I've seen a few pictures floating around the internet of fun stickers made for the unused buttons on your car. The concept is so simple and brilliant! I had to make a few.
The underlying tutorial for this project is how to vinyl cut a small layered sticker.
I've posted the files below to make the 4 I designed, but they are sized for specific buttons on my car. (Mazda 2) So this project will require editing with a vector based software. (a drawing program that understands a circle as a mathematical equation rather than a ring of colored pixels that when zoomed out enough resembles a circle)
You will need:
Vector software: I use Adobe Illustrator, but that can be pricey it you don't use it professionally. There are some good alternatives out there, like inkscape (free), Adobe Draw (free mobile app), or Sketch (Mac, $100).
Vinyl Cutter: You can go buy one if you want, but chances are, if you attend, or work anywhere related to a college, you have access to one. If you supply the vinyl, most places will be happy to cut your small sticker piece.
Vinyl: Small sheets can come in packs and many colors. You can spend anywhere from $5-$30.
Transfer paper: Essentially, a large sheet of tape. The good kind has a durable translucent material, minor adhesive, and sometimes a grid to aid in alignment. If you never intend to vinyl cut again, just use a wide piece of masking tape.
Copious amounts of patience: this is an a-typical vinyl cutting project because of it's size. I cut 3 of each design to get 1 good one. Letters will pop off in the process, just eyeball it and stick it back on. It won't be machine perfect, but that's how you know it's homemade!
STEP 1: the file
Keep in mind that the outline of your design is the path that the vinyl cutter's knife will take. So, when designing your icon, make sure there are no overlapping edges.
This sticker has two layers: the design and the backplate. Once you have your sticker set and sized, deconstruct the design by color (each color will require it's own vinyl sheet and cut file.)
Next, Identify the parts of the design that are especially small and detailed. Use a "weed box" around those areas. (pictured to the right) This extra cut path allows you to *weed the large areas of the background without worrying about messing up the scary intricate lettering detail.
*Weeding is the process, after the design is cut, of removing the negative space from the vinyl sheet. The outer edges and the inside of the O's and A's.
Lastly, you'll want to include registration marks. These are sacrificial shapes placed above the sticker that you cut with each layer in the same place. They will help you align the design and the backplate when you layer them together.
To double check: If your vector file is life size, has a solid outlined design (including outlined text), separated cut paths for each color, weed boxes in place, and registration marks, then you're ready to cut!
STEP 2: Cut and Weed
Send your files through the vinyl cutter, and cut the vinyl down to a workable size.
If you downloaded my vector file, you'll see that there are 4 copies of each design ready to cut. With a design this small, the vinyl cutter will inevitably mess up a few. With 4 cut, you can pick the best one and work from there.
First, weed the large areas.
Start working on the weed boxes one at a time. This is where it will get frustrating. Letters will start to pop off or rotate, but It's not ruined! If that happens, grab a harsh light, and maybe a magnifying glass. The vinyl cutter is calibrated to cut through just the surface layer of the vinyl sheet, but it does leave an indent in the lower waxy layer. Looking closely, you can see where the moved pieces should be.
Once the weeding is done, pick up the design and registration mark with transfer tape. Fresh transfer tape is often a little too sticky. I usually stick it to my shirt a few times to dull the adhesive before using it on the vinyl.
Hover the design over the back plate using the registration marks as a guide. When you're ready, let the two layers make contact. Rub the transfer tape firmly to ensure the layers have good contact. (In a larger vinyl sticker, you would use a squeegee, a stiff flat tool, to get out the bubbles. Because of this project's size, that step is not needed)
Slowly and carefully peel over one corner of the transfer tape. Pull on that corner keeping a sharp 180° angle rolling until the tape is completely off. (This is where your shirt fuzzies will make all the difference)
And it's ready!
Go stick it on your car!
and wait for an astute friend to find it.