You don’t need to be a pro artist to make cute stickers for your bullet journal. Even if you can’t draw, you can use simple graphic design to make stickers. Personally, I make stickers for personal use and sale in Canva. I have the Pro version, but you can also use the free version!
In this blog post, I’ll be covering how to make sticker sheets and flakes using the Cricut Explore Air 2. I can’t speak to other types of Cricut machines, since I don’t own them, but I know the steps are very similar to those for the Explore Air 2 in terms of software and settings.
Many sticker artists prefer the Silhouette Cameo to the Cricut Explore. However, I love my Cricut Explore because of its precision cutting and easy-to-use design software! It’s up to you which one you prefer, but this tutorial will exclusively cover making stickers with the Cricut Explore Air 2.
Canva Copyright Rules
First thing’s first: let’s talk about the boring legal stuff. Namely, when you’re using graphic design software like Canva that uses clipart, you need to be aware of what the legal uses are for that art.
With Canva, you are granted a one design use license every time you download an image file. With a free account, you will need to pay for a separate license for any Pro media used in each design when you download. However, if you pay $15 per month for a Pro account, you can use Pro media as much as you want without any additional charges.
Legally, you can create and even sell artwork featuring Canva stock designs! This includes stickers and sticker sheets. But, you must alter the clipart in some way for the sale of the images to be legal. The way I interpret this is that you can combine clipart and/or text to create stickers, but you can’t just copy and paste their clipart into your sticker sheet.
The one thing you can’t do with Canva is create templates. So, you can’t sell a “sticker-making template” in Canva, for example, for users to create their own sticker sheets. You can only create your own stickers and sticker sheets for use.
Designing Bullet Journal Stickers In Canva
You can design bullet journal stickers in Canva to make for yourself or even to sell! I like to create stickers with a central theme for creating spreads. However, you can make stickers however you see fit! Here’s how.
Canva is a free design software that can be accessed online at canva.com. You’ll just need an account, either free or Pro, to save your designs. Once you log in, you’ll need to create a canvas in the size you want your stickers or sticker sheets to be. Personally, I like standardized sizes, so I make all my sticker sheets 4″x6″.
With the canvas, you can play around to make cute stickers however you want. You can combine text with cute backgrounds to make functional stickers, or make decorative stickers using shapes and clipart. Experimentation is the best way to decide your personal style and what you like.
The most important feature for creating stickers in Canva is the Elements tab. Elements is where you’ll find shapes, frames (for images) and clipart. Some cute ways to make stickers include adding images to frames (i.e. a heart-shaped image), or adding clipart to shapes (i.e. circles with symbols, numbers, or letters inside). Other helpful elements include Text and Photos.
Above all else, the most important step for creating stickers in Canva is to save them correctly. Once you have your sticker or sticker sheet laid out the way you want it, you need to save it as a .png file. You can do this by clicking “Download” and making sure the file type is listed as “.Png.”
You’ll also want to make sure you click the checkbox next to “Transparent Background” when you export. This ensures you get stickers that are cut to the border, instead of getting one big white box, when you print and cut in Cricut.
Making Sticker Flakes With The Cricut Explore Air 2
Making sticker flakes, also known as die cut stickers, with the Cricut Explore Air 2 is the easiest way to make stickers. This is because you don’t need to deal with creating a separate background for the sticker sheets or worry about the stickers fitting on your sheet.
At this point, you should have already exported your sticker as a .png with a transparent background from Canva. The next step is to open the Cricut Design Space program in your computer. (This is the free program that comes with your Cricut. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, there are directions in the box for downloading Design Space and setting it up properly. Follow those and you’ll be just fine!)
Once you’ve opened Design Space, create a new project and give it a name. Go to “Upload” and select the file for your first sticker. Once it’s uploaded, you’ll need to choose a complexity level. Most people recommend choosing the highest level of complexity, called “Complex,” to ensure no little details are missed. You’ll also want to make sure you select it as a “Print Then Cut” file
After these steps, you can add the stickers to the canvas and resize them (if needed). Repeat these steps for as many stickers as you want to cut right now. Then, when you’re ready to print and cut, click the “Make It” button at the upper right-hand corner of your Design Space application.
This is the part where you’ll want to set up your printer and Cricut Explore Air 2. You can use Bluetooth to connect to the Cricut machine, but I usually use my USB cable (I’ve had wonky connections to Bluetooth in the past). Verify the preview looks the way you want it and then click “Continue.”
