How to use illustrator with a vinyl cutter

Written by ronald bell
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Vinyl signs, decals and banners can be made with a vinyl cutter. A vinyl cutter functions as a pen plotter equipped with a knife. The pen plotter draws the artwork on paper. A vinyl cutter cuts the vinyl from a sheet or roll. Adobe Illustrator is a powerful software program that can create and modify vector artwork for use on a vinyl cutter. Illustrator is a component of Adobe's Creative Suite package, which includes several of the Adobe graphic software programs.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Vinyl cutter

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Start Adobe Illustrator and create a new file using the "File" > "New" tabs at the top of the screen. Set up the artboard size to accommodate the design you will be making. If your design contains more than one colour, open the "Window" > "Color" palette. The vinyl cutter can cut only one colour at a time.

  2. 2

    Open the "Window" > "Tools" palette. Create the basic design using any combination of the drawing tools. Keep in mind that tools such as the gradient tool cannot be used because the vinyl cutter can work only with vector art.

  3. 3

    Finalise your design elements by using the pen tools, selection tools and anchor point tools. With these tools you can add and delete control points or change the shape of vector elements by manipulating the Bezier curves.

  4. 4

    Use the type tool to add words and letters to your design. You can align graphic elements with type and you can make type contour around a curve. You can also change typeface and size proportionately or anamorphically.

  5. 5

    Convert all type to outlines so that the actual typefaces can distort if desired. This is an especially powerful tool for creating monograms and stylised logos.

  6. 6

    Save a master copy of the artwork in Illustrator to facilitate changes if required. Export a copy of the file in Illustrator Legacy EPS format. This is the standard file format for most vinyl cutters.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not leave extra graphic elements on the art board. Group all elements when you are finished so that individual elements can't be moved accidentally.
  • All type should be converted to outlines prior to printing. Do not include images, they will not print.

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