The simplest way to decorate mugs and tumblers is with a vinyl cutter and some standard, self-adhesive sign vinyl. Of course ‘sign vinyl’ is so named because it’s engineered for application on banners and sign blanks, not ceramic mugs. So this is a non-standard application. Whenever these kinds of non- industry application question arise, we consult the manufacturers. Dean Strohmenger, ORACAL’s Senior Product Support Specialist, says ORACAL is aware of the trend, but, because of the heat and detergents involved, doesn’t warrant vinyl for this application. Dean advises…
• Apply Dry or Wet? When applying vinyl to any substrate, you want to make sure you put it on straight. When you’re decorating a banner that’s going to hang across the street, you may be able to get away with having if just a tad off level. But when the application is literally right in front of the customer’s nose, it’s gotta be straight. So applying it dry without any way to measure or adjust is a little risky. To make doggone sure the graphic is level with top & bottom of the mug, you can apply it with a little application fluid, or use the tried-and-true hinge method.
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If you need something more durable, or you want to decorate mugs with finely detailed images, you may want to consider dye sublimation or laser transfers. Sublimation is a durable tried-and-true method for decorating mugs. Since it’s a heat transfer method, it requires a mug press or mug wraps. You’ll also need a dedicated inkjet printer with sublimation ink, and the right transfer paper. A complete dye sublimation startup package, including a heat press, can be purchased for less than $800.00. Just as vinyl won’t adhere to all kinds of plastics, there are substrate limitations for dye sublimation. Any candidate for sublimation must be polymer-coated. You won’t find these mugs at the Pottery Barn, so your cost may be a little higher.
If you’re using mugs, glassware, or a vinyl-friendly plastic, your major concern is longevity of the graphic as the drinkware is cleaned. If your finished product is going to be tossed into a dishwasher, Dean recommends that the applied graphic be allowed to cure for at least 24 hours before washing so the adhesive has ample time to form a permanent bond with the drinking vessel. In our testing, EnduraGLOSS vinyl, ORACAL 651 and 751 all worked well on ceramic mugs. But there were differences in degree of success depending on the application technique.
But if you’ve got a cutter and want to jump on the decorated drinkware bandwagon, have at it. Your EnduraGLOSS, ORACAL 651 or 751 should work well. Just keep the design simple and apply it dry. Be wary of cheap plastic cups, and make sure your customer knows the vinyl appliqué is not fully warranted for dishwasher use. If it’s hand washed, it should last a long time. Then again, if it comes off in the dishwasher, they’ll just have to buy another one. Maybe you could sell them in pairs: one for regular use and one for the knickknack shelf.
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Laser transfer is similar to sublimation, but with a slight difference. A heat press and specific types of transfer paper are still required, but standard mugs and glassware can be used; no polymer coating necessary. Either technique will give you more design options–including gradient color fills and photographic images– and eliminate the need to weed.
So naturally we’re getting lots of questions from inspired and entrepreneurial customers about the new trend.What kind of vinyl works best? What kinds of cups and glasses are suitable? Are the applied graphics dishwasher-safe? Can I use my vinyl cutter, or do I need a heat press? Read on for the answers to all your drinkware decoration questions.
Given the cautions noted above, it’s wise to remember that this can be a challenging application. Designing a graphic with a fancy, filligreed font isn’t a good idea. Use relatively simple shapes; the bolder the font, the better the bond. The better the bond, the more washfast it will be.
” The most successful applications will involve both smooth glassware and cast vinyl (751 or 951). 651 would also work as it also has a solvent-based adhesive and is much more economical, but conversely it is less conformable, so it has more of a size limitation when being applied to a cylindrical substrate such as a drinking glass. Plastic cups, to a lesser degree depending on the grade of plastic, can also be successful but would be limited to smooth surfaces only. ”
For almost has as long as I’ve been blogging on Silhouette tutorials, I’ve been getting asked the question: “How do you put vinyl on tumblers and cups straight?” Since I know you’re all dying to know – and I am finally comfortable and confident in my own right – (I have struggled with this as I know many of you have as well) I am ready to share a few tips on what has worked for me.
Plus I’m going to give you all a really handy cut file to help you get that vinyl straight no matter where it’s being placed on a tumbler. So the first thing we need to talk about is why vinyl doesn’t go on straight when applied to some tumblers.
You can blame the conical shape – being wider at the top than the bottom – for your troubles.When trying to apply a straight line of text to a conical shape it will naturally curve up as shown in the bottom example below.
You can see that if the design is created in a perfectly straight line, when applied the ends will be slightly higher or lower than the middle. Bad. Very bad.To counter this when designing, you need to intentionally give the text a slight curve (top example above) so that when it’s applied the ends will curve up and naturally even out with the top of the curve.
Please note that shapes can’t be morphed this way in Silhouette Studio – only text. Now, when I say you need to give the text a slight curve I mean very slight…take a look at these designs. They look identical at first glance.
But they’re actually not. Each line in the gold design has a slight curve to it, while the red design is perfectly straight and aligned. It’s more obvious when I turn on the grid lines. Look at the “OO” in Good, for example.
