by William Sanders
So you spent all your cash on the best vinyl cutter and have nothing left to spend on a premium cutting software?
If yes, you can get your way around it by using a FREE cutting software. Most of the free models will meet all your cutting needs, just like the paid ones.
In this post, we'll take a look at some of the most popular free vinyl cutting software available today.
With the rise of digital art, more people are turning to vinyl cutting software to create graphics they can use on signs, shirts, or posters. Although this type of image making has long been done by hand, with careful use of an x-acto knife and a steady eye, the convenience of software makes the process easier and more accessible.
Vinyl cutting is a method for producing images from longer, digital files. People can pull these designs off of their computers and print them onto vinyl sheets which they can then cut out by hand or with specialized machine tools.
The most common type of design used in vinyl cutting software will look like an image saved as a.png file, but this style isn't always necessary. Some pieces may involve uploading complex vector graphics that are viewed as long strips instead of concentrated dots on a screen. These graphic types will need to be "unwrapped" before they can be printed, which just means converting them into the png format that's needed to turn them into the cutable images.
As for what does it do, some vinyl cutting printers can create designs that are still images while others will produce moving videos on the long sheets of vinyl. This is why digital art has become so popular; people can make any type of image they want and even blow it up to full wall size without losing resolution or clarity. The possibility of creating large, eye catching images like this is another reason why many turn to vinyl cutting software in the first place.
Some of these applications are more capable than others. Please keep in mind that while some of these applications will be useful for some users, they may not work at all for you.
Before we continue, let us go over a few things:
Inkscape is the most popular free vinyl cutting software among crafters all over.
The free software offers you a suite of flexible drawing tools and a powerful text tool to enable you to work on just any craft from start to finish. Moreover, it presents you with the broad file format and compatibility, as well as the Bezier & Spiro curves, to extend your boundaries on the types of projects you can work on with it.
Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor available on multiple platforms. Inkscape is great for creating SVG files, which can be used on most vinyl cutters. Inkscape is also great for modifying SVG files that have already been created, which may be helpful to those just getting started with vinyl cutting.
Something unique about Inkscape is that it has an extension called "Export Bitmap," which allows users to choose a bounding box by first drawing a shape on the page and then exporting it as a bitmap. If you own a Cricut Air, this application has some great features such as saving your SVG files with inches/feet measurements and millimeters (there is more information about these here ).
The only potential downside to Inkscape is that it requires users to have some knowledge of how SVGs work. If you know nothing about them, I recommend reading up on them first before using Inkscape (there is more information on SVG files here ).
Overall, Inkscape is a great free option for those looking to create vector images and edit existing ones. It's also a great option for those just getting started with vinyl cutting and want to explore the hobby without having to buy a machine yet.
Dowload Links as Below (Inkscape is truly cross platform, so you should be able to find it for other operating systems as well)
SVG-CA is an application made specifically for the Cameo and Portrait lines of machines from Provocraft. It helps users to create SVGs with inches/feet measurements and millimeters (there is more information about these here ).
SVG-CA can be downloaded from Provocraft's website. You will need a free account on the site in order to download it.
Price: Free for Cameo owners; $29.99 per year for Portrait owners
Craft Edge comes in two different variations, Craft Edge and Craft Edge 2.0. The free version only allows users to create designs for use with a Cricut Explore, Expression, and Create machine (there is more information about these here ). The $19.99 upgrade allows users to create projects for use with other machines such as the Portrait and Cameo (there is more information about these here ).
Craft Edge 2.0 offers very intuitive features, such as the ability to change fonts or add in images easily. It also has a feature called "Optimizer," which automatically optimizes your SVG files for use on machines with bigger cutting mats. Craft Edge 2.0 also allows users to import SVG files, supports layers, and has the ability to save projects offline (so you can continue working later).
If you don't own a Cricut machine but are thinking about getting one, I recommend starting with the free version of Craft Edge to see if you would use it enough to justify purchasing a monthly subscription.
