The Cricut and Silhouette machines are miniature versions of a commercial vinyl cutter. These small machines are sized and priced for the home crafter. They can cut many materials but one of the most common ones is the adhesive vinyl sheet. These sheets of vinyl are the same materials that professional sign makers use for a wide variety of projects. They are just sized and priced more appropriately for these personal electronic cutting machines.
Parts of an adhesive vinyl sheet
Most vinyl that is produced is for sign making purposes and has and pressure sensitive adhesive that allows it to attach to most any smooth surface. These adhesive vinyl sheets are made up of three parts.
The vinyl itself, or the top layer, is a film of vinyl. The process used to make this film can vary greatly depending on the application and durability requirements. Most vinyl films are PVC, A.K.A. poly vinyl chloride. This is the part of the adhesive vinyl sheet that you see and contains the pigments that give it its color. Part of the process for the top part will also determine the sheen of the vinyl as well.
The adhesive. Below the vinyl is an adhesive layer. This of course is the part that makes it and adhesive vinyl sheet. There are two main types of adhesive that are used to make a vinyl sheet. There are water based and solvent based adhesives. Water based adhesives, like the adhesive used on Oracal 631, are often less aggressive and removable. The solvent based adhesives, like the adhesive on Oracal 651, are more aggressive and often called permanent adhesives. This does not mean that they will never come off, they are just harder to remove.
The last part is a backing. An adhesive vinyl sheet is much like an ordinary sticker. The backing material is coated with something that the adhesive will not stick to and does not cause any damage to the adhesive. This backing material is there to protect the adhesive until you are ready to apply the sheet to something.
Adhesive vinyl sheet uses
The specific purpose that most adhesive vinyl sheets are manufactured for is sign making. This is generally what most home users will use their Cricut or Silhouette to create. The final project may be a home décor project or even scrapbooking. Most often these sheets of vinyl are turned into lettering. With some practice you can make full multi colored graphics with backgrounds and everything though. It is also quite common for silhouetted images to be cut out in the vinyl as well.
Choosing an adhesive vinyl sheet
For many projects it is really just about the color. But as mentioned earlier different vinyls are designed for different uses. The two main questions you probably need to ask are will this be outdoors for a significant period of time and do I want to be able to remove it easily. If the vinyl is going to be outdoors for good or at least for many days at a time it is best to choose one that is designed for this application such as Oracal 651. If it needs to be removed easily or without causing any damage then something like Oracal 631 will be an ideal choice. Sometimes you just canít get all the qualities you want in one adhesive vinyl sheet and just have to choose which quality you desire most.