I bought my first vinyl cutter over ten years ago and have been learning ever since.
Make Money With a Vinyl Cutter
With a vinyl cutter, you can make products to sell and earn an extra income. You can do the same work most large sign shops do using just a corner of a room while spending very little money.
I set up a small sign shop in a corner of a spare bedroom. I bought a Roland Stika SX-15 vinyl cutter, which can hold up to a 15-inch-wide roll of adhesive-backed vinyl film. I connected the vinyl cutter to an old laptop I was no longer using. The SX-15 hooks up to the parallel port, and the computer recognizes the SX-15 as just another printer.
Roland provides an editing and printing software called Dr. Stika, which can import .bmp bitmap files and convert them into vector files, which can be cut by the SX-15 vinyl cutter.
Once I upload a bitmap and convert it to a vector with a single button, I need to clean up around the edges of the vector so no cut lines intersect with any other lines. This is a simple process that anyone with basic computer skills can easily master. When the file is ready to cut, I hit the print button just like I would with any home printer.
The Roland Stika Sx-15 then starts to cut into the vinyl without going too deep. It cuts only the vinyl, not the backing paper.
When I finish cutting the outlines of the picture, I "weed" or remove pieces of vinyl that were cut and are not part of the picture. When all unwanted pieces of vinyl are removed, I cover the vinyl picture with a transfer film. This is used to cover the picture cut into the vinyl and secure the unconnected pieces of cut vinyl so it won't lose its shape when I move it to the final destination surface I want to apply it to. Then I squeegee the air bubbles out of the vinyl and then remove only the transfer film. It's just that simple; anyone can do it.
Things You Can Make With a Vinyl Cutter
Cutting vinyl shapes can be an excellent side business.
Here are some ways I make money in my spare time with my Stika SX-15:
- Decals for windows, Cutting masking for sandblasting mugs (I used regular vinyl, not the expensive sandblasting material).
- Masking for liquid etching
- Car decals; flames, swoosh, pin-striping
- Tattoo decals. Copy the person's tattoo and turn it into a decal for their car
- Iron-on vinyl lettering and decals for T-shirts (my biggest moneymaker).
- Creating yard signs (garage sale, home for sale)
- Decals for laptops
- Website decals that can be stuck anywhere like graffiti to get free advertisements.
- Open hours signs for businesses
- Pin-stripping decals for windows and motorcycles
- Flame decals for motorcycle gas tanks and helmets
- Ham radio call signs
- Wall stickers
- Custom stickers from someone's hand-drawn design
- Wall quotes
- Window decals, etc.
Vinyl cutters have dropped in price over the last few years. There are many economical package deals out there, which include everything you need to get you started making money in a spare corner of a room.
Cutting a vinyl decal is super easy.
Sure there are better ways and a few tricks I left out. But I want to show you how easy it is to get started with a simple vinyl cutter. Once you can do this, then you can perfect your technique of cutting vinyl into products you can sell.
Stika Vinyl Cutter in Action
Vinyl Cutting Supplies
Vinyl cutter bundle packages are a great deal to get started. They include everything you need to get started right out of the box.
- Cutter—I own a Roland Stika SX-15 and a Endura-Cut 24"
- Vinyl rolls to fit your cutter (start out with black, white, and your favorite color)
- Transfer tape that is the same width as your vinyl
- Razor knives to cut the vinyl, many sizes
- Dental pick to weed or pull away the excess vinyl from a decal
- Boards or something to apply the decal to
- Squeegee or old credit cards work well too
- Clip art
Sign Shop in a Corner
Selling Your Crafts
There are so many ways to make an extra income with a vinyl cutter, and you won't need an office full of equipment. I keep all my supplies in plastic crates hidden in closets and under the bed in a spare bedroom. I have my vinyl cutter near my computer, just like a standard printer. I use a fold-up table for the layout and applying the transfer tape, which can be folded and put away under the bed when guests sleep over.
Having a vinyl cutter is a fun and exciting way to explore your creativity. Once you have a product designed that can sell, you can start selling on eBay or Etsy. Etsy is a great place to see your competition and get ideas for products to create using your cutter.
A vinyl cutter is a perfect way to enhance the look of products like clocks and photo frames. Adding vinyl cut borders and graphics turns a dull clock or photo frame into a unique or custom made product you can easily sell.
Some of my biggest sellers were websites, for example, "www.enterjakarta.com." Everyone knows someone who has a website they are promoting. Ask them if you can supply their website logo or name on a vinyl sticker. Website decals are sold in packs of ten, twenty, or more. At a few bucks each, you could easily make some serious cash within a few hours.
I also sold t-shirts using my vinyl cutter. I bought heat transfer vinyl material that can be cut with the vinyl cutter, then ironed-on to t-shirts using a simple home-use iron. The only thing to add is a sheet of wax paper or Teflon sheet to protect the vinyl from the direct heat of the iron.
I sold many shirts at $15 each. A $200 heat press would be nice but not required. I like doing everything "on the cheap" at first until I can afford the nice equipment. A simple $20 iron worked fine. My wife started helping with the ironing, and that worked great. In a few hours, we could make a hundred dollars' worth of shirts. First, cut the vinyl, weed out the unwanted bits, put on the transfer film, move the vinyl to the shirt, then remove the transfer paper. Use a hot iron to secure the vinyl to the shirt permanently. It's as easy as that, anyone can do, including you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 RichFatCat
Ilene Moraga on January 22, 2017:
Thank you Alan.. very very much , I am so inspired by this . So much that I am following your pinterest for any future tips & ideas, etc. I also friend requested you on fb. Lol.. and its just so that i may reach out if i have any questions , since i am pursuing this now , ive been on the fence about this . Watching & reading so many others blogs, how to vid's , etc.. But none like yours . You sealed the deal for me, so i thank you in advance.
