Heat Transfer Vinyl for beginners

Heat Transfer Vinyl for beginners

Hello everyone, so glad you have popped by for today's post all about Heat transfer vinyl for beginners.

Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is a great way to personalise any soft furnishing item, bag, or item of clothing either for yourself or to give to a friend. In this post, I'm going to go through the basics of cutting and applying a single colour of HTV onto a calico shopping bag. 

Lets talk about HTV!

Most importantly you need the correct vinyl for this project - heat transfer vinyl. This is different to normal sign adhesive vinyl, so when buying make sure you have the right one! HTV comes with its own backing plastic, one side will be shiny - the backing, and the other side matt. Well, you can get different textures of HTV, but to start matt is the easiest to learn the ropes. The matt side shows you the true colour of the HTV when applied.

It is important to pay attention when you are buying your HTV to the type of vinyl you choose. Some vinyl's are cold peel and some are hot peel. This relates to after you have applied your heat, you must either peel the backing sheet off when the vinyl is cold for cold peel, or whilst it is still hot for hot peel!

Cutting HTV!

 When it comes to cutting your design out later, you must always place the shiny side down on your cutting mat. You don't want the shiny side up otherwise you will just cut into the plastic backing, not the HTV.

Another point to make with regards to cutting HTV, is before you cut your design out you MUST remember to mirror or flip your design horizontally. The plastic backing acts as the transfer sheet (similar to your transfer tape using with adhesive vinyl) to carry the cut design over to your item to be HTV'd. As a result, you are cutting on the non-shiny plastic side which is the reverse side of the HTV - the side that bonds with the item.  If you don't mirror your design, then once applied your design will be back to front and will have wasted a lot of vinyl!!

Applying heat to the vinyl

When it comes to applying heat, you don't need to go out and buy a heat press, not unless you think this is going become a full-time business, then perhaps you will want to invest later on down the road. Instead, you can apply HTV with just an ordinary iron!

Now when it comes to using an iron you can never know the true temperature your iron will reach. The time you need to apply the iron to your HTV will vary depending on your iron, how much pressure you apply and the vinyl you are using. My advice is not to go too hot too quickly. This could warp the plastic backing, skewing your design and the HTV may not adhere properly. 

When applying the heat, try and give a solid even pressure over the design, and keep the iron in place for 10-15 seconds before moving onto the next area. Depending on the peel temperature of your vinyl you can always lift your backing up to see if the vinyl has adhered or not. If not, apply more heat!

Last tip before the we get onto the project - parchment baking paper. Heat presses come with a Teflon sheet, this is to prevent scorching to your soft furnishing etc., to help produced a smoother finish and prevents damage to vinyl especially if you layering colours. Now if you don't have one to hand, a piece of parchment baking paper works just as well!

Heat transfer vinyl for beginners project details:

Material required:

  • HTV in a colour of your choosing. This project used Burgundy from MDP supplies.
  • Silhouette Cameo and cutting mat
  • Silhouette America design software
  • Weeding tools
  • Iron
  • Parchment baking sheet
  • A plain tote bag


Load up your Silhouette software and design your decal. Here, I used Pretty Little Button's logo and tagline for the design.


REMEMBER, once you are happy with your design you must mirror the design. Right click on your design and select flip horizontally. 

When you are happy, cut the design out with your machine, making sure you place the shiny plastic backing down on the mat. The cut settings I used for this vinyl were:

  • Blade:7
  • Thickness: 12
  • Speed 4: 

Now I like to be conservative and try and save any spare unused vinyl. So, as you can see my cut out is at an odd shape as I trimmed it down once I had cut my design. I keep all my off cuts in a vinyl draw, ready for any smaller projects

Use your weeding tools to remove all the left over excess vinyl from the plastic backing sheet. If all goes well you will see you design and it should be the mirror image of how the design will be once pressed!

Before applying the vinyl, make sure you have ironed out as many creases/folds as you can. It is now time to flip your design onto your tote bag with the plastic shiny backing facing up. Place in the position of your choosing. 

Take a piece of parchment baking sheet large enough to cover your design and place over the top. Apply heat with your iron, ensuring you give good coverage of heat and pressure. On my iron, I use heat setting two; I would rather use a lower heat and apply for longer the too higher heat potentially ruining the design. 

This vinyl is a hot peel, so I could always check if the vinyl was peeling away from the backing to know when I was done. 

I hope this post has been useful for everyone, even if you have tried HTV before and struggled. Best advice is to start off with something simple and stick to one colour. Once you have mastered this, move onto more challenging and colourful designs!


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Till next time,

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