How to Layer Multi-Color Vinyl Designs


DIY Christmas Gift- How to Layer Vinyl Using Registration Marks

Spreading Handmade Christmas JOY!

Hey Everyone! Shalon here with some Christmas in July inspiration!  Too often many of us enter the holiday season with the best of crafty intentions, only to become overwhelmed and end up picking up some pre-made item for a grab bag, Pollyanna, Secret Santa, white elephant, teacher’s gift or other last minute gifting occasion! Today I’ll show you how to layer multi-color vinyl designs to transform a plain coffee mug into a special DIY Christmas gift that is both simple and inexpensive, yet still has a personal touch!

Make it now, and tuck it away for that last minute occasion. You’ll thank yourself (and impress others) as you present a unique handmade gift without adding to the last minute “crazy” of the holiday season!

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • A plain ceramic mug of your choosing
  • Silhouette Cameo, Cricut Explore, or other electronic cutting machine.
  • Vinyl design – I chose the JOY Christmas SVG Cutting File & Clipart design (requires Silhouette Studio Designer Edition, Cricut Design Space, or other cutting software that accepts SVGs.)
  • Transfer paper – Clear transfer tape is a must for layering multiple colors of vinyl.
  • Permanent/Outdoor Adhesive Vinyl – I used Oracal 651 from Expressions Vinyl.
  • Scraper (or credit card/old gift card, popsicle stick) for burnishing
  • Weeding hook, X-acto knife, or other weeding tool
  • Rubbing Alcohol (to clean surface)
  • Heat Gun (or hair dryer) – optional

Design Prep

1. Measure the face of the mug (mine was 4.5in. x 2.5in.) and create a rectangle shape with those dimensions in your cutting software to use as a guide for sizing your design. You can also use the grid lines in your cutting software, but I prefer to draw a rectangle as a helpful visual reference. Here I used Silhouette Studio Designer Edition with my Cameo, but you can follow along with your cutting software of choice.

1-Prepare Vinyl Design Draw Rectangle

2. I chose this fun and festive Joy Christmas design from Printable Cuttable Creatables, and opened up the SVG file in Studio. As with many designs from Printable Cuttable Creatables, several layering options are included, so I decided to go with the upper row of reindeer heads for this vinyl project. (For paper piecing [my first love!] the lower reindeer option would be much easier for layering and adhering paper, but alas, I digress!
SVG Cut File Paper vs Vinyl Options
3. Using the Align Window function, I quickly layered the images so I could resize them while maintaining their proportions. You could also manually align the images but ever since discovering this function, it has definitely become a go-to for me. The novelty has yet to wear off!

Silhouette Studio Designer Edition Align Panel
4. Resize the design to fit within the rectangle shape guide. Be sure to leave some room at the top rim of the mug for drinking (vinyl is not food safe! Safety first!). To resize multiple pieces simultaneously, you can group all the design elements, or select them with a bounding box; I decided to group the design for resizing to make sure no pieces got left behind!

Aliign Vinyl Design

Adding Registration Marks

When it comes to vinyl I always have an internal debate – use registration marks to assure a proper line up, or just eyeball it and save vinyl. Since this is a multicolor design with some tiny pieces, I chose to use the registration mark method to make sure all the pieces align perfectly.

1. To add registration marks in Silhouette Studio, draw 2 small squares above each design shape while the design is still layered.

Add registration marks to vinyl design

2.  To cut all the colors and pieces of this design at the same time, and still keep the registration marks in tact, select each design shape with its’ registration marks, and then press and hold the OPTION (Mac) / ALT (PC) key while dragging the design to create a copy. Make a copy for each colored layer.

Cut Multiple colors on Silhouette Cameo at same time

3. Delete the unneeded colors from each copy, leaving you with separated color layers and registration marks in tact above each layer.

Prep design to cut multiple colors on Silhouette Cameo simultaneously

4. Now is a good time to group together each color layer with its’ corresponding registration marks (COMMAND+G (Mac) / CTRL+G (PC)) so they don’t get separated from each other.

Group design in silhouette studio5. Next, position your shapes on the page to correspond with where you want them to cut on your mat. Select each shape grouping according to color, and place them in the desired place on the grid.

