T-shirt making is one of the first things people try when they first get a vinyl cutter, because a machine like a Cricut or a Silhouette will cut great looking designs quickly. There are a few tricks to doing it well, however, because there are a couple of specific ingredients you need before you can make your own t-shirt.
First, besides the vinyl cutting machine, you need the right kind of vinyl. Vinyl used for t-shirts, hoodies, tote bags or any other kind of fabric project is Heat Transfer Vinyl.
Heat Transfer Vinyl, or HTV, is different from other kinds of crafting vinyl like Permanent Vinyl or Removable Vinyl, because the adhesive that bonds it to its base material is heat and pressure activated.
So, when making a t-shirt with a slogan or a graphic made from cut vinyl, you need the following basic items:
- heat transfer vinyl
- vinyl cutting machine
- weeding tools
- heat source (like a home iron or heat press)
- paper sheet to lay between the vinyl and the heat source to protect against singeing
Popular Heat Transfer Styles
Heat transfer vinyl comes in a wide range of colors and finishes that work well on certain fabrics and not others. For example, besides standard finish vinyl, you could make projects using:
- Glitter HTV
- Metallic HTV
- Holographic HTV
- Reflective HTV
- Stretch HTV
- Patterned HTV
- Glow in the Dark HTV
- Flocked HTV
Stretch heat transfer vinyl is great for athletic-style apparel like leggings or workout shirts. It’s extra thin and will stretch with the garment. Metallic or glitter HTV, on the other hand, is thicker, more rigid and best used in smaller pieces to make up a larger graphic effect.
So, now it’s time to figure out what vinyl to buy. The gold standard for heat transfer vinyl is Siser Easyweed. It’s incredibly versatile and durable and comes in 58 colors. Siser (pronounced seezer) has a wide product lineup of all kinds of amazing finishes and colors that perform exceptionally.
Other brands to consider are Cricut and Silhouette, who both sell a broad selection of HTV in metallic, glitter and holographic finishes in sheets and rolls. Further options for heat transfer vinyl include Color Theory, Chemica, Poli-tape and Sparkleberry.
- Best heat transfer vinyl for Cricut and Silhouette machines
- Best Vinyl Cutting Machine for T-shirts
- Buyers Guide: Best Heat Press Machines
Watch: How to Apply Siser Easyweed on a T-shirt:
top photo credit: Patrik Velich