The BEST Heat Transfer Vinyl – Plus Application Tips
Heat Transfer Vinyl is a really fun way to add custom graphics and wording to all sorts of projects. But before we get there let’s get one thing out of the way. Heat Transfer Vinyl or HTV and Iron On are basically the same thing. Cricut calls their product Cricut Iron On and pretty much everyone else calls it HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl.) So if you see someone talking about one or the other you can assume these tips will work for either product. Now that we have that out of the way we can get into the tips for where to get the best vinyl and how the heck you use it!
The BEST Heat Transfer Vinyl – Plus Application Tips
I won’t make you wait. My favorite place to get my HTV is Expressions Vinyl. They have TONS of super fun vinyl. It can be a little overwhelming to find the right vinyl if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for though so let’s talk about all the different kinds of vinyl you might find.
Scroll down for all the vinyl tips. But first I am so excited to share the most recent Fresh Cut SVG Bundles with you! This time we tackled all things camping! I think all the files turned out SUPER amazing! These files can be used with any of the vinyls described below.
Grab the bundle HERE.
What Do You Use 651 Vinyl On?
Vinyl that has the number 51 at the end is permanent outdoor vinyl. This means that once you put it on chances are it is NOT coming off. This is permanent vinyl. It should be used only when you are ok with it potentially not coming back off again, EVER. Use this on the mailbox, front door, or anywhere else outside that will be exposed to weather. You can also use it indoors on items that you use heavily like a cell phone case or the back of a laptop (just know that it will not be easily removed.) This is also the vinyl you would use to add customization to mugs or water bottles.
When you are using 51 and 31 vinyl you will need to use a transfer tape to apply the vinyl. There are several types and they all work about the same as long as you have the right tools. If I had to pick a favorite I like this Gridlined Clear Transfer Tape because of the grid. It helps you line up the image to make sure it is straight. It is also clear which helps you see where to place everything.
Can You Use Adhesive Vinyl on a Shirt?
The 51 vinyl is something you would NOT use on a t-shirt. 31 or 631 vinyl is adhesive vinyl that is removable. You COULD use 31 on a t-shirt only as a stencil, but there is a stencil material (see this post about making a stencil for more info.) You would not use this vinyl on a shirt as a design and expect it to stay on the shirt. It would not be washable and it would definitely come off with the movement of the shirt.
Removable adhesive vinyl is best for projects where you will eventually want to remove the vinyl but need it to stick since you can’t iron it on. An example of this would be this vinyl wallpaper that I made. One day I will want to remove it so I didn’t use permanent vinyl but I want it to stick until that time. It also doesn’t get a lot of wear and tear because it isn’t exposed to the weather. You could also add this vinyl to glass on mirrors or picture frames.
You would not use this vinyl for mugs or anything that goes in the dishwasher. To make a car decal you would have to decide between the permanent 51 or removable 31 depending on how long you want it to stay on.
Can Vinyl Be Used on Shirts?
Yes. This brings us to the last type of vinyl. Heat Transfer Vinyl (htv) and Iron On Vinyl can be used on t-shirts. Like I said above HTV and Iron On are basically the same thing. There are many brands, Siser Easy Weed, Expressions, Cricut, Silhouette, and more. I have used most of the brands out there, they are all fairly similar but Silhouette brand is my least favorite based on the quality. Siser is the brand that most people will recommend and it does work great. Honestly I think they are all VERY similar as long as you carefully follow the instructions for application.
The real key to HTV is your heat source. If you are going to be ironing vinyl onto a shirt I highly recommend using the Cricut EasyPress and the Pressing Mat. This is the best way to regulate the temperature and ensure that the vinyl permanently attaches. You will know that the vinyl is correctly adhered when you see the texture of the shirt through the vinyl. If the vinyl is smooth without the texture of the shirt showing through it is probably not adhered correctly.
These disney shirts are a great example of vinyl used on shirts.
Do You Cut HTV Shiny Side Up Or Down?
When you are cutting HTV and Iron On the shiny side goes down onto the mat. You will be cutting on the dull side of the vinyl. The shiny side should always go down onto the sticky part of the mat.
The shiny plastic is also what you use to protect the vinyl when you are ironing. You can iron directly onto the shiny plastic coating or you can use a pressing sheet over the top of this shiny plastic when adhering the vinyl. The great thing about iron on is that you won’t need to use any transfer tape when using HTV. You may want to use a light source behind your vinyl when you are weeding to help you see the image. I have the BrightPad and it works like a charm.
Do You Mirror Heat Transfer Vinyl?
When you place the HTV shiny side down that means you will be cutting on the back of the vinyl. The dull side is the side that will go down onto your t-shirt. This means that you need to mirror the image. So YES mirror your file when you are using HTV or Iron On.
TIP: I like to cut the vinyl down to size before I cut. So if your image is 6″ x 3″ I cut a 7″ x 4″ rectangle and then place that on my cutting mat. Trimming the rectangle before you cut the file is much easier than trying to see where the cut is after the fact. This will help cut down on vinyl waste and eliminate the possibility that you accidentally cut your file when trimming the rectangle after the fact.
Can You Iron on Vinyl?
After you have ironed the vinyl onto the shirt and removed the plastic coating you do not want to iron directly on the vinyl. If you need to iron the shirt you will want to use a pressing paper or a towel to cover the vinyl. I would try and avoid this as much as possible though, especially if you are using foil or shiny iron on as the iron will cause this type of foil to burn or warp.
If your shirt is wrinkly try steaming next to the shirt (not directly on the shirt) and then pulling lightly. Don’t pull too hard because you don’t want to warp the vinyl.
A few more vinyl tid-bits.
- You can order color swatches so you can see all the colors at once. This helps with ordering and planning your projects!
- There are a few more fun types of vinyl to play with that I didn’t cover. Things like chalkboard, glow in the dark, and reflective.
- Play around with scrap vinyl and scrap fabric before you dive in. It helps to get accustomed to using all these different products before diving into making real projects!