Vinyl is my favorite medium to work with. But when you are new to crafting it can be totally overwhelming to try and wrap your head around what vinyl is.
Not only do you need to learn more about what vinyl is, but you also need to understand that vinyl comes in different types and what the different types of vinyl are even used for!
If you love crafting, you might already know how endless your crafting possibilities can be with vinyl.
From car decals to business signs … from jar labels … to shirt decals, from homemade canvases to wedding signs. Whatever you dream up, you can make it with vinyl!
It is, however, super important that you use the right type of vinyl for your projects.
If you use the wrong type of vinyl for your car decals, you will find that they will lose color quickly from the heat or sunlight and they might start peeling after being exposed to weather conditions.
So, what are the different types of vinyl available and what would they best be used for?
Let’s find out!
The Different Types of Vinyl
There are mainly two main types of craft vinyl that are extensively used for designing a wide variety of decorative items that also includes designing outfits of all types and for all ages.
The two main types are Adhesive Vinyl and Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) also known as Iron-On Vinyl.
In this guide we will look at vinyl in more detail so you know exactly which vinyl is best for your project.
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All About Adhesive Vinyl
To start you will need to know what adhesive vinyl is.
In very simple terms adhesive vinyl is pretty similar to a sticker. It is flexible, versatile, and can be cut into any shape.
Using pressure, you apply adhesive vinyl to surfaces and you do not need heat in order for the vinyl to stick.
Great! Now that we have covered what adhesive vinyl is, the next important point to note is that you get two types of adhesive vinyl – removable and permanent.
Let us have a look at the types of adhesive vinyl in more detail.
Removable Adhesive Vinyl
The names make their uses pretty obvious.
The removable vinyl is removable. It is perfect for short-term projects as you can remove it when you no longer want or need it.
For example, if you wish to make some Halloween-themed window stickers. You only want these to be up for the few weeks around Halloween and you want to be able to remove them easily after Halloween is over. Removable vinyl would be perfect for this type of project.
Other projects that removable vinyl can be used for are:
- Wall Decals
- Themed Window Stickers
- Nail Decals
- Temporary Window Signs or Logos
- On Pregnant Bellies (because why not!)
- Party Glassware that you might want to Re-Theme Next Year
- Laptop Decals & So Much More!
Professionals often talk about this type of vinyl as ‘631′. This refers to a popular brand of vinyl called Oracal.
The 631 is Oracal's removable adhesive vinyl. It is also important to know that it has a matte finish.
There are numerous types and brands of removable adhesive vinyl that come in a multitude of different colors, thicknesses, and sizes. If you need more detailed info, you can refer to our post on removable vs permanent vinyl here.
The most popular brand when it comes to adhesive vinyl is Oracal however you can buy many different brands like Cricut or Siser.
>>> Check out this blog post if you want to read more about the best adhesive vinyl brands.
Brands of Removable Vinyl Available to Buy
Oracal is one of the most commonly known and used vinyl brands in the vinyl world. However, the brand of vinyl that you use really does come down to personal preference and which you feel is easier to use or gives you the best end result.
We will have a look at a few of the more well-known brands of removable adhesive vinyl so you know exactly what you can use for your project.
But know that there are also numerous brands on Amazon and they generally do specify in the description that they are removable – so be sure to have a look for this if you are buying a brand of vinyl not more commonly known.
1. Cricut Removable Vinyl
Cricut removable vinyl is used to create removable decals, labels, and more. Cricut advises that it can last up to 2 years.
|Basic||Available in solid colors only. Chalkboard vinyl & dry erase vinyl is in this category|
|Premium||Includes a mix of special types of adhesive vinyl such as holographic, glitter, frosted & metallic. Available in 55 solid colors.|
|Foil||A shiny vinyl used to add a metallic finish to products.|
|Patterned||Comes in many different patterns and designs.|
|Smart Vinyl||It works without a cutting mat and comes in a variety of types of removable vinyl (holographic, patterns, etc).|
We have a blog post that you can read that goes into more detail for you about the different types of Cricut vinyl.
2. Oracal 631 Removable Vinyl
Oracal removable vinyl has a matte finish. It is commonly referred to as 631 and is great for indoor use (lasts up to 3+years) and outdoor (lasts up to 1+ years).
Oracal 631 is available in 84 beautiful matte colors. You can also get glittery silver, gold, and bronze as well.
>>> Learn more about Oracal 631 here.