To aid in placement of your shapes, Studio’s Reveal feature (found in the Design Page Settings tab) is super helpful. Just toggle the slider to the right to “reveal” the mat grid lines beneath. You could also use the PixScan Mat if you have one!Use Silhouette Studio Reveal feature

Getting Ready to Cut

Now it’s time to prepare your vinyl for cutting. Since the pieces of this mug decal design are fairly small, this is a great opportunity to use up any vinyl scraps you may have on hand. Waste not, want not! Here’s what my cutting mat looked like with the vinyl scraps placed to correspond with the layout on my screen. Cutting multiple colors simultaneously on Silhouette Cameo2.  Before sending to your cutting machine, make sure your cut lines are turned on and set to “Cut”. For smaller more intricate cuts, I have been favoring the CB09 I find that it cuts crisper for more delicate files. My cut settings for this project were Blade 2, Speed 5, Thickness 5 and double cut. When using the standard Ratchet blade, I usually set my blade at 2, speed 8, and thickness 9, no double cut. You may need to play around with your cut settings, and be sure to do a Test Cut first! 3.  When you’re ready, go ahead and send to cut!

Layering a Multi-Colored Vinyl Design

Once your vinyl is cut, go ahead and weed the designs (carefully pulling up the excess vinyl / negative space that isn’t part of the design). I weeded all shapes traditionally, except for the eyes – since they were so very small – I used the reverse weeding technique to make sure I didn’t miss one! Now you are ready to layer each design element by matching up the registration marks (this is why clear Transfer Tape is a must!)

  1. Place your transfer tape over the top layer of the design, making sure the registration marks are included, and burnish really well with your scraper (a credit card, old gift card works well too).
  2. Peel off the transfer tape and now your vinyl design should be adhered to it.
  3. For easier layering, you can gently place the vinyl backing behind the transfer paper, so the pieces don’t stick to each other as you line up the registration marks. Once the registration marks are lined up, remove the vinyl backing, and carefully lay the rest of the design flat over the second layer.
  4. Burnish well and remove the transfer tape.

Using Registration Marks to Layer Multi-Color Vinyl Designs Repeat the above steps for any additional colors, such as this reindeer design. Using registration marks to layer a multi-colored Vinyl Design Repeat the process for each design. Now your multi-colored vinyl designs are perfectly aligned to a single piece of transfer tape, and you are ready to apply them to the mug! Layering Vinyl Designs

Apply Vinyl

Before placing your vinyl on your mug /object, be sure to thoroughly clean the surface with rubbing alcohol and let dry. Since its alcohol, it dries very quickly. Clean Surface before applying vinyl Remembering to keep a space to drink, I began to place my vinyl. Burnishing with my finger at first, then more thoroughly with my scraper I made sure that it was completely adhered before removing my transfer tape. Applying Vinyl Decal to mug After removing the transfer tape, I hit the design with my heat gun (a hair dryer works just as well) to provide a stronger bond by warming the adhesive. How to layer multiple colors of vinyl decal Viola! My gift was done! Stuff with candy, hot chocolate, K-Cups or whatever else matches your recipient’s personality! How to Layer Multi Color Vinyl Design using Registration Marks

I hope that this tutorial helps you to get jump on that holiday craze!

May your crafts be aplenty!

If you like it, go ahead and share on Pinterest or hit one of the Share buttons below! And if you make one of these, don’t forget to post them on my Facebook page, or email them to me – I love seeing your creations!

Affiliate Disclosure: I may be an affiliate for some products recommended in this post. This means that if you purchase items through my links I will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have personally used and enjoy and when you order through my link, it helps me continue to offer you lots of free SVG files, digital papers, scrapbook sketches, tutorials, and other freebies. Thank you in advance for your support!


3 thoughts on “How to Layer Multi-Color Vinyl Designs”

    • Thanks Sharon!
      I hope my instructions are helpful!
      Most vinyl manufacturers say it is NOT dishwasher safe, so I usually hand wash (especially designs with overlapping layers) to be safe. However, I know some people have put vinyl mugs in the dishwasher with success. Maybe give it a try with an inexpensive mug and a simple design first?


Leave a Comment



Let's Keep In Touch!



Learn to Design Your Own SVGs

This site uses cookies to provide functionality and give you the best experience. You can learn more in our Privacy Policy.. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.