I love working with iron on vinyl, also known as heat transfer vinyl. Being able to take any design I come up with and transfer it to fabric items without having to use paint or applique is pretty darn awesome. But I haven’t done it a ton because I always find the cost of heat transfer vinyl a little off putting. Even when I buy it on sale, I still find myself scrounging and saving every last scrap and carefully planning out which projects I want to use it on simply to justify the cost. So when Craftables recently reached out and asked me to try their super affordable heat transfer vinyl…I took one look at the prices and said “this stuff must be too good to be true!” So to try out both their regular and glitter heat transfer vinyl, I recently made a bunch of holiday decor and gifts. And now having put it through its paces, I’m thrilled to report that Craftable’s heat transfer vinyl works perfectly and looks awesome…in fact Craftables is now my new favorite vinyl source for both regular and iron on vinyls! I haven’t showed you all how to use heat transfer vinyl here on the blog yet, so I want to use this pillow tutorial to break down the basics of working with this awesome medium so you can get going making your own holiday gifts and decor too! Let’s get started!
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In recent months, I’ve been working with heat transfer vinyl a ton. Not only in prepping projects for my Craftsy class, but also for our Halloween costumes and for the purse pouches I just shared last week! I personally find working with heat transfer vinyl (also called iron on vinyl….they are the same thing) super easy…even easier than working with regular, sticky vinyl. Yet although it’s an easy medium that often produces great results, it does require a few necessary modifications in order for your projects to turn out just right. Here are my best tips and tricks for getting great results every time.
In order to make projects with heat transfer vinyl, you will need:
- Fabric item such as shirts, onesies, tote bags, pouches, pillow covers, aprons, etc – shown here, 2 pillow covers from IKEA
- Craftables Heat transfer vinyl in any color(s) you like! – shown here red, glitter gold, glitter silver – ahem, all glitter and foil heat transfer vinyls are 40% RIGHT NOW with code SPARKLE40. Run, don’t walk!
- E-cutter or die-cut machine such as a Cricut, Silhouette, etc – a Cricut Explore Air 2 is used in this tutorial
- SVG files – found all over the web, in Etsy shops, and in any design library such as Cricut Design Space – used here, these FREE designs (friends, snag these and use them on anything this holiday season, they are SO good!)
One of the things I really like about how Craftables sells their vinyl, is the size options. Glitter heat transfer vinyl comes in packs of 9×12,” which is such a convenient size for making quick and easy projects. Their smooth (non glitter) heat transfer vinyl comes in this same size, but also in 12×20″ lengths. Their single sheet + bulk options make getting lots of different colors easy and so budget-friendly!
That glittery heat transfer vinyl, friends? Ooooo – it’s sooo sparkly! Perfect for festive projects this time of year!
This adorable pillow took me about 20 minutes. Yep! Here’s how…
Cutting Heat Transfer Vinyl
Start by inserting a design to be cut from heat transfer vinyl into Cricut Design Space (or a comparable design software). Use the various tools available to customize the size, colors, and layout to your liking. I uploaded these designs using these steps and then used the Contour tool to change out the colors.
Once you have your design exactly as you want it, it’s time to cut the images out of the various colors heat transfer vinyl. But wait! Cutting out heat transfer vinyl is a little different than cutting out regular adhesive vinyl. For starters, take a look at heat transfer vinyl. You’ll see in the picture below that one side is super shiny and glossy and the other is dull.
The dull side is actually the heat-activated adhesive side (which will eventually go down onto your project). The glossy side is the front of your heat transfer vinyl, but it’s covered in a clear/glossy liner sheet. This liner is what will allow you to transfer and position your designs just right. To cut out any design from heat transfer vinyl, you will place the glossy side DOWN onto your cut mat (yep, opposite of what you would normally do!) so that the dull side is facing up. You essentially cut into the back of heat transfer vinyl and leave the liner layer 100% in tact.
The other big difference with heat transfer vinyl rather than regular vinyl is when you send your images to cut. Because we’ve loaded the vinyl on “backwards,” your design will need to be cut “backwards. In order to do this, select “mirror” before sending your design to cut. This will horizontally flip your design. (Note – if your design is perfectly symmetrical, you don’t necessarily need to mirror your image. I personally like to mirror all my designs when working with heat transfer vinyl so that I don’t forget when it really matters. When working with text, you ALWAYS need to mirror your words so they end up right on your final project.)
With the heat transfer vinyl loaded onto your mat (glossy side down) and your images mirrored, there is one last change you need to make before sending your designs to cut.