Price: Free for "Cricut only" projects; $19.99 per year for projects compatible with all machines from Provocraft
SignGo is one perfect example of paid software with a pretty long free trial period. It lets you use it for up to 30 days (equivalent to one month) without paying a cent.
If you only have a few cutting projects to work on with your machine, this is a pretty long period of time to complete them.
You can use this software to work a wide range of cutting projects, including creating t-shirt designs, vinyl lettering, paint stencils, sandblast stencils, promo items, decorative glass, stickers, decals, among others.
Some of the premium features you'll enjoy using from this software include the text editor, welding, node editor, distortions, direct scanning, gradient fills, shadows, to name but a few. However, you might not enjoy its full list of premium features until you subscribe to their pro version.
And the best part? This software supports over 500 cutting machines, so there's a high chance your vinyl cutter will work with it.
Here's another premium vinyl cutting software with an extended free demo of up to 30 days, just like SignGo.
Though this software is relatively new to the game, it has quickly gained popularity in the vinyl cutting world. The fact that it's compatible with both Windows and Mac operation software makes translates to increased user scope.
Easy Cut Studio supports importing/exporting the SVG type files-enabling you to easily upload, save, and even send the designs you create. It also means you can hassle-freely transfer your files from this software to other software of your choice…something not many software can do.
Because the software supports vectorization of files, turning normal image file into cutting files becomes easier than ever before!
Oh! Don't forget that this software also presents you with a 100% user-friendly, intuitive interface to make it as easy to use as possible.
Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) is one of the simplest vinyl cutting software ever made. It comes with an incredibly intuitive, user-friendly interface, which makes it the perfect option for absolute beginners.
Though this is a paid software, it offers you a FREE trial, which lasts for up to 15 days.
During the free trial period, you'll enjoy using this app to cut pretty much any font or shape you can think of. You can choose to draw your own design from scratch, use pre-made designs, or cut your OpenType and TrueType fonts.
The software also has the ability to import designs from other programs. And thanks to its auto-tracing feature, it does a great job converting any shape into a cut image.
Similar to other top-rated premium software, SCAL also works with both Windows and Mac.
Quit note: Cricut machine owners have reported issues using this software's latest version (SCAL 5).
Who would need this type of software? Small business owners who want to create simple designs or users looking to make small stickers for labeling items at home (e.g., wine bottles, jars, envelopes, etc.)
One of many DIY cutting programs available on the market, this type of software is often the most user-friendly since it allows you to create designs by simply dragging and dropping shapes onto a canvas.
The main reason for getting this type of software is to design logos or basic shapes that do not require complex vector graphics (e.g., Adobe Illustrator). Something to consider, however, is which file formats can be supported. Some programs only support.ai files, and if you want to use a different format (e.g.,.jpg), you'll need to convert your file before cutting it out with your machine.
Although this is the simplest type of program available, there are some downsides:
Most of the software on this list is something you can download for free and use on your computer. Some of them you need to buy though, like Rhino3D (but only if you want to save.DXF files). Another option is purchasing a vinyl cutter with built in software.
If you're looking for a reliable vinyl cutting software to use with your vinyl cutter but don't have the cash to purchase the premium models, consider getting Inkscape software. This is 100% free to use software and presents you with great features and functions, just like the paid software.
If you want to have a piece of the cake for the premium software without paying a dime, consider taking advantage of their free trials. These will be more suitable if you don't have a lot of cutting projects. Some of these paid apps have a free demo that goes for as long as 30 days-more than enough time for small projects!
About William Sanders
William Sanders was born and raised in California. After receiving his Master’s degree in information science from San Diego State University, he started working as a city councilor. In his spare time, William enjoys playing best-selling MMORPG games such as World of Warcraft and Fnal Fantasy, where he often takes on the role of guild leader with hundreds of players collaborating for success under his leadership. William is also a regular contributor to some popular magazines such as San Jose Mercury News, Gleanster Research, and Palmgear.