When you enter the world of vinyl crafting, it can get confusing quickly. Between the different machine settings, application processes and types of vinyl, it is easy to get overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel. But don’t give up - we are here to help! And after a quick introduction to some of the different types of vinyl, and an overview of the common terms, you’ll be beautifying t-shirts, tumblers and totes in no time!
Common Terms in Vinyl & HTV Crafting
First things first. To make crafting with vinyl even easier, it is important to have a grasp on the common lingo you will see.
The machine you use to cut your designs out of the vinyl. Common brands include Cricut, Silhouette and ScanNCut. All of iCraftVinyl’s materials are compatible with all cutters.
Only applies to heat transfer vinyl (which we will get into more below). This is the sheet that protects your HTV and allows you to transfer it to your project with heat - like from a heat press or home iron. All of our HTV (besides our patterned HTV) comes with a carrier sheet.
After you have cut out your design with your cutter, it is time for weeding. This refers to removing the excess material to reveal your final design. When you weed out your design, you typically need a tool - like a weeder, X-Acto knife or pin - to help you remove the parts of the material you do not need.
A heat press is a machine crafters use to adhere their HTV designs to garments. It features pattens that heat to a controlled temperature, and some even have additional attachments for pressing mugs and coffee cups. Your garment is placed between the platens, and then the press utilizes the firm and even pressure of the clamping mechanism to adhere your design. A heat press is recommended for business crafters and for bulk orders. Otherwise your home iron will work just fine!
Speaking of pressure, it is very important in the world of heat transfer vinyl. Without it, your designs may not last very long and could peel off after one wash. Make sure you are using enough pressure with your heat press and home iron when crafting with HTV. You can adjust the pressure on your heat press, but if you’re using a home iron you will need to ensure you’re pressing firmly. Some people iron on the floor (or a very sturdy table) and use their body weight to adhere the material. For some materials, like matte, liquid metallic, printable and patterned, you should be able to see the lines of your garments through the material. That is a sign that you have enough pressure.
When you are pressing your HTV, you need a cover sheet - like a piece of parchment paper or a teflon sheet - to protect your design from the heat. When working with multiple layers, your HTV carrier sheet may not cover the entire design. It is important to cover any exposed area to prevent the material from burning, melting or getting stuck to your heat press or home iron when pressing.
Hot or Cold Peel:
This applies to HTV. Depending on which material you are using, you may need to give it some time to cool after pressing before removing the carrier sheet. This gives the material enough time to bond with the material of your garment. If you have had issues with your HTV bubbling or warping in the past, the issue may be hot or cold peel related. Check with your supplier so you know which material needs time to cool.
Some types of vinyl can be layered. This just means that one material will lay on top of another on your garment. Be careful though, not every material from every manufacture can be layered. Check with your supplier to be sure.
Here are the materials from iCraftVinyl.com that CAN be layered:
- Liquid Metallic
- Glow in the Dark
- Embossed (as the top layer)
Heat Transfer Mask:
This is used with our patterned HTV (which we go into detail about later). After your design is cut into the patterned HTV and the excess is weeded out, you will need a clear heat transfer mask to transfer your design to your garment so it can be pressed.
Adhesive tape is used with adhesive vinyl. It transfers your design to your project.
Types of Vinyl
Next, we’ve got to talk types of vinyl. That is where things tend to get a little confusing. But we will break it down for you to make everything clear.
There are two main categories of vinyl with varying styles falling under each: adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl. Which you use depends on the application.
Also known as sticker vinyl, adhesive vinyl is a flexible material featuring pressure-sensitive adhesive. You can cut it into a wide variety of designs for an array of uses. It can be applied to most smooth, hard surfaces.
There are two types of adhesive vinyl: permanent outdoor vinyl and removable indoor vinyl. Which adhesive vinyl you use will depend on what you plan to apply it to. If you use permanent vinyl for your craft projects, it is removable but beware that it might cause damage to surfaces and paint. Oracal 651 is one of the most common brands of permanent vinyl.
If you’re making wall decals, stencils or signs that will be displayed indoors, you can use removable vinyl - one of the more popular types is Oracal 651.
Heat Transfer Vinyl
Heat transfer vinyl is also known as HTV and iron-on vinyl (or just iron-on) - and the terms are often used interchangeably. It is an apparel vinyl that is used to decorate garments, mugs, tumblers, hats and so much more. Basically, any garment or material that won’t melt with high heat, is a candidate for HTV. It is also used to personalize gifts and create unique home decor.
It is available for purchase in rolls or in different sized sheets - we sell them in , 10"x12", 12"x12" and 12"x20" sizes and 12" by 5' rolls (for select colors and materials). All of the HTV from iCraftVinyl.com comes with a plastic-like carrier sheet. Once your design is cut, you will weed (peel) away the excess material leaving your design on the carrier sheet. Because of this carrier sheet, you will always cut the heat transfer vinyl shiny side down and you will mirror your design on your cutting software. The only exceptions to this rule to this rule is when you’re working with patterned and printable HTV. Do not mirror your design when working with pattern vinyl, and place the material on your mat with the pattern side up. For printable, you will first use an inkjet printer to print your design on the material before placing it design side up on your mat to be cut.,
Types of heat transfer vinyl:
- Matte: flat color, go-to for most projects
- Glitter: sparkly goodness
- Liquid metallic: thin, shiny and liquid-like results
- Glow in the Dark: it glows.. in the dark… obviously :)
- Hologram: prism-like perfection
- Metallic: chrome-like effect
- Flock: fuzzy, soft and suede-like
- Spectrum: a spectrum of colors in one sheet
- Puff: 3D material that literally puffs up when heat is applied
Another type of vinyl is patterned - and it is available in adhesive and heat transfer vinyl. These sheets feature fun, themed patterns in a variety of categories such as floral, camo, buffalo plaid, serape and holiday - to name a few. With our patterned HTV you will need to purchase our heat transfer mask separately. For adhesive vinyl projects, you will need to purchase adhesive application tape separately.
Instructions for how to use patterned HTV and vinyl can be found here.
With printable vinyl, a cutter and an inkjet printer, you can make any design or pattern you desire! The options truly are endless with this material. Available in adhesive and heat transfer vinyl, printable vinyl in used to print any image or pattern you want to create to use in your crafting projects.
Get the instructions for using printable HTV here.
HTV Sizing & Placement
Before you cut a design out of your vinyl, you should make sure you are sizing it correctly, depending on the project. Here is a guide that helps you determine just how big to make your design and where it should be placed on a t-shirt.
HTV Heat Settings
When working with HTV, you will need to know the heat temperature and time settings to apply the material with a heat press or home iron. After your design is properly sized and cut, it is time to adhere it. Every material is different and can every vary by manufacturer, check with your suppliers settings before you press your design.
If you are working with HTV from iCraftVinyl, we have a free guide to help you know just how long you should press your design for and whether the material is a hot or cold peel.
Trouble Applying HTV?
If you're having trouble getting your HTV to properly adhere to your garment, we have a blog to help you troubleshoot what the issue might be and to help you prevent these problems in the future. Check it out here.
Care Instructions for HTV
Don't let your hard work get ruined by improperly taking care of your garments with HTV on them. Just follow a few recommendations to ensure your garments are bright, bold & long-lasting. Learn more here.
If you have any questions about vinyl and how to use it, we are happy to help! Leave us your comments below. You can also reach out to us on our Facebook page Facebook.com/icraftvinyl
Be sure to join our Facebook group with more than 30,000 crafters!