What Is HTV? A Beginner’s Guide to Heat Transfer Vinyl

Finding your niche

In todays tutorial i will be covering the one question that you are inevitably asking yourselves. What is HTV and how do I use it. But don’t worry. I am going to go through this in detail so that at the end you will be a pro 🙂
So… this is the first time I have touched on Vinyl. Prior to this most of the work I had done had been with card and papercraft that I had cut with my first love my Sizzix or my new love my Cricut.

Now, you can cut Vinyl with a Sizzix Big Shot, but it is not something that I recommend as it will cut through all of the backing paper as well as the Vinyl, this will make it extremely difficult to separate when you try to weed it. I will touch on this later.

So First -What is HTV

HTV is otherwise known as Heat Transfer Vinyl or Iron on Vinyl. This is a specialilty vinyl that can be used on a wide range of materials and fabrics. You can use this vinyl to create designs, promotional and personalised products.
It can be bought in sheets, or in rolls. It contains an adheisive backing which can then be cut, weeded and transferred on different materials through an application of Heat. I use the Easypress, however it can also be activated using an iron.

HTV can in all sizes although the most popular size in the rolls is 12″ and the length can then be anything from 12″ to 20″. If you were to go to a shop that sells vinyl for card this length can then increase dramatically :-). The individual Sheets are sold in various sizes although the most common size in 12″ by 12″. I keep a mixture of rolls and sheets. The sheets are great if you want to try out lots of variations of colours as you can get packs containing whole varieties of colours like this.

These are my favourites for HTV sheets. Not only do they come in a great range of colours both normal and holographic, but the material cuts really well, and also weeds really well. I have never had any problems with Arteza, and one of the great things is you can purchase it on Amazons Subscribe and Save plan and then you will never run out. Its a win win.

Bright and brilliant assortment

Holographic Colours

Types of HTV

  • Glitter – this vinyl looks amazing but can be tough to weed and trickier to cut. I would recommend doing this in daytime using a brightpad to help with the weeding.
  • Metallic – This is your gold, copper and bronze types. You can get some good packs out there covering all bases.
  • Holographic – This again is a beautiful vinyl and changes colour in the light. However remember that the material you put it on will reflect and play a bip part in how this colour looks.
  • Regular – This is the most common type of HTY and the cheapest. Think of a colour you can get it.
  • Foil – This is onle of my favourites, however it is also one of the most delicates. You will need to thoroughly follow the instructions especially when it comes to making sure you do a cold peel.
  • Glow in the Dark
  • Sportsflex …. and lots lots more

Unlike the normal adhesive Vinyl, heat transfer vinyl is not sticky itself. When you buy it it comes on a clear adhesive backing sheet. This sheet keeps the material in place when you cut and transfer it. With HTV you do not need transfer tape, you simply cut out the image with your machine and turn it over onto the fabric before using either a heat-press or an iron to set it into place.

This is one of my racks of vinyl rolls that i keep. As you can see when I buy rolls I tend to buy Cricut. Again this is another make that you can alwys depend on for accuracy, and ease of cutting and weeding.

Cricut Vinyl in rack
A small selection of vinyl in it’s rack

HTV Terminology

Have you been reading a blog, or watching a You Tube video on HTV or vinyl and thought what on earth are they on about. You then end up having to google what it was and losing your place and trail of thought on whatever it was you were doing… NIGHTMARE well bear with me and I will give you a quick introduction to this words you may be hearing and not understanding.

TIP


TIP – Don’t get yourself confuddled like I did. Heat Transfer Vinyl and Iron-on are exactly the same. It is just a different name for the same item

Cavities

This is basically a hole in the design. Or the centre, by where the vinyl completely surround it. for example the middle of an “a” in a design would be called a cavity.

Liner (or backing sheet)

This is the word they use to describe the clear shiny backing of the HTV. This can be sticky or smooth to the touch depending on the type of HTV you have. You tend to find that the stickier types of HTY are used for the trickier more intricate designs as they are easier to work with and weed.

