Getting Started in Heat Transfer Vinyl?
So what is Heat Transfer Vinyl? Well, it's the easiest decoration method for clothing and soft-goods!
Heat Transfer Vinyl (also known as HTV, T-shirt-vinyl, and iron-on) is a thin color layer with an adhesive that's laminated to a carrier sheet. You cut your designs and remove the material that you don't want on the shirt. The carrier sheet holds everything together until you heat apply it to a soft item such as clothing, hats, bags, totes, pillow cases, and more. The HTV can be made with glitter, holographic flakes, glow in the dark capabilites, and even with properties that allow it to be written on with sidewalk chalk. There are as many different types of HTV as there are colors. Some materials allow you the ability to layer. Layering is cutting multiple colors (or multiple materials) and applying them one on top of another.
Most importantly, if you're going to be decorating anything that will be worn or used by children, you'll want an HTV that is CPSIA Cerfitied. CPSIA Certification means that the material has been lab tested and doesn't contain lead or phthalates, which can be harmful to small children. Almost all of Siser's heat transfer vinyl materials are CPSIA Certified.
So How Do I Cut Heat Transfer Vinyl?
Any way you want to!
Heat Transfer Vinyl is designed to be cut with a computerized cutter. If you're just starting out or just want to play around with it before you commit to buying a cutter, you can cut HTV a couple different ways.
How Do I Apply Heat Transfer Vinyl?
Well, that depends...
Heat Transfer Vinyl is the easiest decoration method for a few reasons. It's simple, you don't need chemicals or big, expensive equipment, and you can scale as money or demand increases. The 3 factors that determine proper application are Time, Temperature, and Pressure. If any of the three are off, you won't have a perfect application. Time is important because the materials are formulated to adhere at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. If you apply for too short a period, you run the risk of the material coming off. Too long, and you run the risk of completely melting the adhesive (you'll see a shiny outline around your design). Make sure that you set your timer correctly on a heat press or count to the required time if using another method. Temperature is also key. If your temperature is too low, you again run the risk of the material coming off the garment, too hot and you could leave scorch marks or liquify the adhesive. Pressure is another huge factor in application. Some materials require a heavy pressure and if you're using a home iron or a hand-held press, you have to guess at what medium and firm pressure are. A lot of people started where you are now and run successful decoration businesses with a home iron and a craft cutter. You just have to practice until you know the settings and pressure that your equipment requires.
If you're planning on making a lot of items, your best bet is to invest in a heat press. Good presses will have a built in timer, adjustable pressure, and adjustable heat settings. Heat presses can run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars but will help you to maintain your proper time, temperature, and pressure settings.
Will it Fall Off / Fade / Crack / Peel?
Not if you do it correctly!
There are so many different ways to cut and heat apply heat transfer vinyl. Probably most important of all is Temperature. Siser has rigorously tested all our materials and have determined the optimal temperature for each material. If you're using a home iron, how do you know when it's set to 305° F? How can you be sure your heat press is actually heating to the temperature you set? The answer to both of those questions, is that you can't... without a temperature gun. Temperature guns or laser thermometers will read the temperature of your heating surface and will let you know whether you need to crank up the dial or set a new temperature. However you're applying, making sure the temperature is set correctly will greatly increase the longevity of the design on your garment.
The next most important factor for a perfect application is Pressure. We can say "medium pressure" all day long, but the truth is that medium pressure means different things to different people. A bodybuilder can press an iron down harder than a child can. Think of it in terms of a jar of pickles... you try to open it and no matter how much force you exert, you can't get it open. You hand the jar off to someone else and they pop the lid with hardly any effort... then you promptly tell them you loosened it for them so you don't look so wimpy! The truth of the matter is that you should always test, test, test. Cut a few small circles or rectangles and try applying them to an old shirt with different pressures and for different amounts of time. Then throw it in the washing machine a few times and see what the results tell you. Every iron, every "EasyPress", and every heat press will yield varying results. You just have to dial in until you get the best results for the equipment you're using.
Finally, but no less important, is Time. Again, we've tested and tested until we found the optimal amount of time that you should apply the design for. If you don't heat the material long enough, the adhesive won't melt enough and adhere to the fabric. Apply too long, and you'll liquify the adhesive and it'll squish out the sides of your design. Have you ever seen an HTV design with a clear, shiny border around it? It's probably the adhesive coming out because it was heated too long. At Siser, we've had people tell us that they apply EasyWeed for 30 seconds at 305°, peel the carrier sheet and reapply at 305° for another 30 seconds. This not only wastes your time, but is probably a good indicator that the design is not properly applied to the fabric.
Cool! So Where Do I Get It?
Look for the Logos!
Siser's manufactures heat transfer vinyl and sells exclusively through our distribution network. What this means for you, the consumer is that when you purchase through one of our Authorized Siser Distributors or Authorized Siser Resellers, you can be assured that you are getting genuine Siser Materials and not some random junk that the seller claims is from Siser. If you're on a site that sells heat transfer vinyl, look for the distributor or rellser logo. If they have it and it links to an authorized statement from Siser saying they're in good standing, you can be assured that you are dealing with a company that gets the materials directly from the manufacturer. If you're in doubt, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know who you're thinking of buying from and we'll be able to tell you if in fact, they are part of our distributor network. If you would like us to provide the name of a distributor or reseller near you, sen you zip code to us at email@example.com and we'll point you to one!
What's the Difference between a Distributor and a Reseller?