Printing Stickers with the Cricut

My husband and I got recently purchased a Cricut Maker, which is legendary in sewing and crafting circles. We use it mostly for creating and cutting stencils to powder print on glass, but recently my amazingly talented husband and I have been printing and cutting stickers and I thought we should share.

While the skeleton of the process couldn’t couldn’t be easier, you can wind up wasting a lot of time and good sticker paper figuring out the right settings. I know that we did and it was extremely frustrating. So, the following is a rundown of the process we developed when printing stickers for his new book. If you’re interested, check out his first book on Amazon… hand illustrated!

Anyway, on to printing and cutting your perfect vinyl stickers!

Process Notes

This post lays out the process of printing and cutting stickers with Cricut. Note that the ENTIRE PROCESS has to be done in Cricut Design Space, including the printing. The Cricut adds a calibration border around the entire cut so that it can align and cut the print correctly. So, don’t jump the gun and just print; the Cricut will never cut those images.

Materials

Cutter

Unless you want to cut by hand you’ll need a die cutter. The Cricut is an amazing versatile tool that cuts a wide variety of materials with 1-click pre-programmed settings. It comes in a few varieties.

  • [NOT RECOMMENDED] Cricut Joy (~$175) – It’s a tiny cutter only 5.5″ across that’s mainly used for cards and long fabric (up to 20″ long). This isn’t really good for stickers, since sticker paper is often in standard size (8.5″ x 11″) and won’t fit in the machine.
  • [RECOMMENDED] Cricut Air (~$225) – A machine capable of cutting 12″x24″ across about 100 materials with 5 cutting blades. Will definitely work for stickers!
  • [RECOMMENDED] Cricut Explore (~$329) –

Note: Some other useful things to have if you get a Cricut:

  1. Extra cutting mats – Yep. I use the Chinese knock-offs here and they work great. I prefer light grip for stickers and most paper like materials, but standard are nice to have around for materials that lift off a bit easier during cutting or for more intricate cuts.
  2. Extra cutting blades – There are a lot of cheap knockoffs of these and that makes sense. It’s just a little blade, the material should cost nothing. The link I posted has 5-7 different options to buy 30-45 blades in single or mixed packs for ~10 bucks. The one for cutting all stickers here is the “Fine Point Blade“.
  3. Flat point tweezers – It’s stupid, but it’s very hard to lift the stickers off the cutting mat once they’re cut, even on the light grip. You’ll need some tweezers to get under them to pull them off. It might be easier to just grab all the crafting tweezers you’ll ever need in one go instead.

A lot of makers also swear by the Silhouette Cameo 4, which is somewhere in between the Air and the Explore in both performance and price (~$299). It’s another good option, but there’s a lot more info and material out there available for the cricket. It also occupies whole aisles at Michael’s, so you can always get something quick in a pinch.

Another option is to go TOTALLY crazy and just buy a ($250-$400) laser cutter instead, which will basically cut through anything. Note that you’ll wind up spending a lot of time and money aligning and upgrading the thing so that it works effectively and so that you don’t blind yourself. If you’re a zillionaire, just grab an amazing Beamo or GlowForge $3000 laser cutter and call it a day. But if you’re gonna do that you might as well go all out into the ~$10K range and grab a Universal Laser Cutter, which are just about the best ones out there. Right, so go with Cricut 🙂

Printer

Honestly, a color laser jet printer will help you a lot here, but they’re expensive. The reason is that laser jets will print onto everything whereas some sticker paper won’t work with inkjet printers. It’s the nature of the beast. I’ll list a recommendation for each. I really think people should stick with Canon or HP as the inks in others can be sub-par quality when printing on anything but standard paper. You want your stickers (and all other prints) to have that true color pop!

If you want to grab an Ink Jet printer, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’ll take a little longer to print, the ink will stay a little wetter for a bit, and you’ll have to be careful when buying non-standard printer paper. Honestly though, it’ll be fine as long as you exercise a little caution. We have the older version of this and I love it. This one is a nice Canon equivalent.

