Looking for how to use adhesive vinyl without transfer tape? I’m going share 8 alternatives to Cricut transfer tape (plus one bonus) that are great for Cricut and other cutting machine users and how to use them. Six of the are Dollar Tree substitutes and 2 can be found almost everywhere else.
First I’m going to share with you the winners. Below you can find out how I used each one to get its results–particularly if you want to find out how I used a winner. I also share how to use the tape and have a few FAQs at the end for you. The prices are current for January 2022.
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Overall Best Option
Dollar Tree Painters tape. I really liked the Painter’s tape. It may not have been the least expensive option, but it’s considerably less expensive than Cricut Transfer Tape and gets the job done with both Cricut Premium and Glitter Vinyl. It picks up and transfers both vinyl easily and smoothly, doesn’t cause any damage to the cardstock and there was no struggle through the process. Additionally, since it’s so wide, it doesn’t as many strips to cover your image as smaller tape. It’s also a lot easier to use than masking because it cuts easier, and it’s a lot less sticky than packing and duct tape. So Dollar Tree Painter’s tape for the win!
Best inexpensive Alternative to Dollar Store’s Tape
I’m breaking the rules and going with Scotch brand masking tape. Even though it’s 28¢ per square foot, it does a fantastic job with both the Premium and Glitter vinyl. Compared to Cricut Transfer tape, the cost is great. You wouldn’t have to buy a second type of tape to handle the glitter; a second one which would work for the Premium Vinyl anyway if you are using glitter vinyl. It also transfers really smoothly, like the Painter’s tape does. All in all, despite it being one of the more expensive of the bunch, it’s a great way to transfer vinyl without using transfer tape.
Best runner up
Glad Press ‘n Seal. Well, there I go again, breaking the rules. While it doesn’t transfer glitter, it does transfer regular vinyl as our least expensive option at 3¢ per square foot. Hopefully that will more than make up for the amount of Scotch masking or Dollar Tree Painter’s tape you might buy to handle the glitter than you do use. If you transfer quite a bit of vinyl, however, and want another option to actual transfer tape, I would lean more toward getting something that you know you’ll be able to count on; like the Dollar Tree painter’s tape or the Scotch brand masking tape.
What I don’t recommend
I don’t recommend the Dollar Tree transfer tape, the contact paper, the duct tape or the packing tape for vinyl transfers. The Dollar Tree transfer tape is 42¢ a square foot and doesn’t transfer glitter. There are other less expensive options available here that do both. The contact paper is just too much work for the money. The packaging and duct tape are both overkill. They won’t release the vinyl well; sometimes not at all. I’m leaving the packing tape to my UPS packages and my duct tape to, well, just about everything else in my house.
What was tested and how each alternative was tested
I chose 8 options to test: Dollar Tree transfer tape, masking, packing, duct and Painter’s tape, Scotch Tape®, contact paper and Glad Press ‘n Seal™. Shelf liner was not an option at our Dollar Tree.
I used Cricut Premium Vinyl and Cricut Glitter Vinyl for our testing and used plain cardstock as our object transfer, as it is fragile and is frequently used for vinyl application. I knew if the alternatives worked on the paper and did no damage, it would most likely work on plastic, glass, metal and other object types. The only one I didn’t test on cardstock was the duct tape; it was obvious it would rip the paper, so I tested it on a plastic Iris box . The transfer I chose is a multi-loop heart. Each loop stands on its own. This allows us to test a more complex pattern with multiple potential failure points.
I did an initial test with Cricut Transfer Tape to keep a comparison. Both the Cricut regular and Cricut Strong Grip transfer tape did a good job adhering vinyl to cardstock. Could any of these other options be used instead of transfer tape for vinyl?
