New to HTV? Not even sure what that means? Don’t worry, we were all there at one point! We’re going to break heat transfer vinyl down so it’s easy to understand. You’ll be a pro in no time!
So you’ve heard about this thing called “HTV”, or maybe “Cricut”, “Silhouette”, “pressing”, whaaat? It can sound confusing but they’re using this stuff to make some pretty incredible things and you want in.
Well we’re here to help! We’re going to de-mystify allll there is to HTV or heat transfer vinyl. And we’re going to do that by walking you through how to make your first shirt!
But let’s starts with the words we’re be using- what IS weeding? HTV? Well, let’s define a few terms!
HTVStands for Heat Transfer Vinyl. A material that can be applied to various garments and surfaces with heat. Make sure to check what your HTV can apply to by checking the Tech PDF!
PSVStands for Pressure Sensitive Vinyl! Also known as sticker vinyl. This is material you can use to create decals and stickers that’ll stick to a wide variety of things, no heat required! Cars, glasses, laptops, picture frames- pretty much everything!
Craft Cutter/Cutter PlotterHow you cut HTV! To create designs out of HTV, you need to cut a design into the material. Popular brands of cutters include Silhouette and Cricut on the cheaper end and Graphtec, Roland, and GCC on the more expensive end.
Cut FileThis is a design specifically made for your craft cutter/cutter plotter. The craft cutter/cutter plotter read the lines of the design and cut along those lines!
PressingThe act of using heat and pressure to adhere your HTV to your garment or surface. This is usually done with a heat press, hand iron, or Cricut EasyPress.
Heat PressThe most expensive but gives the most professional results. A heat press gives you even heat and pressure. This gives you the best possible adhesion!
Cricut EasyPressLike a middle ground between a heat press and a hand iron. This has a larger surface and keeps an even temperature, so it’s better than a hand iron. You can’t regulate pressure, however. Great for home crafters!
WeedingThe action of pulling away excess HTV. After the HTV’s been cut, you weed away the extra HTV so you’re left with your design!
Carrier/Carrier SheetWhat the HTV or PSV is on! It’s usually plastic and a bit sticky. Each product’s a little different, so some carriers aren’t sticky and some are paper! When you’re cutting, you want to cut into the material, NOT the carrier.
Transfer MaskVery similar to a carrier but without the material on it. It’s used often with PSV to transfer the PSV off the carrier. It’s sometimes used with printable materials too!
Cover Sheet/Release SheetThis helps protect your garment from scorching when you press. Some HTV, like EconomyFlex, actually have different finishes based on what cover sheet you use!
Pressing PillowA pressing pillow can help even out an uneven surface. This allows you get a good press!
LayeringA design technique which allows you to have multiple colors on one shirt! It usually involves a base color and pressing different layers on top to create an image.
Perfectly sized for your 8 ½” x 11″ printers! Simply save the image then print.
Feel free to refer back to this if you need a refresher.
So you’ve decided you want to give this a try and you’ve got (or borrowed!) a craft cutter and some vinyl. Let’s get started on making our very first shirt!
Step 1: Find Your Cut File
The very first step you’ll need to make (besides making sure you have a way to cut the HTV and a way to press the HTV) is to decide what cut file you’re using! Picking your design is also going to help pick what HTV you want to use- most little boys wouldn’t like a very glittery shirt for example.
To help get started, we’ve got this FREE cut file! It’s available in 4 different formats which means you can use it for any craft cutter/cutter plotter you have. Not sure which format to use? Check out the chart below!
Keep in mind, Silhouette Studio is a program for Silhouette machines, Cricut® Design Space is for Cricut® machines, and Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw are programs that can be used with many cutter plotters.
Silhouette Studio (Needs to be traced), Cricut® Design Space, Adobe Illustrator (Needs to be traced), CorelDRAW (Needs to be traced)
Silhouette Studio Designer Edition, Cricut® Design Space, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW
Now you’ve got your cut file ready to go, it’s time to cut our HTV!
Step 2: Cut Your HTV
We’ve picked out our cut file, next we have to measure our shirt! That’s right, grab your ruler friends because we need to know how big to make this!
We’re pressing on a child’s medium, so our measurements might be a bit smaller than yours. Not sure how big to make it? Grab a shirt you have nearby and measure that one- how big is it across? How far down is it? That’ll give you a good idea for what you want to do here.
You often don’t want the words going the WHOLE distance across the chest- that’d be hard to read. You’ll want to go in a few inches on each side. For our shirt, we did about half- it’s roughly 14 inches across so our design was 7 wide. You can go bigger or smaller, it’s all up to you!
We’re all perfectly measured so it’s time to pick out our HTV! You can use WHATEVER HTV you’d like, but for this one we kept it classic- Black ThermoFlex® Plus! When you need a wonderfully matte HTV that looks and feels like screenprint, you gotta get ThermoFlex® Plus. It also weeds very easily making it perfect for pros and beginners alike!
We have both a heat press and a Cricut EasyPress- ThermoFlex® Plus needs some good, even pressure behind it or it won’t adhere as long as it’s supposed to. And it’s going to outlast your shirt when you press it right so we definitely want to make sure it’s got enough pressure! But sometimes all you’ve got is a hand iron- in that case, grab some ThermoFlex® Turbo! The great thing about ThermoFlex® Turbo is it goes on at a lower time and temperature, meaning it’s easier to use with a hand iron. You’ll probably want to press longer than 5 seconds when using a hand iron but don’t worry, we’ll show you what to look for to know your shirt is perfectly pressed!