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on December 03, 2016:
Start by selling on eBay or Etsy and to friends and family.
If it really takes off then get a business name registered, a tax I.D. And anything else to make a legal and legitimate business.
No licesens are needed to start in the US. You will only need a license when you start buying wholesale and bidding on large jobs.
Ervin on December 02, 2016:
Do you need to have a license to do this business from home?
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on June 07, 2016:
Yes, good question....I don't have the answer.
Please search for purchasing the correct licensing needed for anything you sell.
It would be easier if you created your own designs and copyrighted those designs then you can spend all your time sending out cease and desist letters to everyone who violates your copyrights.
When you fail to protect your designs or you make it difficult to legitimately purchase your copyrights then your designs become part of the implied public domain.
Many years ago I tried to purchase the rights to song for a YouTube video I created. It was near impossible to pass the minimum requirements they wanted (confirmed greater than 10,000 views per day) and the price for the copyright was beyond any individual's yearly income.
Christina on June 03, 2016:
I noticed all of your decals pictured above like the batman logo and mazda. After everything I have read online I am really confused about copyright laws. how are you able to sell those for your business? Do you have to get permission? also do you design all your own decals or do you buy them. I am just starting out without a lot of graphic design know how and was wondering how all that worked? Thank you for any info.
GalinT on March 07, 2015:
Obviously you have a lot of experience in this area, so I though you won't mind to give me an advise on the printing facility.
I'm trying to figure it out how to print vinyl stickers for cards with the size of a standard debit/credit card. I need the stickers to be durable (strongly adhesive to the plastic) and for the print/ink not to wear out easy; waterproof would be a nice feature as well but not necessary.
I've read that one can achieve this by using a good inkjet printer. Does it have to be thermal or not? Also read that with Papilio Inkjet waterproof vinyl is good for the purpose. Is it true and is it necessary? Furthermore should I get a laser or inkjet printer?
Unfortunately I have no experience with these things so any help will be much appreciated. My budget is kind of tight as well
Thanks so much :)
sprickita from Reno on February 20, 2015:
I was wondering if the web site -enterjakarta - u mentioned above might happen to be where we may find your decals/art- to possibly purchase? Do you take costume orders if so ? PS Awesome fyi on decals -Thank You &Happy Hubbing
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on January 13, 2015:
I sold my Roland SX-15 and recently bought a Endura Plus 24". I like the Endura's width and the sound of the servo motors is much quieter than the Roland stepper motors. You can find complete cutter kits for very little cash on eBay or Amazon.
ann on January 13, 2015:
Where is a good decal machine
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on August 16, 2014:
My first vinyl cutter was a Roland SX-15 which had it's own Dr. Stika software that could convert a BMP file into a cut vinyl sticker. Most all vinyl cutters can use multiple software like Corel, Illustrator or even the free Inkscape. You should be safe with any vinyl cutter package you buy. It's real easy to make a vinyl sticker. The cutter works similar to a printer.
Pete on August 16, 2014:
I have a printing company i usually outsource however i been asked for a lot of small printed vinyl stickers, these tend to be expensive is there a small machine i can use and complete myself? No idea where to start...
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on April 25, 2014:
Dr. Stika comes free with the Roland SX-15 but you can use any program like Inkscape, Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator... Most people use Corel.
Susan on April 25, 2014:
What program do you use?
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on April 11, 2014:
Rolling won't work. You have two pieces stuck together that don't stretch the same. One will stretch and the other will crinkle. Not good.
Flat is the best. I add a stiff cardboard to reduce bending and folding of the envelope.
Sewfaithful on April 11, 2014:
I have started making decals, and was wondering what is the best way to ship them to a customer. Rolled? Flat? Package or Envelope?
Thanks so much
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on December 01, 2013:
I would recommend eBay. I've seen many of the major distributors selling direct on eBay. And if you don't like it, you can always sell it on eBay.
Sabrina on November 30, 2013:
I was wondering where I can purchase a printer like that?
jaspreet on June 17, 2013:
custom vinyl decals for car windows
car bumper stickers add more values to the outlook of a car and give a great
ability to user of having an automobile promotion of its brand along with him.
Dustin on November 27, 2012:
I do that same thing I like you ideas lol thanks
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on September 23, 2012:
The decals are generally small enough to fit in a padded envelope with some cardboard to keep it from being bent.
karri dooley on September 23, 2012:
what do you package the decals in to sell?
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on July 22, 2012:
Any picture can be turned onto a design. Most cutter programs will convert a bitmap or jpeg photo to a cuttable design. So all you would need to do is a google image search of the design you want to cut.
Andrew Valdez on July 22, 2012:
Where do you get all the designs from? I seen this guy selling ones for laptops, he has loads of designs from snow white - Iron man. Where would I find these at?
Muhammad Ali Muneer on May 22, 2012:
RichFatCat (author) from Texas on September 01, 2011:
Yes, the "handles" of the threaded rods are used to hold the roll of transfer tape.
Luciana on September 01, 2011:
This is a great idea. Thanks for posting it. I do have one question. How do you get the transfer tape to stay on the C clamps when you apply it to the decal? Is there a rod or a bar that go between the two and hold the tape?