3. Silhouette Removable Vinyl
Like the Cricut brand, Silhouette also has a range of vinyl that can be used not only in a Silhouette cutting machine but any other brand of cutting machine, even your Cricut.
Let's have a look at the different removable adhesive vinyl types that Silhouette has to offer.
|Premium||Available in a matte finish. Available in two sizes 9″ and 12″ widths. Available in 8 different colors.|
|Glow in the dark||Perfect for kid's bedrooms and special effects and is gentle enough for most indoor walls.|
|Frosted||Create frosted glass effects and has a stronger adhesive for indoor and outdoor use. It's gentle enough for most windows, but resilient enough to withstand the sun and weather.|
|Chalkboard Vinyl||Create chalkboard effects for indoor or outdoor use.|
4. Siser EasyPSV
Siser is another great brand of vinyl that you may have come across. Siser does have a limited range of adhesive vinyl and only has two different removable adhesive vinyl types.
They have the standard removable vinyl that has a regular matte finish and is perfect for indoor projects. It comes in 27 different colors.
Whilst this vinyl can last 2-3 years it has the advantage of allowing you to change it whenever. It will come off quickly and cleanly without the need for any special tools or solvents.
Great for use on walls, glass or mirrors, ceramics, wood, plastics, and metals.
Siser also has a removable chalkboard vinyl. It is compatible with soft chalk, standard chalk, or chalk ink markers and easily wipes clean with a damp cloth.
Now that we have had a look at removable adhesive vinyl, let's have a look at permanent adhesive vinyl.
Permanent Adhesive Vinyl
As the name suggests, permanent vinyl is used for projects that you wish to last for the long term (decals or signs on vehicles or boats).
Although you call it permanent vinyl, it can still be removed if needed and decals made from permanent vinyl typically last from 2 years to 8 years before the decal needs replacing.
As you can imagine, the adhesive used for permanent vinyl is pretty strong, and whilst you can attempt to remove it, you will find that it might destroy your walls or paint etc or leave behind a sticky residue.
Projects that permanent adhesive vinyl can be used for are:
- Outdoor signs
- Car decals
- Personalized mugs
- Personalized tumblers
- Decorate clipboards
- Paper, Cardstock or Chipboard Banners Party Decor
- Personalized Journals
- Pantry Jar Labels
Just like the removable adhesive vinyl, you can buy permanent adhesive vinyl in many different brands. We will look at the different types of permanent vinyl on offer from Cricut, Oracal, Silhouette and Siser.
1. Cricut Permanent Vinyl
Cricut permanent vinyl is used to create stickers or decals that will be handled a lot or that will be exposed to weather elements.
|Premium||Can last up to 3 years and is water and UV-resistant. Includes a mix of special types of adhesive vinyl such as holographic, glitter, frosted & metallic. Available in 55 solid colors.|
|Patterned||Comes in many different patterns and designs.|
|Smart Vinyl||It works without a cutting mat and comes in a variety of types of removable vinyl (holographic, patterns, etc).|
|Mosaic||A permanent vinyl that has shimmering metal shapes in a mosaic arrangement. It is water-resistant and works great for glassware & indoor decor.|
Read our blog post that goes into more detail for you about the different types of Cricut vinyl.
2. Oracal Permanent Vinyl
Oracal vinyl is a great vinyl for beginners as I find it super easy to work with.
It is a solvent-based-adhesive vinyl that can remain for 3 – 8 years on outdoor objects depending on the type of Oracal permanent vinyl you use.
We will look at the two more commonly heard of Oracal permanent vinyl types – 651 and 641.
Oracal 641 is used for short and medium-term decals, letterings and decorations. Due to the medium adhesive backing, it will last up to 4 years. It comes in 59 glossy and 59 matte colors.
Oracal 651 is the more well-known of the Oracal permanent vinyl types. It has 59 glossy and 56 matte colors.
Depending on the color you use for your project Oracal advises different outdoor durability – black and white last up to 5 years whereas transparent, colored, and metallic last up to 4 years and their brilliant blue lasts up to 3 years.
Learn more about what Oracal 651 is used for here.
