Layering with Vinyl

Layering with Vinyl main article image
Posted on March 3, 2021 by Natalie Ballard
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Layering vinyl designs starts right at design stage and you can convert any design into a multi-coloured design with these tips.

For this project I’m using Mandala 5 from Gentleman Crafters Die Cutting Emporium Bundle and Adobe Illustrator. This is a one colour design so I wanted to show you how to step it up a notch. You can do all of these techniques in CorelDRAW and Inkscape also.

Setting up vinyl basics

1: Vinyl Technique 1: Registration Marks

Make your life simple right from the outset by adding a new layer called “Registration”. Unlike our print and cut method, you want to use two to three squares that are actually going to cut out (smaller designs only need two).

Mandala design with registration marks highlighted

Registration Marks in the Layers Palette

2: Vinyl Technique 2: Weeding Boxes

Save on wasted material when cutting on a roll or sheet by adding a weeding box to your design. The ScanNCut SDX range will also allow you to do this on the machine itself should you forget this step. You can give the weeding boxes their own layer if you wish.

Mandala design with weeding box highlighted

Digital Layering Techniques

Before you even start cutting, you can create a lot of layering techniques starting from just a 1 colour design.

1: Layering Technique 1: Offset/Contour – Beginner

The easiest way to add colour to your design is by creating a shadow layer using Offset/Contour to create a shape that expands on the original design. This is most commonly used for text but you can use any closed paths in all software, and some titles even allow you to use open paths/lines.

Mandala with offset highlighted in red

2: Layering Technique 2: Divide – Intermediate

Divide enables us to turn holes in the design into shapes we can cut from other materials.

  1. Start by adding a rectangle slightly larger than your design and move it beneath your design using Arrange/Order.
  2. Duplicate your original design in place
  3. Go to Divide (in Pathfinder/Geometry/Calculations) to punch the original design (duplicate) through the rectangle. This results in lots of individual shapes.
    Divide process image
  4. Select which shapes to keep and what colours they will be going. As they are all individual, the colour palette is entirely up to you. Once you’ve coloured your design, group like colours together as this will help you organise your cuts.

Display showing colouring in progress

Coloured image using divide

3: Layering Technique 3: Erase – Advanced

The eraser enables us to create additional colour elements from our original design. Work on a duplicate of your original design for each colour layer.

This works great on scenes but you can also create gorgeous designs using a mandala design too.

Layered image using Eraser

Physical Layering Techniques

If your design doesn’t allow editing, it doesn’t rule out creating multiple colour designs.

1: Layering Technique 4: Multiple Cuts – Beginner

This finishes as per the Eraser example above; useful for scenes and easily identifiable elements.

  1. Cut two (or more) of your design from different materials. 
  2. Weed as per one colour designs (weeding is the process of removing the waste vinyl you don’t want to transfer). 
  3. Transfer your first cut in its entirety using transfer paper and burnish down before removing the transfer paper; or you can simply leave this attached to its backing sheet and layer the next piece over the top to transfer all in one go.
  4. Transfer your next layer to your transfer sheet. Using scissors cut into your design keeping only these elements you want in the new colour. If you are working with more than two colours, do this in layer size order starting with the biggest. Transfer your trimmed piece to your project.

2: Layering Technique 5: Reverse Weeding – Intermediate

This completes more like the Divide example above

  1. Cut two (or more) of your design from different materials. 
  2. Transfer your first piece as normal, or set it to one side to create a layered decal.
  3. With your second piece, transfer it to your transfer paper. Weed the outside piece and the main design. This leaves you with the inner pieces to transfer to your project or decal.

Adhesive Vinyl Application Techniques

Here are my top tips for transferring designs when working with layers

1: Decal Layering – Beginner

This technique is suitable for both a couple of layers and many layers. Just consider your finished product, for example, this technique may not be best for a bauble.

  1. Keep your base layer on its original backing paper and trim around your weeding box.
  2. Pick up the next colour onto your transfer paper; make sure your transfer paper is larger than your design so you have room for a hinge.
  3. For light colours, a light box will help with these next stages. Place your base layer on your light box and place your release paper/parchment over 90-95% of your design, leaving one end free for alignment and creation of the hinge.
  4. Align your layer and press the transfer tape down on the hinge end.
  5. Slide out your parchment/release paper and squeegee your transfer paper starting from the hinge and working across your design.
  6. Repeat this for every colour until your decal is complete.
  7. Pick up your decal onto transfer paper and transfer it to your project.

2: Project Layering – Intermediate

On 3D objects like baubles and intricate bottles, you are better layering direct onto the project one layer at a time. Use your registration marks to align your layers and then remove them at the end.


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