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What to Know Before you Buy a Vinyl Cutter

In my almost 13 years in this industry, I’ve encountered many people that are looking to start a t-shirt or vinyl cutting business.  Our industry is very friendly to anyone looking to start a business because of our very low startup costs.  Below is a list of what anyone that is considering adding a vinyl cutter to their existing business, or is looking to start a business should know before they buy.

1.  Know the difference between a Vector and a Raster image – A vinyl cutter works exclusively with Vector artwork.  A vinyl cutter essentially draws on your vinyl, only with a cutting blade and not a pen or pencil.  A vinyl cutter will follow the contours and intricacies of a graphic.  This is different from a standard printer that will move from left to right and spray ink onto a material.  Vector and Raster can be described as different languages.  A vinyl cutter only speaks Vector.  I found a very basic and easy to understand explanation of this here – The difference of vector and raster images.

If you don’t have vector graphics, don’t give up!!  Most graphics can be converted in Cadworx Live (free if you purchase your cutter from Imprintables Warehouse), a graphic software like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, or outsourced to a company like Artvark Express.

Start adding a certain keyword to your search terms.  It’s the theme of the post so far – Vector.  If you’re looking for a basketball graphic, instead of searching for “Basketball Clipart”, try searching for “Vector Basketball Clipart”.  You’ll see a big difference in your search results!!

2.  Know what you are paying for, or not paying for.  There are entry level cutters and professional grade cutters.  An entry level cutter will be the least expensive and provide you with minimal risk.  If things don’t work out, you can always try to resell it on eBay or Craig’s List and not lose too much money.  They won’t be as easy to use or set up initially, but they will certainly get the job done.  Professional grade cutters are made to last.  They are an investment that will continue to pay dividends well into the future.  Most will have premium features that will enable to you cut faster, quieter and more accurately.  I tell many of my customers that don’t have the budget for the professional grade cutters to start with the entry level, and then upgrade down the road if needed.  View our Buying Guide for an idea of the features available on each machine.

3.  Work with someone that will work with you.  If you’re going to buy a vinyl cutter, make sure you purchase from a vendor that is knowledgeable about the machine and will take the time to answer the questions you  have.  If you go after the cheapest price, you’ll get the cheapest service.  If a vinyl cutter is a new venture for you, you will need someone to lean on if you have a question on how to do a certain graphic, or what material to use on a fabric or surface.

4.  Buy a cutter that will effectively cut the materials you’re looking to work with.  If you’re looking to cut Rhinestone Templates, it will be best to purchase a cutter with sufficient force and an overcut function.  If you’re cutting very long runs, you’ll want to choose a cutter that has accurate tracking.  Going back to Number 3, the vendor you are looking to purchase from should be able to help you choose the machine that will cut what you need to cut.

5.  Consider your current set up.  Not all cutters will work with Mac computers.  If you are using a Mac, make sure you choose a cutter that has a compatible software and cutting driver.  You’ll also want to consider space requirements.  All 24″ or smaller cutters can be set up on a table.  A cutter stand is available if space is an issue and is recommended for longer cutting accuracy.  Some cutters are bundled with the stand, while they are an add-on item for other options.

6.  The software bundled with the machine will vary greatly.  Most will have plugins for Corel Draw and/or Illustrator.  Some software will outperform others with design capabilities, easy to access features and vinyl cutting specific functionality that isn’t available even on the more expensive, standalone graphic design software.  Cadworx Live will also be a great assist.  Cadworx has a lot of vector based clipart, templates and more.  There is also a very quick and easy Team Name and Number generator called Easy Teams.  Cadworx helps bridge the software gap between the entry level machines and the professional.

7.  Have a business plan!  I’m sure there’s a reason that you decided to consider a vinyl cutter.  Whatever that reason is, create a plan around it!  If you’re looking to create you own custom t’s for online retail, consider getting your website in order.  If you’re making this investment to get involved in the popular school or sports markets, contact your local organizations to see if you have a chance at the business.  You don’t want to take any orders until you have your cutter in place and have a general idea of what to do with it.  There is no faster way to lose a customer and potential business than to overpromise and under deliver!

 

These 7 points will help you be more prepared to start your vinyl cutting venture.  If you have any other ideas, or any questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at adam@imprintables.com.

 

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The Versatility of the VersaCAMM

Q:  What is the worst thing you can tell your customer? 

A:  “No.”

How many times have you had to tell your customers “No”?  Far too often I’m sure.  If it’s not “no”, then it may be “I’ll have it for you in two weeks” because you have to outsource the job.  There isn’t a machine out there that will give every customer everything they want, but there is one that will give you a heck of a start.  That machine is the Roland VersaCAMM.

So what makes the VersaCAMM such a versatile machine?  Consider the following.  Imprintables Warehouse offers 15 different types of Digital Media…and that’s just for garment decoration!  While most would expect a media for cotton, poly and cotton/poly blends to be available, they may be unaware that they can decorate performance wear, spandex, nylon, leather, both light and darks, just by switching out the media loaded in the machine.  Possible applications range from the common t-shirt to fire retardant leather race apparel to polypropelene bags that have become popular in the Promotional Product industry.  Not to mention socks, shoes, shorts & sandles…and much more!  And yes, i did spend a minute or two trying to think of another product you can decorate than begins with an “s” but decided to go on with the post.  No sense getting sidetracked. 

How about a printable Flock?  Anyone have a need for full color Reflective printing for safety apparel?  Have you had requests for a Puff print on a t-shirt?  Metallic is another effect that can serve an entire new market.  If your customers haven’t asked you for this yet, it may only be because they haven’t seen it! 

Speaking of new markets…Imprintables Warehouse has introduced a new line of printable material.  Our NAM line, or Non-Apparel Media is a bit of a departure from what has always been availabe from IW.  These materials were brought on to work in conjuction with the digital media for garment decoration that was mentioned above.  The difference is that these are not heat applied medias, but pressure sensitive.  Same printer, same inks, more versatility.  Imprintables Warehouse now stocks 12 more medias (that’s a total of 27 if you’re playing along) for application on to football, baseball & hockey helmets, stickers, laptop skins, removable wall graphics and posters just to name a few.  Consider the ability to print on banners, vehicle graphics, custom labels for bottles and window displays.  The list goes on and on!

Think about this.  Your customer brings you one piece of artwork.  All they may expect is a new t-shirt, hoodie or maybe a cap.  If you can offer them what they came to you for, that’s great.  Having the ability to offer them so much more will bring in more $$$$ and make for a happier customer and a happier you! 

If you are intersted in adding the Roland VersaCAMM or if you’ve already made the investment and you’re interested in any of the medias offered by Imprintables Warehouse, please email me at adam@imprintables.com.  You can also call me in the office at 1-800-347-0068 x 234 or on my cell at 724-322-1085.

If you’re interested in reading more about the VersaCAMM, please read a previous post – Comparing the Versacamm – Direct to Garment.

Thanks for reading!

AY