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Crafting With Heat Transfer Vinyl

by Samantha Watson on October 13, 2020
Our range of HTV is sourced from premium brands within the industry and has been supplied to businesses large and small for over thirty five years, giving you peace of mind and confidence that your projects will continue to delight for many years.

In this post you can find a step by step breakdown on how to create a heat transfer project:

• Before you start - Storage!
• Step 1 - Tools For The Job
• Step 2 - Surface Preparation
• Step 3 - Creating Your Digital Design
• Step 4 - Cutting Your Design
• Step 5 - Weeding Your Design
• Step 6 - Pressing Your Design
• After application - Looking After Heat Transfer Decals
• Layering Heat Transfer Films

 

Before you start - Storage & Suitability

Store in a cool dry place, remember the adhesive is unprotected on the outer surface of the roll so ensure you keep this clean and safe from damage.
HTV is available in a few different varieties over and above the various colours and patterns.

The main varieties are:
Flex:
Suitable for cotton, polyester and acrylic blends these are thin flexible and can be smooth or textured
Flex Nylon:
Suitable for products that are traditionally more difficult to adhere to such as nylon and water-repellent surfaces, these are available in different colours and have a reflective option ideal for sportswear. These films generally have a much shorter press duration so make sure you check your timings before use.
Flock:
A fuzzy textured and much thicker film, Flock will produce a graphic with a raised peach-skin like texture. It is available in a wide range of colours including neon and is suitable for cotton, polyester and acrylic blends.

Find out the application and care instructions for your heat transfer film here.

Not just for textiles, HTV can be applied to lots of different heat and pressure resistant surfaces such as wood and leather, when experimenting, please ensure you carry out a test first to avoid damaging your surface. Some materials may require a lower heat setting but a longer press time.

Step 1 - Tools For The Job

Scalpel, snitty or scissors

Soft brush and cleaner if using on sealed surfaces

Weeding tool, can be a hook, tweezers or simply long fingernails!

Heat-press or Iron

Pressing pillow or an old towel

Cloth, parchment or teflon sheet a

Top Tip!
Using a lint roller to clean your garment is easy and effective.

Step 2 - Surface Preparation

Before you press your painstakingly cut and weeded design you want to make sure that your surface is well
prepped to ensure your graphics look good and last for as long as possible.

Firstly make sure your application surface can withstand the temperature required for pressing your chosen HTV.

If you are pressing onto a new garment it is worth laundering and drying it first to ensure that any chemicals which are commonly applied to new clothing, to stop them wrinkling and attracting dirt in store, have been removed as these can compromise the adhesive.

Brush over the application surface to remove any dust or loose fibres. Moisture is the enemy of HTV so briefly iron or press without steam to ensure your surface is fully dry and crease free.

Line up your design. If it helps, fold your garment in half and iron the fold prior to applying your graphic, this can make for easier alignment as you can see the mid-point of your surface.

Time saving hack!
 If you have a small design with multiple colours, use the sticky mat. As long as they are of the same thickness and type of HTV you can cut them both at the same time. Check carefully that you have positioned them correctly on screen.

Step 3 - Creating Your Digital Design

Consider the type of HTV you are using, thicker media such as flock or heavy glitter may not be suitable for very small intricate shapes such as serifs or flourishes on small letters as they may lift and become deformed during cutting.

You will need to use a vector based software design package such as Adobe Illustrator which creates ‘paths’ that your cutter will follow. Alternatively, if you are using a Cricut or Silhouette craft cutter, the software will be supplied with your cutter and will usually include a selection of pre-made designs and typestyles as well as allowing you to create your own. Your software will usually allow you to colour and layer your shapes so that you can visualise the finished product before cutting.

If you are creating a multi-coloured or layered design with thicker or textured HTV such as flock, always position these on the top layer of the design or use your design software to remove the parts of shapes that sit behind others. Then, when you apply your graphic, the shapes sit next to, rather than on top of each other.

Always add ‘weed borders’ and trim lines to your job, it’s as simple as drawing a box around your line of text or logo. This will segment the weeding into smaller areas making it quicker and easier with less chance of losing shapes or forgetting to weed small bits such as the middle of letters. Unlike self-adhesive vinyl, once heated
this media is permanent and you cannot easily peel off bits that have stuck in error.

Don’t forget to reverse your design before cutting!

Top Tip!
Always do a test cut
It is important to fine tune your cutting depth, as if you don’t cut deep enough the design will be difficult to weed and if you cut too deep you will cut into the clear liner which will blunt your blade very quickly.

 

Step 4 - Cutting Your Design

HTV is ideal for use in digital vinyl cutters.

