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.