Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Heat Transfer Vinyl Tutorial

I have used both my Silhouette Cameo and my Cricut Expression to make t-shirts, but since more people have a Cricut, for this tutorial that's what I'll be demoing.  I'm also going to show you how I did this using my Gypsy, but it's not something you have to have.   I like making my own designs or modifying ones that already exist, so I usually use either my Silhouette software, my Gypsy or even Cricut Craft Room when designing my shirts.  But isn't necessary if you are cutting some of the more basic images.

So here's what you'll need to get started:
1.  T-shirt - preferably cotton or a cotton/poly blend
2.  Heat transfer vinyl.  I buy my vinyl at for several reasons.  I like the Siser Easy Weed heat transfer vinyl they carry, they offer coupons fairly often, shipping is free over $75, and if you order early they ship it out the same day.  
3.  Iron 
4.  Cricut or other electric die-cutting machine and the image(s) you want to cut.

Today I made a shirt for my friend's daughter.  She loves Monster High and this girly skull from the Rock Princess cartridge is one of my favorites.  Here it is on my Gypsy with her name under it.  The font is Alphalicious.  (I didn't realize at the time that I didn't have her name properly centered.  I'll show you how I fixed that in a minute.)

Since the heat transfer vinyl has to be cut face down, I had to flip the text so Keagan's name would be right when I placed it on the shirt.  I decided to flip the skull too.  On the Gypsy, this is easily done by selecting everything and then hitting the flip vertical button as shown below:

I cut it out in paper first to make sure the sizing is right.  I always cut my t-shirt images out in paper first, just in case I have to make adjustments.  I hate wasting vinyl!  So here's the image and text in paper:

I'm happy with the size, so I get my vinyl ready.  I buy mine in a roll, so I cut only what I need.  Another thing I like about this vinyl is that even though it's stored in a roll, it flattens out completely, which means it sticks nice and even to the Cricut mat:

Heat transfer vinyl has two sides: one shiny and one matte.  The shiny side is the clear, sticky, carrier that the vinyl sticks to until it's transferred.  The matte side is actually the back of the vinyl...the part that is adhered to your shirt.  Make sure you place the vinyl on the mat SHINY SIDE DOWN.  I tried to take a pic of the two sides together, but it's hard to see here.  When you have the vinyl in front of you, it's very easy to see which side is the shiny and which is the matte:

The next thing that I always, ALWAYS do is to do a test cut to make sure I am only getting a "kiss" cut.  You do NOT want to cut all the way through so your image pops out.  You only want to cut the vinyl...not the clear carrier on the bottom.  In the pic below, you can see I tested my blade and pressure settings by using a scrap piece of vinyl and cutting a few circles.  See how I've peeled back the circle?  Under that is the clear carrier (you can see my finger underneath).  This means my blade and pressure are correct.  My blade is currently VERY dull so I had the blade on 4 and the pressure on 3.  A newer blade would've cut straight through everything, so always be sure to do a test cut to avoid wasting vinyl and time.

Once your image is cut, you will need to do some weeding.  Weeding means that you are going to carefully remove the pieces that you do not want on your shirt.  In this case, I'm removing the eyes, nose and bow on the skull.  I'll also remove the inside of some of the letters in Keagan's name (the e, a's, and g).  There is a "weeding tool" that you can buy, but I find that using my paper piercer to pull up the vinyl away from the carrier works just fine.   You will also need to remove all of the excess vinyl around the edge of the image.  All that you want left is what is going to be placed on your shirt.

Since I wanted to include a bow in a different color, I cut one separately using a glittery heat transfer vinyl (I was gifted this vinyl and am not sure of the manufacturer, so I apologize).  Unlike the white Easy Weed vinyl, the glitter vinyl is very thick and does not lay flat on the mat, so I had to tape it down:

When I had everything cut and placed on the t-shirt, that was when I noticed Keagan's name wasn't centered.  No big deal...I just cut it off from the rest of the image and placed it where I wanted it.

Now you're ready for the heat!  Most vinyls can be transferred with a regular household iron and firm even pressure, but make sure you check with the manufacturer before purchasing...just to be sure.

My husband found a professional heat press for me on Craig's List some time ago.  This rusty old dinosaur of a machine sat in the garage for many, many months before I moved it to my craft room so I could really start testing it out.  If you've ever gone on vacation - especially to the beach - this is what the souvenir shops use to make the t-shirts with the funny (and usually inappropriate) sayings on them.

Here's the shirt all lined up on the press. also sells a re-usable paper sheet for .80 that I put over my designs before applying the heat.  (I think it's just parchment paper but I'm not entirely sure).  This step isn't really necessary for one layer designs like this, but I like the thought of protecting the shirt and design a bit:

I had already set the temperature (based on what the vinyl manufactuerer recommended) on the press earlier, so it was hot and ready to go.  I lowered the top of the press and locked it in place.  Mine has a timer, but since it's only 13 seconds, I just count it out:

When the time is up, remove the paper protector and carefully peel away the clear carrier sheet.  It is HOT so be careful!  If you find that some of the vinyl is sticking to the carrier and lifting away from the shirt, carefully place it back down and re-press for a few more seconds.

And here is Keagan's finished shirt.  I hope she likes it.   I love that pink sparkley bow!

This vinyl is machine washable.  I wash mine inside out in cold water and hang to dry.  

What do you think??  Think you'll be giving this stuff a try??

Now.... Go Scrap Something!