Project: How to make Puff Vinyl T-shirts with an EasyPress

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Fun and a bit retro, puff iron on is really having a moment right now. Puff HTV adds dimension to images and letters without being too heavy and is great for kids shirts.

Puff can be a bit tricky, but don’t be discouraged! This is a very fun iron-on to use and you won’t get the same results with anything else.

In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to use an EasyPress to make T-shirts with puff HTV. I will be using 3 different brands of puff HTV to make 3 different designs on the cutest little toddler T-shirts. I will also show you how to layer puff HTV on top of Siser StripFlock Pro to get puffier, smoother results!

toddler t-shirts decorated with 3 different brands of puff vinyl
Toddler T-shirts decorated with Siser EasyPuff, WALAKut Puff, and FashionFlex Puff HTV.

Can I use an EasyPress to press puff iron on?

Yes! I hope my tutorial illustrates just how great puff can look using an EasyPress.

You may have heard some people claiming that you cannot get good results with puff unless you use a clamshell or other conventional press – not true! First, puff is highly variable even when you use a regular heat press because many factors other than pressure influence texture. Second, it *is* possible to over-press puff – you don’t need to crush your puff in a clamshell!

It is not a great idea to use a home iron (or EasyPress Mini) to apply puff because you do need to be able to cover your whole design in a single short press. You also need to be able to press quite firmly, but I recommend test pressing your specific puff iron on to see what the ideal pressure is for the results you want.

Video: How to make T-shirts with puff vinyl and an EasyPress

Puff iron on is the most variable HTV I have used. Siser says in its description of EasyPuff: “Texture of applied material can vary from lightly textured to heavily textured” and notes that you will get “a unique texture every time”.

Look at pictures of puff projects from manufacturers and users alike and one thing is clear: be prepared for your results to vary! From many, many rounds of testing I can tell you that the following factors ALL have an impact on how smooth and puffy your puff HTV will be:

  • brand of puff HTV used
  • specific color of puff used, even from one brand
  • base material you press on (all brands of puff iron on will show the texture of the fabric underneath)
  • temperature
  • pressure – both how firm and how even the pressure is

In this tutorial, I will show you everything I have learned about getting the best results using puff iron on with an EasyPress. I am going to show you how to make 3 different kids shirts made with 3 brands of puff HTV:

  • Siser EasyPuff pressed directly on fabric (rubber duck design)
  • WALAKut Puff pressed directly on fabric and on a Siser StripFlock Pro base (whale design)
  • FashionFlex Puff pressed on Siser StripFlock Pro (balloon animal design)

Why Siser StripFlock Pro? Because I am going to show you how using this unique flocked base material can take the guesswork out of getting smoother, puffier puff HTV.

Quick navigation:

Considerations before you begin

Design Software

I am using 3 designs that I put together using images and fonts in Cricut Design Space. If you have a Cricut Access membership, you can find the designs linked down below in the “Prepare your design” section of this tutorial.

The aim of this tutorial is to show you how to use puff HTV, so the specific design doesn’t really matter. You can use any design software to make your cut file, and any cutting machine to cut it. Cricut, Silhouette, Siser, US Cutter, Brother – choose your favorite machine and cut a simple design with few internal details.

Choosing a blank/base material

All 3 brands of puff HTV I used bond well to cotton, polyester, and poly/cotton blends – no nylon. I wouldn’t use any base material that is too stretchy, because puff doesn’t have much stretch, and it tends to kind of pull up the fabric underneath it when it puffs.

inside-out T-shirt showing fabric pulled by puff vinyl
T-shirt turned inside-out to show fabric pulled up by puff vinyl

If you press puff HTV on its own, it will show a slight texture that matches the fabric underneath it, so smoother fabrics work best. Also, some colors (like EasyPuff Neon Yellow) also show the color of the fabric to some extent, so in my case I chose lighter colored base fabric.

puff htv on cotton vs textured polyester

If you want to use Siser StripFlock Pro as a base, it also bonds well to cotton, polyester, and blends – no nylon. I don’t recommend using this with a super lightweight base fabric, because the flock/puff decal will be pretty thick.

puff htv on cotton vs on stripflock pro base

I am using 100% cotton Gildan and Children’s Place toddler T-shirts.