Negative

This is the part of the design that you do not want. You use your weeding tools to remove this excess or negative vinyl just to leave the design remaining. If you were making a stencil out of vinyl this would be the other way round and you would remove the reverse.

Peel

Once you have completed your design and used your iron or heat press to adhere it to your surface, you then have 3 different type of removal or “peel” of he liner. You either have a hot peel where you remove the liner directly after pressing, a warm peel where you leave it to slightly cool before you remove or a cold peel where you must leave it to cool completely before removal.

An example of this is with the Cricut Iron On Foil, this must be left to cool completely before removal or the foil will wrinkle, whereby the Cricut Everyday Iron on is left until it is slightly cool and then removed, if you try to lift this one sooner the HTV wont have properly adhered and you risk it lifting off of your project.
Before adhering my Vinyl, I always check on this simple settings calculater / heat guide to check how long I need to heat for and what removal or peel is needed.

Weeding

This is the act of removing the excess vinyl from a design that you have already cut. You then leave only the design requires on the backing sheet/ liner

This is the Heat Press that I use, its called the Cricut Easypress and it is a genius idea. I have to say I absolutely love it. It makes my life so much easier. It coves the whole area tha I need to press so I don’t need to do several presses, everything is automated, all I need to do is put it on my t-shire, or bag or whatever I am doing press 1 button and then it beeps at me when it is done. This for me is one of those could not live without items…

Steps For Making Your Vinyl Project

Step 1 – Pick Your Cutter

You will need to use a Vinyl cutter or some sort as it is incredibly difficult to cut by hand. It is possible to cut it with scissors but extremely difficult and you would also end up cutting the backing. Vinyl cutters range completely in price, design and brand. The one that I use and that I really love and get on with is the Cricut maker, however there are several other brands that also produce exceptional cutting machines. This one below is my baby 🙂

The Cricut Maker

Step 2 – Get your File – Add your design to Cricut Design Space

The very first thing you will need to do is get your design. To use one of these machines you will need a cut file in the format of an SVG or otherwise known as a Scalable Vector Graphic. If you don’t know what this is take a look at this post I created previously on the Cricut Machine and SVG’s – What is Cricut, What is an SVG?.
You can find loads of graphins, images and texts on the Cricut Design Space App. If you feel that in this vast collection you can still not see what you want you can also sign up for Cricut Access. This gives you an even bigger collection to chose from. you can sign up for it here


You will need to upload or select your image so that it appears on your blank canvas. Your project may need to resizeing to make sure that it fits. You can do this by clicking on the corner and dragging out to the right size, or you can enter the size manually into the tool bar at the top.

Step 3 – Mirror Iron-on in Design Space

If your forget everything else remember this!!! Mirror, Mirror, Mirror!!

The amount of projects I have ruined by either forgetting to mirror your HTV, or placing it the wrong side up on your cutting machine. If you do not do this correctly you will have to start again.

What you need to remember is that when you cut HTV it has a adhesive backing which you need to keep in tact. To do this you always, always need to place you vinyl upside down on your cutting mat. This means that the shiny side is down. Doing his will mean that you cut through the vinyl leaving your backing sheet in tact. Otherwise you will cut your backing sheet and not your vinyl.

When you then chose to cut on your machine be it Cricut, Silhouette or any other machine you need to make sure that the image is mirrored. Otherwise when you turn it upside down on your project, it will be backwards. To do this you will need to select the “Mirror On” switch after you have opted to make your project. I will be covering this in more depth in a different tutorial.

Always make sure this is green and mirrored has been selected

I can not stress enough how important and vital these 2 points are. I have wasted so many pieces of vinyl and ruined so much work from forgetting the 2 simple points. But the bonus to all of this is that you never get to learn from my mistakes, and if my errors can help you going forward then it is a mistake well made and with a purpose 🙂

Step 4 – Cutting the Vinyl

I am using Everyday Iron on so i have made sure that on my Cricut Maker I have selected Every Day Iron-on. Make sure you select the material that you are using so that the machine knows the depth to cut it.

