Friday, December 19, 2014

How To Put Vinyl On The Outside of Ornaments

I am sorry this post is so long overdue.  Hopefully, with less than a week before Christmas, this post will be just in time for somebody ;0}

This is one of my set of three bulbs I sell finished or as parts on Etsy.  I do the floating insert inside, then the phrase on the outside.  If you have ever tried applying lettering to the outside of an ornament, you know it is a pain in the butt.  That doesn't even explain how yucky it can be depending on your project.

Here is what I do:
First, we are working with glass.  You need a way to put this bad boy down.  I use tape rolls.  I actually have a collection of empty rolls of packing tape that I usually use, but basically any roll is fine.  This ornament is a 4" bulb, so if you are using a smaller bulb you will need to find something smaller than the packing or painter's tape.  Even a drinking glass would work as long as it is smaller at the opening than the ornament is.

OK, so I get my insert in there, but you can do the lettering first.  Either way is fine.  Then set your bulb down tilted slightly towards the back so that your line of sight points directly to the center of the side of the bulb.

This is how my lettering vinyl looks at the beginning.

To make this all go down easier, basically because of the font and size of my lettering, I have found it easier to cut the piece apart a bit first.  It lets you work with one line or section at a time without cutting it all apart and risk having placement not line up.

You can see where I have cut into mine?  With this project, I cut it basically into words, but don't cut them totally apart unless you think you can line things back up with your eyeballs.

Now peel the paper backing off the vinyl transfer tape.

Hold your vinyl over the bulb, center it where you want it, then press down one word/line.  

The real key is to work from the center out wherever possible.  

I rub down the "Towards" word.  You don't need to press super hard.  Just make sure all parts make contact with the glass.  

Notice how I have applied the one word, even the capital "T", but didn't even attach the "G".  Work one word at a time.  Work from the center of the bulb towards the left side.  When you do this, if it starts to look like the words are falling down or up, you can pull the transfer tape up or down just a bit to straighten things out.  The center line usually goes on really well.  Above the center, things tend to start leaning.  Go ahead and loosen the transfer tape off of the lettering that is already down, then pull your new line or word up or down, whatever direction it needs to go to look straight.

I warned you.  This is not easy!

For this piece, my next thing I will rub down is the "G" just because it is attached to the "T" and I learned the hard way that I want above all else, for that "T-G" combo to lay flat.  Once they are on there, I can move the other letters around to adjust.

As you can see here, I don't wait until I have all the vinyl pressed down to start pulling the excess transfer tap off.  Once the letters are adhered to the glass, you are free to pull that transfer tape off so it has more freedom to move around in other spots.

Now I am going to press down the "Men" word.  I have learned that the rest of "Goodwill" likes to fall and stick in awkward places, 

So sometimes I just cut it off.  You can stick the clear part to the edge of a table or the ornament box or something until you are ready for it.  I don't always cut off words.  It can be very tricky to get things to line up again later, but it works well with this vinyl piece.

For each word, I center it, press it down, then try and rub it down along a center line, then rub down each strand that shoots off, like the swirly part of the "M" basically just following the vinyl up and around with my finger.

Treat each leg that branches off of the center of the word just like an individual piece and let it go where it wants to go naturally.  Don't try and push down all the parts higher than the "e" and "n" in "Men" at the same time.  Press down each vinyl piece one at a time to avoid causing bubbles.

When it is down I pull that transfer tape off too.

Sometimes the vinyl just doesn't want to stay down when you pull that transfer tape off.  Just grab a hold of the vinyl and hold it down while pulling the tape.  Usually, after you get it started, the rest comes off really well.

OK, sometimes bubbles happen.  It is OK!  You do need to fix it right away.  The lazy way would be to just press it down as best as you can and walk away.  You could use an exacto knife and just slice the vinyl, then tuck one end underneath another.  That is not how I do it though ;0}

Take your exacto knife, slide it under the bubble, then slide down the vinyl {using the dull side so you don't accidentally cut your word to pieces} and loosen the attached vinyl.

You can just press it down again as you go, pushing that bubble to the edge.

Here I am taking the lazy way and just splicing the letter with an exacto knife.

Lift one side, while pushing the other side underneath.  

Done.  NO bubbles anymore.

Last, I eyeball the lettering that is still left to go on.  If I were to just smooth this down how it lies, the word would be falling down the bulb.  To combat that, I press down the first "o", and maybe the second, then start to pull upwards on the transfer tape while I go on pressing down the rest.


Yes.  It is terrible.  It is stressful.  But it is also so rewarding when you finish!  Remember smaller ornaments are exponentially harder.  Smaller lettering is exponentially harder.  Large images...not possible.  You will need to buy one of the flat ornaments or just go with the floating image inside.  

Let me know if you have any questions.  Hopefully I didn't forget anything ;0}
Happy Holidays!


  1. Replies
    1. It depends on the bulb size. This one is a 4" bulb. The words are about 3.5" long, maybe 1.25" tall.

      Typically I make a circle the size of the bulb in my graphics program on the computer, put lettering on the circle so that it looks good on the circle, not hanging over the sides or whatever, then cut the lettering out that size. It ends up looking just right for the bulbs.


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