#1: Dollar Store Crafter’s Square Transfer Tape
42¢ / sq. ft. Premium vinyl: Getting the vinyl to stick to the transfer tape was harder than I expected it to be for official transfer tape. It was thin and prone to folding over on itself, and it wrinkled. In order to get it to transfer to the cardstock, we had to burnish from different angles multiple times. It was a bit difficult to remove. This is not a once and done transfer tape. Ultimately, the transfer looked clean and nice, and there was no damage to the cardstock.
Glitter: No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get the glitter vinyl to stick to the Crafter’s Square Transfer Tape. Both sides, from the middle, using my fingers to ensure a good grip; none of it helped. Multiple burnishings didn’t help either. Dollar Tree transfer tape was a fail for Cricut Glitter for us. It wasn’t looking like a good option for a transfer tape, at least by half.
#2: Dollar Store Contact Paper
19¢ / sq. ft. I chose generic contact paper because our Dollar Tree doesn’t shelf liner or brand name Con-Tact paper. I know some Dollar Trees that carry that brand, or at least carry shelf liner. I tried what was available to us in our moderately-sized town. Our Dollar General carries Con-Tact paper, and Amazon and Walmart carry all kinds of shelf liner products.
Premium Vinyl: I didn’t have good luck with the contact paper first out. It would only hold the outer loop. The next day I tried it again. This time, I pulled a different way and continued to burnish as I removed. This time, the vinyl stuck to the cardstock and did a perfect transfer. The contact paper is easy to handle and doesn’t bungle up and wrinkle. And it comes off of the paper easily with no damage. I just wish it stuck a little bit better. If it did it would be the perfect solution for regular vinyl. I’ll call it a little high maintenance, but it made a beautiful transfer on cardstock.
Glitter Vinyl: This generic contact paper definitely did not have enough adhesive to pick up Cricut Glitter Vinyl. I burnished quite a bit front and back but couldn’t get it to lift. I can’t say I was surprised knowing how much adhesive there is on Cricut’s Strong Grip Transfer Tape. Another Glitter fail.
#3: Glad Press ‘n Seal®
3¢ / sq. ft. Premium Vinyl: Press ‘n Seal® isn’t available at my Dollar Tree, but I do have it around the house from Walmart and the grocery store and it’s something that is commonly spoken of as an alternative to transfer tape. So I threw it in the boat too in the spirit of low cost options. At first, I was very disappointed. It was all wrinkly, went on horribly, and was very hard to work with. I stepped back for a moment, and tried things a bit differently. I just grabbed a piece off, not caring how big it was or how pretty. Stuck it on the vinyl and dumped my scraper. I rubbed over each piece of vinyl with my fingers several times. I turned the piece over and gently began to pull the backing off. It came right off and stuck to the Press ‘n Seal® wonderfully. Application went just as well. The vinyl transferred right onto the cardstock and the plastic wrap came right off with no damage. This one was the cheapest option but also gave us the most worry as we felt like it “will it or won’t it?” the whole time.
Glitter Vinyl: Having learned my lesson, I grabbed a piece of the plastic wrap and pressed it onto the glitter rubbing it with my fingers on and around each vinyl piece several times. It wouldn’t transfer to the Glad Press ‘n Seal®. I grabbed my scraper and did a bit of scraping but that didn’t seem to help. So I rubbed some more front and back and it still wouldn’t stick. I was wondering if I was ever going to find anything that Glitter would stick to. So Glad Press ‘n Seal® was a glitter fail.
#4: Dollar Store Masking Tape
11¢ / sq. ft. Premium Vinyl: Okay, so this Dollar Tree masking tape. It is cheaply made. It tears and the adhesive is poor. I made a sandwich of sorts with the tape on the vinyl. Each piece of tape overlapped the other by about 1/4 to 1/3rd. I started at the top and went to the bottom, covering over the top, over the bottom and over the sides.
I did a medium burnished and it worked perfectly. Pulled each piece of tape off at a time. If I went slowly with the tape, it didn’t damage the paper. I messed up in a couple of areas; live and learn!
