For a while when we’d work on a tabletop terrain, I’ll be honest, we’d absolutely dread it. There would be endless painting, sculpting, and in the end, even though you’d wind up with a one-of-a-kind piece of art, it would still be frustrating.

If I wanted to send that same terrain out to a friend or a fan that really liked it, it would be too expensive to craft another. So what does this have to do with vinyl cutting?

Only everything!

When I got started with using a vinyl cutter, it was to make a new outdoor vinyl sign for our store. Then I realized that the beautiful thing about working with a Cricut or Silhouette machine was that you could repeat the process over and over. If you made something once, you could save that design and make it as many times as you needed, like printing an image.

What a breakthrough!

Not only could I use vinyl instead of paint in some places, I could make 3-d art with cardboard and remake the same pieces over and over. I could ship them flat and have them assembled at the location. It opened up so many crafting opportunities.

So on to the tips, this is a bit of what I learned when using my vinyl cutter. I hope some of these help you too.

Our vinyl cutting tips

1 – Make sure you’re using the correct offset

Many machines, like those from Cricut and Silhouette have the offset automatically detected and set for the blade and materials you’re using. If your cuts are coming out too shallow or too deep, this is the first setting that I’d check.

2 – Use a fresh blade if you’re having trouble cutting through your material

Blades don’t all last the same duration. If you’re cutting through thick or harder materials, you’re going to find that you need to replace your blades more often. You can do what we do here and use certain blades for certain purposes. I don’t mind a duller blade if it’s just going to be making straight cuts on a thick material, but if I’m trying to make curves and cut out fancy fonts, I’ll use a fresher blade.

3 – Check the minimum arc of the machine

You can think of the minimum arc as the smallest circle that your cutting machine can cut. If you try to cut something smaller than that, you’re going to have issues. Sometimes with fine fonts a part of the font will have a very sharp curve that’s small, especially on serif fonts. If you’re having difficulty with these cuts, either make the font larger or it might be time to look at getting a new machine.

If your designs aren’t quite working out, try using a design someone else made. Most Cricuts let you import the SVG files that other crafters made, so try those out because you know they were designed by someone with more experience.

4 – The product will only be as good as the effort you put in

If you’re frustrated with your design, consider improving it. I know this sounds a bit too obvious, but a lot of people will blame their machine instead of the process. I usually don’t worry about the quality the first few times I try making something new, but you should always be looking to improve your design over time. That’s the great thing about these digital cutting machines, you can iterate and improve over time.

Even though you might feel pressured to rush through, it’s always best to take your time and really pay attention to what you’re doing.


One of the most eye-catching effects in miniature painting is source lighting, where a glowing object casts light on the rest of the miniature. Especially in the fantasy and science-fiction genres, it’s a great way to show that a sword is imbued with magical energy, or a plasma cannon is charged and ready to fire. Let’s face it: glowing weapons are just cool. This technique is often called “object-source lighting” (OSL) by figure painters, as the source of the light is represented on the miniature (an “object-source”).

Pulling off believable glow effects is tricky, however, and there are many examples of poorly done lighting effects on the internet. In this article, I will show a step-by-step sequence of how I paint source lighting effects, using a Cryxian Slayer by Privateer Press as the demo mini. I’ll also provide plenty of tips and additional examples to help you give your models that eye-catching glow.

The Cardinal Rule

When a light source such as a torch, magical sword, or glowing plasma cell casts light on surrounding areas, they light up. Obvious, right? And yet, violating this simple rule is the number-one most common mistake people make when trying to portray lighting effects on their figures. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen someone try to represent a glowing object by changing the color, but not the lightness, of the nearby areas. So be sure to follow this rule.

The Cardinal Rule of OSL: Areas hit by a light source must appear lighter than surrounding unlit areas.

Step 1:

Unless the light source I have in mind is so strong that it lights up a large portion of the miniature, I generally wait until the end to tackle light source effects. This works very well if the light is just going to be caught by a few relatively small surfaces and edges, but less well if large areas of the model will be strongly lit. For the Slayer, I plan for the furnace vents to be glowing, and the eyes. The way the model is posed, this means that only small areas will be strongly lit, so the model is nearly finished by the time I’m ready to start on the glowing necrovents.

The easiest and most effective way to create a believable glow effect is to start with an otherwise dark model. This doesn’t mean you have to paint your model black—you still want good contrast—but it does make your life easier if you choose a darker than average palette. Remember the cardinal rule. It’s not impossible to pull off a lighting effect on a white model, but it is extremely difficult. (Retribution players, you have been warned.)

If you want to see how I painted the battle damage, check out my tutorial from last week.

Step 2:

Before you try to tackle the cast light, start with your light sources. This helps you properly gauge how strong to make the reflected light. It should be lighter than the surrounding areas, but not quite as bright as the source of the light. You generally want your light sources to be a bright color, for a stronger visual, so start with a nice solid white (multiple thin coats). Otherwise you won’t get good coverage with the bright color. Don’t worry too much about mistakes, as they can be fixed in the next step.

Step 3:

Painting OSL on metallic and non-metallic surfaces is a bit different. For non-metallic surfaces, you can just paint the glow color over whatever is underneath, but if you do this on metallic surfaces, you will lose the shine. For this reason, I prefer to do OSL on metals using inks.

However, you can’t simply paint ink on the lit areas of a metallic surface and expect it to look like light is being case. Remember the cardinal rule: lit areas must appear lighter than unlit areas. For this reason, an important step when painting OSL cast on metal surfaces is to highlight the metal surfaces to portray light being cast from the source(s) on the figure. Use a lighter, neutral metal color such as GW Chainmail to highlight, as you want to …

Gus here!

Hi, I’m Gus: welcome to THE HANDCANNON.

If you’re into crafting and painting miniatures, you’re in the right place. Hand Cannon is where you can find all of my crafting fun, including some papercraft, scrapbooking, and Cricut tutorials.

I’m also looking to get into 3d printing soon, so stay tuned as I make my own miniatures in the future!