Usually, I print using the System Dialog so I can change the printer settings if need be (for example, to switch paper types or select higher-quality printing). You’ll also want to make sure that the “Add Bleed” button is set to green. This way, Cricut will add wiggle room for printing.
After printing, hit the “Open” button on the Cricut and set the dial on your Cricut Explore Air 2 to “Cardstock” so that it will cut all the way through the sticker paper. (Other Cricut models may have different settings.) You can then move on to setting up your mat! Align the sticker paper with the guides on the mat so that it’s in the top-left corner. Then, feed it into the Cricut and hit the “Load” button (the one with the double-arrow). It should be flashing.
After the paper loads, the C-shaped “Start” button will start flashing. Hit that and watch as the Cricut goes through the magical cutting process! When it’s done, the double-arrowed “Load” button will start flashing again. Hit it to unload your mat. Carefully, you can then use tools or your fingers to peel your sticker flakes off the sticky mat.
And voila! You’ve got die-cut stickers for your bullet journal.
Making Sticker Sheets With The Cricut Explore Air 2
Now, let’s talk about how to make sticker sheets, or kiss-cut stickers. This is a little more advanced, so stick with me! Most of the steps are the same, so I will only go over the ones that are different.
The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure you make a background for your sticker sheet. I usually make mine 4″x6″. If you’re selling your sticker sheets, I recommend adding your logo and a product number to the top of the sheet. IMPORTANT: Do not download the background as a transparent file!
Then, resize your sticker sheet so it’s small enough to fit on the sheet below the logo. You will want to download this sheet as a transparent .png. Upload both these files to a new project in the Cricut Design Space application. Make sure you add the background layer to the canvas first and size it the way you want before layering the sticker sheet layer over it.
The next step is the most important to make sure your file is cut correctly! Select BOTH the background and the stickers at the same time, and in the right-hand panel, click the “Attach” button. You do NOT need to group the layers — just click “Attach!” That will make sure your sticker sheet is cut the right way.
After that crucial step, follow all the same steps for printing and cutting your Cricut project, except make sure you set the dial to “Vinyl” instead of “Cardstock.” This ensures the Cricut doesn’t cut all the way through the paper, giving you kiss-cut instead of die-cut stickers.
Your Cricut may not cut all the way through your sticker paper around the border of the sticker sheet, so you’ll need to follow the guidelines with scissors or an X-Acto knife. If you’re interested in playing around with your Cricut, I’m told you can also try copying the background four or five times to get it to cut through the paper. However, I’ve never tried this personally, so I can’t give guidance on how well that works.
Tips For Making Stickers With A Cricut
- Store your mats in the plastic they came in. The Cricut mats are designed to have a light sticky coating so your material will adhere to it. Unfortunately, other things — like pet hair and dirt — will also stick. Over time this can make the mats dirty and keep material from sticking, so make sure to store your mats in the plastic they came in (or another safe place) to keep them clean and sticky.
- Do a test cut before mass printing stickers or sticker sheets. Planning to print dozens of stickers or sticker sheets to sell on Etsy? Do a test “Print Then Cut” on plain paper first to ensure your settings are correct and there are no mis-cuts. In my experience, it’s much better to learn that you messed up before you use 20 sheets of expensive sticker paper!
- Don’t buy the Cricut sticker paper. First of all, the Cricut-brand sticker paper is overpriced — you can get the exact same thing for much less money on Amazon! Secondly, it’s not good for kiss-cut stickers. This is because the paper is cardstock-thickness, so it won’t cut the way you expect on the Vinyl setting. For bullet journal sticker sheets, I prefer a thinner sticker paper like the Avery or Koala brands.
- Print and cut one piece of paper at a time. I will be the first to admit that this is a HUGE pain when you’re looking to make, say, 50 sticker sheets at once! But, printing and cutting a single piece of paper at a time minimizes the number of errors made by the Cricut machine. For this reason, if you can fit two or more sticker sheets on a single piece of paper, I highly recommend doing so. This means you can make multiple sheets at a time instead of just one.
- If you’re selling stickers, save the mess-ups! Last but not least, don’t waste your fancy sticker paper by throwing away mis-cut or mis-print sticker sheets. If they are for personal use, then fine — but if you are looking to turn a profit off selling sticker sheets, I highly recommend saving them and selling them at a discount as “Oops!” stickers instead. This reduces the amount of waste and maximizes the profit made by your sticker business.