Weeding Vinyl: How To and Tips

An unavoidable part of the process of doing a project with vinyl and a vinyl cutter is WEEDING. If you are a beginner with your Cameo or Expression vinyl cutters, you might be like “How do I weed vinyl?” or even “Do I have to weed my vinyl?” Answers to all your vinyl weeding questions below!

What is weeding?

What Is Weeding - Weeding is removing extra vinyl after it has been cut.

Weeding is the process of removing all the extra vinyl from around the image you have cut before applying it to the finished project. A vinyl cutter cuts along the lines of the design, but it doesn’t remove the extra vinyl. You need to do that as well as removing the little holes inside any designs or letters.

What you need to weed

I always have these tools on hand when weeding a vinyl project…call it my Essential Vinyl Work Kit

  • a paper towel or scrap piece of vinyl for putting the little bits of vinyl  I weed . Otherwise,  I’d walk around covered in vinyl dots all day and not notice. 🙂
  • A weeding hook
  • Tweezers just for vinyl work
  • A quilting pin

You should also plan to work in a brightly-lit area. If you don’t have enough light, it is VERY hard to see where the vinyl machine has made cuts. This means it is pretty much impossible to weed accurately. I work by a window and also often make use of those cute, portable Ott-lights…perfect bright, white light and so handy for detail work of any kind! Even if I have to hide in the closet from my kids to get my crafting done. haha

Weeding Tips and Tricks

Whether you are using heat transfer vinyl or adhesive vinyl, the process of weeding is pretty much the same. Here are some tricks I have picked up that make weeding so much easier.

Tools and Prep

Prep your crafting area and have all the supplies (above) you need at arms reach. And don’t forget about the light! It’s all about the light. 🙂 You also want to have very clean hands and skip the lotion…oils from your hands can mess with the vinyl adhesives. Another reason to use the tools instead of your hands when possible.

Weeding order:  from inside to outside

Start by removing the dots inside any letters and small internal areas of designs FIRST. If you remove these small, internal pieces first, you’ll have fewer problems with your design sliding since it is braced by the outer part of the vinyl.

Next, start peeling the outer part of the vinyl off. I do this by kind of curling it up little-by-little so that the cut bits try to stay stuck to the backing. Some of the cut pieces will want to peel up as you go, but this is why you go extra slow and have your tools ready – you can use your tweezers, non-sharp part of the hook, or quilting needle gently push them down as you continue to peel. Take care not to puncture the vinyl with any of these tools. (TIP! If you are weeding a big piece, cut away 2 or 3 inch sections of the vinyl as you go. This makes it more manageable and prevents the extra sticky vinyl scraps from pulling other parts of the design off.)

Common vinyl weeding problems and how to fix them

Extra bits of vinyl sticking to the finished design. You will inevitably find a little dot of vinyl stuck somewhere it shouldn’t be – perhaps punctuation that didn’t adhere or the center or dot of another letter… This happens to me several times over the course of a typical vinyl weeding session. Take care of misplaced vinyl bits BEFORE you apply the vinyl design to the finished project. simply use your tweezers to remove the extra vinyl while holding the piece you want to keep in place with your other hand.

Pulling and Stretching/Design very difficult to weed.  Also try to avoid pulling or stretching the vinyl to get it to come away from the outer piece. I promise at some point you will do this (we all have!) and you will be bummed that you have changed the shape of the piece. I’ve just stuck my misshapen pieces of anyway, trying to get them back into shape as best I could.

If you are having a VERY hard time weeding, with excessive stretching and pulling of the vinyl, you may need to check your settings on your vinyl cutting machine and re-cut. Did you choose the correct material in your Silhouette or Cricut settings? The culprit could also be a dull or dirty blade.  The occasional piece that needs an extra tug is normal, but if you are having that trouble with every piece…that’s NOT normal. Re-cut and start over! Check out this wonderful post on extending the life of your vinyl cutting blade from Leslie, The Seasoned Homemaker.

Vinyl Before It Has Been Weeded

I can’t see the cuts! Make sure you are using bright enough light. If you are and you still can’t see the cuts clearly, check your settings and your blade. If the machine wasn’t able to cut all the way through consistently, you will need to fix the problem and cut out your design again.

The letter slid off…what do I do now? Don’t panic! This can happen especially with small letters and designs. If one of your letters or designs has gone sliding around, simply use the point of your hook to nudge it into place. If the letter has completely slid off, use your hook to gently grab it on the adhesive side or use your tweezers. Put it back in it’s place like it never happened. 🙂 Here are more great tips on weeding small designs and letters.

Now that you are a total weeding expert, let’s move on to the next lesson…how to use transfer tape and apply your vinyl to the finished piece!