Materials and tools:

How to make puff vinyl T-shirts

Prepare your design

I chose simple images from Cricut Design Space that had very few fine lines or small details. Keep in mind that puff HTV is top layer only and may be weirdly textured if you try to layer it on any base other than StripFlock Pro (I’ve tested puff on top of regular smooth HTV like EasyWeed and it always turns out wrinkled/uneven).

I sized the designs using my 50% rule: the 2T and 12-18 month shirts I used measured about 10″ between the armpit seams, so I sized my designs to max. 5″ across. Check my sizing and placement guide if you need help!

These are the links to my projects in Design Space:

Optional: Create a Siser StripFlock Pro base layer to your design

If you are using an image other than my DS projects and want to add a StripFlock Pro layer as a base, then you have 2 options: make your StripFlock base a just-fit/same size as your image, OR add an offset layer.

To add a StripFlock Pro offset to your image:

  • click on your image and open the Offset tool
  • add whatever size offset you like – I added a 0.1″ offset to the designs used in this tutorial
adding an offset base to your puff vinyl project in design space

To add a just-fit StripFlock Pro base to any part of your image:

  • select your image
  • click on the Duplicate tool (box with a + sign at the top of the layers panel)
adding a just-fit base layer in design space for your puff project

Make sure you mirror all of your mats when you go to the Mat Preview!

Cutting Step 1. Prepare your mat

picture of easypuff yellow taped down on cutting mat
Siser EasyPuff in Yellow taped to mat with vinyl tape

What side of puff vinyl goes down on the mat?

A clear/opaque plastic carrier sheet covers the upper surface of your HTV, and you place the carrier sheet down on the mat to cut from the back/adhesive side.

Every brand of puff I have used has a matte/non-shiny carrier sheet that doesn’t like to stick to the cutting mat. The adhesive layer of puff HTV (the side that faces up) is usually the shinier side.

So for puff HTV you will be placing the non-shiny side down on your mat, and you will probably have to tape the edge(s) down with painter’s tape/masking tape. The white tape you see in the photo is actually the tape that comes with Cricut Foil Transfer Sheets; I re-use that stuff a bunch of times before I toss it.

If you are using StripFlock Pro, it has a shiny carrier but it also doesn’t stick well to the mat, so you will have to tape along the edge.

Cutting Step 2. Do a test cut, then cut your design

Always do a test cut before cutting your full design, especially if you are using a material for the first time. With puff, you’re in luck – the Siser, WALAKut, and FashionFlex all cut perfectly the first time using just the manufacturer’s recommended setting.

Add a square and triangle from the Shapes menu to your canvas, sizing the triangle to fit inside the square. Use the Attach tool to keep them together. Size them to about 0.5″. Make them a new color that you’re not using for anything else to ensure that they are on their own mat when you go to Make It.

screencap showing creation of test cut in design space
test cut of siser easypuff yellow
weeding my test cut out of Siser EasyPuff Yellow

Press the Make It button and choose the mat with the test cut first. Cut using the manufacturer’s suggested setting first, unless you are familiar with how your machine handles these materials.

Suggested cut settings for Siser EasyPuff, WALAKut Puff, FashionFlex Puff, and Siser StripFlock Pro

Siser EasyPuff

  • Cricut Explore Air 2: Iron-On
  • Cricut Maker: Heat Transfer (non-Cricut)
  • Silhouette Cameo: AutoBlade setting 3; Heat Transfer, Smooth; force 6; speed 8

WALAKut Puff:

  • Cricut Explore Air 2: Iron-On
  • Cricut Maker: Heat Transfer (non-Cricut)
  • Silhouette Cameo: AutoBlade setting 3; Heat Transfer, Smooth; force 8; speed 10

FashionFlex Puff:

  • Cricut Explore Air 2: Iron-On
  • Cricut Maker: Heat Transfer (non-Cricut)
  • Silhouette Cameo: AutoBlade setting 3; Heat Transfer, Smooth; force 8; speed 10

Siser StripFlock Pro:

  • Cricut Explore Air 2: Iron-On
  • Cricut Maker: Heat Transfer (non-Cricut)
  • Silhouette Cameo: AutoBlade setting 3-4 (try 3 to start); Heat Transfer, Flocked; force 6; speed 5

Cut your carrier sheets very close if you need to

all pieces for puff htv designs cut and weeded
cut and weeded EasyPuff (duck), StripFlock Pro + WALAKut Puff (whale), and StripFlock Pro + FashionFlex Puff (balloon animal)
closeup showing closely cut carrier sheets for duck design

Because the rubber ducky design has 3 different puff sections, I had to cut my carrier sheets very close so they will all fit together for a single press. The beak and face had to fit together perfectly.

