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Vinyl Cutting

A guide to operating the Silhouette Cameo 4 owned by the WeatherTech Innovation Lab


Image of the Silhouette Cameo 4

The Vinyl Cutter is a device that cuts material known as vinyl, useful for making things such as decals and stickers. It reads designs made in compatible software which then is sent to the cutter itself via either USB cable or by Bluetooth. The cutter itself is similar to a printer but with a blade instead of a pen. It is extremely effective in creating shapes and letters and is often used to design signs, banners, vehicles, or advertising in general. Certain types of vinyl can even be applied to clothing! The vinyl cutter is a versatile and relatively easy to use machine, but you do need to know how it works to get the most out of it. The Vinyl Cutter can also cut other materials besides vinyl, but may required specialized blades to do so.

The model that the Innovation Lab has is the Silhouette Cameo 4, one of the most highly regarded vinyl cutters on the market currently. It even comes with its own, easy-to-use software known as Silhouette Studio for free (though some tools are locked behind paid subscription). It can cut up to 12x10 in, but can only cut one color at a time, meaning if you want to use multiple colors you will have to cut them separately and layer them.

The other prominent vinyl cutter at the time of writing is the Cricut Maker 3, though these two are not the only vinyl cutters on the market. More information about these vinyl cutters can be found here.

Dominican University's Vinyl Cutter can be found in the WeatherTech Innovation Lab (Crown 110). Either come to the lab when it is open (weekdays 10-4 during the academic year), attend one of the weekly Vinyl Cutter workshops held by the Innovation Lab, or email to set up an appointment.


The vinyl cutter can cut a variety of materials, not just vinyl. Most of the time, though, you will be using either removable or permanent vinyl. Currently, the Innovation Lab has Oracal 651 and 641, both of which are the permanent variety and are water-resistant and designed for outdoor use, Oracal 631 as temporary vinyl, and heat transfer vinyl.

Permanent and temporary vinyl are overall very similar, with their main difference being durability. Permanent vinyl lasts 6-10 years, but is difficult to remove and may damage the surface of the object if removed. It is usually differentiated by a glossy surface. Temporary vinyl is much easier to remove but only lasts about a year indoors and is not designed for outdoors use. It is usually differentiated by a matte surface. Additionally, most types of vinyl are not dishwasher or microwave-safe.

If you know how big your object will be, please cut the vinyl or use a “weed box” (explained in the “Silhouette Studio” section) before using it so as to reduce waste.


Photo of Vinyl in packaging