You will soon be making custom tees, bags, and much more. This post includes affiliate links. These help to support the site at no additional cost. My favorite way to personalize gifts is by heat transfer vinyl (aka HTV). Who doesn’t like a new t-shirt! You can customize your t-shirt with heat transfer vinyl to make it unique and personal. Iron-on vinyl can be used on more than just t-shirts. It can be used on leather notebooks, tote bags, and shoes as well as wood. Vinyl I will show you how to do each step. These are cutting, weeding, and applying heat transfer vinyl. That’s all! I’ll make you a new T-shirt to help you with the iron-on vinyl project. You can find my Craft Queen design in my So Fontsy Shop.
PREPARE CUT FILE VINYL
Preparing your design for heat transfer vinyl cutting is the first step. You can also cut heat transfer vinyl manually if you don’t have an electronic cutter like a Cricut or Silhouette. For more information, check out this project that I completely cut by hand.
WHAT’S A CUT FILE?
When I refer to “cut file”, I mean the design you want to cut out of vinyl and then apply it to your shirt or another surface. SVG is the most popular cut file type, but you may also use Studio,.png, or. Dxf files, depending on which software you use. SVG files are great because they can be used with almost all cutting software. NOTE: SVG files can only be used with Silhouette Studio Designer Edition. I recommend Silhouette Studio Designer Edition to all Silhouette users.
WHERE TO FIND CUT FILES
You can find cut files here, and I offer free downloads. You might also want to visit my cut file shop. I also participate in a monthly cutter file bundle. I also pin cut files to my Silhouette board regularly.I used my Craft Queen design for this shirt, which is available for purchase in my shop.
Once you have your design and surface picked out, you need to measure your surface to determine how big you need to cut the design. Happy Crafters is a small vinyl shop that stocks tons of great blank shirts and has a tee-shirt. To get an idea of the width and height I wanted, I used my ruler. It was cut to 8 inches in width. After you have determined the size of the design you wish to cut, you can open the cut file in your software. Next, scale the image to the correct size. Click on the design to scale it down.
The next step is to flip or mirror your design horizontally. When you use heat transfer vinyl or iron-on vinyl, your design must be mirrored horizontally. HTV comes with a clear plastic carrier sheet that covers the top of the vinyl. The other side contains the heat-sensitive adhesive. It is not sticky or tacky. The adhesive side of your design is where you cut it. The clear plastic sheet on your other side will hold your design in place until you apply it to your shirt or another surface.
Before cutting, mirror or flip the design to ensure it looks good on the final surface.
It is easy to do this with any machine. This is how I do it using the Silhouette Studio software. Click on the object to select it. Select the Mirror option in the Object drop-down menu, then choose Flip Horizontally. Similar steps are used in Cricut Design Space. Upload your design and click Flip > Flip Horizontally.
PLACE HTV ON CUTTING MAT
You can cut vinyl straight from the roll using your Silhouette. I will write a post about that shortly, but for now, let’s concentrate on how to use a cutting mat. Silhouette Cameo cutting pads are available in two sizes: 12”x12″ and 12’x24”. Circuit cutting mats look similar, and I have used Cricut Mats with my Silhouette. Regardless of the mat or machine you use, place your HTV glossy side up onto your mat. This will allow you to cut on the flat side (see below). Keep in mind that we will be putting it on the backside where the heat-sensitive adhesive is. This area will be matte. The vinyl with the clear backing is glossy. I used a smooth-gold HTV for my Craft Queen shirt. You can cut a piece of vinyl from a roll to fit your mat.
AJUST CUT SETTINGS AND CUT
Adjust your settings to match the material. The process may be slightly different for each plotter machine. However, make sure you choose the type of heat transfer vinyl (flocked HTV has very different settings than smooth HTV). My Silhouette was my cutting machine. I chose Heat Transfer Material, Smooth, from its Materials menu. Before you attempt to cut the whole design, I recommend that you do a test cut When you are happy with your cut settings, load your Cut mat with the shiny vinyl side down into your machine, and cut!
