…a wall decal in temporary adhesive vinyl.
My studio in the new house has a big empty wall.
I have a Silhouette machine.
And temporary adhesive vinyl.
And a saying I’ve been dying to put up in my creative space somewhere somehow.
Do you see where this is going? Yuppers, I have me a new wall decal. And I couldn’t be more pleased with it.
I went all-in with a 5-footer. It’s quite different working with such a large design, but other than wishing I had a second pair of hands to help with the application, it was a breeze. I’m excited to share my process and free cut file with you, so you can add a quote (mine or yours) to a wall near you. Below you’ll find a photo-packed tutorial on how to cut a long decal on the Silhouette (with and without a mat!) and how to apply it. Don’t be intimidated by the number of steps…they’re super simple and go quickly.
Here’s the quote I’ve been carrying around in my back pocket:
Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Isn’t that great? And so true. I can’t think of a single creative venture to which it doesn’t apply. The quote is from Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip. Inspiring words come from all kinds of places, so they do.
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What you need…
- Temporary adhesive vinyl – Oracal 631 or equivalent in 2 contrasting colors (I used teal (19″) and black (22″ and 45″))
- Transfer tape
- Warm water & clean cloth
- Blue painters tape
- Carpenter level (or metal measuring tape)
- 12″ x 24″ Silhouette mat
- Silhouette cutting machine – my Cameo is powered by Silhouette Studio Designer Edition v. 3.3.638
- Free cut file ↓ ↓ ↓
Note: These files were updated May 20/17 to correct the “ke” in “mistakes”.
The free download file contains two versions of the design:
1). The finished design (no stars). Set this one aside. It’s for reference purposes.
2). The design divided into four pieces, each with stars. The stars are registration marks to help line everything up when applying the decal (I’ll show you how to do that later). Drag the pieces around and you’ll see the stars of one piece align perfectly with the stars on the adjacent pieces. This is the version to cut.
If you’ll be using vinyl colors other than teal and black, I encourage you to change the fill color in the file to match your choices. It’ll be a big help in making sure the right pieces get cut from the right colors.
If you’re working with your own design, and need help dividing it and adding registration marks to it, you can find my How to Divide a Large Wall Decal tutorial HERE.
Getting the right size…
The finished size of my wall decal is about 58″ x 15″, but go ahead and resize it to suit your space (to resize: line up the pieces, group them together (select them, right-click, choose ‘Group’ from the list), and drag a corner in and out to get the size you want).
To see whether the size is a good fit with your wall, print a sample of each font type & size and tape it to the wall. (To get a printable sample, copy the design in a new window and ungroup it (select it, right-click, choose ‘Ungroup’), then drag chunks of each text style into the printable area of your mat, and send to print). Take a step back to see if it’s appropriately sized and looks good. Here’s what my text sample looked like:
It was enough for me to see that the font was a good size for the wall and the viewing distance in the room. It also showed me that the font was bold enough so the saying wouldn’t get lost on the wall, and that the letters would be thick enough to cut well.
Do not use permanent vinyl (Oracal 651 or equivalent) for this project. It’ll apply just fine and look great, but removal will be a pain in the you-know-what. You’ll likely end up with peeled paint, and possibly damaged drywall or plaster. When it comes to walls, temporary (removable) vinyl is the way to go. For this project, I used Oracal 631 (Teal) and General Formulations cc 500 MR (black). Avery, 3M and MacTac are other great brands I wouldn’t hesitate to use.
Cutting Part 1: with a mat…
Cut out Creativity and Art from teal vinyl, and is knowing which ones to keep from black vinyl. Because these parts are all shorter than 24″, I used a 12″ x 24″ mat. Here’s how my mats looked.
Note the stars are included with each piece. Remember to adjust the settings for the larger mat so the machine will know to cut longer than 12″. To do that, click on the ‘Open Design Settings Window’ icon (A), change the page size ‘Height’ to 24.000 (B), and the ‘Cutting Mat’ to 12 x 24 in. (C).
