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How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl: Guide to Iron On Vinyl

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How to apply iron on vinyl: a guide to HTV. Photo of a Cricut Maker and EasyPress with a folded shirt that says "I love it when my wife lets me play video games instead of making me do DIY projects."

A guide to HTV. Learn how to use heat transfer vinyl (HTV), otherwise known as iron on vinyl, with your Cricut or Silhouette machine.

There are several types of vinyl that you can use with your Cricut or Silhouette machine. Today we’re going to be talking about heat transfer vinyl or HTV.

I wanted to chat HTV today as it’s one of my favorite uses for my Cricut Machine. It’s a lot of fun to customize items for my kids and friends.


This post contains affiliate links which may earn me commissions should you click through them and take certain actions. As an affiliate for Cricut, Amazon and other sites, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please DIY carefully. View my full legal disclosures here.

Please read the whole post so you don’t miss any important information!


This is going to be long so here’s a table of contents if you want to hop around.

What is HTV Vinyl?

HTV stands for heat transfer vinyl. Sometime it is also referred to as “iron on vinyl.” Heat is used to transfer the cut design onto a fabric item such as a shirt or bag. Different types of vinyl and fabrics have different heat requirements.

HTV can be used on a variety of items, but generally people use it on fabric. Want to use HTV on wood? Check out my guide to using HTV on Wood.

Iron on vinyl is NOT the same thing as infusible ink. Infusible ink is ink that is transferred directly to the fabric using heat. It’s the Cricut version of sublimation. Iron on vinyl is vinyl that is being transferred to the fabric.

Iron on vinyl is removable and can potentially peel off, but shouldn’t if pressed properly. The benefit to HTV, however, is that it’s easier to remove if you make a mistake.

I started with an embroidery machine to customize shirts a long time ago, and quickly discovered that I prefer using HTV or infusible ink. I like that they don’t leave a rough interior to the shirt like embroidery does, and they’re faster to make (generally). The equipment is also more affordable than using an embroidery machine.

What are Blanks?

Blanks are blank items like t-shirts, bags, and more than can be used for heat transfer vinyl. Often you can find affordable blank t-shirts at your local Walmart.

Personally, I like to order everything from the comfort of my couch so I usually order from Amazon. Click here to see Blanks you can buy on Amazon

Choosing Your Design for an Iron On Project

Choosing your design is IMPORTANT. This has been a tough lesson for me to learn. Some projects are easier to cut and weed than others- and some fonts are easier to cut/weed.

My main issue is that I LOVE to make tiny things and when they transfer to iron on (or other types of vinyl) sometimes they just don’t cut nice. You aren’t going to have an easy time putting a long quote on a candle jar- but putting “LOVE” on a candle jar is easy.

Big blocky letters seem to cut easier and they’re easier to weed when you’re working with SMALL projects. I used a thin font for these clothing labels and should have used something bigger.

Love those fancy mandala projects? Might not be a great first project. They require a lot of careful weeding. It’s time consuming.

HTV is a lot more forgiving that regular vinyl though because it’s already attached to the carrier sheet.

Size matters. Don’t forget to resize your design so it’ll fit on the shirt or bag you’ll be using. You don’t want the image to go armpit to armpit on the shirt… you want it small enough to cover the center part of the person’s chest.

Here is the “I LOVE MY WIFE” design if you want to use it!

How to Cut Heat Transfer Vinyl with a Cricut

When you open your project in Design Space, you can click “Make it” in the top right hand corner.

The left hand side will show a list of items you’re cutting for your project; they’re separated by color, but sometimes you will see multiple of the same color. This is because they wouldn’t all fit on one mat.

If you don’t click around, Cricut will naturally start with the first one on the list. Aka if it’s the red vinyl, you want to feed the red into the machine first.

For each mat that you’ll be cutting HTV, you need to click the “mirror” button under material size. You can also change your material size if you’re using a bigger mat/cut of HTV.

Once you hit mirror on all, click continue.

Connect your machine.

Select the material you’re using (different type of HTV have different cut settings).

Place your HTV the shiny side down on the cutting mat. The dull side is face up. Load the mat into your machine. Make sure your blade is inserted in your machine properly. Click the GO button.

Your machine will take over the cutting and when it finishes, you’ll see the unload button flashing. Press it to unload your mat.

Now you need to “weed” the vinyl. This means that you remove the cut areas that aren’t part of your design. You can use tweezers or your weeding tool to carefully scrape away and remove the excess.

Some people weed the design normally and others weed in reverse so they have what looks like a stencil.

