How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl

How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl

How to start your vinyl T-shirt business in 2021

Heat transfer vinyl has become a popular material to decorate bags, apparel, and several other soft goods. You can easily print it onto items using pressure and heat, unlike sign vinyl and other adhesive. That is perhaps why many people are entering this industry to generate a steady income. However, applying heat transfer vinyl depends on the application guidelines and fabric you use.

Just as there are many types of garments, there is a variety of heat transfer vinyl to decorate or use for them. If you’re thinking about using heat transfer vinyl for a crafting or printing business, this post has everything you need to know. From the type of equipment you should have to how to use heat transfer vinyl, it has all the relevant details.

Before we delve into the details of using heat transfer vinyl or HTV, let’s quickly overview this material and its applications.

What is Heat Transfer Vinyl

Heat transfer vinyl, also referred to as HTV, is a kind of vinyl that you can bond to fabric within a few seconds with pressure and heat. It can last for a long time if you iron the vinyl properly. Like regular or standard vinyl, HTV comes in either large rolls or individual sheets. 

In fact, you can use heat transfer vinyl in various textures and colors: metallic, smooth, glittery, printable, and flocked. You can even buy a holographic HTV. Heat transfer vinyl is protected with a pure plastic transfer sheet, known as the “carrier sheet.”

You can weed the cut design after removing the vinyl. Make sure you do it when vinyl is still on the sheet. You can remove the carrier sheet once you are done ironing. That means when using heat transfer vinyl, there is no need to use any transfer paper or transfer tape due to the carrier sheet. 

In fact, HTV is the best method for crafting DIY bags, jerseys, bags, t-shirts, or any fabric that needs a permanent vinyl design.  

Fabrics Heat Transfer Vinyl can be Applied to

Heat transfer vinyl is quite versatile. It suits all fabrics that can withstand hot iron for twenty to thirty seconds. Note that the fabric endurance depends on the type of heat transfer vinyl you’re using. That is why it is always important to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully. 

In general, the following fabrics are ideal for heat transfer vinyl:

  • 100 percent cotton
  • Poly-cotton blend
  • 100 percent polyester
  • Lycra/spandex 
  • Leather 
  • Nylon (test first)

On the other hand, experts don’t recommend heat transfer vinyl for:

  • wool
  • acetate
  • silk
  • acrylic

You will be happy to know that heat transfer vinyl is very easy to use. Let’s dive into the details.

How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl

If you’re new to heat transfer vinyl, you’ve come to the right place. You can use this as a guide to learn how to use heat transfer vinyl. Once you understand it, you can print new t-shirts creatively and make personalized items to sell or gift your friends. With HTV, you can customize things to turn them into something unique and personal. 

Are you ready to learn? Let‘s get started!

Using Heat Transfer Vinyl with Circuit or Silhouette

Working with HTV comprises a few steps, including preparing a cut file, shaping or cutting it, weeding, and using. The process is straightforward, and one experiment can help you perfect your skills for vinyl projects.  

·         Make a Cut File

The process begins with preparing a design to shape in the cutting machine software you use. Don’t worry if you don’t have a circuit or silhouette (electronic cutting machine); you can cut or shape heat transfer vinyl with your hands.  

Wondering what a cut file is? 

Cut file refers to the specific design you want to cut from vinyl and use on a surface or a t-shirt. SVG is typically one of the most common types of cut files. 

However, you can use jpg, png, studio, and Dxf files, depending on the type of software you use. As SVG works well with most cutting software, it is the preference of many people.

·         Scale Design


Once you pick out your design and surface, the next step is measuring the surface to estimate the size you want to cut the design. If you’re using a blank shirt, you can use a ruler to figure out how long or wide you need to cut out the design. 

For instance, you can make it 8 to 10 inches wide to get a good print.

When you know the measurements or size of the design, all you need to do is open the cut file in the cutting software. Now scale the given image/ figure to the right size. Click the design, and scale down it using the handles in the corner to make the size you like. 

·         Mirror Design


The next step is to flip or mirror the design horizontally. The reason to reproduce the design when using heat transfer is that you use vinyl’s backside to cut the design.

Heat transfer vinyl comes with a clear/transparent plastic carrier sheet to cover the top part of the vinyl. It has another side with heat-sensitive adhesive, which is not tacky or sticky to the touch.

You need to cut the design from the adhesive side. The clear plastic sheet (on the other side) helps you hold the design in place when you apply it to your surface or shirt. Be sure your design looks accurate when applying to the final surface. Mirror the design before you cut it.


It is a simple process regardless of the machine you’re using. For instance, if you have Silhouette software, click on the item to select it. There is a dropdown menu; click on the mirror option from the list and choose “flip horizontally.” Once you upload the design, click flip.

Cutting Design from HTV/Heat Transfer Vinyl

After completing all the steps, now is the time to load the heat transfer on vinyl into a cutting machine.

·         Place Heat Transfer Vinyl on Cutting Mat


You can cut the vinyl from the roll directly without a mat or silhouette. However, cutting it with a mat is easier and less time-consuming. Get a silhouette cameo cutting mat measuring 12 x 12 inches. You can also use circuit cutting mats that are similar to the silhouette.

Whatever machine or mat you use, put the glossy side of your HTV down on the mat to cut the matte side.

·         Adjust Cut Settings and Cut


Finally, you need to adjust the cut settings to make it work with the fabric you’re using. The process is slightly different if your cutting machine is from a different brand. You need to make sure that the setting you choose suits the particular type of HTV you’re using.

For example, smooth HTV has a different setting from flocked HTV. If you’re working with silhouette, select heat transfer material from its materials menu.

·         Weed Out Excess Vinyl

Weeding is your next step in this process. Weeding is all about eliminating any excess or additional vinyl from the design that can be transferred to the final product.

How to Avoid Vinyl Wastage When Weeding


If cut or shaped design is significantly smaller than the vinyl piece, you have cut it from, trim off the extra vinyl. If you don’t have an additional tool, an ordinary pair of scissors can do the job. In large projects, you can be left with a lot of excess vinyl. 

It is better to use this extra quantity for other projects. 

If you have a weeding tool, you can easily pull the extra vinyl carefully. Make sure to do this without damaging the design. Get all the pieces in the empty spaces. If your design is intricate, it might take more time and effort to weed it.

Applying the Design with Heat Press


Once you have selected HTV, cut and weeded it carefully, it is time to apply it. If you’re familiar with the groundwork, you will know that vinyl works with most fabrics. Follow the given steps to decorate the item:

  • Switch on your heat-press
  • Set it to the correct pressure and temperature
  • Wait for the press to heat up
  • Place the item on the center of the press
  • Close it on the item and remove any wrinkles
  • Place the design on the object with the carrier
  • Put a sheet over the object to protect it
  • Press for 4 to 5 seconds
  • Open the press, take out the item, and remove the carrier as per HTV guidelines

Summing Up

Using heat transfer vinyl is a simple process if you have the right tools and know the right techniques. By following the steps mentioned above, you will be able to use heat transfer vinyl for many purposes.