Fri. Mar 13, 2015 in Buyer's Guide

You’ve chosen your vinyl, your design and your heat press. You’re ready to create something!

…Wait. No. Something’s missing.

A vinyl cutter! It’s one of the most important pieces of equipment that you will need to ensure your heat transfer success, so let us help you pick the right one.

First, in case you aren’t quite sure what a cutter is, we’ll explain briefly.

A vinyl cutter is a machine that uses sharp blades to cut into heat transfer vinyl, easily producing designs, letters, numbers and more. Cutters make weeding and the rest of the heat transfer process possible, so choosing a quality machine is quite important.

Now, there are a few questions you’ll need to consider before purchasing your cutter (much like the questions you need to think about before purchasing a heat press).

What Kind of Material Do You Typically Work With?

Size

Choose a cutter that can handle an equal or larger width than the material you will be cutting. (Remember, choose based on the width of the material, not the garment you’ll be placing it on.) So, if you typically order 15″ vinyl rolls, you’ll want a cutter that can cut at least 15″ wide.

Type

Depending on the type of material you use, you may want to look at how much pressure a cutter is capable of using. Plus, some material is easier to use if you have more space. For example, if you’re working mainly in glitter, we’d recommend going with a 24″ cutter, which allows you more work space and allows you to run material by the roll.

How large is your business?

If you have a business, that is. If you’re planning to use a cutter for hobby-related side projects, then we’d recommend going with a cameo. Otherwise, look at your business and (realistically!) decide how much you plan to make now — and in the future. If you hope to produce high volumes of products one day, we say, “Go big or go home!”

What is your budget?

As is the case with anything else you look at investing in, a cutter can be on the spendy side. There are less expensive options as well; however, if you do plan on producing high volumes of products, think of this purchase as an investment — you will get out what you put in. If money is tight, make a list of all of the cutters that fall within your price range and compare the features they offer before choosing one.

Silhouette Cameo 12″

You’ve thought about it, have a budget in mind and are ready to take the plunge. But… What features should you be looking for, anyway?

Speed

This is, obviously, how quickly a cutter can cut. Keep in mind that simpler designs (cuts) will allow the machine to move at or closer to its maximum speed, while more complex designs (cuts) will slow down any cutter. In many cases, faster is truly better when it comes to cutters.

Tracking

The tracking length of a cutter refers to the max length that it can cut accurately. This is especially important for those of you planning to cut larger orders (i.e. multiple patterns at one time). Better tracking means higher quality and efficiency.

Force

As we mentioned above, the amount of pressure (or force) that a cutter can exert is another thing to consider. If you plan to cut a variety of heavier material, look for a cutter with a higher max cutting force.

Software

Look at what kind of software your cutter requires and what it does (or doesn’t) come with. Obviously, some software is going to be more user-friendly than others. Some cutters come with plugins for Adobe Illustrator or Corel, so you will have less to learn if you are already familiar with those programs. If a cutter does not include any software, you will have to purchase it separately, which may add unforeseen costs to your purchase.

Miscellaneous

There are many other features that you can consider, in addition to the important features listed above. For example, does the cutter have an optical eye that precisely cuts around designs? How much memory does it have? What about a warranty? Check into the details of the cutters you’re thinking about buying, especially if you’re torn between two.

Graphtec 24″ Cutter

For more examples of cutters, check out some Graphtec options here.

Okay, you’ve got your cutter! Now, what’s this about blades? A few things to note:

Cutter blades can be adjusted to different pressures, which ensures that the proper pressure is applied for the thickness of your material. Installing and adjusting your blades will vary slightly depending on what model your cutter is. Consult your cutter’s user manual or even conduct a quick Google search! For example, if you’re using a Silhouette Cameo:

To Install and Adjust

Place the blade in the adjustment socket so the socket arrow lines up with the red line on the blade. Turn the blade to the desired number. You can also adjust the ratchet cap included with your blade, which operates the same way as the adjustment socket.

Blades can and will become worn after too many uses. When your blade has become too worn to use, simply purchase a new pack of blades and continue working! If your cutter begins doing any of the following things, the blade is probably worn and ready for a change:

  • Tearing the vinyl
  • Taking multiple cuts to get through the material
  • Picking up small bits of vinyl
  • Simply not cutting at all

Browse some starter packages or other cutters and find one that fits your business – and your budget – today. Comment with any questions and, as always, we’ll do our best to help you every step of the way!