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How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl

Ready to learn how to use heat transfer vinyl? For starters, you can just call it HTV for short. HTV projects are super easy and popular for those with cutting machines.

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    Remember that awesome channel we used to watch? With the cool shows like Punk’d and Cribs? Do you remember Jackass…the TV show? Man, that was good stuff. Remember the music videos, the celebrity news reporting, the fashion, the awards, and the gossip? Aaaah, those were the days. 

    We’re here to talk about that.

    Wait, wait? We’re not? Ohhhhhh…that was MTV! M.T.V! My bad. We’re actually here to talk about HTV. Different acronym, but just as much fun. 

    HTV stands for heat transfer vinyl. It’s a super-cool, super-versatile tool that gives anyone freedom to play around with different colors, patterns and designs in their plan to customize apparel. It gives the maker total freedom for experimentation, with a guarantee that whatever the end piece is, it’ll be a true reflection of the person who made it. 

    You could even do a throwback MTV logo design with HTV.

    Products We Used

    Blank

    • District - VIT Fleece Shorts #DT6108
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    • As always, we encourage you to use the same products we’ve already tested and approved, but if you’d like to go your own way, we salute you! Just make sure the blank you’re using is a similar fabric.

    • Additional blanks we recommend you use for this project are also listed at the bottom of the tutorial.

    Supplies


    The Prepping

    Step 1: Wash and dry your blank.

    This removes any manufacturer’s finishing or excess fibers that could prevent the HTV from effectively bonding to your blank.

    Step 2: Prepare your design using your vinyl cutting machine’s design software.

    Each cutting machine comes with its own design software. Since we'll be using a Cricut machine, our design has been prepared within the Cricut Design Space. Not using a Cricut? Refer to your specific cutting machine’s instruction guide on how to install the software that will allow you to create artwork.

    Step 3: Make sure the size of your design will accommodate your blank.

    Lay the blank flat and measure the width and height of the desired application site.

    In Cricut Design Space, select the completed design and using the arrow in the bottom right-hand corner of the selection box drag it to achieve the size that will fit your application site.

    The template button is sometimes helpful here. It allows you to choose from a ton of commonly decorated items (i.e. backpacks, t-shirts, shorts, …etc.) to use as a template when choosing size and placement of a design.

    Step 4: Prepare your heat source.

    Turn on your heat press or home iron. If you’re using a press, adjust the heat to 305, temps can vary based on HTV quality, degrees Fahrenheit and the timer to 15 - 20 seconds. We used a clamshell press and adjusted our pressure to medium pressure because we’re pressing a fleece style blank.

    Be aware of the pressure setting

    The pressure setting will automatically go to its normal "default" setting if it’s not specifically adjusted, so be sure to take care of this now. 

    And don’t forget to refer to the vinyl manufacturer's website to choose the proper material and pressure settings for your vinyl cutter.

    Cutting Machine Tip

    The Making

    Step 1: Prepare your vinyl cutting machine for cutting.

    Hit the "Make It" button located in the top right corner of your project page in the Cricut design space. The design will be displayed virtually on the cutting mat as to how it will be cut.

    Edit the mat size or the design placement on the mat, if needed. If your design contains text, you’ll need to mirror the image to ensure that it reads correctly when it’s applied to the shorts.

    Do I need to mirror?

    Mirroring is only required when you have text in your design.

    Once the design is reflected
    virtually on the mat to your liking, follow the prompts on the screen to select the material you will be cutting and the pressure at which it should be cut.

    Common Error

    Once the design is reflected on the mat as it should be cut, move forward with following the prompts.

    Select the material you will be cutting and the pressure at which it should be cut. The pressure will automatically go to its normal pressure "default" if not specifically adjusted. At this time, please refer to the HTV manufacturer’s website to choose the proper material and pressure setting to accommodate your vinyl cutter.

    Step 3: Cut your design on the HTV.

    Apply the HTV on your mat with the shiny side down.

    Use your brayer tool and roll it over the HTV to ensure it's evenly applied to the mat and there are no air bubbles.

    Before you start cutting, make sure to double check the HTV manufacturer’s website for the
    proper pressure setting for your vinyl cutter.

    Insert the cutting mat into the Cricut by using the rollers as a guide. Once the mat hits the rollers, push the flashing arrow button. The machine will pull in the mat. When it's ready to cut, the Cricut button will begin to flash. 

    Press the flashing Cricut button.

    Once finished cutting, the Cricut will stop and the arrow button will flash. Push the flashing arrow button to release the cutting mat from the machine.

    Remove the vinyl from the mat by holding the cutting mat down with one hand and use your other hand to pull the vinyl off the cutting mat away from you.

    Step 4: Start weeding your design

    Pierce the corner of the non-shiny side of the vinyl and pull, removing the excess from the plastic carrier.

    Continue this process until all of the design has been weeded.

    What is weeding?

    Weeding is the process of removing the unwanted space from the design. In other words, weed out all the bits of vinyl that you don’t want to be applied to the blank.

    Note: When creating stencils, you will want to weed the design and leave the negative space.

    Vocab

    Step 5: Map out the placement of your design.

    Lay your blank flat and use your clear acrylic ruler to map out where the design should be applied.

    Step 6: Remove any wrinkles, moisture, and excess fibers from your blank.

    First, lint roll the area of application to rid the surface of any fibers that could hinder the application.

    Then, remove any wrinkles and moisture by pre-pressing your blank. This step will help ensure the HTV bonds effectively to the fabric. To do so, place just your blank on the heat press and pre-press for 3 - 5  seconds. Your surface is now ready for application.

    Step 7: Time to start pressing HTV!

    Lay your weeded HTV on the blank with the vinyl side down, touching the fabric.

    Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the HTV. Then, close the clamshell and let the heat press timer countdown. After 20 seconds, the buzzer will go off and you can pop open the clamshell. 

    Always refer to both the HTV and the heat press manufacturer’s guidelines to confirm the right setting for your project.

    Step 8: Reveal your finished product.

    Peel the plastic carrier from the vinyl and reveal the design. Refer to the manufacturer's guidelines to see if the vinyl quality you are using is a hot peel or a cool peel.

    In the event of hot peel, immediately peel the plastic carrier from the vinyl.

    If a cool peel, wait to remove once the vinyl has cooled off.

    We hope you found this how-to tutorial on HTV helpful. Now you can start cutting, applying, and experimenting with heat transfer vinyl in new ways. Just make sure you share your finished creations with us.

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