How to Get the Look of Vinyl Lettering without a Fancy Machine

how to make vinyl letters, letters with contact paper

UPDATE: This tutorial was to make folder holders for my DIY Command Center. Click the link to see the full command center!

I really like the look of vinyl lettering. And really, who doesn't? It's clean and classy and can be so many different styles. When I was working on our new mail/command center I wanted to label our individual mail bins with vinyl but I don't have a fancy machine. Luckily, it's not hard to do simple lettering like this the "analog" way. The best part? You can do it for as little as $1.


  • Contact paper ($1 from the dollar store)
  • Computer, printer (on hand)
  • Craft knife and cutting mat (I got mine from Consumer Crafts)
  • Scissors (on hand)
  • Masking tape (on hand)

Step 1: Print Your Words
how to make vinyl letters, letters with contact paper
Pick out a font you like (mine is Copperplate Gothic) and lay out the words you're going to use. 

To print onto your contact paper:
  1. Cut a piece of contact paper off your roll that is the same size as a standard sheet of printer paper
  2. Set the contact paper up in your printer so that the words print onto the backing
  3. When you go to print, tell your computer program to print in mirror image
Once it's gone through it should look like this:
how to make vinyl letters, letters with contact paper

(Don't mind those little label shapes. I figured if I'm running a piece of contact paper through my printer, I might as well make the most of all the real estate on the page. They are not for this project.)

Step 2: Cut Out the Letters
how to make vinyl letters, letters with contact paper
Use scissors and a craft knife to cut out the letters from the contact paper. Set them aside in groups that go together (each name for example). Be careful to cut the letters very precisely.

Step 3: Place the Letters
how to make vinyl letters, letters with contact paper
Start by placing a piece of masking tape on your object to mark where level is. Place it so the top edge of the tape will be where the bottom of your letters will rest.

Starting with the middle letter(s) - an O in this case, peel off the backing and center the letter on the line, resting the bottom of the letter against the tape. Use your fingers or a credit card to press the letter down well and push out any air bubbles.

how to make vinyl letters, letters with contact paper
You may have some serifs (like on the bottom of the E above). For these, firmly secure the rest of the letter and leave the serif loose. Once all letters are placed, remove the masking tape and press down the serifs and go over the letters once more.

That's it!

This is so super easy, I'm not sure why I hadn't done it before.

Now, before I let you go, let's talk about appropriate applications for this. Simple letters and chunky designs are the things this will work best with. For fine detail, fancy filigree or subway art, get your friend with the fancy machine to help you out.

Disclaimer: I received my craft knife and mat as part of a compensated campaign with Consumer Crafts and the Blueprint Social in January, 2013. All opinions and the decision to use the product in this project are my own.

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  1. Great idea, will still need the machine for some stuff I have planned. :)

    1. it's definitely not for everything but might help you put off investing in the fancy for a while depending on what you need to do :-)

  2. This is so fascinating-you just made my week!

  3. Fabulous idea! I am wanting to make a calendar with a repurposed frame so will definitely try this out for the frame and days of the week. Thanks for sharing!

  4. oh, what a wonderful, fabulous, awesome idea! Gotta do it!

  5. Yay!! Finally a way to do vinyl letters without a machine (which I cannot afford). Thank you so much!!

  6. Hey Carissa what a smart idea. Thank you so much!

  7. Thanks, Carissa!! You just saved me a ton of money!! Why didn't I think of this!?!

  8. Ooh! I would never have thought to print the back of contact paper - so smart!!!

  9. Awesome idea! I just bought contact paper at the Dollar Store!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this project! My head is reeling with ideas to try out your how-to.

  11. This is refreshing. I'm very.... anti-cutting machine... or against any type of apparatus that does over 80% of the work for you. I mean....we are ARTISTS. Make your art, with your hands. Unless you are lettering a whole wall of course.nice simple job.

  12. Love it! And I love that you made sure your contact paper did double duty to print labels too! I wouldn't have thought of that. I'm working on my mud-room/command station and that will be super helpful. Thanks!

  13. Thank you. I was looking for a way to do lettering on kids Halloween pails and this is so much easier than I imagined.

  14. Whoa!! You are so smart!! This is such an awesome alternative! I'll still daydream about a machine & all the acoutrements, but this will more than get me by. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!

  15. Thank you for the post. I just moved and am finally starting to decorate again. I've decided to go tiny so I don't have room or want a lot of stuff.


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