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There are so many different types of adhesive vinyl. In the beginning, I felt overwhelmed with how much information there was and everything it seemed I needed to learn.
One of the things I had to get clear about in my head was the difference between adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl, or HTV.
- Adhesive vinyl doesn’t use heat to adhere to its object.
- It’s applied to hard materials like tumblers, coffee mugs (not using the Cricut Mug Press, that’s different), signs and wooden rounds to name a few.
- Heat transfer vinyl is used with a Cricut Easy Press or a heat press to adhere to its object
- It’s applied to soft materials such as t-shirts, bags, baby clothes and certain hard materials like wood, coasters and more.
In this post, we’re going to talk about the different types of adhesive vinyl.
I’ve got another freebie for y’all. It’s an adhesive vinyl quick reference cheat sheet with the types of vinyl and their brands. Make sure to grab one! As always, if you know someone who’d like a copy too, please send them on by to the post to grab one. Please and thank you!
Table of Contents
What is Adhesive Vinyl?
From a 5,000-foot level, it can be made of polyvinyl chlorine (PVC) or polyurethane (PU) with self-adhesive, depending on its thickness. Polyurethane is the thinner vinyl. All adhesive craft vinyl sticks to almost any curvy, flat or bumpy surface out there except a few (glass, wood and metal can be difficult sometimes.) Some of those items are mugs, tumblers, kitchen and bathroom bins, lunchboxes, school supplies, notebooks, and wood signs.
There are 3 categories of vinyl: permanent, removeable and printable—which is also permanent. Transfer paper isn’t a vinyl but is necessary because it assists in putting the vinyl onto the surface of our object or blank*.
Adhesive vinyl is backed with glue (adhesive) making it perfect for application to many surfaces. Permanent vinyl has the most adhesive with the strongest bond. Its lifespan can be anywhere from 3-8 years depending on the brand. It’s difficult to remove, will almost always leave residue, and will cause damage to the object it’s transferred onto after two years, and possibly earlier.
For these reasons, permanent vinyl is used mostly outdoors and is used on blanks and objects that will most likely not be modified. Permanent Vinyl is available in many types; some of which are listed below.
Removable vinyl has less glue than permanent vinyl, and it creates a weaker bond. This bond allows for removal without damage and little to no residue is left behind. It has a lifespan of 2-3 years.
Removeable vinyl is typically used indoors and on objects and blanks that will be modified as it will not stand up to outdoor elements for long. Additionally, indoor applications and uses tend to be temporary, leaving removable vinyl to fit the bill nicely.
Printable vinyl is a permanent vinyl which you can print with any design, color pattern or image on an inkjet or laser printer. This vinyl is used for the same things as permanent and removable vinyl with the addition of stickers. It has a short life span of about 1 year due to a lack of weather resistance. If it is laminated, though, it can last 4-5 years.
Transfer tape, sometimes called application tape. is not a type of adhesive vinyl. It is a sticky material that is placed on top of vinyl to apply it to a surface. It is clear and usually lined so that the vinyl can be placed centered and straight. There are other materials that can be used as an alternative to transfer tape if you don’t have any around, such as contact paper, painter’s tape and masking tape.
*Blanks: Blanks are the things we put vinyl on, such as mugs, cups, t-shirts, bags and containers. They are called blanks because they have nothing on them; no other markings, vinyl, writing, etc.; a clean slate. You don’t necessarily have to use blanks with vinyl. They become much more important when sublimating.
Types of Adhesive Vinyl
Vinyl comes in many different colors and patterns, and even lets us show off our own creative side. There are so many types of adhesive vinyl that can be used on so many different objects. The most popular vinyl brand is Oracal.
Glossy Vinyl: Glossy vinyl typically comes in permanent, but there are a few brands that make it in removeable as well. Permanent Glossy vinyl is usually used outdoors and on object blanks. These projects include signs, wreaths, decals, mugs, tumblers, charcuterie boards, wine glasses, gift bags, party décor and more.
Matte vinyl: This type of adhesive vinyl comes in permanent and removable. Matte is mostly used indoors but is found outdoors sometimes. Indoor usage is usually removable vinyl as projects are mostly temporary. The vinyl does not cause damage to walls and can withstand the indoor climate. These projects include wall decals, kitchen organization, labels and more.
Glitter vinyl: Glitter vinyl is usually permanent. It’s pretty on its own but you can also layer it for added depth and fun. It’s popular and used on all types of projects. Glitter vinyl has its own cut settings on Cricut and will need a Cricut StrongGrip mat or alternative mat, as opposed to regular vinyl which uses the Cricut StandardGrip mat. Use it for bags, purses, keychains, signs and anything you want to add a little pop or bling to.
Holographic/Opal: Holographic, or Opal, vinyl is typically permanent. Various, but not all, brands carry this type. Typically used for psychedelic-70s themes, little pops of funkiness in layered projects, or even monograms, holographic/opal vinyl can add some cool-factor into your projects.
Glow-in-the-dark vinyl: Glow-in-the-dark vinyl is permanent. It is made by several well-known brands, and would be good for nighttime identification, Halloween, parties, pet leashes and tags, and more.
