What is Heat Transfer Vinyl?
Heat transfer vinyl is a special kind of apparel vinyl that is used to decorate or personalize garments and fabric items. It can be cut, weeded and applied to cloth products with a hot iron or a heat press. HTV is manufactured and available in rolls (or pre-cut sheets) with a plastic adhesive backing that is torn away (or ‘weeded’) from the cut vinyl design before the vinyl is pressed onto a garment.
When you’re inspecting your heat transfer vinyl for the first time, you’ll notice one of the sides appears more “shiny”. The shiny side of the vinyl material is known as the carrier. This plastic-y carrier holds the heat transfer vinyl pieces in place during application to ensure the cut design is aligned correctly. The carrier side of HTV goes face down on your cutting mat because we need it to stay intact during application. The muted, adhesive side of the HTV material is the side that will end up receiving the cut. During application, the carrier side should always be face up.This is probably a good time to go over some of the common “lingo” used when talking about HTV – like any other type of production, certain words mean certain things within the context of heat transfer vinyl.
Advantages of Cuttable Heat Transfer Vinyl
Most corporations, sports teams, charity organizations, school teams, and other association groups have logos that are 1-3 colors so that it is easy to identify and associate with the organization. One of the most popular methods of promoting an organization is through t-shirts, jerseys, uniforms, hats, etc. So how do you effectively target these organizations with your business? The answer is cuttable heat transfer vinyl!
Cuttable transfer vinyl are ideal for 1-3 color logos, graphics, numbers, lettering, and names! They can be used in conjunction with other technologies, such as embroidery, rhinestones, screen printing, etc.
Oftentimes transfer vinyl are referred to as cad-cut material.
Cuttable heat transfer vinyl rolls are available in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures. You create the mirrored cut lines for your 1-3 color logos in your graphics program; import it into your cutter layout program and start cutting. After cutting, weed the excess vinyl and press on to the shirt/fabric! It’s quick and easy!
Tools of the Trade
It’s time to tackle your first heat transfer vinyl project! Now what? Don’t panic! Here are the tools and materials you will need to get set up for production:
- A vinyl cutter (Silhouette desktop cutters are great for beginners!)
• T-shirt or other fabric/items you plan to decorate
• Weeding tools
• Stock supply of heat transfer vinyl
• Heat press
• Teflon sheet/thin piece of cotton fabric for pressing
• A computer (ensure your vinyl cutting software + cutter is compatible)
Heat Transfer Vinyl Lingo
- Carriers – the original polyester backing found on the other side of HTV, which keeps the vinyl material in place during application. Pressure-sensitive carriers are sticky or tacky, while static carriers are smooth.
• Cutter – A blade-equipped machine used to carve or “cut” designs into HTV (Silhouette cutters are common for desktop HTV production).
• Weeding – The process of removing the extra vinyl material after a design has been cut.
• Weeder or weeding tool – A stainless steel hook used to free the excess vinyl from the cut design.
• Heat press – A machine that literally “sandwiches” the HTV and garment together during the application process; using heat and pressure, the heat press adheres the vinyl to the garment.
• Pressure – The amount of force used when you push the heat press shut during application.
• Heat transfer cover sheets – Teflon or another protective material sheet used to prevent your fabric from scorching under the heat; it also ensures that your vinyl adheres to the fabric and not your heat press
What Can You Decorate With Transfer Vinyl?
A large selection of clothing can be decorated with vinyl. Examples of items that can be imaged are: t-shirts, sweaters, tank tops, jerseys, hats (with hat press), pants, shorts, socks (some limits apply), uniforms, towels, aprons, etc.
Materials can be made of either 100% cotton, 100% polyester, or any polyester/cotton blends.
Why Use Cuttable Transfer Vinyl?
Here is a list of the advantages that come with using cuttable transfer vinyl:
- Ideal for printing 1-3 color designs, logos, names, numbering, and lettering. Easy to add a name or a number to an existing jersey or uniform.
- No setup time. All you have to do is create the cut lines or have your customers send you their custom cut lines.
- Many cutters come with their own layout software that allows you to create your cut lines, therefore eliminating the need for expensive software.
- Extremely durable! Most cuttable transfer vinyl will last the life of the shirt. This is great for uniforms and jerseys as they are normally worn frequently and go through a lot of wear and tear.
- Many colors, patterns, and textures are available. Some of these cannot be replicated with traditional screen printing methods. In addition, custom colors and patterns can be ordered but need to be in large quantities.
- What you see is what you get. No color management required.
- The material is opaque, allowing you to print on any colored (white, black, red) fabric without worrying about color shifts (except in the case of dye migration).
- Same cost to print one item or 1000 items. So no minimum orders, and perfect for 1-up items and promotional items for small businesses, schools, charities, sports teams, parties, reunions, and many more!
- Quick and easy to produce, allowing for same day or even same hour production.
- A speedy production process that allows for on demand printing that reduces risk and wastage. Just print it when you need it. No need to preprint shirts for events or shows.
- The cutter used for cutting transfer vinyl can also be used to cut sign vinyl for your shop’s windows, company car, etc.
With every printing method there will be limitations and so here are a few…
- 1-3 color designs recommended. Although you can go over 3 colors, it is better to use printable transfer vinyl due to labor and material costs.
- Layering (when colors intersect) is required for some designs and will require separate press for each color.
- Complex designs may require more time to weed compared with simple designs. This will need to be factored into the pricing.
With all the advantages of transfer vinyls, it’s a great new addition to any print shop!