How to Cut Siser® Heat Transfer Vinyl with Your Glowforge
Guest Blog by Lycia Evanoff
If you own a Glowforge machine, you already know how well it can cut and engrave thicker materials such as wood and acrylic, but did you also know it can cut heat transfer vinyl with great precision? That’s right! The Glowforge is perfect for cutting even the most intricate designs from laser-safe Siser® heat transfer vinyl. This post will show you how!
Step 1: Choose Laser-Safe Material
Unlike standard vinyl cutters that use a blade, laser machines (or laser cutters) like the Glowforge use a focused beam of light to cut through different types of materials. Because of this difference, it’s important to note that not all vinyl is laser-safe. Adhesive vinyl (including Siser® EasyPSV®) should never be cut on a laser because it contains PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
As the laser beam cuts through this type of vinyl, it produces hydrochloric acid and toxic fumes – a serious health hazard that will also cause damage to your Glowforge machine.
Most Siser heat transfer material, on the other hand, is made with polyurethane making it safe to cut on a laser machine. To determine which Siser heat transfer vinyl materials are laser-safe, look for the “Laser Friendly” icon in the product description on the Siser website. While you’re there, you may also notice the “CPSIA” icon which means that product meets the safety requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and has been declared safe for use to decorate children’s items under 12.
For this project, I used SiserEasyPatterns® Plus and SiserEasyweed®. Both are CPSIA certified, laser friendly, and safe to use in a Glowforge.
Step 2: Set Up The Design
Any software that can save files as an SVG, JPG, PDF, or PNG, can be used to set up files for the Glowforge. Some of the more commonly used programs are Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Silhouette Studio, Canva, and Inkscape. I set up my file in Silhouette Studio Business Edition and saved it as an SVG.
When designing for the Glowforge, one of the most important considerations is line color. It doesn’t matter what color the line(s) are, but using multiple colors in one design gives you much more flexibility in the Glowforge interface. Once the design is uploaded, a different action can be set for each individual line color.
To create my design, I started with a purchased SVG and modified it to include an offset. The main part of the design will be cut from Siser EasyPatterns Plus and the offset will be cut from Siser Easyweed. When working with patterns, an offset is a great way to add extra interest and really make the design “pop”.
Because both Siser EasyPatterns Plus and Siser Easyweed have an attached carrier sheet, I mirrored the design so it would cut properly. I also created a weeding box by drawing a rectangle around the design.
I assigned separate line colors to each part of the design – orange for the main text, purple for the offset, and green for the weeding box. .
Note: If you have a Glowforge Premium subscription, you can mirror the design and draw a weeding box directly within the Glowforge app.
I also created a file using an uppercase B with a weeding box drawn around it to use as a test cut. (Actual size of the test cut file is just under 1-inch x 1-inch.)
Step 3: Make a Test Cut
1.Place the sheet of HTV on the Glowforge tray with the carrier sheet (shiny side) DOWN. Secure the vinyl with painter’s tape or magnets. (I was able to fit both the EasyWeed and a full 12×12 sheet of the EasyPatterns Plus on the tray by trimming the EasyWeed to 7.5 inches x 12 inches.)
2. In the Glowforge app, click on New Design.
3. Click on the three little dots to the right of the menu just above the bed image and then on Set Focus. The cursor will change to a red target.
Position the target where you want to set the focus (usually the middle of the material) and click down with your mouse. The Glowforge will measure the thickness of the material and adjust the camera image to more closely match the actual placement of the vinyl.
4. When the machine has finished focusing, click on the plus sign in the middle of the top menu and then on Upload. Navigate to where you’ve saved your test cut file and click on the filename to import your artwork.
5. Position the test cut file in the upper left corner of the vinyl (or a location that you won’t need for your actual design).
6. Because we are using an unspecified material, we will need to add our own cut settings. Click on the thumbnail image of the test file (located in the column on the left side of the screen). Choose Cut from the options at the top of the flyout menu, then click on the arrow next to Manual to enter your settings.
Here are the settings I used:
Precision Power: 15
# of Passes: 1
Focus Height: Auto
Siser EasyPatterns Plus
Precision Power: 15
# of Passes: 1
Focus Height: Auto
7. Click on Print. When the button on the Glowforge starts glowing, press it and watch the magic happen!
8. When the cut is complete and the machine has cooled down, weed the test design. Check to see that you have a clean cut and tweak the settings if needed.
9. Once you’ve determined the right settings for your machine, click on the plus sign at the top right of the Settings menu.
Then name and save your custom settings.
Step 4: Cut the Design
Now comes the exciting part – cutting the actual design!
Click on the thumbnail image of the test file and change the setting to Ignore.
Set Focus. (Lifting the lid erases the previously set focus point.)
Import your artwork just like you did for the test cut (Step 4 above).
Double-check to see that the artwork imported at the correct size and as a mirror-image.
Position the artwork onto the image of the vinyl.
Click on the thumbnail image of the artwork to enter the cut settings. Choose the custom settings you saved earlier.
Cut the design.
Before you remove the vinyl from the machine, check to make sure that the vinyl has cut cleanly by weeding a small test area. If not, verify your settings and send the job again.
Step 5: Weed and Press
Remove the HTV from the Glowforge and gently weed away any excess vinyl from the design using an EasyWeeder®.
Press the design onto your garment or other substrate:
Set your heat press to 305°F/150°C (EasyPress® users add approx. 30°)
Preheat garment for approximately 2-3 seconds to remove any moisture.
Place the first layer of HTV on the garment and secure with heat tape if needed.
Press with medium pressure for 2-3 seconds to tack down the HTV.
Gently peel away the carrier sheet. If any of the vinyl remains stuck to the carrier sheet, lay the cover sheet back down and press for an additional 2-3 seconds.
Repeat steps 3-6 for each additional layer.
Once the design is tacked down, remove the carrier sheet completely, replace the Teflon sheet/multipurpose paper and continue pressing for 8-12 seconds. Peel the carrier sheet hot or cold.
Step 6: Admire Your Finished Project!!!
I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful and that you’ll give the Glowforge a try on your next project using Siser HTV. For more projects and tips, check out my blog or come visit me over on, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or Pinterest!
Lycia Evanoff is the owner and founder of Caught by Design, a site dedicated to educating and inspiring others in their creative pursuits. She specializes in teaching both hobbyists and business owners to supercharge their projects using technology such as Silhouette Studio, Design Space, Glowforge, sublimation and more. Lycia teaches these skills through online tutorials and videos as well as in-person and virtual events at both the local and national levels.