Paper

Whatever paper you buy, ensure that it prints on your printer. Safest is just to buy printer paper that’s both laser jet and ink jet compatible! Otherwise your printer will print and the ink won’t actually seep into the sticker paper, which is a real problem.

I recommend always keeping some cheap sticker paper around to test prints, cuts, and sizing. It’s helpful when I’m doing new stickers or working out designs. You can find a bunch of these on Amazon, but I recommend the following

White Sticker Paper by BETCKEY (Pack of 50, Pack of 100)

Then move onto the good stuff! You’re gonna want some high end printer paper on vinyl backing for that amazing feel. And make sure whatever you get is waterproof since people love putting stickers on water bottles, backpacks, helmets, etc. and you don’t want them to bleed. The two below are the ones I’ve had the most success with and they’re a small business that has excellent customer service.

Premium Vinyl Waterproof in Matte

Premium Vinyl Waterproof in Glossy

Finally – Making Stickers!

I’m going to assume a little familiarity with the Cricut and Cricut Design Space, but even a total Newb should be able to follow. So, here’s the process:

  • Create your sticker design in whatever program you like (Adobe Illustrator, GIMP, etc.). Export them to a file type that Cricut Design Space can read: any of .jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .svg, or .dxf
  • Open Cricut Design Space and add a New Project. Click Upload to add your sticker images.
  • Click on the “Upload Image” button if your image isn’t already loaded into your Uploads (Cricut saves them in the cloud against your account if you’ve loaded them previously).
  • Drag and Drop your image onto the specified region or click “Browse” and select the file to upload from the pop-up.
  • You’ll see your image loaded on the left. Select “Complex” on the right and then hit the “Continue” button.
  • The “Select and Erase” Page will appear. Select everything outside of the sticker. This should gray out the background for cutting. Hit the “Continue” button.
  • Select “Print then Cut Image” and hit the “Upload” button to load it into your Cricut account images.
  • Select the uploaded image and click the “Insert Image” button.
  • Your Image will appear on the Cricut canvas. Do any sizing and image manipulation as your normally would. Note that the Cricut Design Space tries to optimize print then cut images, so rotating and trying to jam a lot on the screen will be futile 🙁 When you’re ready, click the “Make It” button in the top right corner to head to preparation.
  • You can print more of the same stickers or groups of stickers by adjusting the “Project Copies” in the top left corner and clicking on “Apply” to see them appear.
  • When you’re ready to print and cut the stickers, click “Continue”.
    • At any point you can abandon the work you’ve done and go back to make sizing adjustments by clicking the “Cancel” button. I find this is helpful if I want to go back and downsize an image to fit a few more onto the print image.
  • Click “Send to Printer”. The Cricut will allow you to send it to any printer that your computer already uses. Choose the one you want and print.
    • Note that in the off change you’ve already printed (via Cricut!!!! It has to be in this program)
  • Wait for the print to dry and load it onto your cutting map.
  • In the Cricut Design Space, choose your material. Click the “Browse All Materials” Link and select the following (this took me quite a lot of experimenting):
    • Paper Sticker – Choose “Printable Sticker Paper (White)”
    • Vinyl Sticker – Choose “Non-Adhesive Vinyl – 20 Gauge”
    • You can keep the Pressure as “Default” or, if your blade is a little dull, increase the dropdown to “More”
  • Now, load the tools and materials into the cricket and press the Cricut button on your device. The Cricut will go through an alignment routine and then start cutting. The entire last step is shown in the video below.
https://youtu.be/ZmrwnPZe3Ro
  • Hit the dual sided arrow button on your Cricut when the process finishes and the mat will eject. Viola! You have beautiful stickers now cut on the mat.
  • Peel away the excess sticker paper and carefully remove the stickers using your tweezers (we found this easier than using a scraper as my husband originally tried to do in the video below.

Conclusions

Beautiful hand-crafted stickers in small batches. Wonderful for gift and promotions. Happy making!

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