How To Easily Apply Vinyl To Curved Surfaces – A Custom Mug Project

I still remember the first time I went to apply vinyl to a curved surface. I didn’t realize it was a bit harder to do compared with applying vinyl to a flat surface, and the result was a bit of a wonky flop!


I’ve learnt a lot since then, and want to share my tips and tricks on how to apply vinyl to a curved surface.


black vinyl applied to a curved surface mug


Tips & Tricks For Applying Vinyl To A Curved Surface


The types of rounded surfaces you might be applying vinyl to include:

  • mugs and cups
  • tumblers and glasses
  • water bottles
  • vases
  • Christmas ornaments


For this mug project, I’m applying black Cricut Glitter Vinyl to a plain blank mug. I created the design in Cricut Design Space and cut it out with my Explore Air 2.


How To Easily Apply Vinyl To A Mug


1. Prepare your mug (or other curved surface) by wiping it with rubbing alcohol, and allowing it to dry completely.


black cricut glitter vinyl transfer for curved surface


2. Apply transfer tape to the cut and weeded design, and burnish it with a squeegee or a scraper tool. Make sure the transfer tape is going to pick up the vinyl well.


I recommend using normal/standard Cricut transfer tape for a project like this, not strong grip or light grip.


cricut vinyl transfer with transfer tape and burnishing tool


3. Once the transfer tape is applied, cut away the excess as close as you can around the outside of your design. This will make it easier to work with and apply to your surface.


Depending on your specific design, take some scissors and make slits in the top, bottom, and sides of the backing paper (and transfer tape). As you’ll see later on, cutting slits will make your design much easier to apply.


As you can see with my monogram, I wasn’t able to make slits in the top or bottom of my design (because of the frame), but I made a slit in each side.


cut slits in the transfer to apply to a curved surface


4. Peel away half of the backing paper and cut it off.


remove backing paper to apply vinyl to the curved surface


5. Position the design onto the mug and start by pressing it down the middle to secure it in place. Press from the middle first, and then slowly out to the edge.


Depending on your design and where you have cut your slits, press your design down in sections. With my design, as I have cut a slit on either side, I could secure one quarter down first, and then work on the second quarter. This is much easier than trying to get one whole side perfect at once!


applied vinyl onto the curved mug surface


6. Now you’ll have one side completely done. To start on the other side, first remove the backing paper.


remove the rest of the backing paper to continue applying to the curved surface


7. Once again, focus on one section at a time, and press from the middle out towards the edge.


apply transfer section by section


8. Use your burnishing tool or scraper to make sure it is completely stuck down.


burnish the vinyl onto the curved surface


9. As you have slits cut in the transfer tape, this will allow you to easily rip it off in sections. I was able to remove half of my design at a time (which is especially helpful if parts of your design are small and intricate).


slowly remove the rest of the transfer tape off the curved surface leaving the vinyl


Remove the transfer tape by rolling it back onto itself. Do this nice and slowly, making sure every part of your design has stuck properly to the mug. If any part of the design has not adhered, roll the tape back and place and burnish it again.


what a completed mug project!


10. Now you’re all done – easy peasy! Leave the vinyl to cure for at least 24 hours before using and washing your mug.


a completed vinyl transfer applied to a curved surface


Applying Vinyl To Rounded Surfaces


What rounded surfaces have you played with? I applied vinyl onto stainless steel water bottles a while ago, and have done many mugs. I’m going to have to try putting vinyl onto Christmas tree ornaments this Christmas!


For more info, check out this post from Expressions Vinyl, and watch the following video on how to apply vinyl onto wine glasses.



Let me know what you’re working on in the comments below.


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