After you have your material picked out, it’s time to cut it! How you cut the material is going to depend on the craft cutter/plotter cutter you’re using. There are so many different programs we’re not going to cover them here but we will in a future blog post! Whatever machine you have, there should be a starter’s guide.
What we do have for your is cut settings- how you cut ThermoFlex® Plus depends on the machine!
Material: Heat Transfer, Smooth
Blade : 2
Set Material: Iron-On
Blade: Fine-Point Blade (Standard)
We use a 45° blade.
When you’re cutting material, there are two very important rules you need to remember:
- ALWAYS test cut
- Flip your image!
A test cut will save you so much material in the long run- it makes sure that your cut setting are correct. You ALWAYS need to test cut- as you cut more and more material, your blade will dull. If your blade is dull, then even cut settings that worked before will stop working!
When we press a shirt or garment or whatever you’re making, the adhesive is on the back. To make sure everything reads correctly, you need to flip your image! You’ll probably forget a few times- don’t worry, we’ve ALL done it. And will make that mistake again in the future. 😂
Here’s a quick pro tip- put boxes around your design! It makes it easier to weed off the excess around the design and it gives you a good place to cut off excess carrier. Now that our material’s cut, time to weed!
Step 3: Weed Your HTV
Remember our vocab list? Here’s a refresher- weeding is the act of removing away excess HTV. You’ll hear this word a LOT around HTV and sticker vinyl. Some people love weeding, some people don’t like it so much. Personally, I think weeding’s relaxing- kinda like those little zen gardens. Sometimes I find it fun to cut a really, REALLY complicated design and spend time weeding it out. But the complicated designs come later! Let’s start with something easy.
How you weed is up to you- some people do it all by hand (especially if you have good nails!), some people grab tweezers, some people use what’s called a weeding tool. That’s what is pictured with the design up there! As a personal preference, I love a weeding tool. Luckily for you, we sell them here!
To weed, simply pull away the excess material. I usually start at a corner and begin pulling. If you cut your material right, this should be easy! It’ll leave clean lines.
Don’t forget to weed the insides of your letters! They can be real easy to forget and you’ll be kicking yourself after you press the shirt. (But even if you do forget, don’t worry about it too much- mistakes give your new shirt character, right? 😉)
Once you’ve got the insides of the letters weeded, you’re done weeding! If you flip it over, you can clearly see your design how it’s going to look on the shirt.
We’re SO close to being done, are you ready for it?
Step 4: Press Your HTV
Let’s get our presses on because it’s time to finish up our shirts!
For ThermoFlex® Plus, you’ll want to set whatever you’re using for pressing to 330° F for 15 seconds. Here we’re using a Cricut® EasyPress! They’re cute little machines, aren’t they?
Once the press has heated up to the right temp, it’s time to press!
For those of you using a hand iron (with Turbo) or an EasyPress, make sure you have a heat resistant surface to press on. We don’t recommend pressing on a soft surface- it doesn’t make for a good place to get firm, even pressure.
If your shirt is wrinkly, do a quick press before you start to get ’em out! We did a quick one to make sure everything was perfectly smoooooooth.
Now it’s time to place your design! Most designs you’ll want to place smack dab in the middle of the shirt. Use the collar and the distance from the arms to judge exactly where the middle is. A handy trick for figuring out how far down you need to place the design is what we like to call the three finger trick! Take your three middle fingers and hold them horizontally right under the collar. Where your fingers end is a good place to put your design.
Time to press!
If you have a heat press, make sure your pressure’s at about a medium. Press the shirt and once it releases, take it off the press.
If you have an EasyPress, place the EasyPress on top of the design, push the timer button, and press down. Put some pressure on that bad boy to make sure you get enough. Once the timer goes off, pull off the EasyPress.
Each material is going to have different instructions on when to peel- it’ll usually be either a hot, warm, or cold peel. For most ThermoFlex® Plus colors, they’re a warm peel. Wait until the plastic carrier is just warm and comfortable to touch. That’s when it’s time to peel it off!
If you have pressed correctly, you should not see any material lifting off. It should be perfectly adhered to the shirt. If you’re seeing some lifting, cover it again and press. If it’s lifting, that’s usually a pressure problem- add more this time!
ThermoFlex® Plus’s pressing instructions want a short second press- we cover with what’s called a Teflon sheet and repress for 2 seconds. A cover sheet can help protect your HTV when you have multiple presses. Since we won’t have the carrier here, the Teflon sheet kind of acts like a carrier!
And with that second press we’re done! How can we be SURE we’re done, you might ask?
Take a good look at your HTV. When ThermoFlex® Plus is pressed correctly, you can see the texture of the shirt in the material. It’s like it becomes part of the shirt! When you see that texture you know you got a perfect press. If you don’t see the texture, cover with the Teflon and repress.
Take a step back and look at that shirt. You did such a good job and it was super easy, wasn’t it? Soon you’ll be putting HTV on EVERYTHING- shirts, onesies, bibs, koozies, pillow cases, jackets! Between HTV and sticker vinyl the only limit is your imagination.
Did you use our free cut file to make something? Tag your pics with #HTVLove so we can see them! We might even reblog your pic or put you on our customer shots page. We love to showcase customer work!
Thanks for reading and if you liked this post, please share it with your friends! We’re always looking for new subjects to cover, so let us know in the comments what you’d like to see next. Have a great day!
-Kath at HeatTransferVinyl.com