Talking About Tools of the Trade
REVEALING THE TOOLS OF THE TRADE
If you are a current or aspiring sticker shop owner, you will love this value-packed episode of the Big Plans Podcast where we reveal the tools of the trade! We talk about everything from what printer we use, what cutting machine and laminator we use, to our packaging tape dispenser.
We share a lot of different items, and we’ve linked everything we mentioned in this podcast in our Amazon shop under the collections, “Shop Owner Must Haves”, “Foiling 101”, “WFH Office Must Haves”, and “YouTube Filming Equipment.”
THE TOOLS WE USE AS STICKER SHOP OWNERS
Silhouette cutting machines: We currently have 8 Silhouette Portrait cutting machines.
Printers: We use both an inkjet printer and a laser printer. For the inkjet printer we currently use a Canon Pixma Pro-100, we have 3 of them and love them. They print so incredibly slow, like 3 minutes for 1 page, but the quality is the best and amazing! For the laser printer we are currently using an HP Laserjet. We use laser printers for printing the foil elements onto our sticker kits or foiled stickers. Honestly, we’re not very picky about laser printers, we’ve used several, and basically use them until they don’t really work anymore.
Laminator: We use a thermal laminator for foiling stickers. We started with a Minc laminator, but we never really knew what temperature setting to use and we didn’t like its results. Then we purchased a $150 Tamerica laminator and liked it so much better because it has actual temperature settings. However we felt like it was a little slow, so then we upgraded to a $300 Tamerica laminator, which is what we currently use, it’s pretty fast and it foils really well.
Rollo Label Printer for shipping labels. We used the Dymo label printer but hated it. For how expensive the Dymo is (at the time it was $200), it prints so slowly and constantly malfunctions. The Rollo prints so much faster and it performs so much better.
Packaging Tape Dispenser: We sometimes ship things in boxes, like our planners, our advent calendar, or if you just have a really big order. We use branded packaging tape that’s water activated, and we were originally using a sponge to activate each strip but it was messy and slowed us down. The dispenser makes the tape already wet and activated so it’s easier and faster to use the tape.
Humidifier: If you live in a dry area we recommend using a humidifier to help prevent the sticker paper from curling, so that the paper will feed properly through the printer and avoid misalignment issues. We also use a Humidifier Gauge to know if it is getting dry as it reads the humidity level of the environment. Alternatively, you could use a Dehumidifier if you live somewhere humid (although we don’t have that problem), because too much humidity can also affect the sticker paper.
iPad: In terms of filling orders, we find that Shopify works much better on an iPad than on desktop. (We also use it for watching Netflix, lol, while doing work that isn’t tedious or doesn’t require a lot of attention).
Camera / tripod / lighting / photo equipment: Over the years we’ve invested in cameras and lighting equipment for YouTube videos (like plan with me’s) and taking product photos. Having a set of lights is very useful when needing to take product photos, especially if you’re taking photos at night or when there isn’t good natural light available.
QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE:
Q: Do you send tasks to all 8 Silhouettes from the same computer?
A: Yes, we use one computer for all 8 Silhouettes. We use USB hubs that connect to the Silhouettes and then the USB hubs connect into the computer.
Q: Why do you choose to use 8 Silhouette Portraits instead of 1 plotter? (Lol, I feel like this is a question we get a lot).
A: We’ve found that our Silhouette system works really well for us. The point of switching to a plotter is to be more efficient, right? But we feel like we have a system and techniques that make using the 8 Portraits efficient for us. Plus using a plotter requires different software and we would have to learn a new program. It’s really up to your own personal preference. Also, we’re not sure if you can foil the stickers using a plotter because it uses vinyl sticker paper.
Q: How often do you change ink? How do you refill your own ink?
A: How often we change the ink really depends on the color of the ink and what colors we’re printing a lot of. For example, our winter kits are usually more blue, so we run out of blue a lot faster than when we’re printing spring kits, which are usually more pink. So it really varies and just depends on when the ink runs out. We were so scared of refilling our own ink at first, I think we bought the supplies and it sat there for months until we decided we just needed to figure it out and do it. There are so many videos on YouTube for this so it was just a matter of following the instructions. It’s also not necessary to refill your own inks and buying third-party inks off of Amazon is also an option.
Q: How do you know exactly when to change out the Silhouette blades, printer ink cartridges, toner, etc? When my blade got old I was still able to use it on the deepest cut settings, so how do you know when it’s truly done? For ink and toner, what do you look for in the print quality to know when to switch that out?
A: When the blade stops working properly and we’re starting to get oops sheets, then it’s time to change the blades. If the cut settings you’ve been using are no longer working then the blade is dull and you need to change it. The printer will usually tell you when the ink is out (it will stop printing).
Q: Can you tell me why I can't get my machine to make perfect cuts, that would be amazing!
A: There could be a lot of reasons why your machine isn’t cutting perfectly. Small things like consistent lighting really make a difference! We use light strips over the top of the machines to help with consistent lighting and cutting.
Q: What regular maintenance do you perform on your machines, cutters, and printers?
A: Maybe this isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but honestly, I just wait until it malfunctions and then I repair it. I’ll run a cleaning cycle on our printer if I haven’t printed in over a week to help with maintenance.
Hopefully you enjoyed this insight into the tools we use as sticker shop owners.
Be sure to listen to the full episode for all the details!
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Thank you SO much for being here. See you in the next episode!
xo, Lisa & Lucy