How To Use Smooth Heat Transfer Vinyl

Creating your own custom t-shirts is made easy with this tutorial on how to use smooth heat transfer vinyl.

Earlier this month I posted a tutorial about how to use flocked heat transfer vinyl and showed you how to make a cute ‘mama bear’ shirt.  About a week after making the first shirt, I decided to make another one using smooth heat transfer vinyl.  I learned some important differences between the two types of heat transfer vinyl (also referred to as HTV) and I am sharing them with you today along with a tutorial for how to make a t-shirt using the cute pineapple pictured above.

Smooth Heat Transfer Vinyl
What is smooth heat transfer vinyl?
Smooth refers to the texture (or lack thereof).  It feels like soft paper and with the backing is about the thickness of a sheet of printer paper.  You can do more intricate designs using smooth vs flocked.

When I was buying my favorite v-neck t-shirts from Target to make the mama bear t-shirt, I knew that I wanted to make at least one other t-shirt using the smooth HTV.  I was mentally scrolling through my Silhouette library and remembered a fun geometric pineapple that I knew would be perfect.  Pineapples are kind of a trendy thing right now when it comes to clothes and accessories, but honestly, I think it’s a trend that will stay around for a while.

To begin the process, I pulled up my Silhouette studio software and grabbed the pineapple file from my library.  Then, I pulled out my shirt and laid it out flat on the ground and used a ruler to get a basic estimate of the available space.  (The sheets of HTV were only 9×12 so any one image couldn’t be bigger than that.)  I decided on a size I thought would look good on the shirt and resized the pineapple in my software by making it a little taller and wider than the original.

*TIP*  If you are making a design with text, you will need to make sure that you flip the entire image (either horizontally or vertically depending on your design).  This is an important step because when you cut the vinyl, you are cutting on the BACK, hence the reason why you’d want to make sure your image is flipped.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with backwards text.  You can flip your image by selecting all the pieces that need to be flipped, clicking ‘Object’ in the tool bar, scrolling down to ‘Mirror’ and then choosing either ‘Flip Horizontal’ or ‘Flip Vertical’.

Creating your own custom t-shirts is made easy with this tutorial on how to use smooth heat transfer vinyl.

Although I could have left the pineapple exactly how it was, I decided to flip it because I liked it a little better.  Totally a personal preference.

Next, I placed the HTV shiny side down on my cutting mat and loaded it into the machine.

*TIP*  Some of the tutorials I saw said you could load the vinyl directly into the machine, but I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to run the risk that it would slip while being cut, so I place my HTV on a cutting mat before loading it into the machine.

Before I cut anything on my Silhouette, I always check the cut settings to see what I need to set my blade to.

Because smooth HTV is thinner than flocked HTV, you will probably only need to set your blade to a 2 or 3 depending on how new/old your blade is.

Then, press the cut button and watch the magic happen.  Maybe I’m weird but, I always find it so fascinating to watch the whole cutting process!  After it was finished, I unloaded the cutting mat and removed the HTV.  Then I cut around around the pineapple design and set the rest of the HTV aside to use on another project.

Now, here comes the next step: weeding.  Weeding is where you remove all the pieces of HTV that aren’t part of the design.  With the mama bear design, all I had to weed out was the word ‘mama’.  With the pineapple design, I was weeding out a million little pieces due to the geometric nature of the design.  I think all together it took me about 45 minutes.  Thank goodness I had the little weeding tool that came with my Silhouette heat transfer vinyl starter kit.  Otherwise, I seriously don’t know how long it would have taken me.

Creating your own custom t-shirts is made easy with this tutorial on how to use smooth heat transfer vinyl.

*Note: Neither the vinyl nor the backing is sticky, so it differs from regular adhesive vinyl in this way.  Be careful when you are weeding so that you don’t pull or stretch the vinyl.

Once the weeding was done, I turned on my iron to the hottest setting and laid my t-shirt on top of the ironing board.  Then I positioned the pineapple where I wanted it, making sure it was shiny side up.

*TIP*  Do not iron directly onto the plastic backing.  It will melt onto your iron.  Use some cotton fabric doubled-up or one of these heat transfer cover sheets.

When my iron was hot, I double-checked the placement on my shirt and placed the cotton fabric and then the iron over the top of the design.  Press firmly for 45-60 seconds.  I just counted in my head and checked it after 45 seconds, then moved my iron over to cover more of the design, counted another 45 seconds and so on, until I felt I had ironed everywhere.