How to Apply Heat Transfer Vinyl

Supplies

How to apply HTV with a Heat Press or EasyPress

  1. Start with a clean, lint free shirt. If you leave lint or hair on the shirt, the iron on may press the hair into the shirt; this impacts how well the HTV ‘sticks’ and looks yucky. Iron your shirt as well if needed.

2. Place your iron on vinyl shiny side down on your Cricut mat. The shiny piece is your carrier sheet and shouldn’t be cut by the Cricut machine if your settings are correct.

Cutting HTV with shiny side down on a Cricut mat.

3. Create your design and resize to fit your shirt. MIRROR your design.

4. Select Everyday Iron On for your material.

Working in DesignSpace to create a shirt for my husband.

5. Let the machine cut your Iron On Vinyl

6. Weed away the excess material around the cut design.

Cutting and weeding iron on vinyl.

7. Check your Cricut EasyPress settings for your material. These are the settings for iron on vinyl on 100% cotton.

8. Pre-heat the shirt.

Preheating the shirt before pressing HTV.

9. Place your design down on your shirt. Make sure it’s centered. Press. Ideally your press should cover the entire image. As you can see in the left photo, my design was slightly larger than my press. I needed to press each section separately as a result.

10. Flip and press the back of the design.

Pressing iron on vinyl on a black shirt using the Cricut Easy Press.

11. Peel clear film away. The Cricut settings will tell you if your vinyl needs to be cold peeled, hot peeled, etc. That simply means that you need to either peel the film away immediately (hot peel) or wait for it to cool first (cold peel).

If it’s adhered well, it should peel off easily. If it pulls up the iron on vinyl, DO NOT KEEP PULLING. Press again.

12. Show it off! He’s going to love this!

Peeling off iron on vinyl for the "I love my wife" shirt that I made for my husband.

How to apply HTV with an iron

You can also apply iron on vinyl with your standard iron. It is essentially the same process, but I recommend firmly pressing down on the design with your iron; heat presses add pressure to help the design adhere to the shirt. You need to mimic that with your iron as best as possible (at least that’s been my experience).

Heat Transfer Vinyl FAQ

Are HTV and Iron On the Same Thing?

YES! Iron on is a term used for Cricut products often to distinguish them from other brands. HTV or heat transfer vinyl is, however, the same type of product.

Do you cut HTV shiny side up or down?

The shiny side of HTV or iron on is the carrier sheet. It’s plastic and will come off easily after you press the HTV to your shirt. The plastic needs to be placed face down on your mat so your machine can cut the iron on ONLY.

You don’t want to cut through the plastic as well because it will make it difficult to move the design over to your piece of fabric.

Because the design is cut on the back of the iron on, you need to mirror it in your Cricut settings before you cut.

Can you cut heat transfer vinyl without a machine?

Yes, in theory, you could cut the HTV without a machine. You could use scissors or an exacto knife to cut through the iron on. Ideally, you want to ONLY cut through the iron on and avoid cutting the transfer sheet.

The transfer sheet is the clear plastic attached to the front of the iron on that comes off easily once you press your image to the shirt.

When cutting HTV do you mirror?

In general, yes you want to mirror when you cut HTV with your Cricut or Silhouette machine.

Some types of printable iron on don’t require mirroring, however. You should always check the manufacturer instructions when trying new types of iron on.

How can you tell the difference between vinyl and HTV?

Normal vinyl requires a sticky carrier sheet to transfer it to a wall, sign, or other object. Iron on has the clear plastic carrier sheet attached to the HTV.

Can you layer heat transfer vinyl?

Many iron on vinyls can be layered on top of each other. You don’t want to do too many layers or you might find the HTV peels off easily.

That said, some HTV cannot be layered. An example is Cricut Foil Iron On. Check with the manufacturer to determine if the vinyl you’re using can be layered.

What do I do if my HTV can’t be layered?!

There’s a fun workaround for this, but you’ll need to do a bit of work on the design. You can use Design Space to remove whatever would have been under the second layer… creating negative space. This allows you to put the second color of iron on into the negative space, right next to the first color.

Projects with HTV

Here are a variety of projects with HTV that I’ve made over the years of owning a Cricut (and previously a Silhouette machine):

All of my HTV ideas can be found here.

Get some fun SVGs to use with your HTV vinyl in my store.

Please share and pin this post! If you make this project, share it in our Stuff Mama Makes Facebook Group. We have regular giveaways for gift cards to craft stores. You can also tag me on Instagram @doityourselfdanielle; I love seeing everything you make!

How to apply iron on vinyl: a guide to HTV. Photo of a Cricut Maker and EasyPress with a folded shirt that says "I love it when my wife lets me play video games instead of making me do DIY projects."
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