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.
What is a Vinyl Cutter?
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 to Consider when Choosing a Vinyl Cutter
Choose a vinyl 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″ heat transfer vinyl rolls, you’ll want a vinyl cutter that can cut at least 15″ wide material.
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?
Look at your business and 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!” If you’re planning to use a cutter for hobby-related side projects, then we’d recommend going with a Silhouette Cameo 3 or Cameo 4.
What is your budget?
As is the case with anything else you look at investing in, a cutter can be on the expensive 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.
Features of Vinyl Cutters
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Craft Vinyl Cutters
This 12" wide vinyl cutter has the unique ability to be able to scan images and upload them to become a cut file. It has a 5" LCD touchscreen display which is perfect for any quick last minute edits you may need to make to your design. It also automatically detects material thickness so so you don't need to adjust cut settings every time.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 is another great option for a 12" vinyl cutter. With force up to 5kg/5000g and a speed 3x faster than it's predecessor this craft vinyl cutter doesn't mess around! It comes in 3 colors, black, white, and pink and boasts an Auto Blade as well as Auto Tool Detection.
Everything you love about the Cameo but bigger, the Cameo Plus is a 15" vinyl cutter that has all the fabulous features of the Cameo 4 including Bluetooth connectivity for wireless cutter as well as print and cut capabilities.This is a great work horse cutter that is perfect for someone transitioning from hobby to business.
Professional Vinyl Cutters
Here at Heat Transfer Warehouse we pride ourselves in being able to offer everyone from new hobbyists to high volume garment decorators and resellers everything they might need, all in one place. This is why we offer some of the best vinyl cutters on the market, Graphtec Cutters. There are several options to choose from, we'll cover the three basics.
The CE LITE-50 is a great vinyl cutter from Graphtec that offers the luxury of accommodating a 20" width roll of material and can cut continuously for 3 meters or almost 10 feet! This cutter offers USB memory for computer-less cutting. Grahtec offers a 1 year warranty for this cutter as well as a lifetime of support!
If you're looking for the Cadillac of cutting, you've found it. This series is quiet, fast, and accurate. The CE7000 Graphtec vinyl cutter comes in three widths, 15", 24", and 50". The CE7000-40 is the 15" cutter and can cut at 24"/s in all directions and can cut up to 164 feet. The CE7000-60 is a 24" cutter with lightning fast speed at 36"/s in all directions and cutting accuracy up to 79" this is perfect for a small shop. The big guy for the CE7000 model is the CE7000-130 which is a 50" wide cutter great for those high volume shops cutting on logs of material! With 450 GF force and a cutting area of up to 164 feet this powerhouse cutter will really take you to the next level.
The FC9000 series from Graphtec is one that will provide your large shop with speed and accuracy while not sacrificing on detail. These vinyl cutters can cut as small as 5 mm for alphanumeric characters and cut with a speed of up to 58.5"/s in all directions. An added basked catches material once cut so you can set it and forget it.
Vinyl Cutter Blades
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!