Creating your own custom t-shirts is made easy with this tutorial on how to use smooth heat transfer vinyl.

I removed the cotton fabric I’d used and gently pulled on the plastic to see how well the vinyl would come away from it.

*TIP*  There will be a little bit of resistance, but the edges of your design should stay on the surface you’ve ironed it to if you’ve done it correctly.  If not, just replace the cotton or cover sheet and press the iron in the spots(s) that need a little more heat.

Since the pineapple design I’d chosen had a lot of edges and points, I made sure that it was ironed on really well before attempting to pull the plastic backing off.

As soon as the shirt had cooled off, I tried it on and then went out to model it for my husband who said he liked it.

All in all, I really liked how my shirt came out!  I haven’t had any problems with the vinyl lifting although I am going to be sure to wash it inside out to give it a little more protection.

Creating your own custom t-shirts is made easy with this tutorial on how to use smooth heat transfer vinyl.

Creating your own custom t-shirts is made easy with this tutorial on how to use smooth heat transfer vinyl.

I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful!  If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment or email me at sunshineandmunchkins@gmail.com.

This post may contain affiliate links which if you click on them and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

How To Use Flocked Heat Transfer Vinyl {Tips from a Beginner}

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

I was browsing a favorite blog of mine, called A Girl And A Glue Gun, and I saw an entire post about using something called HTV (not to be confused with HGTV, which I also love).  There were pictures of clothes and pillows and aprons and hand towels using this stuff.  I clicked on the post and read a little further where I discovered that HTV stands for heat transfer vinyl which is basically vinyl you can cut out and iron onto anything that is smooth, like t-shirts.

So when I found an unused Amazon gift card, I knew what I wanted to purchased: a Silhouette heat transfer vinyl starter kit.  I bought it and waited excitedly for it to come in the mail.  In anticipation of the soon-to-be delivered vinyl, I stopped by Target and picked up a few basic v-neck t-shirts (you can never have too many of those!).

As far as what I wanted to put on the t-shirts, I had a few ideas based on shirts I’d seen in stores or online.  I pulled up my Silhouette studio software and started designing.  The design I settled on was a bear silhouette with the word ‘mama’ on the inside.  Pretty simple.

When I got the kit, I opened it up and found 2 sheets of flocked heat transfer vinyl (white and yellow), 3 sheets of smooth heat transfer vinyl (black, hot pink and turquoise), a weeding tool, a small instruction book, a instructional DVD and a card with a code to download 10 free designs from the Silhouette store.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

Before starting, I looked up a couple of YouTube videos to make sure I understood what I needed to do, since the print instructions that came with the kit weren’t too detailed.  (I’ll be honest, I haven’t looked at the DVD but I decided it would be faster to just look up a few videos online.)

For the rest of this tutorial, I’ll show you what I did and tell you what I learned so you will feel more confident and hopefully avoid any of the mistakes or set-backs I had.

Flocked Heat Transfer Vinyl

What is flocked heat transfer vinyl?
Flocked refers to the texture, which is a little bit fuzzy and soft.  It is thicker than regular heat transfer vinyl.

I chose to do the bear design on a dark blue heathered shirt with the white flocked heat transfer vinyl (which I will refer to from here on out as HTV).

To create the design, I just searched online for a bear silhouette that I liked the shape of, then saved it to my computer.  Next, I opened up my Silhouette studio software and started a new project.  Then, I dragged the bear silhouette into my software and traced it and deleted the original picture from my page.

Next, I typed the word ‘mama’ all in lowercase, then searched through my fonts for one that I liked.  I knew I wanted to use a cursive or script font and ultimately decided on one called Magnolia Sky (free download HERE).  I pulled the word up inside the bear silhouette and rotated it and sized it until I liked how it looked.  (For a tutorial on how to download and install fonts, click HERE.)

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

Then, I pulled out my shirt and laid it out flat on the ground and used a ruler to get a basic estimate of the available space.  (The sheets of HTV were only 9×12 so any one image couldn’t be bigger than that.)  I decided on a size I thought would look good on the shirt and then selected both the bear and the text and resized it to fit on the shirt.

*TIP*  If you are making a design with text, you will need to make sure that you flip the entire image (either horizontally or vertically depending on your design).  This is an important step because when you cut the vinyl, you are cutting on the BACK, hence the reason why you’d want to make sure your image is flipped.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with backwards text.  You can flip your image by selecting all the pieces that need to be flipped, clicking ‘Object’ in the tool bar, scrolling down to ‘Mirror’ and then choosing either ‘Flip Horizontal’ or ‘Flip Vertical’.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

I flipped my images horizontally and then adjusted it to be closer to the edge of the cut area so I wasted the least amount of vinyl possible.

