What is Cast Vinyl and how can I use it?

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Cast vinyl is a premium, long-lasting vinyl made through a molding process

What is cast vinyl, and how is it used with vinyl cutters and crafting projects?

For our purposes, vinyl comes in 2 main types that refer to the manufacturing process: cast and calendered. This is a simplified take on it, but accurate for crafters or people using vinyl film for decals, T-shirt designs, signs, etc. Both types start out as similar PVC cocktails, but sheet formation differs significantly.

Cast vinyl is made by pouring a liquid vinyl mixture onto a large flat casting sheet. The mixture contains the PVC polymer, plasticizers (to make the vinyl flexible), pigment and other additives. Moving the sheet through a series of ovens produces the thin sheet. Cast vinyls are very thin, typically 2 mil or thinner.

Cast Vinyl Thickness

  • 1 mil = 1/1000th of an inch
  • = 0.001″
  • = 0.0254 millimeters

Experts refer to cast vinyl as having “no memory”. Since the manufacturing process does not put any stress onto the vinyl, it results in very little shrinkage. This ultra-thin film conforms to surfaces very easily. This makes it perfect for wrapping complex shapes and giving a paint-like finish. It is also very durable and retains its color better than other vinyl, and the manufacturing process is ideal for making smaller batches of custom colors.

Examples of cast vinyl products are vehicle wraps, high durability signs and lettering, and emergency vehicle and marine decals. Oracal 951, considered one of the gold standard outdoor vinyls on the market, has a 10 year lifespan and comes in over 150 colors.

Can you use this highly durable vinyl for other projects besides vehicle wraps? Oracal 951 is available in various widths and lengths, including 12 x 12 inch sheets. If you want to make durable, long lasting graphics for tumblers, coffee mugs or small vehicle decals, you can definitely use high quality cast vinyl. You can also make long-lasting outdoor signs with Oracal 951 that will withstand even the most unforgiving heat and cold.

How do you make calendered vinyl?

Stretching and flattening an extruded PVC mixture on metal rollers produces Calendered vinyl. This rolling and stretching process puts stress on the vinyl. This stress creates the “memory” that makes calendered vinyl tend to shrink. The tendency to shrinkage and its greater thickness (e.g., 3-4 mil) make it less conformable than cast vinyl, and it is best suited to applications on flat surfaces or simple curves.

Calendered vinyl is cheaper, easier to handle, and more scratch-resistant than cast vinyl, however, and you are more likely to use it for everyday projects. One common example of calendered vinyl is Oracal 651, which is a favorite among crafters and professionals alike.

Click here for more information on the best vinyl for Cricut and Silhouette machines.

image source: Jengtingchen/Wikimedia Commons

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