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How to Apply (Silhouette) Vinyl Straight...On the First Try

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial
I've been asked more than a few times for tips on how to apply vinyl straight.  With vinyl it's like you've got one shot to get it right and if you don't...what a waste because we all know you're not pulling it off and trying again.  (Next week I'll be sharing my tips on getting large vinyl decals straight on the wall),  but today I'm going to share a trick for applying vinyl or a stencil straight to other surfaces without using registration marks .

This tip is one I picked up a few weeks ago...yup, I'm always learning, too!  I was looking through the Link It or Lump It Link Party and an adorable  tote bag by Christine at Where the Smiles Have Been blog caught my eye.  As I was reading through her post, she briefly referred to this 'hinge' method she uses to ensure vinyl - or in her case her stencil - is straight.   I sat there and stared at the pictures that she let explain this method ... then it all the sudden hit me! Ohhhh emmmm geee! A stroke of genius that I can not NOT share with all of you!

And so you see I can't take credit, this one is all Christine. I'm just breaking it down into a few more steps with a whole bunch more blabbing in between to make sure it's super easy to understand because you know we do it here at Silhouette School...baby steps.

So here goes..

Cut your vinyl like your normally would. Remember, no registration marks are needed for this method - but this is different than layering and you'll see why in a second here.

I'm making a chore chart for my daughter, which I'll fully detail in another post.  What I need is to ensure that the red divider lines go onto the black chalkboard vinyl exactly straight.  I have a keen eye for crooked text and designs and it drives me bonkers if anything is even a fraction of a millimeter off.

Weed the vinyl after you cut it and then lay the vinyl design still on the backing on the cutting mat. This just keeps it from curling and keeps it from moving too much.  So much easier to work with like this.

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, cutting mat

Now cut a piece of transfer paper and lay it over your vinyl, again like you normally would.  Use a scraper to rub all over it so it's nice a flat.  DO NOT PEEL UP THE TRANSFER PAPER.  Right now you should have a vinyl sandwich....vinyl backing on the bottom with vinyl in the middle, and the transfer paper on top.

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, transfer paper, cutting mat

If any transfer paper hangs over the edge (as you can see mine does, along the bottom, in the picture above), just trim it so it's the same size as the vinyl backing.

Pull your vinyl sandwich up off the mat and move it to the side.  (I've now put my chalkboard vinyl -with the backing still on- onto the mat to steady it as I add the red vinyl on top)

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, chalkboard vinyl, cutting mat

Alright here's where the magic starts to happen.  Working on a flat surface, like a table, lay the vinyl sandwich onto the material where your vinyl will be placed.  Again, in my case it will be another piece of vinyl...but this would work for on a piece of wood, a canvas, glass, paper, a frame, even fabric as Christine shared.

Position it so it's exactly where you want it...measure it from whatever side or top/bottom you are working against. In my case, I wanted my design exactly centered and even on both the left and right sides so from the left most side of the design, I used a ruler to measure down from the top edge of the  material to the top edge of where the vinyl design starts.


Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, measure, ruler

Now repeat on the other side...making any slight adjustments so that the distance is exactly the same. Once you've got the vinyl or stencil straight...put a large strip of painters tape stretching across the entire middle of the design.  Try to make it as straight as possible...unlike me :/

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, painters tape, cutting mat

The tape should be taped down to the left side of the table, go over the gridded transfer paper, and then taped down on the right side of the table.  After you do do this, double check that your design has not moved at all by remeasuring. If it has moved, just peel up ONE side of the tape and adjust that side up or down slightly so it's even again with the other side.

Now....are you ready for this? Grab a pair of scissors and keep them close. Peel back the transfer paper from the top half.

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, transfer paperVinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, transfer paper


Hold it back, while you cut the vinyl backing away right along the top of the tape line.  (Sorry for the blurry photo, I could have used an extra hand here).

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, transfer paper, cut, vinyl backing

 See why this is called the 'hinge' method now? After the backing is removed, you can place the top half of your vinyl/transfer tape down.

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorialVinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, hinge method

Remove the hinge piece of painters tape now.  You don't need it since the top half is now holding everything in place.

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial, hinge method

Fold the bottom half up, remove the vinyl backing and then fold the transfer tape and vinyl back down.


Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorialVinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial

Use your scraper one more time to rub the vinyl onto the surface and then carefully peel away the transfer paper.

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial

Magic...!

Vinyl, straight, centered, even, first try, Silhouette tutorial


For this one I'm forever indebted to Christine...I encourage you to check out her blog Where The Smiles Have Been and her social media sites. She's got lots of awesome DIY and Silhouette projects...not to mention that she's super sweet and has an adorable little man in her life.

PS Check back tomorrow where I'll full reveal the chalkboard vinyl chore chart...this thing is to.die.for. 

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I received a small commission. That's what helps fund Silhouette School so I can keep buying new Silhouette-related products to show you how to get the most out of your machine!

Thanks for coming to class today at Silhouette School.  If you like what you see, I'd love for you to pin it!


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1 comment

  1. I started doing something somewhat similar. After headaches, trashed vinyl and tears, I started scoring the backing of my cut vinyl maybe an inch from the top or from the side, then I could peel back just the small portion, center it and attach just that small part then finish peeling and attaching the rest of the vinyl. Does that make sense? Much easier for me!

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