- If working with smooth (non glitter) heat transfer vinyl, turn your dial to “Iron On” on your machine.
- If you are working with glitter heat transfer vinyl, set your machine to “Custom” and then select “Glitter Iron On” from the drop-down menu in Design Space.
By changing the dial to these specifications, the machine will perfectly calibrate to cut your heat transfer vinyl juuuust right. If you have an older Cricut machine, you can refer to this chart to determine which blade, setting, and depth you should use.
Now…you are ready to send your designs to be cut!
Preparing Designs for Application
Once you have all your designs cut from the heat transfer vinyl, you will next need to weed away all the negative parts of your design, just as you would with regular vinyl. You can see all my best weeding tips and tricks here.
This heat transfer vinyl weeded like a dream!
At this point, your heat transfer vinyl designs will be secured to the clear liner sheet, and all the excess vinyl can be thrown out. Before moving on, I often find it easiest to closely trim around each element with scissors.
I certainly don’t trim apart designs that are intended to be spaced or laid out a certain way. But by trimming away the excess liner sheet around large elements, you will be able to space things out just right and iron several elements all at once. Below, you can see that I was able to nudge up the red and silver against each other (and therefor iron it all at once), simply by trimming away the excess liner sheet.
Applying Heat Transfer Vinyl To Your Projects
Working with heat and various fabric and vinyl materials means that the heat settings/timing is not a “one size fits all” formula. It does take some trial and error to figure out how much heat and for how long your iron or heat press requires. In general, you will use an iron on Cotton/Linen setting and apply heat for 20-30 seconds at a time. If you’re using a heat press, this chart is a great starting point. Still, don’t hesitate to use some scrap vinyl and fabric to test out different combinations of time and temp; and if you’re finding you still can’t get your vinyl to melt into the fabric, try adding a few seconds at a time until it does. All that said, here is my best method for applying heat transfer vinyl to my projects.
I like working on a table (rather than a counter) with one or two large towels folded over several times and placed on top. This gives me a larger work surface than an ironing board.
Start by pre-heating your fabric for 10ish seconds using either a hot iron (with the steam turned off) or a heat press (shown).
With the fabric still warm, place your heat transfer vinyl design onto your project. At this point, you should be placing the dull side down/glossy liner side up, so that your design looks the way it was originally designed. One of the best parts of working with heat transfer vinyl is the vinyl itself isn’t sticky so you can play around with your placement as much as you want!
It’s important to note that you don’t want to leave ANY vinyl exposed without a liner sheet. Whether it’s because you are layering several colors of vinyl or you trimmed the liner sheet a little too close, make sure you use scraps to cover up any heat transfer vinyl that is exposed. If your heat source touches the vinyl directly, it will melt it. See the “S” up there or the tip of the star down there? It would melt if I didn’t cover it like so…
Once you are satisfied with you design, place your iron or heat press directly onto the glossy liner and hold firmly in place for 20-30 seconds. Move systematically around your design until each and every part has been heated.
Although you don’t want to remove the liner layer until everything is 100% cool to the touch, I like to test a few spots to ensure the heat transfer vinyl is fully attached (do this by lifting an edge or corner). If it’s not attached, add a few more seconds of heat. If everything appears to be fully secured, wait for the liner to fully cool and then carefully peel the liner away to reveal your design.
Once your liner layers are removed and your design is fully in place, flip your entire project over and heat from the back for 10-15 seconds. Once cool, your project is complete!
I basically repeated the same process, but with a different design, for the starburst pillow. Once cut, weeded and trimed, I placed each star burst, dull side down/liner side up onto the red pillowcase.
After heating each section and letting it cool, I peeled away the liner layer to reveal a bright and shiny star pattern. The glitter stars seem to nestle into the velvet texture, making the pattern a seamless and natural detail!
Using heat transfer vinyl is such a fun (and easy!) way to make truly unique gifts and decor items for your home, especially around the holidays. And now with an affordable option like Craftables, you can get heat transfer vinyl in any color you can imagine for just dollars, allowing you to customize any design for anywhere in your home or anyone on your list! These pillows are just the beginning of my holiday crafting! In a few weeks, I show you some of the gifts I made using more pretty vinyls from Craftables!
I certainly didn’t mean to give you two back-to-back Cricut posts this week, but I chose to bump this post earlier in my schedule so you all would have an opportunity to check out Craftables in time for your holiday decor and projects! Back here on Friday, I’m shifting gears a bit to show you an easy organization project I recently tackled! See you then!Posted In California '16, Christmas, Cricut Explore for Home Decor Series, DIY Decor, Sponsored, Tips & Tricks