Vinyl Mug Creations: Tutorial

This year I finally broke down and invested in a Cricut Explore Air 2. My friends had all raved about their own Cricut which had only increased my own want for one of the machines. I happened to be shopping around and saw that Amazon had a huge discount on them right now, and in my favorite color (Persimmon, which looks like a reddish coral color). I just could not resist, especially as a teacher who loves to make vinyl wall clings!


A lot of people worry that these machines are hard to use, but they are very straight forward. Carefully unwrap all pieces, plug in each cord to their proper places (there are only three different cords, two of which fit together to be one power cord), connect to your computer’s USB port, and follow the instructions on the screen! I have dealt with many different pieces of technology in my life and I can honestly say this was the easier machine I’ve ever hooked up and immediately used.

My best suggestion for you is to go through the tutorial on Cricut Design Space after you’ve installed the program on your computer and make the card that they provide for you. It teaches you quite a bit about the basics of the machine and you will feel a lot more comfortable after you’re done. Once you feel like you’re ready to try an actual project, consider making this kick-ass mug for you or someone who fits the bill!

Nerd? I Prefer The Term Intellectual Badass


Required Materials:

  • White Mug (I found mine here)
  • Cricut Explore Air 2
  • Charged Computer
  • Black Vinyl (I found mine here)
  • Transfer Tape (I found mine here)
  • Mat (comes with Cricut machine)
  • Small Pin (I used a push pin)
  • Scissors to cut vinyl


Step One: Make the Design

There is no short cut for this portion of the project, I designed every piece to the above pattern. Use the Cricut library and images you can design to create each piece. Play around with the fonts and get used to them. If you want a different font, find that font online and install it to your computer (as you would if you wanted a new font for Microsoft Word). The font won’t show up in Cricut Design Space if you’re already in the program when you install the font. Just click out of the program (save your project first), then re-open. The font will then be there.

Step Two: Highlight All Words and Images, Then Click “Weld” at the Bottom Right-Hand Corner

If you don’t do this, all the letters will be mixed up when you go to cut the design. Yuck.

Step Three: Click “Make It”

The program allows you to move your design exactly where you want the blade to cut on the mat. Be sure to place your piece exactly where you are going to place your vinyl. Look at the mat on the screen, and then cut a piece of black vinyl that fits the dimensions.


My design was 4 by 3.5 – so I cut my vinyl accordingly.

Step Four: Place the Vinyl on the Correct Part of the Mat

Then smooth it out, getting rid of any bubbles. This will ensure that the machine has a nice cut and doesn’t slide around, potentially ruining your project. Look at the machine setting and make sure the wheel is pointing to “Vinyl”. This will tell the machine how deep to cut.

Step Five: Load the Mat and Click “Continue” in Cricut Design Space 

Open the machine, then place the edge of the mat up against the little wheels in the machine. There is a button for loading the mat, it has arrows pointing up and down. Click that and make sure the wheels bring the mat into the machine (it’s not very far in, just enough to hold it).


Step Six: Click the Middle “Cricut” Button

Then, wait for your design to be cut! This usually only takes a few seconds, to a few minutes, depending on the design.

Step Seven: Unload the Mat, then Pick Out Tiny Pieces with Pin

There will be little pieces in letters like o, a, e, etc that you will need to remove using the small pin (or the actual tool that Cricut sells… I just haven’t purchased one yet!) Carefully remove all those pieces, and throw them away.

Experience Tip: Be careful to not let your sleeve touch the mat too much. It picks up every little piece of lint and loses its stickiness quickly!

Step Eight: Carefully Peel Away the Excess Vinyl

Make sure your design stays attached to the mat. You should only be peeling the black vinyl off from the white underside of the original vinyl piece.

Step Nine:  Cut Out a Piece of Transfer Tape 

For this mug, I cut my transfer tape so that I would be removing one line of vinyl at a time. Mugs are round, so sometimes it can be tricky getting the letters to lay smooth if you try to place the entire design down at once. So, I recommend cutting your transfer tape into three strips: one to lay on top of “Nerd?” and the black glasses, one to lay on top of “I prefer the term & intellectual” and one for “badass”. Doing this led to NO bubbling, and an easy transfer.

Step Ten: Adhere Vinyl to Transfer Tape

Peel the white backing off from the transfer tape of your first strip, and gently place on top of the first section. Using the scraper or just your finger, rub on each letter to get the vinyl to adhere to the transfer tape. You want the transfer tape to adhere JUST enough to pick the vinyl up, but don’t rub down on it so hard that it becomes too stuck to the transfer tape. Slowly pick the transfer tape up, making sure the vinyl is stuck to it. If a piece of vinyl didn’t adhere, just lower the transfer tape back over that letter, rub a little, and keep picking up.

Step Eleven: Transfer the Design to the Mug

Take the transfer tape and place the design near the very top of the mug. You must have enough room for the other two sections to be placed, so judge accordingly. Lay the transfer tape onto the mug, and gently rub the letters onto the mug. Again, not too hard because the vinyl will want to stay adhered to the transfer tape, and then it is NO FUN getting them apart. Then, peel away the transfer tape and make sure the vinyl stays down on the mug. Repeat for all sections.

Expert tip: If the vinyl keeps picking up with the transfer tape, press the meaty part of your finger onto the lip of the vinyl letter, then gently pull the transfer tape. DO NOT USE YOUR FINGERNAIL, it damages the vinyl letter. Slowly but surely, work your finger along the letter as you peel the tape away. It can be painfully slow, but eventually the letter will peel off.

Step Thirteen: Seal with Dishwasher Safe Modge Podge

Using a sponge brush, apply one to two layers of Dishwasher Safe Modge Podge, and let sit for a few hours until dry. If you are giving the mugs away as gifts, use a tag to let them know that the mugs will be ready in 21 days. They can still use them for drinking and can hand-wash them before then!

Happy Crafting!


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