Glitter Vinyl: It was really hard to get the glitter to stick to the Dollar Tree masking tape. I thought that it would stick to a higher quality masking tape with a bit more adhesive. Even though the adhesive was poor in this brand, it did tear one of my loops. It wasn’t a fail, it’s just not the best choice for glitter since you need to work the vinyl so hard that it could cause damage to it. The next day I tested out my theory about a higher quality masking tape and I was right. I tried my Scotch brand Masking tape and it worked like a charm for the Glitter Vinyl! No problems and was so easy to use! At 28¢ it’s a contender, although on the expensive side.
#5: Dollar Store Painter’s Tape
20¢ / sq. ft. Premium Vinyl: Wow, did this stuff stink. Lots of off-gassing! I followed the same taping method as above in the masking tape. I burnished it once. As I pulled the backing, I had to burnish just a little bit in the middle. It came right off and onto the tape brilliantly. The transfer to cardstock was a joy. I burnished it one time, then peeled the tape off as one instead of one piece at a time. The vinyl stuck perfectly without any damage to the paper. It was easy to peel off too.
Glitter Vinyl: I burnished this one front and back to get the vinyl onto the tape. The glitter vinyl stuck well to the painter’s tape. I burnished it both ways on the cardstock. I pulled the painter’s tape off in one peel and it was beautiful and damage free. This was hands-down my favorite method so far. This was how you transfer vinyl without transfer paper.
#6: Dollar Store Scotch Tape™
37¢ / sq. ft. Premium Vinyl: The Scotch Tape™ was definitely cheaper and thinner than the Scotch Tape™ brand I am used to. The dispenser wasn’t well made and was clumsy. Also, it didn’t cut easily. Since the tape was so thin, the pieces liked to fall back and wrinkle on itself. But I found that the thinness was its advantage. The Scotch Tape™ takes the vinyl really well–no problems with a medium burnish. Adhering it to the cardstock was the same. Removing the tape was a breeze and there was no damage to the paper as long as we went slowly.
Glitter: This is where I was quite surprised. Because it was thin and flimsy I did not at all expect it to work with glitter vinyl. I was wrong. It worked really well. I used the sandwich method to place the tape on the Cricut Glitter Vinyl. Again, with a medium burnish, it took the glitter vinyl as I pulled the backing paper off just fine. And it transferred well too. And no damage to the paper, just like with the Premium Vinyl.
#7: Dollar Store Packing Tape
24¢ / sq. ft. Premium Vinyl: I went ahead and tested out some Dollar Tree packing tape as I knew I might have some difficulty with the Glitter Vinyl. I had good feelings and hope for this one. Unfortunately they were dashed. The Premium Vinyl stuck to the packing tape. Really well. A little too well. By the time I finally got the vinyl onto the cardstock, I was practically tired. The packing tape left sticky residue all over the vinyl, so this was a total fail. Interestingly, the tape didn’t damage the cardstock.
Glitter Vinyl: This one was worse. The packing tape stuck the back liner to itself. So when I tried to peel the vinyl from it, it left not only the vinyl, but also pieces of the paper back liner. I was able to pull some of it off but I couldn’t get the rest of it. It was just a mess. I was disappointed. I was so hoping it would work for the Cricut Glitter Vinyl. It was an epic fail.
#8: Dollar Store Duct Tape
18¢ / sq. ft. First, I almost threw the duct tape away. The plastic on the outside was literally glued to the side of the duct tape. I had to pry it off. Second, the smell was horrendous. I’ve never had duct tape that smelled before. This was so bad it made me worry about keeping it indoors. I put it in the garage after I completed testing. The other thing about this duct tape is that it is pretty heavy duty. I’ve had some duct tape that didn’t have as strong of an adhesive. I was mostly interested to see how it would do with Glitter since I was having a hard time finding a multitude of items to work with.
Premium vinyl: First, the duct tape tears very nicely. Even my regular duct tape doesn’t tear this straight. Other than that, this was a complete fail for the Premium Vinyl. It kept sticking to the duct tape and not the Iris box.