Materials selection on Cricut Maker
Note the Hazzard warning stating “Make sure Mirror is turned on and iron-on material is face (shiny side) down

Next load the mat into your machine by placing it in the guiders and pressing the flashing green button, and finally press again the new flashing green Cricut logo to start it cutting.

Now you can unload your mat and take the iron-on off.

Step 5 – Weed Your Design

Weeding means to remove the parts of vinyl which do not belong to your design. I use these tools to help me do it. They are part of a cricut weeder tool set. You dont need to use them but I find that it helps a lot with some of the trickier or smaller bits of vinyl.


I also suggest that when you are doing this that you have a picture of your design in front of you as well to help you. this will make sure that you do not weed out the wrong bits.
I also use the Cricut bright pad for doing This. Again this is not something that you need however i do find it makes a great deal of difference to most vinyl in being ale to see the cut lines. It will save you hours of eye strain haha 🙂 It basically is a thin box with a light inside it that glows up really brightly. This light brightness can be changed. It lights up the cuts in the vinyl from underneath making it really easy to see the cuts and which bits you need to dig out.

You should now be left with the clear plastic backing and your design.
If you turn this over now you should be checking if it looks as it appears on the picture, and how you want it to look when it is placed onto your material. This is the last chance you have now to make any amendments before adhering this to your material.

Step 6 – Transferring your Design

There are 2 main ways to transfer your design. Either by iron or by using a heatpress. I have an Easypress 2, so I will be using this. However the guidelines still apply for an iron and i still recommend you looking up the heatpress guidelines before pressing even with an iron.
Cricut have invented the genius calculator which I suggest alway’s checking before actually pressing down any of your vinyl. Even if you think you know, its best to check to just be sure because without meaning to scare you…. If you mess this up that is your blank material ruined, your vinyl and all of your valuable time.
This is what the guide looks like.

On this i have selected Everyday Iron-On as this is what i am using, my T shirt I am transferring to is 100% cotton so again I have selected that. I am using the Cricut Easypress Mat. This is also quite essential more so for the “Infusible ink” but thats for another post. It basically keeps the heat in, and gives you something solid to press on. When i hit apply this is what I am given.

Here is the link if you would like to use these guidelines for your project. Heat Press Guide

  • So as per the guide, pre-heated your Easypress to 315 degrees.
  • Place the Easypress mat underneath your top or blank, and pressed 5 seconds. This gets rid of any wrinkles and moisture so the vinyl wont be creased.
  • Place your design you have just cut and weeded vinyl side down. As you now look at it the design should be showing the correct way up. Make sure you take the time to get the positioning right as the next bit can not be undone, and after all your hard work the last thing you want to do is messit up now at the final stages.
  • Press with light pressure for 30 seconds at which point the Easypress beeps to let you know the time is up.
  • Wait a few seconds just for your design to cool down slights and then peel it off.

If you dont have an easypress

If you have not yet managed to get an Easypress , which is quite understandable especially if you are just starting out (as they can be quite pricey) You can still do this with a regular iron.

The only difference that i have found with doing it with an iron are these.

  • You will need to use a folded up towell underneath your top or garment instead of the Easypress Mat.
  • The iron will need to turned up quite high, but make sure that the steam is turned off.
  • Teflon, or Parchment paper will be neede over the top of your item for the iron to press on it. This ensures that when you are passing over your item several times that it does not burn.
  • I normally press for about 20 seconds over 3-4 areas with my iron.

TIP

TIP – Don’t be silly and put your iron on the floor. Even on top of parchment paper. The fibres will melt. UGH!!!

Although i did think it looked like a cute heart – my other half did not see it that way – DOH!

After Care

Cricut states that you should allow 24 hours after application before washing your beautiful new top. It also states that you should wash and tumble inside out, and not to use bleach. You do not want to ruin this great top that you spent so much time and effort creating.

Thanks you so much reading, and i really hope that you have learnt something usefull that you did not previously know.

EmmaDie cutting tips

xx

Other Posts you may also like

What is Cricut
Finding Your Niche

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