How to Prevent Shrinking HTV to Stop Gaps

So you’ve created your design to line up perfectly in the editing software, but when you heat apply it things don’t seem quite right. The fabric peeks out between heat transfer vinyl layers where it should be flush, and now the alignment is off! What happened and how can it be prevented in the future? Keep reading for all the answers!

What Causes Heat Transfer Vinyl to Shrink?

Even with the most exact artwork, the heat factor will influence a design. Heat causes HTV and certain fabrics to shrink during the pressing process. Cotton will shrink and expand while polyester holds heat longer affecting the overall temperature of the HTV. Additionally, if you’ve ever touched a teflon cover sheet or heat transfer pillow after pressing, you probably already know they’re still hot. So these items also hold heat and affect the pressing temperature which will shrink heat transfer vinyl more rapidly. This is not to say you have to stay away from these items and accessories, but you should be aware of how they’ll affect the HTV and overall design.

How Can I apply HTV To Minimize Shrinking?

In order to keep your HTV from shrinking too much, only press for the total recommended time. For example, this 2 layer design is made up of EasyWeed™ fluorescent raspberry and EasyWeed™ Glow. They can be applied at 305°F for 10-15 seconds. We want each layer to have 10-15 seconds of time altogether, not 10-15 seconds for each layer. So press the first layer until you can peel the carrier. On a heat press, 1-3 seconds is typically sufficient while with an iron, 5-10 is more likely required. If any HTV lifts slightly when you peel the carrier, it’s ok because it will get fully adhered with the second layer.  Place the second layer and press it for the remaining 10-15 seconds. This process will allow the layers to shrink at the same rate.

The first layer is mostly applied with a little lifting

heat applying the second layer also sealed the first layer







P.S. If the first layer has shrunk enough to throw of the alignment of the second layer, you may have to cut the carrier and place the second layer piece by piece in order to keep everything lined up correctly.

How Can I Design My Artwork To Avoid Gaps?

Cricut Design Space artwork with offset outlines

Cricut Design Space Artwork with a shadow layer





Most often, shrinking is noticed with designs that use offsets or if you’re familiar with Adobe Illustrator, strokes. These design are created so both layers of HTV rest on the fabric with only a slight overlap of HTV. Sometimes that overlap becomes a gap though. You can fiddle around with your offsets, make the lines thicker, heat apply again, and possibly you’ll have no gaps. Silhouette School offers a good tutorial using offsets to make artwork layerable with no gaps.  Or you can guarantee no gaps by designing you artwork with a shadow layer so that the HTV layers directly on top of each other. Either way can be done, and it’s totally up to your needs and preferences, but if you don’t want to worry about gaps a shadow layers is the way to go!

Weeded heat transfer vinyl in the shadow layer design will shrink with no gaps Weeded heat transfer vinyl in the offset design will shrink with gaps






While offset artwork allows each layer of HTV to get the best bond to fabric, it can be tricky to maintain the alignment, which can result in gaps.

EasyWeed layers shrink to make gaps

While shadow layer artwork is slightly more bulky, products in the EasyWeed family are super thin and lightweight, plus there’s no possibilities of gaps forming!

no gaps in layered EasyWeed shadow artwork

Keep in mind the shadow layer artwork won’t work for a 2 color Glitter design since Glitter HTV can only be a top layer. The best way to layer Glitter is with offset artwork so it can directly bond to the fabric. I go over the best process to heat apply a multi-color Glitter design in 5 Tips and Tricks for Layering HTV. 

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Discover why gaps appear when applying multiple layers of HTV and how to eliminate them from your heat transfer vinyl designs.

By |2018-03-09T10:03:01-04:00June 15th, 2017|Informational|15 Comments

About the Author:

Lily is Siser's go-to crafter. Her ideas and abilities to incorporate HTV into her projects is inspiring. Well versed in Heat Transfer Vinyl, Lily embraces the methods and materials to deliver creative content week after week!


  1. Daphne June 19, 2017 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    How does this work for glitter htv which you can not layer on top more glitter htv.

    • Lily June 20, 2017 at 9:37 am - Reply

      Hi Daphne, good question! Glitter HTV will have to use the offset artwork or the method I linked from Silhouette School. Glitter HTV is still going to shrink, so ensure the artwork is created with overlapping layers. For heat application, I lay out a similar process to the one in this post, in 5 Tips and Tricks for Layering HTV.

  2. Juan Fernández July 15, 2017 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Hi…I want to know if I can use another type of vynil besides siser stretch for performance wear..thanks

    • Lily July 18, 2017 at 11:38 am - Reply

      EasyWeed works for performance wear as well. However, since most performance wear contains polyester (which can be heat sensitive) it may be beneficial to lower your heat press temperature to 270°F-280°F and press for 15-20 seconds total.

  3. Jane March 12, 2018 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    When I layer with the offset there are no gaps but its like the adhesive leaks out. What can I do to fix this?

    • Lily March 13, 2018 at 8:26 am - Reply

      Hi Jane! Leaking adhesive can occur from over pressing. Try lowering the pressure a bit or press each layer for a shorter amount of time (1-5 seconds is really all you need when working with a heat press.)

  4. Maureen May 11, 2018 at 8:09 am - Reply

    I apologize in advance if I don’t use the correct terminology, this is all new to me. However I was wonder when I layer something smaller on top of something larger, the plastic film that the cut out is on leaves an impression on the bottom layer of vinyl. Do you know why this happens or how I could prevent it? Thanks!

    • Lily May 14, 2018 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Hi Maureen! No worries, I know what you’re talking about! We call them carrier marks and they’re mentioned in the 5 Tips and Tricks for Layering HTV blog post. To reduce the impression of the plastic carrier, try a short (1-5 second) press and you may also need to lower your pressure.

  5. Crystal August 14, 2018 at 10:54 am - Reply

    I have problems with my vinyl ALWAYS peeling after one to two washes… PLEASE HELP!! Thank you, (PS, I have a heat press)

    • Keith August 15, 2018 at 8:55 am - Reply

      Crystal, when you encounter issues, please reach out to our support department at It’s free and they can help diagnose any issues you might be having.

    • Lily August 15, 2018 at 9:33 am - Reply

      Hi Crystal! There are many factors that can contribute to peeling HTV. In order to provide the best service, can you please email our tech team at with pictures of the peeling HTV? They’ll be able to direct you best if you also include the type of HTV used and the fabric content of the garments, as well as what you used to heat apply the materials, your application method, and all accessories used. Thanks, and have a great day 🙂

  6. Kimberly February 12, 2019 at 10:51 am - Reply

    I have a problem with laying! When I add a top layer, the edges of the cut transfer paper leave a crease/line across the bottom layer.

    • Lily February 12, 2019 at 10:58 am - Reply

      Hi Kimberly! You can eliminate the crease line from the carrier by tacking your second layer like you did the first (1-3 second press), peeling the carrier, and then pressing for the remaining press time with a heat transfer cover sheet on top.

  7. Janice March 8, 2019 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    What is the best way to do a 3 layer on poly? My first layer, being the white for solid outline and the whites for eyes and mouth end up getting very wrinkly effect. I do the 1-2 second press in the 1st and 2nd layer. I use the Teflon on the 2nd and 3rd layer but my poor face design ends up very shriveled in the initial layer.

    • Lily March 8, 2019 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      Hi Janice! What temperature are you applying the HTV at? Your pressing time is what I would recommend, but if your heat is high then that may be the cause of the wrinkling. Additionally, be sure to use a heat transfer pillow if the design is close to any seams, buttons, collars etc that could be causing the wrinkling.

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