Patterned vinyl: Both removeable and permanent vinyl come in patterns. Look to several well-known brands like Expressions Vinyl for a variety that you can use for walls and decals indoors and out. Layer with single-color vinyl to make mermaid-themed items, cover the tops of containers, cut out statements or sentiments with character, create sign backgrounds and more.
Metallic vinyl: Removable and permanent metallics exist from matte to shiny with shimmer in between. They don’t just come in silver and gold; opt for copper, platinum, chrome, brushed metallics and onyx shinies too.
Etched glass/frosted vinyl: This type of adhesive vinyl comes in permanent and removable (mostly as window cling), and in etched colors and is intended to give the look of etched glass without having to etch glass. For example, you could etch the name of a married couple into the side of a wine glass. Or you can cut their names out of etched/frosted vinyl and place that vinyl onto the side. It will look like etched glass, but it isn’t at all. It just has vinyl that looks like it. Sometimes office buildings use this vinyl for large glass walls, conference rooms, and offices.
It is also called frosted vinyl and can be used wherever you want a frosted look. Ideas for uses could be glass blocks with snowflakes, frosted vinyl shapes on tall candle holders, monogrammed pint glasses, mirrors and just about any other type of glass objects you can think of.
Chalkboard vinyl: Usually in the removable category, this chalkboard vinyl can go on temporarily or stay up for a while, and some brands are even rated for outdoor use. It needs a flat surface and will work better than chalk paint in most cases. Some projects include blackboard/chalkboard signs, menuboards (professional and home), decals, refrigerator magnets, labels and more. There are many object types it can transfer to, including drywall, glass, wood, plastic, metal and ceramic.
Other vinyl types: There are other specialty vinyl such as fluorescent, color changing, transparent glitter, chrome in a rainbow of colors, and on and on. There are so many types that one almost always have ideas for projects!
The main player in the adhesive vinyl arena is Oracal. Many people like Cricut vinyl and it is available in Cricut Premium, and Cricut Smart Vinyl (for Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Maker 3). Another very high quality brand is Siser EasyPSV (different from Siser EasyWeed, which is heat transfer vinyl/Iron-On.)
I break down the different vinyl brands and their types in a downloadable cheat sheet you can access below. It’s great when you’re trying to remember which types of vinyl each brand has.
Almost anything can be an object or blank. Hard materials like plastic, metal, glass and wood will typically need adhesive vinyl. An exception is wood; it can in some cases take heat transfer vinyl (HTV). There is a good video by Design Bundles and one by Makers Gonna Learn as well that cover HTV and wood. A Google or YouTube search will provide other great videos to watch.
I recommend getting inexpensive blanks from the Dollar Tree for practice. Buy cheap blanks in bulk for lots of practice! They have mugs, plastic bins and baskets, wood rounds and boxes, and all kinds of things there for a little more than a dollar. They have a great craft section now, too.
So much can be made or decorated with adhesive vinyl; it really is all about imagination. I get a lot of inspiration asking Google questions and perusing Pinterest and blogs. I read a lot of blogs and watch videos regularly from my favorite content creators.
There are many places to buy vinyl locally and online, and you’ll get a hundred different opinions depending on who you talk to. There are many online places most tend to agree on. Here are a few:
Happy Crafters is a great place to buy SiserEasyPSV, and at great prices.
ExpressionsVinyl.com is one and I’ve been please ordering from them as well. They carry Oracal, Siser EasyPSV, and Expressions Vinyl 51 vinyl.
There are so many blog posts that share online businesses that you can check out. Also, it’s a great way to learn about other bloggers and influencers in our crafting space.
A note about Amazon: Many types of no-name vinyl are sold on Amazon. I feel torn about whether I wish I had spent less money practicing with this adhesive vinyl from Amazon and then bought brand name vinyl for “the real deal”. Practicing with lesser quality vinyl will not prepare us for using good vinyl once we are ready to use it for keeps, so to speak, and it might impede us from making a great product since every vinyl feels and bonds differently. However, money might be an issue and the need to save wherever possible is absolutely a real thing these days. So, I don’t knock it if it’s necessary. We all do what we must to make a go of it, if we’re trying to make a business out of the vinyl scene.
Always consider your cost per square foot in addition to your current, short-term and long-term needs. For example, you’re running a solo business on Etsy making t-shirts on order. You typically get about 10 orders a week with your large orders happening during May and June (Bachelorette parties, tumblers).
This information tells you what you will need and when. You can look at the cost per square foot and/or yard and make purchasing decisions based upon that and the tax laws for inventory.
For example, right now, my adhesive vinyl needs are low. It makes more financial sense for me to buy by the foot rather than the yard because I cannot get through the yardage before the vinyl’s shelf life ends. Even though it may be a bit cheaper by the yard, my loss more than makes up for the additional cost per square foot.
I hope this information has helped you learn about the different types of adhesive vinyl available to you as a crafter. I’ve created a cheat sheet for y’all that includes the vinyl information along with more brands I haven’t included here. It makes for a nice quick-reference for when you’re making purchases or need a quick cheat sheet to see if Siser has a holographic vinyl. If you’d like a copy, grab one at the bottom of the post. If for any reason you have trouble getting one, reach out to me and I’ll get you squared away.
And if you have any questions or want to say hi, please do leave a comment. I love hearing from y’all!
Happy happy crafting!