyl is essentially permanent glitter vinyl under a different name perfect for all you glitter girlies ;)
- Glow in the Dark Removable Vinyl is so fun for stars decals on a flat ceiling or for clues for a DIY escape room. Also… halloween decals? Heck yes!
- Patterned vinyl (removable) is a fun alternative to regular solid colored vinyl. It’s better for larger transfers or basic cuts to let the pattern shine. I like it for backgrounds of designs and in particular, I love the Natalie Malan watercolor patterns.
- Permament mosaic vinyl is a fun effect for larger or basic decals. It comes in squares, circles or mermaid scales which are super fun.
- 3D Textured removable vinyl is a fun one to try as well- I’d use this one on notebooks personally or a phone case for a fidget strip.
- Frosted glass look vinyl (permanent) is available in this Martha Stewart mix pack– I LOVE this stuff for customizing glassware.
Should I use Cricut Smart Materials or regular adhesive vinyl for my decals?
You might be noticing ‘smart materials’ as an option for vinyl when you’re shopping for vinyl to use with your Cricut. Smart materials are specially designed to be used without a cutting mat, which can save you cash on mats, and a step in the decal cutting process. They can be loaded directly into your Cricut machine allowing for continuous cutting without a mat (awesome for longer, continuous designs and bulk cuts).
Regular adhesive vinyl needs a mat to be cut with a Cricut. Since there are SO many times of regular adhesive vinyl, you have many more options for the kind of vinyl you use. I like using a mat for more intricate cuts as using a cutting mat provides stability for precise cutting control.
The two vinyls not attached to the mat in the photo below are smart materials. Permanent vinyl is available in matte for smart materials.
Cricut Smart Materials are only compatible with the newest machines: Cricut Maker 3, Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Joy (smaller smart materials are made specific for this machine). Accidentally order smart vinyl and you have an older Cricut Maker (same, girl!)? You can use it like normal with a mat without any issue.
* Are you new to Cricut? Or deciding which machine to buy? I wrote a whole post about the differences between the Cricut machines RIGHT HERE. And if you’re looking for more Cricut projects and tutorials, you can find them all here!
Do I need transfer tape for my vinyl decals?
When I first got my Cricut, I didn’t realize what transfer tape was. There were so many less tutorials for Cricut on the internet back then and I just pulled every piece of my decal out by hand and put it on my surface, trying my best to line it up. Don’t be me, guys. Unless your design is suuuuper basic, like these retro flowers, use transfer tape.
Transfer tape is essentially a less sticky vinyl that will pick up your vinyl decal off the backing it was cut on, then lay it down onto your surface you’re applying the decal to and then peel off the transfer tape leaving only the design you cut. It’s a great way to keep a design together and lined up perfectly.
Cricut Transfer Tape also comes with a grid to help make lining things up simple. I have a full blog post about transfer tape if this is new to you.
What surfaces can my DIY Cricut Decals be used on?
Just like stickers, you can essentially put your DIY Cricut decals on anything. But of course, just like stickers- some surfaces are better suited for the decal than others. Here’s some of my fave places to stick vinyl decals.
I’ve linked any DIY tutorials for projects I’ve shared on this blog in the past if you’re interested in seeing what this looks like in action!
- Wood, painted or raw (signs, tags, ornaments)
- Glass (drink ware, windows, ornaments)
- Vehicles (paint or windows, although windows are easier to remove)
- Computers, phones or cases
- Plastic and acrylic (ornaments, signs, water bottles, tumblers, on your Cricut)
- Pretty much any drink ware
- Walls (the smoother the better)
- Paper or card stock (notebooks + storage bins)
- Instrument cases
- Metal (clipboards, mail boxes, filing cabinet and tool boxes)
- Skateboards, skiis, bikes and helmets
- You can also just sell them as stickers! Include transfer tape for easy application.
Whew! That’s a lot of information, honestly the more you play with vinyl, creating decals, you’ll get a feel for which materials you like best. Feeling overwhelmed? Decide what surface you want to put it on and if you want it removable. Go from there. Crafting is supposed to be fun!
To sum it all up… Removable vinyl offers versatility and easy removal, making it ideal for temporary projects. On the other hand, permanent vinyl ensures durability and longevity, making it a great choice for long-lasting decals that can withstand the elements and washing.
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