How To Transfer Vinyl Without Transfer Paper [Step-by-Step Guide]

You’re in the middle of a DIY craft and you realize you are out of transfer paper, and you find yourself asking hmmm, “what can I use instead of transfer paper for vinyl?”

Don’t fret, there are a couple of vinyl transfer paper (interchangeably we will also refer to as transfer tape) alternatives that you might just have in your craft box and even in your tool shed.

But first off, let’s give you a rundown on why transfer tape or paper is the ideal tape to use for vinyl.

Transfer Tape or Transfer Paper

Transfer tape and vinyl are like two peas in a pod since they are both made to function together. In fact, transfer papers were developed specifically with the crafter in mind, as they are generally simple to use and enable the transfer of vinyl designs to the medium of choice (i.e. glass, plastic, etc).

Teckwrap vinyl transfer tape

TECKWRAP Purple Grid Medium Tack Transfer Tape


More than the ordinary adhesive, vinyl transfer paper is designed with the right amount of tack or stickiness to ensure that the vinyl design will not tear or warp.

The major upside of using transfer tape is its reusability. Since the tack-ability remains intact, many crafters reuse their transfer tapes or papers over and over again, until the adhesiveness wears off.

No Transfer Paper, No Problem

Fortunately, you can use a number of tapes as an alternative for your transfer paper and proceed with your project.

Painter’s Tape

Your tool box would probably have a roll of painter’s tape, or you can get one at the nearest  dollar store in your location. The material of this kind of tape is a far cry from transfer tape, not as sticky, but it will still get the job done, albeit not as seamlessly of course.

painter's tape

   Painter’s Tape in blue


This tape comes in either blue or green, to distinguish it from the rest of the tapes on the market, abd also, make it stand out against other paint colors. Its adhesive property is not as sticky as compared to a regular masking tape. It is used to line walls, and other surfaces in preparation to painting.

Masking Tape

Masking tape is more adaptable than duct tape because of its neutral off-white tint and lightweight properties. It is more sticky than painter's tape, and is useful for creating and writing labels and repairing light materials.

However, its stick quality has a drawback. When removed from any surface, masking tape leaves a residue similar to that of removing an adhesive bandage that has been on your skin for a few days.

The residue accumulates quickly and might be difficult to remove. As a result, it's best suited for applications where the tape will be present for an extended period of time.


masking tape

Masking Tape


  1. Draw or upload your design onto your cutting machine software and input the appropriate settings.
  2. Load your vinyl sheet onto the cutting plotter.



vinyl cutting machine
  1. Cut your your image.
  2. Weed your design (if applicable).

weeding vinyl


  1. Lay your vinyl sheet on a flat clean surface.
  2. With the design facing up, cut the required number of masking tape strips. Make sure the entire surface of your vinyl sheet is covered.
peeling off transfer tape
  1. With a brayer roller or a squeegee smooth out the tape to remove air bubbles.
  2. Turn the vinyl sheet over, with the backing side up, and smoothen as well.
  3. Peel the tape slowly to ensure the entire design is transferred onto the tape.
peeling off masking tape
  1. Before transferring  the vinyl, don’t forget to clean the surface on your chosen project.
  2. Carefully stick your vinyl on the surface, smoothen and carefully peel the tape backing.
transferring vinyl without transfer tape
  1. Check to see if any of the images is still stuck on the tape.  
how to transfer vinyl without transfer tape

Voila! You will see that you can transfer vinyls easily without transfer tape.

Tip: Organize your stuff, including excess vinyl, neatly after each project, this way you can check what other items are still available to use and reuse.

Cutting Machine Recommendations

The process of using tape is usually done midpoint of doing a project. But the fun actually begins with investing in a cutting machine to help you translate all your wonderful ideas into actual vinyl design outputs.

To the uninitiated, one might think of a cutting plotter as merely a cutting tool. But you will be amazed at the things you can do with your plotter that will save you time and money in the long run.