Next, I placed the HTV shiny side down on my cutting mat and loaded it into the machine.

*TIP*  Some of the tutorials I saw said you could load the vinyl directly into the machine, but I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to run the risk that it would slip while being cut, so I place my HTV on a cutting mat before loading it into the machine.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

Before I cut anything on my Silhouette, I always check the cut settings to see what I need to set my blade to. 

*TIP*  For flocked HTV, you have to move your blade to at least a 3, possibly a 4, depending on how new/old your blade is.

I sent it to the Silhouette to be cut and then watched the magic happen. 🙂  I unloaded the cutting mat and then removed the portion of HTV outside the bear and the word ‘mama’.  I used this nifty little weeding tool that I got with my kit to grab onto the lettering and pull it out.  (Something to note is that neither the vinyl nor the backing is sticky, so it differs from regular adhesive vinyl in this way.)

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

I turned on my iron to the hottest setting and let it heat up while I laid my shirt out on top of the ironing board and placed the HTV where I wanted it, making sure the shiny side is up.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

*TIP*  Do not iron directly onto the plastic backing.  It will melt onto your iron.  Use some cotton fabric doubled-up or one of these heat transfer cover sheets.

When my iron was hot, I double-checked the placement on my shirt and placed the iron over the top of the design.  The instructions I found said to press firmly for 45-60 seconds.  I just counted in my head and checked it after 45 seconds, then moved my iron over to cover more of the design, counted another 45 seconds and so on, until I felt I had ironed everywhere.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

I removed the cotton fabric I’d used and gently pulled on the plastic to see how well the vinyl would come away from it.

*TIP*  There will be a little bit of resistance, but the edges of your design should stay on the surface you’ve ironed it to if you’ve done it correctly.  If not, just replace the cotton or cover sheet and press the iron in the spots(s) that need a little more heat.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

When I pulled the plastic backing off, I was a little disappointed to see that my vinyl appeared to have discolored a bit because it was a little bit tan instead of the white that it should have been.  Although I don’t know for sure, I’m guessing I either left my iron on the vinyl for too long, or the heat was on too high of a setting.  When I showed it to my sister, she didn’t even notice the discoloration and said she thought it was just part of the design.  So I guess you and I will be the only ones who know. *wink*

*TIP*  When in doubt, start with less time pressing the iron to the vinyl rather than more.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

All in all, I’m happy with how my first HTV project came out.  I haven’t had any problems with the vinyl lifting at the edges and it cut really well.  My only two complaints about the flocked HTV are 1) the chance that there could be discoloration if you leave the heat on it for too long and 2) the fuzzies that get stuck to the design.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

Save time and learn tips from a beginner user of flocked heat transfer vinyl.

p.s. Don’t judge my non-model pose.  I’m not a fashion blogger and my husband is not a photographer. *wink*

p.p.s. You can however tell me how darn cute my kids are.  No wonder I’m a mama bear when it comes to them!

p.p.p.s.  Keep an eye out for my tutorial on using smooth heat transfer vinyl!

I hope you’ve found some helpful hints for using flocked HTV!

This post may contain affiliate links which if you click on them and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Summer Pallet Art

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

I was looking at my spring mantle this week and realizing that it was time to start thinking about summer decor.  So I looked through my summer decorations and noticed a serious lack of summer-y-ness (totally a word) in my collection.  A few months ago I picked up a 12×12 unfinished pallet board at Walmart without knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it but thought it would come in handy one day.  (This is a habit that drives my husband crazy, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.  *wink*)

So I grabbed the pallet board and opened my Silhouette software on my computer.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I use my Silhouette Cameo all the time on all different types of crafting projects.  I absolutely love using it to cut vinyl because it’s so precise, even on very small images or words.  My idea for this project was to use summer words on each row of the pallet board with a simple background.
To make your own pallet art, you will need the following:

  • acrylic paint (in your desired colors) 
  • paintbrushes/foam brushes
  • vinyl
  • transfer paper
  • Silhouette machine (or similar)
  • optional: stickers or rub-ons for the words (if you don’t have a way to cut the vinyl)

I found the perfect sun cut file in my library and resized it to fill a good portion of the board.  Then I typed out a few words that describe summer to me: sunshine, popsicles, flip flops, watermelon and summertime.  Then I found a font I liked and arranged the words in an order I liked.  As I did this, I realized that I could go from shortest word to longest word from top to bottom which I though flowed really nicely.

