- Crafters who are curious about what is the best vinyl for Cricut and Silhouette machines need to know the difference between Adhesive and Heat Transfer vinyl.
- Adhesive vinyl has a paper backing and is generally available in two categories: permanent and removable vinyl.
- Heat Transfer Vinyl is great for making personalized t-shirts and hoodies, and is easily applied with an iron or heat press.
Getting started with your new vinyl cutter doesn’t have to be intimidating. There are so many fun and colorful vinyl projects waiting to be made with your new cutting machine, but learning the lingo will help make all of your vinyl projects smooth sailing.
First of all, no matter if you have a Cricut Maker or Silhouette Cameo, home craft cutting machines can cut the same vinyl. You don’t need vinyl sold under the same brand as your machine to work with that machine. In fact, the most popular and high quality vinyl isn’t sold by Cricut or Silhouette.
Let’s start with the basics first. Broadly speaking, there are two basic types of vinyl:
- Adhesive Vinyl
- Heat Transfer Vinyl
Understanding Adhesive Vinyl
Adhesive vinyl is pretty self-explanatory. It has one adhesive side and is backed with peel off paper, like a sticker. Adhesive vinyl breaks into two more broad sub-categories:
- Removable Vinyl
- Permanent Vinyl
What is Removable Vinyl?
Removable vinyl, sometimes called indoor vinyl, is used for temporary decorations like wall decals and indoor signage. The most popular brand of removable vinyl is Oracal 631, and crafters often just use “631 vinyl” as shorthand for this temporary vinyl. Other popular brands include Greenstar indoor vinyl and Siser Easy PSV Removable.
Removable vinyl has a matte finish and should last at least three years if maintained so your project looks sophisticated and professionally made.
Another type of removable vinyl is window cling vinyl that does not have an adhesive backing. Instead, it uses static to stay in place and can be easily applied and removed using its backing paper. Window cling is a great choice for seasonal decorations and other temporary projects where you don’t want to risk leaving an adhesive residue.
Oracal 631 Removable Vinyl Color Chart
Oracal 631 indoor vinyl comes in 90 colors, although some shades are seasonal and change year to year.
What is Permanent Vinyl?
Permanent vinyl, or outdoor vinyl, is used for permanent installations and projects like outdoor signage, car decals or waterproof decorations on mugs or tumblers. The most popular brand of permanent vinyl is Oracal 651, so much so that permanent vinyl is often referred to as “651 vinyl” as shorthand. The “6” refers to its lifespan for outdoor use (ie. six years.)
Permanent vinyl has a glossy finish and when properly adhered should be waterproof and dishwasher safe! Oracal makes a separate line of matte finish permanent vinyl, known as Oracal 641. (Oracal 641 does not last as long as 651; it has a four year lifespan).
Oracal 651 Permanent Vinyl Color Chart
How Does Adhesive Vinyl Work with Transfer Tape?
In order to use either permanent or removable adhesive vinyl, your easiest option is to work with transfer tape. Transfer tape works by sticking to the front of your design so you can peel the adhesive backing off the vinyl, than you can apply your vinyl design to whatever surface you’ve chosen, then you can peel the transfer tape off and your vinyl design is left perfectly placed where you wanted it.
Alternatively, some veteran crafters opt for transparent shelf liner because it has a lower tack adhesive compared to transfer tape and is often cheaper for wide rolls.
What is Heat Transfer Vinyl?
Heat transfer vinyl (also known as iron on vinyl or simply HTV) is vinyl specially designed to be applied to fabric using heat and pressure. Lots of the t-shirts, hats and coffee mugs you see at Etsy or in specialty shops are made using HTV.
This special vinyl can be used on just about every fabric, including leather, and comes in a wide array of finishes, including glossy, matte, holographic, glow in the dark and glitter vinyl.
The most popular brand of heat transfer vinyl is Siser Easy Weed. Siser (pronounced seezer) is the preferred brand of veteran crafters because it is easy to weed, it is layerable, it washes well and it comes in a huge selection of colors and finishes. Other popular brands include Thermoflex by Specialty Materials or Walakut HTV from Heat Transfer Warehouse.
How to Apply HTV to Fabric
Siser has a lot of good advice to ensure your new garments turn out great.
- mirror your SVG files before you cut
- put the vinyl cuts on a warm surface to make the weeding easier
- preheat the garment for a few seconds to smooth out any wrinkles
- center your design and cover with a layer of multipurpose paper (craft paper, parchment paper)
- apply heat for 10-15 seconds and peel the carrier sheet
Siser recommends waiting 24 hours before washing the garment, and only washing in warm or cold water with mild detergent (no bleach!). Garments with iron-on vinyl should go in the dryer on a normal heat setting.
Heat Press vs Home Iron: What’s Best for Heat Transfer Vinyl?
Ideally, you want the right combination of temperature, pressure and coverage to adhere your HTV to fabric. While it’s possible to use a home iron and get good results, it’s slower and fussier.
The main benefits of using a heat press are that you can set it for the ideal temperature for your vinyl and your material and it will remain consistently at that correct heat. Secondly, you get a large coverage area that’s evenly heated and finally, the ability to use pressure ensures that the glue penetrates the fabric to create a good bond with the vinyl. Plus, it all takes just 20 to 30 seconds.
Tips for applying HTV with a home iron
Using a home iron is possible, but it is slow and finicky. Take these steps to ensure a quality result on your home HTV project.
- First, don’t use your ironing board. It has a waffle-patterned metal layer under the fabric pad that will leave a waffle pattern on your HTV. Spread a towel on a table top instead.
- Siser recommends setting the iron’s heat setting between “linen” and “cotton”
- NEVER apply steam from the iron
- Cover the vinyl with craft paper, parchment paper or a teflon sheet before applying the iron
- Don’t move the iron the same way you would iron a dress shirt. Keep the iron still in one spot for 25-30 seconds at a time to bond the vinyl to the fabric. Work in sections across the vinyl in this way. Press, hold repeat.
- Keep some pressure on the iron to help the adhesive penetrate the fabric
- Be aware that all parts of the iron’s face won’t be the same temperature. The center of the iron will be the hottest part.
- If parts of your vinyl doesn’t adhere, cover it with paper and reapply the iron until it sticks
Where Can I buy vinyl for Cricut and Silhouette machines?
There are many retail outlets to shop for vinyl for your craft cutter, both virtual and brick and mortar. One thing that I read over and over again from top craft bloggers is to skip the big box stores and hunt for bargains online. Not only will you find better prices, you will find greater selections of colors, finishes and brands.
Without further ado, here are our choices for best places to buy vinyl for Silhouette or Cricut machine:
- Swing Design – Swing Design has a great selection of adhesive, HTV and stencil vinyl from all of the leading brands. You can also shop for heat presses, cutters and even sublimation materials.
- Expressions Vinyl – Expressions Vinyl has tons of vinyl for every need in any color, pattern or finish you could dream up. Plus Expressions Vinyl offers great prices and discounts and they have an expansive library or tutorial videos if you need help on your project.
- Heat Transfer Warehouse – HTW has a seriously huge selection of HTV from leading brands in every color and finish. They also sell Siser Adhesive vinyl, plus sublimation supplies, heat presses and cutting machines!
- Amazon – because obviously. Amazon is insanely convenient place to shop and everyone buys everything from there already. Just make sure you are shopping for the brand you want and be on the lookout for sellers offering deals too good to be true.
- Cricut.com – Cricut sells its own line of branded vinyl that comes in sheets or rolls. They also have tools, blades, markers and pens…really anything you need to restock your craft room. Make sure you check the clearance section for hot deals!