Feb 11th 2018

5 Steps (Tips) to Applying HTV Like A Pro

5 Steps (Tips) to Applying HTV Like A Pro

Ahhh, heat transfer's amazing how something so simple can bring such joy (and stress)!

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am here to show you how to apply Siser HTV like a pro. There's no need to stress out over heat transfer vinyl. It is just as simple to cut and apply as regular adhesive craft vinyl, and the creative possibilities are endless!

Here's what you need to get started:

  • Heat Transfer Vinyl
  • Heat (home iron or heat press)
  • Fabric...or wood, or porcelain, or really anything that can withstand 300°F for 15 seconds...

Step 1: Flip (Mirror) Your Image

To "mirror" your image, you simply need to flip it horizontally in your design software. 

This is, without a doubt, the most crucial part of starting your project. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is as heart-breakingly frustrating as having just enough vinyl to make a shirt that your kid is expecting to wear to school in the morning, spending all evening scrolling through your FB groups/Pinterest for inspiration, getting it all designed and then cutting it out only to realize you never mirrored your vinyl! So say it with me, "I will mirror my image before cutting." 

Ok, I feel better, we can move on...

Step 2: Cut & Weed

The goal when cutting heat transfer vinyl is to not cut through the clear carrier sheet (shiny side). This plastic sheet acts like transfer tape, keeping your design tacked down to your fabric while pressing. It also protects the fabric from the direct heat of the press or iron.

(You can also see that I just load my vinyl straight into my machine. Personally, I find cutting mats to be a huge pain in my rear. The key to success when cutting without a mat is to make sure you move your right-hand roller guide in to the middle notch (if using a Cameo). Bringing the guide in helps keep the vinyl from wiggling all over.)

Once your vinyl is all cut, remove all of the excess vinyl from around your design. This step is known as "Weeding". 

Step 3: Pre-Press Your Fabric

To get the best possible results, you are going to want to get that fabric nice and warm before attempting to apply the vinyl. Heating up the fabric opens up the fibers, allowing the adhesive from the vinyl to really absorb into the material during the press.

So go ahead and press your fabric for 2-3 seconds with your iron/heat press...or if you're feeling lazy, simply throw it in the dryer while your vinyl is cutting and pull it out when your iron has reached temperature.

Step 4: Know Your Settings 

Temperature + Pressure + Time = Happy Dance

Sooooo, sooooo very often I hear people confused at why their vinyl isn't sticking and then follow that complaint with, "and I had the heat up all the way and pressed for 2 minutes..." Say What?! Hotter + Longer is NOT the recipe for success!

Not all vinyl has the same heat setting, and it is crucial to your success to follow your manufacturer's heat setting recommendations. Typically, a cotton-blend setting will work for most Siser HTV materials, however, to help you out, we have listed the correct heat settings on each of our heat transfer vinyl product descriptions. 

The next part of the HTV application equation is pressure. If using an iron, you need to really put your weight on the iron while you're pressing. Do NOT use an ironing board, that has too much give in it. Use your counter top or even the kitchen floor...just make sure your pressing surface is hard and can handle having you press with all your might on it. If you're using a heat press, you can use the "dollar bill test". Simply put a dollar bill in your heat press, with half of it hanging out. Close your press, if you can pull the dollar out, you need to adjust your pressure. Tighten your platen until you are no longer able to pull out the bill while it's closed.

Finally, make sure you know the ideal pressing time for the specific vinyl you're using. 10-15 seconds is the perfect pressing time. You don't want to scorch the adhesive by keeping the heat on too long and over pressing.

Step 5: Know When To Peel

I feel like a broken record here, but again, every type of HTV is different. And while it's always my first instinct to rip off that carrier sheet and revel in the fruit of my labor, I have to control this reflex. With some types of HTV, the adhesive on the vinyl needs time to cool before attempting to pull off the carrier sheet. Other types need you to remove the carrier sheet ASAP. Here's a quick reference:

  • EasyWeed: Hot or Cold
  • Glitter: Warm
  • StripFlock: Cold
  • Holographic: Cold

Ok, so I must admit, I talk a big game but the image above does NOT represent a perfect press. I was trying to be all independent and stuff, and didn't want to ask my husband to help take pictures while I was pressing the vinyl. I ended up more concerned about getting a good image than making sure I had pressed hard enough.

Ideally, when using a thinner vinyl, like EasyWeed, you should be able to see the fibers of the fabric in the shouldn't look like it does above, like it's sitting on top of the fabric. And before I give this as a gift, I will take my Teflon cover sheet and quickly press it again for 5-10 seconds.

Thanks for sticking it out to the end! (I know I tend to get a little wordy, trust me, the struggle is real.) But I truly believe that if you follow these 5 steps you will be an HTV pro in no time!

Thanks for stopping by!