WEED OUT EXCESS VINYL
Next is “weeding.” The next step is “weeding.” This refers to removing any vinyl from your design, which you don’t want to transfer to your final product.
HOW TO AVOID WASTING VINYL WHEN WEEDING
If the cut design you have is significantly smaller than the vinyl piece it was cut from, I suggest trimming that extra vinyl before weeding. To cut around your design, you can use a pair of scissors. You can then use the remainder of your vinyl piece to do another project. In the wedding photos below, I first cut a rectangle with my Silhouette and then cut off any excess vinyl with scissors. It doesn’t matter what you do; it works!
TIPS FOR WEEDING HEAT TRANSFER VINYL
You will need tools to weed out the vinyl excess. This weeding hook is one of my favorites. This weeding hook is very sharp and can be used to remove vinyl. A Silhouette hook or Circuit hook can be used. Tweezers, craft knives, and straight pins are also possible.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to see the cut lines while weeding. Sometimes, bending your vinyl slightly can help you see the cut lines, as shown in the image below. To see the lines better, you can hold the vinyl piece up to a light or window. The Circuit bright pad is another option, which can be used to see the cut lines and make weeding easier. Once you have found your cut lines, grab your hook or weeding device to grab one edge and lift any excess vinyl from the carrier sheet. First, I remove the vinyl from the area around my design. Then I remove pieces from the letters and other parts. After removing all vinyl from your design, you can flip it and see how the final design looks through the clear plastic carrier. This is a great time to make sure you remove all the unwanted vinyl from your design before you transfer it to your final project.
We are now ready to transfer the cut and weeded design onto our t-shirt. Heat and pressure are required to activate heat transfer vinyl. An iron can achieve both heat and pressure. You may need a heat press or Easy Press if you use a lot of heat transfer vinyl. However, we will be using iron for this purpose today. It is best to use one with fewer steam holes at the bottom, but any iron can be used.
WHERE TO IRON
The heat transfer vinyl adhesive requires pressure to activate, so I do not recommend using a folding ironing board to apply your HTV designs. It is not a good idea to press down on your ironing board, causing it to collapse under your pressure. An ironing pad placed on a sturdy table is a better choice than a foldable ironing board. A wooden cutting board can be placed on top of your table.
HOW TO IRON
Turn off the steam and plug your iron in. Place your design on your surface and place the clear plastic carrier cover on top. This will ensure that the design is correctly readable. For around 10-20 seconds, press down on the iron and apply pressure to all parts of your design. HDTVs will vary in heat requirements. Make sure you read the instructions carefully. To see how the design progresses, I prefer to take a few minutes and check it out. It is better to spend less time under the iron as heat can cause vinyl to melt or damage adhesive. You should also be aware of any holes in your iron’s bottom. If you notice any holes in the bottom of your iron, make sure to press the button to ensure that each piece is receiving heat and pressure. After you have applied heat and pressure to each design part, you can begin to peel off the carrier sheet. If vinyl begins to stick to the carrier sheet, replace it with a cover sheet.
Some heat transfer vinyl is called “cold peel” and must be allowed to cool completely before you can remove the clear plastic sheet. To ensure a good application, I flip the project upside down or inverted. If you can see the weave of the vinyl through smooth heat transfer vinyl, you know you have a good application. After the iron-on vinyl is properly applied, it can be worn, used, and washed. Let the adhesive cure for at most 24 hours before you wash it. After the adhesive has dried, you can wash it and dry it. To get the best results, wash it inside-out with cold water. Hang to dry or tumble dry low.
That’s all! This is everything you need to know to start your first HTV project. I hope you found this article helpful. You can ask any questions about heat transfer vinyl by leaving them in the comments. You can also check out Venture into the Vinyl online course for more detailed instruction on how to make vinyl and Silhouette. Now that you know how to use heat transfer vinyl to make a simple t-shirt, you might want to try out some more advanced HTV techniques: