My space has recently gotten a vinyl cutter - the Silhouette Cameo 3 - and we are loving it. As the person who controls/orders for our crafting area, I've recently gotten incredibly good at designing and making custom stickers - especially multi-layered stickers.
For this entry for the Pro-Tip Challenge, I'd like to pass on some of the expert tips I've learned to make a great sticker, including sticker composition, simplifying images, and color selection. I hope that you can use these helpful hints to get the most out of your vinyl cutter!
- Vinyl Cutter
- Adhesive Cutter Mat
- Weeding tools
- Transfer Tape
- Vinyl (of a bunch of colors)
- Design/Print companion for your vinyl cutter - (Silhouette Studio, in my case)
Step 1: Sticker Composition
Text Only Designs
I recently used our vinyl cutter to name all of our 3D printers based on our favorite fictional characters. I took it a step further and made legible stickers that also conformed to the visual themes of those fictional lands, and to do so, I made them pop a bit more than just a text on a white background kind of design.
- Text-only designs rely on a clean background to be legible. If you don't have a clean background to apply to, make one by designing it into your sticker.
- Don't be afraid to use a different font to highlight the important part of your text. This helps to differentiate it from the rest, and allows you to arrange some interesting components.
- ie, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."
- Making a single line of font design can be really boring. If it's a really simple design, play around with changing the font size, angle, curve, etc. It can add some interest and depth to your design.
Text and Pictures
I've also been helping people make a lot of fandom stickers which showcase a mascot or character AND some sort of saying. An example of this type of sticker would be the Spirited Away sticker that I made for a friend.
After you trace your image into an easy vector image to vinyl cut (more on this later), simply arrange or layer your sticker with text and connect the two with an offset of the whole composition.
Step 2: Simplifying Images for Vinyl Cutting
Do you love beautiful, intricate, tiny details? Then, you'd better love either giant stickers OR hate your hands.
Making multi-layered vinyl stickers is all about layering color after color on top of one another. If you have really, really fine details, you're going to have to transfer those layers over to your final sticker. My advice is to simplify the image to a point where you retain all recognizable features but lose the headache-causing detail. Make the most of your laziness and pair colors that are similar into a single sticker portion.
This step takes practice, but I've shown my process on the instructables robot!
- There are actually two shades of golden yellow for the design, but I decided that I only wanted to do one yellow cut.
- I made the tan and grey shades the same.
- The red part is distinct and important, so I left it as is.
Notice, I decided to make the black layer the back layer - this was intentional for two reasons:
- Placing the black outline over everything makes it hard to align your previous layers.
- Weeding out the pieces to keep just the black outline bits would have been a complete, fiddly nightmare.
Step 3: Simplify Your Color Scheme.
Kiss your gradients goodbye. Vinyl cutting is not made for that.
I try to choose a total of 5 colors, tops. Every time I do more than that, it is a poor decision.
At first glance, the Samus Aran art from Metroid Zero looks quite simple. The more that you look at it, the more that you realize that it is defined by several gradients of colors - including several shades of blues, greens, and reds. Because I don't have that kind of patience, I limited the Samus sticker I made to 4 colors, with a black background. I kept only the major colors which served to differentiate parts from one another.
You have to accept that you're going to lose fidelity in your art, and make the most of that - whether it's designing a previously colored sticker to be black, grey, white, and an accent color or simply reducing and averaging the intended colors.