Heat transfer vinyl (aka HTV) is hands-down my favorite way to personalize gifts for friends. Who doesn’t love a fun new t-shirt? And with heat transfer vinyl, you can easily customize it to be something personal that they will love. Today I am going to teach you how to use HTV on a T-Shirt. This is THE tutorial you need if you want to iron-on transfer or heat transfer vinyl graphics on to t-shirts or if you want to learn how to make vinyl tote bags, tea towels and lots of other fabric products, this is the tutorial for you!! If you are new to working with vinyl, it can be a bit overwhelming, but this step-by-step guide will teach you exactly how to use heat transfer vinyl, and you will be making custom tees and more in no time! This post contains affiliate links, which help to support this site at no extra cost to you.
HOW TO USE HEAT TRANSFER VINYL: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO CUTTING AND APPLYING IRON ON VINYL
Table of contents
Today we are going to be using a Cricut maker but you can also use a Cricut explore or if you are a silhouette cameo user that’s fine too you can use any kind of cutting machine to do this project as long as it allows you to mirror your image.
I’m also going to be using my Easy press, as well as the heat protector mat, parchment paper to protect my work and a blue standard grip cutting mat. (A green mat will work fine too, its just my blue mat has been used less and so is more sticky) You’ll also need some weeding tools, scissors, I love my Cricut weeding pen which I got from Amazon, I’ll link below, but the Cricut weeding tool will be fine, you’ll also need a measuring tape.
Today I’m going to use this plain cotton/poly t-shirt which I got from Bella + Canvas.
Where to buy Cricut Vinyl?
My craft room is overrun with vinyl. It’s probably the second most abundant craft supply I own. Today I’m going to be using some Arteza iron on vinyl, the Cricut brand iron on vinyl is great plus other brands like sister easy weed, and teckwrap are good. There are several places to buy HTV including:
- Craft stores such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby, A.C. Moore and JoAnn Fabrics
- Online at either Cricut , Silhouette, Expressions Vinyl or Amazon
Before we get started here is a list of the tools and materials I will be using today:
- Cutting machine (Cricut maker, Silhouette, Explore or Joy)
- A green standard grip mat or light grip mat
- Cricut Easy Press
- Cricut Easy Press Mat
- Fine-point blade
- Weeding tool
- Weeding Pen
- A fine-point blade
Prep Your Design
- The first step in crafting with heat transfer vinyl is to prepare your design to cut in the cutting machine software you are using. Before we upload our design to Cricut Design Space you need to measure your surface to determine how big you will need to cut the design. I am using a t-shirt that I got from Bella + Canvas . I’d like my design to run across the bust like so…..I just used my measuring tape to get a general idea of how wide and tall I wanted to cut my design. I decided to cut it about 8 inches wide.
Once you know how big you want to cut your design, open up the cut file in your cutting software. Next, you will need to scale the image to the right size. Just click on the design and then use the handles in the corners to scale it down to the size you want or punch in the size that I like in the W and H box.
Mirror Your Image
2. Now we are ready to go lets select MAKE IT.
Before we move on to cutting this vinyl out its SUPER SUPER SUPER important that we select this toggle here on the left hand side and change it to MIRROR. This tells Cricut to flip the design round, so it mirrors the whole design.
This project will not work if you do not flick this mirror button!
The reason that you need to mirror your design when working with heat transfer or iron on vinyl is because you cut the design on the back side of the vinyl. HTV has a clear plastic carrier sheet that covers the top of the vinyl, and the other side is where the heat-sensitive adhesive is (it is not sticky or tacky to the touch). You cut your design on the adhesive side, and then the clear plastic sheet on the other side holds your design in place until it is applied to your shirt or other surface.
Lay Your HTV On Your Mat Properly
3. Next we load our HTV on our mat to be cut out.
Whatever mat and machine you are using, it’s important you put your HTV glossy side down onto your mat so you will be cutting on the matte side (see image below). Remember, we are cutting on the back side of the vinyl where the heat-sensitive adhesive is. This side will be more matte. The glossy side of the vinyl is the side with the clear plastic backing. For my Craft Queen shirt I used arteza HTV. With this brand they have the glossy side with the clear plastic backing and a white side instead of the mat side. So i place my HTV with the white side facing up and the glossy side facing down. Depending on what brand of HTV you are using they should have instructions that come with them and they will state also how to place your HTV on your mat.