3. Silhouette Permanent Vinyl
Below is a list of the different permanent adhesive vinyl types that Silhouette has to offer.
|Premium||Available in a glossy finish. Available in two sizes 9″ and 12″ widths. Available in 8 different colors.|
|Glitter||Available in 8 dazzlingly, sparkling colors (Gold, Silver, White, Black, Green, Blue, Pink & Red). Can be used indoors and outdoors. Comes in rolls that are 12″ wide and 4′ long|
|Metallic||A specialty vinyl with a cool metallic look. Comes in 12″ wide rolls and is available in 7 colors (Black, Green, Red, Rose Gold, Teal, Silver & Gold)|
4. Siser Easy PSV
Unlike the Siser EasyPSV removable vinyl, Siser offers permanent adhesive vinyl in many more options and choices.
|Permanent||Lasts up to 3-5 years. Can withstand outdoor weather elements (sun and rain). Has a glossy finish. Great for things such as car decals, signs, potplant graphics etc.|
|Glitter||It has a smooth but sparkly finish. The vinyl is soft and pliable which makes it perfect for applying to curved surfaces such as wine glasses, ornaments or buckets.|
|Glow in the dark||It is mostly white with a slightly green hue.|
|Etched||Resembles etched or sandblasted glass. It has a smooth and slightly metallic finish whilst still being opaque.|
Now that you have a pretty good idea about how these two types of adhesive vinyl differ, let's have a look at how to use adhesive vinyl. And then we will move into more information about Heat Transfer Vinyl.
How to Use Adhesive Vinyl
Using adhesive vinyl is quite quick and easy to get to grips with. Here are the steps.
- Once you have had created your design in your software program for your specific vinyl cutting machine, all you need to do is place it onto your cutting mat (if needed – some machines can cut without a mat).
TIP: Always place your adhesive vinyl shiny side up on your cutting mat.
2. Next, simply send it to be cut by your vinyl cutting machine.
3. After the machine has cut the vinyl, carefully remove it from your mat. Trim it down to size if needed.
4. Weed your vinyl by removing the excess pieces of vinyl that do not form part of the design or decal. I like to use a weeding tool that has a sharp point to help lift the vinyl up. Simply pull the large pieces of excess vinyl away from the decal. Then weed/remove the smaller pieces.
Note: When you have completed weeding your adhesive vinyl design, all that is left is to transfer the design to the surface that you will be applying it to. It is always advisable to use transfer tape for this step.
5. Grab your transfer tape. Make sure you are using the right strength for the type of vinyl you are using. Cut this slightly larger than your decal. Peel away the backing and lay it over your decal.
6. Next use your scraper and rub it over the front and back of the design.
7. Carefully peel away the transfer tape (Ensure your decal is stuck to the transfer tape).
8. Lay the decal over the new surface (in my case it is a tumbler).
9. Use a scraping tool to apply pressure so that the adhesive vinyl will stick to the surface. Once you have transferred and applied the decal to the surface you can and peel away the transfer tape carefully leaving behind your adhesive vinyl decal or design!
>>> If you want to know what are the best adhesive vinyl tools check out out our blog post giving you all the information you need.
Now that we have covered adhesive vinyl, let's have a look at the other type of vinyl known as HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl).
All About Heat Transfer Vinyl
Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) or iron-on vinyl is applied with heat onto fabric or garments.
HTV consists out of layers, there is the vinyl layer and there will be a protective clear carrier layer. The carrier sheet is sticky and holds the vinyl in place while you cut. It also aids in transferring the vinyl to your project surface.
You can purchase heat transfer vinyl sheets or in heat transfer vinyl rolls. You can either purchase HTV in single colors or you might prefer to save some money by purchasing a variety color pack.
As the name refers to, you will need heat (and presure) for applying this vinyl. You can use either a home iron or a heat press if you have one.
When the heat is applied the glue is activated which helps the HTV to bond with the fabric or item you are applying it to.
Apart from finding solid colors, you can also find plenty of speciality type vinyl, from flocked, glitter, metallic, glow in the dark, and more.
Whilst most crafters use HTV for t-shirt designs, you can apply it to other surfaces such as hats, bags, coats, scarves, stuffed toys, blankets mugs, glass, wood, and metal as well.
Let's have a look at the different brands of HTV, with a closer look at the options available from each one.
Brands of HTV Available to Buy
We will look at the two most commonly used and known brands for HTV. They are produced by Cricut and Siser.
Both brands offer a great variety of choice from glitter to patterned to flocked (suede effect) vinyls.
We will look at both these brands in some more detail but do remember, just like adhesive vinyl, you do get other brands that you can find on Amazon or other online stores.
