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  • Writer's pictureHolly

Which Vinyl is for What Application?

Which Vinyl do I use for which project?

For a beginner, choosing the correct vinyl can be a challenge. It all depends on your project and what you intend to use it on.

Let's talk about the different types of vinyl available. They all have specific uses. You will find your favorites, and I will link to some places that carry my favorites. The quality of the vinyl you use matters for the quality of the finished product. You can usually get color swatches of most brands from the companies that carry them.

As a new Digital Cutting machine enthusiast, you may begin looking for those “great vinyl bargain buys”. The problem with the bargain buys is you may not know what brands will DON'T... at least not yet. Try a few brands. Find your favorite, then watch for sales and specials to stock up. You may find several brands you like. I have several. That's ok! If one company is out of stock you will have a backup brand to order when you need it!

Some Types of Vinyl:


751/951 - Permanent Marine Grade


Oracal 5600 - Reflective

Oracal 6510 - Reflective Neon Colors

Stencil Vinyl

Heat Transfer vinyl

Printable Vinyl

The general rule is:

For hard and smooth surfaces, (walls, mugs, bottles, glasses, plastic containers, etc) Sticky or “651” permanent vinyl is recommended. It can be referred to as “Oracal 651. Keep in mind that Oracal is a brand, not a type.

Soft surfaces that can take the heat, ( shoes, shirts, backpacks, tote bags, etc) Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) is recommended. There are different types of HTV as well.

Explanations and uses of various types of vinyl:

631 Removeable Vinyl/ Non-Permanent- Matte Finish

Removable vinyl is considered to be non-permanent and easily removable. It is good for walls or anything you want to be able to remove the vinyl from. It is best used indoors. It may hold up outdoors if kept out of harsh elements, it is really meant for indoor use. A great use for this vinyl is kitchen canisters that you may need to use for different things at different times. It comes off fairly easily but stays on well enough for the purpose. Kids bedrooms is another popular use for this vinyl. Kids change their minds often for their bedroom decor.

641 Vinyl - Matte Finish

Similar to 631, but is water-resistant, and is great for outdoor use and things that get washed regularly.

651 Permanent Vinyl

This is the preferred vinyl for outdoor use. Great for mugs, cups, bottles, signs, etc. It is considered permanent, will not come up easily, and will likely leave behind residue.

This vinyl can stand up to heavy use. You see this vinyl on commercial signage. It is water-resistant, not waterproof. It is not known for being dishwasher safe. Items with 651 vinyl should be hand washed.

If you need the project to stand up to outdoor elements or water, 651 is a great choice.

There are various types of Sticky vinyl:

Basic vinyl - Regular adhesive vinyl for decals, labels, etc

Premium vinyl - these are specialty types of vinyl like holographic, glitter, frosted, metallic.

These can last a long time and are UV-resistant. Ideal for outdoor projects!

Patterned vinyl - This comes in many different patterns to spice up your projects. Can be purchased as removable and permanent.

751/951 Vinyl - also known as Marine Super Permanent

If your project is for boats, watercraft, or use in water, this is your best choice. It fades less and will stand up to the water and elements better than 651. It is MORE permanent than 651.

Most decals you see on watercraft are this vinyl. It tears easily because it stretches.

751 - can last up to 8 years in harsh sunlight and is thinner. It can be a bit challenging to apply because it stretches and can tear.

951 - This is High-grade vinyl, that can last up to 10 years outdoors. It is more expensive and comes in regular colors and metallics.

Oracal 5600 - Reflective Vinyl

Used for anything that needs reflective lettering or decal. Bikes, skateboards, parking cones, etc.

Oracal 6510 - Reflective Vinyl - Neon colors

There are many other specialty Oracal vinyl types for almost any need you may have. I would suggest going to the Oracal website and purchasing the color swatches or samples of those you are interested in.

Stencil Vinyl

This is clear vinyl, not sticky. It is made to use for stencils and painting. So if you want to cut stencils to paint or stencil your walls for decoration, this is your product! It is to be removed after painting and provides clean lines when removed.

Heat Transfer (HTV) Vinyl

HTV goes by lots of different names depending on the manufacturer. Always be sure to read the product description to be sure you are purchasing HTV. It is intended to be used on fabric or anything that is heat-safe at high temperatures. The vinyl itself is not sticky until heated, then it bonds to the fabric.

It comes in a wide variety of colors and styles depending on the manufacturer. It ranges from glitter, metallic, holographic, stretch, glow in the dark, and matte finishes.

Some types of HTV:

Regular HTV

Foil - has shiny foil-like surface

Glitter - Glittery surface, can be a little more of a challenge to work with

Holographic - holographic surface

Patterned - has print and patterend surface

Each type of HTV has manufacturer's instructions for applying.

Heat Temperature


Time to press

Warm/cool/cold peel

When using HTV ALWAYS check the manufacturer's instructions for best results.

(I keep my HTV separated by the manufacturer so that I always know how to apply, and peel)

HTV can be used on wood signs and frames. If used on a painted wood sign, the heat will likely bubble. Be careful.

Printable Vinyl

This type of vinyl can be purchased as HTV or sticky! We have come a long way from printable iron-on transfers. It is printed with a regular Ink Jet printer. If it is HTV Printable vinyl, print, then apply with a heat press according to the Manufacturer's instructions. If sticky, cut and apply. The main drawback is it only comes in 8.5 X 11” sheets. So, you will have to plan accordingly when using.

These are the basic types of vinyl and guidelines for use. There are many manufacturers for each type of vinyl. I would suggest purchasing a couple of sheets from a few manufacturers and trying them out. You will find your favorites or those that work well for your use.


Helpful Links:

Expressions Vinyl - Complete list of different vinyl types

My Vinyl Direct - Complete listings of many vinyl types

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