The Silhouette brand of cutters uses the design software, Silhouette Studio, which comes in both free and business editions. A popular model, the Cameo has a built-in carriage in front to secure your vinyl roll before cutting, and makes it easier to pull before loading onto the cutter plotter, it also has a sliding blade at the back to cut excess vinyl after use.

silhouette cameo machine

                                                     Silhouette Cameo 4



Cricut uses Design Space software, which also comes in the free basic version, with the upgrade by purchasing different elements online. The Circut Maker is a popular Cricut machine model and is faster than the older versions, and can cut a variety of materials from paper to fabric.


cricut  vinyl cutting machine

                                                         Cricut Maker

Both have free (or upgraded) software that allows the user to import elements such as photos, images, and even fonts and allow your software to connect to your existing printer/s to print before cutting. Having this is a total lifesaver because one software does it all, from drafting the artwork to cutting the design output.

It’s your printing haven and heaven right at the comfort of your own home. You can work on creating customized items for personal and commercial use.

Many crafters have turned their hobby into an income-generating endeavor because of the seemingly limitless potential of their Silhouette or Cricut machine.


What is the difference between transfer tape and vinyl?

The vinyl is where the image or design is placed straight from them being cut. Vinyl comes in different colors, brands, textures, and even color combinations. Transfer tape is merely a conduit that moves the vinyl design (point A) to the surface of your project (point B).

What tape brand can I use?

You are free to use any tape brand available at home, or at your craft or dollar store. If it saves you some money, well and good.

Where else can I use this procedure?

If you are looking to apply a car decal, you can use the abovementioned procedure to apply vinyl project ideas to your car’s exterior, and even glass window.

You can also use this to create and apply simple labels on jars, glass, and mugs. Be careful when applying vinyl to contoured or curved surfaces.

However, these tape alternatives are not advisable to use for bulk stuff like labels. It is merely utilized as a stop-gap measure to get your projects done until you replenish your transfer tape stash.

Will this technique work on all types of adhesive vinyl?

Vinyl comes in many colors, combinations and textures. This technique is best used for smooth vinyls, like matte or glossy vinyls that are even on one side, and with smooth backing on the other side.

Textured vinyls might not easily adhere to these alternatives and may only wreak havoc to your design. Best to reserve the use of appropriate transfer paper to textured vinyls for your crafts.

Will this technique work on heat transfer vinyl?

This technique is not recommended for use on heat transfer types of vinyl applied to fabric and shirts. For proper technique and fun htv stuff check out our Best Fabric for Heat Transfer Vinyl: Garment Printing 101.

Is it advisable to forgo the use of transfer paper altogether and simply use painter’s tape of masking tape?


While it might look like it’s more cost-effective to use a masking tape for example since it will serve other practical purposes at home and at your office, investing in transfer tape is still highly recommended because it is specifically designed for use with vinyl. It’s correct use will ensure ease of application of your vinyl material to your projects.

The crafting community is replete with novice and serious crafters, and most will recommend the same, and even link you to their blog to help you out. and a quick Google search would echo something similar.

Are all transfer papers the same?

It comes in different types depending on the use and quality of tack. They are usually bought by the roll.

What are the different types of transfer paper?

  • Light to medium tack may be used on the following:
    • Permanent vinyl
    • Premium vinyl
  • Hard or strong tack may be used on the following:
    • Glitter vinyl

Useful tip: Note that most projects will require light or medium tape so keep a ready stash available.

Do I need to have a Silhouette or Cricut do be able to use the software?

If you are a newbie with serious intent on using types of vinyl for your crafts, you may download the software of both brands and navigate your way and see what will work well for you before actually doing a purchase. And the good news is, most vinyls will work in both machines.


Transfer tape was created to make our use of vinyl easy, but it’s thanks to many crafters who have shared their knowledge and hacks that we can actively pursue our passion even in the absence of some materials.

So yes, if you are pressed for time or a special occasion is coming up and you need to customize a bunch of items, there is still a workaround to get it done. Just grab those tapes and get started. Just make sure you are careful as you stick and pull those tapes to your vinyl or labels.

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Happy crafting!


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