Want to know what the best HTV to buy is? See our post with which brands to buy and which bulk packs to buy for cheaper from Amazon.
1. Cricut Iron-On Vinyl
Cricut refers to their HTV as iron-on vinyl, because you can apply the vinyl with either an iron or a heat press machine.
They do have quite a large selection of iron-on vinyl available so if you are a fan of Cricut and love using their materials you are sure to find one that would suit your project.
|Everyday||Regular basic iron-on vinyl in a variety of colors. You can apply this one with either a household iron or a heat press. You can add up to 3 layers and it will outlast 50+ washes.|
|Glitter, Foil, Holographic, Mosaic, Mesh||Great for adding special effects to your designs. Choose from Foil, Glitter, Holographic, Mosaic, or Mesh. You can't layer on top of this so make they need to go on last.|
|Patterned||Comes in many different patterns and designs. Find popular brands here, such as Disney, Star Wars, etc.|
|Express||Applies up to 2X faster compared to the Cricut Iron-On Everyday. Thin, flexible heat-transfer vinyl that has a matte finish.|
|Sportflex||Used for activewear. It is thin and lightweight and can stretch and flex. Recommended for tech fabrics like polyester and nylon.|
|Smarty Vinyl||Cut without a cutting mat. You can layer up to 3 layers and it will outlast 50+ washes.|
2. Siser Heat Transfer Vinyl
We love using Siser HTV as we find it so easy to use. It cuts extremely well and also is super easy to weed compared to other brands of HTV.
Due to the thinner material, most of the Siser brand can be applied at low temperatures and with little pressure – which makes it perfect for iron application!
We also just love that Siser offers so much variety so you are sure to find an HTV that is suitable for the project you have in mind.
There are 14 different types of Heat Transfer Vinyl that Siser offer:
- PS Range
- Easy Patterns
- HS Foil
Read our Ultimate Guide to Siser Heat Transfer Vinyl to see all the different Siser Heat Transfer Vinyl options in more detail.
With so much choice it is no surprise that Siser is one of the most popular Heat Transfer vinyl used by crafters and businesses.
Not only is it iron-friendly and very easy to use, but it can also be layered, adheres to 100% polyester, cotton, and poly/cotton blends, and comes in cold or hot peels.
Now that we have had a look at what heat transfer vinyl is and what type of brands is great to purchase, let's have a look at how to use heat transfer vinyl.
How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl
Although using HTV is similar to using adhesive vinyl, there are a few more steps that you need to do when cutting your vinyl and applying your vinyl.
- Place the HTV upside down on the mat (so with the clear and shiny surface facing downwards) onto the cutting mat.
TIP: Always place your HTV or Iron-On vinyl shiny side down on your cutting mat.
2. Before you cut out your image make sure to mirror your design in your software so that you can cut easily through the vinyl (and not the shiny transfer/carrier sheet).
3. Weed/Remove the excess vinyl that you won't need. This is easiest to do with a weeding tool. I use the sharp pointy bit to help pick up the top left hand corner and then use my finger to carefully peel it away. Also remember to remove the inside bits from images and words.
4. All you have left to do is to flip the decal over onto your garment or surface, apply heat with a heat press or iron and press for the desired amount of time.
5. When you have finished applying heat, you will remove the carrier sheet (shinty transfer sheet) from the vinyl and your design should stay behind as it has adhered to the fabric or surface.
For more tips and detailed guidance on how to use heat transfer vinyl we suggest you read out blog post: How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl.
Cannot decide if a heat press or iron is all you need, read our blog post on which is best for you, Heat Press vs Iron.
>>> Want to buy a heat press but not sure which one is right for you? Check out our heat press guide where we review the best heat press machines.
I hope that you have found this guide useful and that you now understand the different types of vinyl.
There are two main types of vinyl: Heat transfer vinyl and Adhesive vinyl. You should also now know the differences between adhesive vinyl types (permanent and removable) as well as heat transfer vinyl.
If you are not sure which brand of vinyl you may like, I suggest buying a sampler pack (if available) and testing it out. If you don't like working with that particular vinyl, you would not have purchased a large quantity that you may not now end up using!
This guide is sure to help you understand which vinyl you need for the project that you are making, but remember if you would like to have all this information and so much more in a digital pdf book, then be sure to get your both copies of our Ultimate Vinyl Guides for only $15 USD (valued at $35 USD)