Vinyl Sign and Lettering Tutorial

You’ll find dozens or hundreds of vinyl application tutorials across the net, more being added almost daily. Some say that vinyl lettering application is hard, some say easy. Some instructions are simple, some complicated, some poorly written and confusing, some better written. What’s the scoop, once and for all? Can you REALLY do this in your garage?


And no.



We’re not going to say it requires “skill” to apply vinyl lettering without screwing it up. It doesn’t. It requires skill to fly an airplane properly. It does not require skill to apply vinyl lettering properly. But it requires attention to detail, and patience, and the ability to read and understand directions, and then FOLLOW THEM. If you can do these things, it’ll be pretty-much a snap. But we know people, and you know people, who should never be allowed within ten feet of a roll of scotch tape, let alone a string of self-adhesive vinyl letters or graphic images. Unfortunately, from here, a thousand miles from you, we have no way of knowing if you can be trusted with a roll of scotch tape. Assuming you can, you’ll find this a piece of cake.

When you place your order with us we arrange your string or image in one of several vector programs and send that file to the cutter. The cutter resembles a plotting-type printer, but instead of printing on the vinyl, it cuts the vinyl. Since the vinyl is mounted onto a non-stick backing, it’s important that the cutter cut only through the vinyl (top layer), and never through the non-stick backing. Obviously that takes a fairly precision little machine. Some machines do print on the vinyl, and then also cuts it. Vinyl cutters typically look something like this:

Front and back of self adhesive vinyl

Above and below shows vinyl that has been cut through top
layer only

Above shows vinyl being removed from backing

Lettering remains on backing when excess vinyl is removed;
Care must be taken to be sure lettering remains on backing

Small pick is used to detach lettering that wants to stick to the
main sheet. Most any suitable tool can be used.

 Above: More “weeding” of vinyl. Proceed slowly, carefully, never
rush, and make sure letters or graphics remain on backing
material as waste material is peeled off.

More weeding (above)

 Excess vinyl can be peeled at different angles, depending on 
many factors. Whatever works, works. The methods used to 
peel and weed will differ with various types of fonts and sizes
of text.

 Above: Main section removed, insides of letters remain to 
be weeded

Above: Weeding of tiny spaces with tweezers

Above: Lots and lots of weeding. Your vinyl may come 
pre-weeded, or you may get to do it yourself

Completely weeded and clean, ready for the next step

 Application tape is now applied over the TOP of the
weeded vinyl

 Above: Application tape is squeegee ‘d down onto lettering 
and graphics

 Vinyl and application tape are now trimmed up

 Vinyl and application tape trimmed and ready to ship

The end-user will start by peeling the backing from the vinyl

 Backing is CAREFULLY being removed. Significant care must 
be used to be sure that letters or graphics aren’t left on the
backing, but stay with the application tape. Peel SLOWLY and
watch for sticking vinyl. If vinyl sticks, gently lift it with tweezers 
or other suitable tool to ensure all vinyl peels with application

 Measure your mounting area and mark with any removable 
marker, pencil, etc. Make sure area has been rigorously 
cleaned, and wiped LASTLY with rubbing alcohol. Mounting 
surface should be at least 65F. and perfectly dry.

 Vinyl is applied to mounting surface and squished down with 
any suitable device. Press down the mounted vinyl from the 
middle portions of the letters or graphics, outward, so that 
any bubbles or creases, or potential bubbles or creases, 
will tend to be moved toward the edges where air pockets 
can escape.

 Application tape is now removed, but SLOWLY, and 
CAREFULLY, watching CLOSELY for the lifting of any vinyl. 
It’s usually NOT best to lift the application tape at a 90 degree
angle as shown above. Rather, see image below:

 Above: Better method (usually) for peeling application tape.
Colder temps, or the presence of moisture, or a poorly cleaned 
surface can spell trouble because the vinyl may try to lift off with
the application tape. Application tape also tends to forge a
stronger bond with the vinyl as time passes. It’s best to mount 
your vinyl as soon as possible after receiving it. There are 
many types of application tape on the market. Some work 
better, or worse, in varying weather conditions, with varying
brands of vinyl, and with varying sizes of letters. Just slow 
down, relax, take a deep breath, and peel SLOWLY. That 
way any lifting vinyl will be seen before it has had a chance 
to become misaligned, and no serious problems will result.

Persistent bubbles can be left for a week or two, at which 
time you may be able to press them down finally. But don’t
press too hard! If a bubble gets squished too hard it may 
stretched the vinyl at the edges of the bubble, and it may 
never be completely flattened. Instead of poking a pin-hole
in the center of a bubble, make the hole on the edge of the 
bubble, and gently work the air toward that hole.

Most vinyl adhesive doesn’t completely set for up to three

Lasting graphic mounted to office door