Cut Your Design
4. Finally, adjust your cut settings to work with your HTV. This process will be a little bit different for every cutting machine, but just make sure to choose the settings for the particular type of heat transfer vinyl you are using (foiled HTV will have very different settings from glitter HTV, for instance). Working with my Cricut , I selected Every Day Iron-On. You can check your HTV brands instructions if you are not sure. Just make sure you select the iron-on vinyl, not the standard vinyl! Otherwise Cricut will think you’re cutting out of adhesive vinyl which is different, and not the right vinyl we are using today!
If you want some handy information and cheat sheets for everything that I’m teaching you here from where to buy your blanks, what suppliers to use and more check out this Cricut handbook I put together. In it you’ll find this handy Cricut Easy Press Cheat Sheet. I’ve laminated mine and hooked mine up for easy access while I’m crafting. This way you can quickly and easily refer to the heat settings!
I recommend doing a small test cut, especially when you are working with a new material to make sure the cut settings will work well with the material you are using before attempting to cut the entire design.
When you are happy with your cut settings, load your cutting mat with the vinyl shiny side down into your machine, and cut!
Weed Your Design
5. Now that our Cricut is finished cutting, we need to remove out mat from our vinyl and start our weeding process. Weeding just means that you remove all the vinyl that you don’t want to be adhered to your surface. To avoid wasting vinyl when weeding I cut the excess vinyl that we are not using with my handy Cricut knife. This allows you to use the rest of your vinyl piece for another project.
Grab a weeding too, this can be a Cricut weeding hook, tweezers, craft knife but I love my weeding pen. It is sharp and works great for removing that vinyl. Pick up some vinyl from one corner and peel back a little way, and just really take your time to peel off your excess vinyl that you don’t want, take your time, you don’t want to rush and ruin your design. Weed out all the little bits that you don’t want. Sometimes it can be a little bit difficult to see your cut lines when weeding. Sometimes bending your vinyl a bit can help you see the cut lines like in the image below. You can also try holding the cut piece of vinyl up to a window or light to help you see the lines. There is also the option of the Cricut bright pad, which is designed to help you see cut lines to make weeding easier.
Once you have all the excess vinyl removed from your design, you can flip it over and see how your final design will look through the clear plastic carrier. This is a good time to make sure you have weeded everything you don’t want to transfer to your final project.
All right, isn’t this soo cute, I can’t wait to apply it to my T-Shirt. It’s going to look so beautiful….
Using the Cricut Easy Press Correctly
5. Now we are all ready to transfer our design to our t-shirt! To activate the adhesive on the heat transfer vinyl, you need to do two things: add heat and pressure, both of which we can get using an iron but today I’m using my Cricut Easy Press and heat mat. I highly recommend the Cricut Easy Press because it is specifically made for HTV projects and an iron is not. Most of the HTV projects you see on the blog were created with my Easy Press. An iron works okay but the Easy Press distributes heat more evenly over the surface of the design resulting in a perfect application of the vinyl.
When using the Cricut Easy Press, set the time and temperature according to the Cricut settings for the specific vinyl you are using. Place your surface onto a Cricut Easy Press mat and pre-heat the surface for 5 seconds.
To find the best heat seatings to use with our Easy Press you can either download My Cricut Handbook which has all the settings listed for common materials all nicely laid out in this chart I laminated here for easy access. Or you can head over to cricut.com and punch in the materials you are working with a follow its instructions.
Place your design onto your surface with the clear liner up. Place the Easy Press onto your design and start the timer. Apply pressure until the timer beeps. Flip the material and press the back for 15 seconds. Peel up the liner (refer to Easy Press settings cheat sheet or Cricut instructions for cold peel or warm peel. Some types of heat transfer vinyl are “cold peel,” which means you must allow the vinyl to cool completely before removing the clear plastic sheet. ). If your design is stuck to liner, reapply heat for a few more seconds.
And here she is. I absolutely love how this turned out, it was super quick and super easy to do.
If you want to create this too head over to my free svg library and download this free svg now. I have hundreds of free svg files for you to use so go have fun and check them out.
If you have any questions about this project then please do hit me with some questions below and I’ll be sure to reply to you directly.
If you are yet to join this crazy crafting and Cricut community I would love it if you decided to sign up to my email newsletter. If you are feeling social then I would love it if you could follow me on Facebook, pinterest instagram or tick tock!
Thank you so so much for reading this blog post.. I hope this Beginner’s Guide to Heat Transfer Vinyl has helped you learn the bas I am so grateful for each and every one of you.
Have a wonderful day and happy crafting!!!