The easiest way to avoid curling when removing a large sheet of vinyl from the mat is to flip the mat over and remove the mat from the vinyl. Curve the mat back onto itself with one hand while holding the vinyl down with the other (my real right hand is operating the camera), and peel off the mat.
Cutting Part 2: without a mat…
The remaining part of the saying—is allowing oneself to make mistakes—is longer than 24″. Since it’s too long for the mat, I went matless, oh, yes, I did. If you’ve never cut without a mat before, don’t be intimidated by the idea of going matless. It may feel like flying without a net, but it’s actually quite easy. This blog post was getting really long, so you can find the instructions for cutting without a mat HERE.
The advantage of cutting a large scale design is that weeding is easy peasy and goes fast. The other thing about large scale designs is that blank spaces are usually quite large. Oh, that wasted vinyl! What I usually do before weeding is cut out any large areas of uncut vinyl to use in future projects. You’ll see that on all of the pieces in this project. Here’s what my teal pieces looked like:
Cleaning the wall…
In order for the decal to stick well, the wall area must be very clean. Clean it well with warm water. If your walls are pretty clean, that’s all you need. If there’s any hint of grease, fingerprints, or other grime, clean it off with warm soapy water, then rinse with clean water to remove any soap. Allow to dry. Any dampness will affect the adhesion, so make sure the wall is completely dry before continuing. I waited overnight.
Checking the layout…
Lay out the pieces on the floor to make sure it all fits together. In this photo, I’ve shifted the pieces so you can see the pairs of stars that will line up.
Applying transfer tape…
Apply transfer tape to the cut vinyl. I applied a strip of transfer tape to Creativity and is allowing oneself to make mistakes to start with and then reused the strips for the other two pieces later.
Applying to the wall…
Thanks to the star registration marks, if you get the first piece applied straight, the rest of the pieces will end up straight, too, so it’s worth spending the time to make sure the first part of the quote is on straight. Don’t settle. It’s going to be on the wall for a while. A few minutes spent now getting it right will save you from months or years of sighing and lamenting “Too bad it’s a little crooked.”
An extra person is handy for long decal application. One of you can hold a carpenter level in place while the other person positions the decal. I was the entire application team on this project and couldn’t manage all that (oh, my kingdom for a third hand!), so I used a metal measuring tape and blue painters tape instead. Here’s my process:
STEP ONE: Measure the same distance from the ceiling on either end of the decal and mark it with a piece of painters tape.
STEP TWO: Line up the right side with the tape and hold the decal in place with the right hand while one finger presses it against the wall. Keeping the finger in place, use that spot as a pivot point to line up the left side using the other hand. Tape the decal in place. Check that it’s straight by measuring from the ceiling to the bottom of the letters at either end of the decal. If it’s not straight, repeat this step until it is.
STEP THREE: Place a strip of blue painters tape across the middle of the decal.
STEP FIVE: Slowly roll the transfer tape+vinyl onto the wall, smoothing it down with your hand as you go. Once it’s on, give the letters and stars a good rub with your fingers to make sure they’re nice and stuck.
STEP NINE: Trim the backing from the stars area on Creativity. Then line up the teal stars exactly with the black stars. There’s no need to measure the placement of this piece—the first piece is on straight, so if you align the next pieces with it (using the stars!) they’ll be on straight, too.
and as you did with the first piece, roll the transfer tape+vinyl onto the wall smoothing it down with your hand as you go. Remove the blue tape, burnish the design well, and remove the transfer tape as in STEPS SEVEN & EIGHT.
STEP ELEVEN: Repeat STEPS NINE & TEN for the the other two pieces, first is knowing which ones to keep, then Art. Apply the “hinge” painters tape wherever it works best for you. I tried to keep it off the already applied vinyl, so I got a bit creative. Here’s how I did the third piece.
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