You can see the gold “OO” is not quite sitting on the line whereas the red “OO” is since it hasn’t been forced to curve. The G is also slightly tilted to the left and the D to the right…that’s due to the curve.
The curvature is minimal, but it’s enough to negate the conical shape of the surface where the vinyl will be applied.Now for how to get that curve. For this design I created the three line text design in three separate text boxes.
You don’t have to, but I think it’s a good idea to size the text so it fits on the tumbler before taking the next step. In this case, my design is about 3.5 inches in height. After I sized, I opened this handy dandy tumbler template I have in my library – which just so happens to fit perfectly into a 16 oz double walled paper lined tumbler from My Vinyl Direct – and I put each line onto the curved path.
You can download the tumbler template too. If you do, just remember not to resize it at all or you’ll change the size of the curve.
Fig 1: A vertical hinge is the fastest way to apply the vinyl and assure that it’s level on the mug or cup.
The newest trend in custom vinyl graphics is decorating drinkware; applying vinyl on mugs, cups, and glasses. Etsy, Printerest, and related web sites have lots of examples of cute custom mugs and glasses available for sale.
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To put text on a path double click the design until you get the green box around it. Then grab the little directional arrow in the bottom left corner of the text box and drag the text box until it kind of snaps onto the path which in this case is the tumbler template.
The most important and final step of this process is to right click > convert to path. This basically freezes the text in the shape of the path and allows you to move it off the path while it still keeps its shape.
I repeated this same process with all three lines of the text. Then I grouped the three lines together. The finished result is the gold design you saw in the above images.Now you can simply cut the design on vinyl.
For anything that is going to be washed or handled a lot I cut on Oracal 651/permanent vinyl. In this case I cut on glitter gold adhesive vinyl. As I said, I was working with a double walled screw-together tumbler from My Vinyl Direct.
The insert is removable and total customizable. I unscrewed the two walls of the cup while I applied the vinyl and you’ll see why in a minute. After the vinyl was cut and weeded I cut off a piece of clear transfer tape.
I use clear because I want to be able to see through the transfer tape. Before I applied the design onto the tumbler, I did two things: I filled the tumbler with a small amount of water. This gives me an even baseline.
So now I can match the bottom of my design along the waterline and know that it’s perfectly straight – without even measuring (gasp). Cut small slices up from the bottom of the transfer tape toward the design (indicated by red lines in the image to the left).
This allows me to slightly manipulate the shape of my design even more if necessary. Just be careful not to cut into the actual vinyl design. And now I’m ready to apply the vinyl to the tumbler…I placed the bottom line right along the water line (this is why I removed the inner wall of the cup, I needed a really clear view of the water line)- this can best seen in the “day” area.
Once the bottom is in place I applied the rest of the vinyl design from the middle out toward the edges. The slight curve in the vinyl, the water line, and the snips in the transfer tape are all essential to helping put the vinyl on the cup straight.
Burnish the vinyl onto the tumbler and then peel away the transfer tape. You can replace that insert if you have it, leave it out, or customize it however you’d like. Since you already have the template in Studio, you can even fill it with a pattern in Silhouette Studio and then print and cut it and it will fit perfectly into your tumbler – this way you can change it out from time to time to match the holiday, season or your mood.
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• Dishwasher settings. If possible, advise your customer to avoid high temperature wash, and high temperature rinse. The extra heat added to the high water pressure and detergents, may shorten the life of the application. Our testing was conducted with these two turned off and the heat drying turned on. The two graphics that were applied dry came out fine. The one that had been applied wet had a very small amount of edge lift on the smaller graphic elements, but the rest of the decal adhered well. Remember that vinyl manufacturers don’t warrant these products for repeated exposure to the heat and water pressure of a dishwasher. Eventually, the graphic may begin to come off, if it’s cleaned this way repeatedly. It would be wise to tell your customers to wash it by hand. Many travel mugs are not dishwasher safe, so this shouldn’t be a major impediment to sales or customer satisfaction.
The reference to plastic cups is added because not all plastic is vinyl-friendly. Low-energy plastics like polystyrene and polyethylene have static charges that repel the adhesives used in vinyl film, resulting in edge curling and eventual failure of the decal. Make sure you do adequate testing before committing to putting vinyl graphics on plastic cups.
In our testing, we used both wet and dry methods to apply vinyl to ceramic mugs. The ORACAL 751 graphic was applied with RapidTac. Since it has a permanent solvent adhesive, it should have handled the wet application well. But it’s hard to get all the fluid out from under the vinyl on such a severely curved surface, so it took quite a while for the adhesive to bond. In fact, the tape had to be left on overnight. When I finished removing it 14 hours later, one of the letters was still not completely set. This elongated cure time for the adhesive would also make the applied graphic more likely to fail in a dishwasher. So wet application is not the best method for these items. The EnduraGLOSS and ORACAL 651 graphics were applied dry with a vertical hinge (Fig 1), using Main Tape blue painter’s tape. This enabled me to remove the application tape almost immediately and it gave the applied vinyl plenty of time to set up before wash testing.
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