When using a smaller pieces and scraps on Cricut or Silhouette cutters you will need to use the sticky mat to load them. If you are trying to use very small pieces you will need a clean high tack mat to ensure they stay in place during cutting.

Position them so that the clear carrier liner adheres to the mat and the less glossy adhesive side faces up. If the media is cut squarely and of a suitable width, you can load it directly into your device as the clear liner will hold your shapes in place and transport them smoothly through the cutter.

Always perform a test cut, we have recommended cutter settings here, however the age and condition of your knife blade, film temperature and cutting speed will all affect the cut quality.

Don’t forget to reverse your design before cutting!

Top Tip!
If weeding is difficult, especially if your film or workspace is cold, try warming it up slightly or use the base of your t-shirt press as a weeding station, the heat encourages the liner to stay flat and makes the film more supple.

 

Step 5 -Weeding Your Design

This simply means removing the unwanted vinyl from your design. Tools are optional but long fingernails, tweezers, a dental hook or a scalpel are all helpful here.

Ensure you are in an evenly and well-lit area as it can be difficult to see the very fine cut-lines. Spend a moment working out which bits need to be removed, you don’t want to weed out a crucial full stop!


When weeding it is often easier to tape the carrier liner to your work surface. Unless you are using a special HTV designed for stacking during high volume use, the liner is tacky and tends to stick to your hands or sleeves and lift as you are trying to weed which is not helpful. It is safer to weed inside shapes first as you have less chance of displacing the shapes around them. If you have a very fiddly design such as a grunge effect on text which means lots of very tiny shapes to weed, try using a small piece of application tape or tacky vinyl and pat it over the surface to pick up multiple bits in one go – a sticky lint remover roller can sometimes work well for this! Weeding these small bits first will help to avoid picking up your letters at the same time.

Step 6 - Pressing Your Design

Before you apply heat, check the application settings for your media, such as the recommended temperature, timings and whether it is hot or cold peel. This means you either have to remove the carrier liner straight after pressing or you need to leave for a while to allow the heat to dissipate.

Briefly press your garment to remove any creases or moisture which may affect the adhesive.

Press one colour at a time (see Layering HTV below). Position your graphic, adhesive side down, onto your application surface, the tacky carrier film should keep it in place. Using a piece of cloth, baking parchment or a Teflon sheet to protect the liner and your substrate, press your graphic with your iron or heat press.

Use even pressure and avoid using steam. HTV requires significant pressure to form a secure bond so if using an iron or hand-press push down hard. If using flex, the film should take on the texture of the fabric you are pressing onto. A folded towel or pressing pillow placed underneath your garment would be useful here especially if there are seams or pockets on your item and particularly if you are pressing a framed canvas or similar.

If the graphic is larger than the surface of your iron, lift and reposition the iron for the same amount of time in a fresh spot, do not slide the iron backwards and forwards over the graphic as you would if ironing clothes. Ensure each piece of your design receives the same amount of heat and pressure.

Remove the clear liner when recommended for your particular media then replace your protective sheet and iron or press for a couple of seconds more to secure in place.

Layering Heat Transfer Film

Layering HTV on a t-shirt

Smooth matt flex film such as Poli-Flex Turbo can be layered as required, simply design your cut file so that you can press the films one by one on top of each other then follow the advice below, remember you are designing in reverse!

Thick or textured film such as flock or glitter flex and specialty media such as holographic or mirror film can only be used as a top layer. If your design doesn't allow for this you can use your design software to cut away the shapes underneath so that the products line up next to each other like a jigsaw rather than sitting on top of each other.

As it is the liner rather than the film that is sticky you cannot layer the products on the liner before application as you can with self-adhesive film so you have to heat press them layer by layer. Do not let your press come into contact with the films once the liners have been removed or your will end up with a gooey mess!

To avoid overheating and damaging your garment, only heat each layer briefly but with enough pressure that you can remove the liner and place the next colour on top. Remember to check the application settings for your film as you may need to allow it to cool before removing the liner. Then press the complete design fully, protecting with a cloth or Teflon sheet at the end.
Positioning the individual layers is easy as the sticky liner holds your shapes in place without your graphics sticking together, allowing you to reposition as desired.

After Application - Looking After Your Decals

Once you have applied your design you’ll want to keep your creations looking good for as long as possible.
Check the care instructions for your particular media. Usual recommendations are to wash and iron inside out, however the temperature will vary as does the durability expectation, washing detergent designed for colours will help your designs look good for longer.
Polyester based heat transfer films such as some mirror and holographic films will have a limited wash durability of up to 10 cycles.

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