How to Turn a Line Drawing of Your Dog into a Custom Vinyl Sticker

My town (Nanaimo) seems to love stickers. Especially on cars. And we definitely love our dogs.

So naturally I needed to find some way to get my line drawings into sticker form! It turns out there are some technical issues with turning an ink sketch into a vinyl decal, so in this post I'll go through some of the steps I need to take to get from pen to peeling. 

I'll show you how I create a vector, tweak and polish the image point by point, and then get everything cut out using just Adobe Illustrator and a Cricut Vinyl Cutter.

Note: This German Shepherd Sticker is now available from the Vinyl Store.


Step 1: Use Illustrator's Live Trace to Get the Big Pieces In

Illustrator has a pretty handy built-in tracing function that makes short work of vectorizing a simple image like a black-and-white drawing. 

But the image I get from this won't work as a sticker... it has too many tiny lines that would just disintegrate if I tried to cut them out of vinyl.


2. In Illustrator: Simplify Geometry, Remove Small Shapes and Check Line Thickness

Getting the drawing from "traced" to "sticker-ready" means going through by hand and simplifying the geometry—or getting the dots under control, as I call it.

That will never cut properly. All those tiny flappy bits would just get mangled by the cutting blade at the sizes I work with.

Much better!

When I'm done this step the drawing is smoother and the lines that remain are thicker. Where possible, I've also connected lines together. Taking these steps makes the sticker much easier to apply to a car or laptop!

But now there's another issue: the surfaces my stickers are made for are often dark, so I use white vinyl. This means that some parts of the dogs' faces (especially around the eyes) don't look right after they're printed and applied. I noticed this the first time I made a branded window decal for my own car.

Something just looked off. I realized I would have to make an inverse of my drawings in order to fix them.

3. Invert the Image and Remove the Outline

The image on the right shows what my drawing would look like if I cut it as-is and applied it to a dark car window. Not quite right.

So now that I've finished the facial design, I need to go back and change how it's going to be cut out: instead of cutting out the black lines, I want to be cutting out the big spaces between them. I do this by deleting the outermost layer of the line drawing, and capping off the bottom area. 

Now it's ready to cut!

4. Cut and Peel

I save the whole thing as an .svg, upload the piece to Cricut's Design Space, and away we go!

Once it's done, I can peeeeeel out the lines around my sticker, and apply a transfer material.

4. Apply!

Et Voilá! We have a beautiful sticker, made from a hand-drawn sketch of a German Shepherd.

This exact German Shepherd Sticker is now available in my Vinyl Shop, with more coming very soon!

I hope you enjoyed seeing "how the sausage is made" so to speak ;)