Glitter Vinyl: I had to pick the Glitter Vinyl off of the duct tape to get it to start to stick to the Iris container. Otherwise, the Glitter Vinyl would only stick to the duct tape. I considered this duct tape a fail for both. It is possible that a lighter weight duct tape would work, but I thought there were better solutions available.
How do I use masking tape, packing tape, duct tape, Scotch Tape™ and painter’s tape to transfer vinyl?
- In order to transfer the vinyl to your blank using masking, packing, duct or Scotch tape, you will need to overlap the tape.
- Select one type of tape.
- Starting at the top of your transfer, lay across a piece of tape longer than the transfer. Lay the tape so that there is extra on both sides of the transfer.
- Prepare a second strip of tape and lay it below the first, overlapping it by 1/4 to 1/3rd.
- Continue steps 2 and 3 until you have complete coverage from a bit above to a bit below the entire transfer.
- Proceed as you would with regular transfer tape. Burnish at an angle and slowly peel back. If any transfer lifts while peeling, replace the tape, burnish and try again. Continue until complete.
How do I use contact paper and Glad Press ‘n Seal® to vinyl?
- Cut a piece of alternative transfer paper larger than your vinyl on all four sides. Consider cutting from the back if it has a grid to keep lines straighter (such as the contact paper) or use a ruler/straight edge and a rotary blade or scissors, craft knife or scissors on a self-healing cutting mat.
- Remove the adhesive backing on the contact paper/alternative if it has one and place the alternative paper onto your vinyl as you would with transfer tape. Rub out any bubbles as you would with transfer tape.
- Apply transfer to blank or fabric. Burnish as you would regular transfer tape unless otherwise specified above (Glad Press ‘n Seal®).
There are many options for adhesive vinyl users to get their job done without transfer tape. I’ve listed 8 alternatives: Dollar Tree transfer tape, masking, packing, duct and Painter’s tape, Scotch Tape®, contact paper and Glad Press ‘n Seal™. Some will work beautifully for Cricut Premium (and possibly other) vinyl. A few worked great for Cricut Glitter Vinyl, even! Which of these alternatives to transfer tape do you like the most or would you like to try? Let us know in the comments! Below are a few FAQs you might want to catch while you’re here.
Also, grab a copy of my quick reference “The Different Types of Adhesive Vinyl”! It’s a great little tool that helps you figure out which vinyl you might want to purchase by matching up types of vinyl with brand, life expectancy and shelf life.
Happy happy crafting!
What’s the difference between contact paper and shelf liner?
Contact paper is like a light wallpaper with less adhesive. It comes in removable and non-removable, patterned, solid and clear. It is thinner and easier to manipulate. Shelf liner is thicker and made from hardier materials such as vinyl and plastic, intended to really protect your shelf. Contact paper is more decorative in nature.
Can you use masking tape, duct tape or painter’s tape for heat transfer vinyl?
No. You will need heat resistant tape which can handle high temperatures without melting.
Which alternative to transfer tape is the best?
This really boils down to personal experience, brand and type of vinyl you are using. Glitter vinyl is usually thicker and harder to transfer than standard vinyl and will need a transfer medium with a heavier adhesive. Therefore, you may need more than one inexpensive option.
I can’t get the transfer to stick to my blank. Or: I can’t get the alternative transfer tape off of my transfer.
If, for any reason, the transfer sticks but the tape will not remove itself from the vinyl or the transfer tape will not release from the transfer tape and will not stick to the blank, you will probably need to select a different alternative to transfer tape. It could be a brand problem or an adhesive issue. I tested and reviewed only the brands that are carried at our local Dollar Tree save two items. There should be consistency, but if you are reading this much later than January 2022 you may find discrepancies. The good news is that 2 of our recommendations are brand name products so I imagine that they or something close to them are still in production.