SUPPLIES NEEDED:  etchmask™ vinyl and transfer sheets, craft cutter machine, stencil design Follow the instructions for your craft cutter of choice to cut your pattern into the etchmask™ vinyl. Here are some general tips that apply to most cutters, but you will have to familiarize yourself with your own machine.

✏️ Most cutters come with a software program for drawing/editing designs and adding text. You should be able to import a picture from your computer and use a function called “trace” to format the lines for cutting. The software may also be connected to an online store with a variety of designs available for purchase.

🖊️ If your cutter has a pen holder, use it first to draw the design onto the vinyl. If your cutter is not able to draw on the vinyl, you will have to weed out your pattern before applying the transfer paper so that you can see the it.

💋 You want to “kiss-cut” the etchmask so that it cuts through the vinyl layer but not through the paper backing. Check to see if there is a option for vinyl in your cut settings.

Stencil Design Tips

✂️ Start with a rectangle (or other simple shape) sized for the object you’re going to etch. Fit your design into the rectangle with at least a half inch margin. After your stencil is cut, cut out the rectangle with scissors and save the rest of the vinyl for later use.

📐 Use the measuring tools in your software – the size might look different on your screen than in real life!

🤔 Think ahead to how you will pick and etch your design! Will you have a difficult time picking (How many pieces are there?) or etching (Are your lines and points too tiny for the creme to get into them?)

🐝 Solid shapes, thick lines, and bold fonts are the easiest to etch!

Islands & Bridges

🏝️ In stencil terminology an “island” is a stencil piece surrounded by a cut-out piece, such as the eye of the hummingbird or the inside of the letter “O”. You can have islands in your etchmask stencil, but will have to make sure to leave those pieces in while picking.

🌉 On small or intricate designs, it can be very difficult to keep island pieces from pulling up with the surrounding piece. For easier picking, you may want to add a “bridge“: a small connector that anchors your island to the background. This makes it much easier to squeegee the pieces back down if they become detached!

🔪 Bridges can be added using the “slice” and “eraser” tools. (search for those words your machine’s manual.)

Burning Your Bridges?

🐝 Generally, you only need one bridge per shape. Too many bridges creates too many shapes to pick!

➰ For particularly tiny islands such as the inside of cursive loops, you may want to just delete the island entirely.

Welding Shapes

👩‍🏭 Another word to search for in your cutter manual is “weld“. This function merges selected shapes together where they overlap. Let’s say you have a script (cursive) font that you typed out yourself. Though it may look like the letters are attached, your cutter will break apart the individual letters so you have to pick them out separately. Use the weld function to attach them all together!

📝 Welding or bridging your text will cause it to be rasterized so you can’t edit it. Make sure you don’t have any spelling errors!

3-Part Stencil "Sandwich"

1. After you’ve cut your stencil, put any piece of paper on top of the pattern and squeegee it down very tightly to the backing paper. (The paper works as a buffer to keep your stencil pieces from accidentally detaching.)

2. Cut a piece of transfer paper to the size of your rectangle. Unpeel the top edge of the transfer paper and adhere it to the top edge of your stencil.

3. Use your squeegee to cover the stencil with the transfer paper. You now have a 3-part “sandwich” consisting of the shiny backing paper, vinyl, and transfer sheet.

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