Test press your puff!

Because specific colors of puff HTV, even from one brand, can be so variable, I highly recommend doing a test press to get a ballpark of how much pressure you’re going to need to get the results you want. I test puff using a happy face to see how internal details will look.

Below is an example of 2 colors behaving differently. Instead of pressing using a normal ‘firm’ amount of pressure, I tested Siser EasyPuff in “Yellow” (which is orange) and Neon Yellow using a massive amount of pressure (putting most of my bodyweight on the EasyPress). Tons of pressure was fine for Yellow, but for Neon Yellow? Yikes! Too much pressure caused the Neon puff to collapse.

comparison photos showing easypuff yellow and easypuff neon yellow pressed with tons of pressure
Siser EasyPuff in Yellow vs Neon Yellow, both pressed on the same fabric with the same (extreme) amount of pressure

Press your design

There are 2 key things I do when I press puff HTV:

  1. press directly on a hard surface with no pressing pad
  2. press without a cover sheet: NO parchment paper or teflon

I pressed these shirts on a tabletop covered with an oven protector sheet. A lot of people prefer using a thick wooden cutting board. Use a cutting board as if you were using a pressing pad, placing it inside the T-shirt, to avoid seams.

Siser recommends adding 30ºF to their normal press temperatures if you are using an EasyPress. I tested EasyPuff at both 280ºF (default temp) and 310ºF and got puffier results with the higher temp.

These are the recommended press temperatures for each HTV (adding 30ºF to Siser):

  • EasyPuff: 310ºF, 8-10s
  • WALAKut Puff: 275ºF, 10s
  • FashionFlex Puff: 275ºF, 12s
  • StripFlock Pro: 340ºF, 15s

For the whale and balloon animal designs, I’m going to press StripFlock Pro for 5s at its normal press temp (340ºF), then lower my temp and do the full press for whatever puff HTV I’m using as the top layer.

I will be using very firm pressure with my EasyPress. If you are using a conventional heat press, use medium-firm pressure.

picture showing preparation of shirt for pressing, using a lint roller
get all the debris off your blank with a lint roller

Pressing Step 1. Prepare your base material:

  • use a lint roller to clean off your base
  • pre-press to remove moisture and wrinkles

Pressing Step 2. Press your layers:

Rubber ducky: all layers pressed together, 310ºF for 10s

picture showing pressing of siser easypuff duck design

Whale:

  • StripFlock Pro layer: 340ºF, 5s
first press of stripflock pro for whale design
  • WALAKut Puff: 275ºF, 10s
second press of walakut puff on whale shirt

Balloon animal:

  • StripFlock Pro layer: 340ºF, 5s
first press of stripflock pro for balloon animal t-shirt
  • FashionFlex Puff: 275ºF, 12s
second press of fashionflex puff for balloon animal design

And now your project is complete!

I hope you love how easy it is to create cool, textured shirts using puff HTV. I love the results I get just using puff alone, even with the slightly pebbly appearance of the white EasyPuff bubbles.

finished siser easypuff rubber ducky t-shirt

But for consistently smooth results, nothing beats a StripFlock Pro base!

completed walakut puff/stripflock pro whale t-shirt

I love how the Party Animal shirt turned out! FashionFlex Puff is great on its own, but super puffy and smooth using the StripFlock base.

finished stripflock pro/fashionflex puff balloon animal T-shirt

I hope this tutorial will help you navigate the wild world of puff HTV. The results can be all over the place, which I actually don’t mind one bit. There are so many fun designs that lend themselves to pairing with puff: ducks, sheep, balloons, ice cream, cupcake tops, funky 70s fonts, rainbows – the list is really endless.

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