To give me a better visual for how the finished product would look, I resized some rectangles to mimic the pallet board, then filled everything in with the colors I wanted to use.  You can see what I did below:

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

To prep for this project, I cut out the sun and words using vinyl.  I knew I was just going to use the sun cutout as a stencil so I used some less expensive vinyl I have on hand for just that purpose.  Then I cut out the words by opening a new file and copying and pasting the words there.  Using the grids, I measured how big each piece of vinyl would have to be to fit each word and then cut it out so I wouldn’t waste any and placed it on the cutting mat and cut it out.  For the words, I used some new colorful vinyl that I recently received as a promotion to try out and review.  The pack I received had 35 6×12 sheets included in all different colors and finishes: shiny, matte and metallic.  (I used the shiny kind.)  When I used it in my Silhouette Cameo machine, it cut beautifully and I didn’t have any problems.  It’s a great value too.  (You can find it here.)
*Note: I received the vinyl at a deeply discounted rate in order to try it out and review it.

Before placing the sun stencil on the wood, I sanded down some of the roughness with a piece of sandpaper.  Then I positioned the stencil on the wood and pressed it out, paying special attention to the edges so that when I painted over it that the paint wouldn’t seep under.

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

I like the look of distressed wood without worrying about sanding so I used some petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to distress the wood.  (You can learn how to do this here.)  I dabbed a little here and there trying to follow the grain of the wood.

Once the petroleum jelly was on, I grabbed some acrylic paint and started mixing the colors.  Originally, I wanted to do a sort of ombre with the blue background, but it didn’t quite work out.  If I look at it now, it’s a very subtle change in color and not as dramatic as I had hoped.  I only did a couple of thin coats and thinking back, I should have done a couple more, especially since the wood was unfinished and soaked up some of the paint.

I removed the vinyl stencil while the paint was still drying to create more crisp lines (just like painting a wall, right?).  Then I let it dry for another 10 minutes.  While it was drying, I added a little more petroleum jelly to the spots where the sun stencil had been so it would appear distressed there as well.

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

To paint the sun, I used a smaller brush to paint around the edges, then filled it in with a foam brush.  I used a little more paint on the sun and I think it turned out a little brighter and more how I would have liked the blue background to look.

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

I used a paper towel to wipe off the paint and petroleum jelly (refer to my tutorial) and then I placed the vinyl words on the board.  I would definitely recommend using transfer paper for this.  One trick I’ve learned is that you don’t need to use a new piece of transfer paper for each piece of vinyl.  It will stay sticky enough that you can reuse it a few times. 

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

I did run into a little bit of a problem with the wood soaking up some of the petroleum jelly and it was a little hard to get it off and it had sort of a greasy look around the edges of each spot.  I think this happened because the wood wasn’t sanded down and there were lots of nooks and crannies for stuff to get caught in.  But not to worry–I have a solution!

Solution: To soak up some of the petroleum jelly, I sprinkled some baby powder over it and left it for a couple of hours before I blew it off.  There were a few places that I had to use my fingernail to get some of the powder off.  Overall, the powder did a great job of soaking up the greasiness and I was a lot happier with how it looked.

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

And now I have a fun, new, summery decoration for my house!

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

Summer Pallet Art--a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for the summer!

What holiday/season do you lack decorations for?

How to Make a Holiday Glass Block

How to Make a Holiday Glass Block--an easy decoration to make for yourself or as a gift for holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc

Over the last few years, I’ve been working on discovering my own personal home decorating style and slowly but surely things are coming together.  This has, of course, extended into my holiday decor.  Each year, I’ve been getting rid of decorations that I no longer like or use and buying or making some that contribute to the overall cohesiveness of the look I’m going for.

A while back I was browsing through a local boutique that was closing their business.  They had a back room with tons of random items I wouldn’t have expected to find there considering it was a clothing and jewelry boutique.  Out of everything in the store, I didn’t buy jewelry or clothing–I bought glass blocks.  They only had three of them but I took them all and at a killer price.  I had the best of intentions to make something cute out of them for my home but never got around to it.  (This happens fairly regularly and it drives my husband crazy.  But I do get around to it eventually. *wink*)

When I bought these glass blocks, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to use them for but this year I figured it out.  Once again I pulled out my trusty Silhouette machine and started designing different layouts and words to see what I liked best.  (The blocks I have are rectangular–about 5×7–but I’ve seen different sizes as well.)  I decided to go with a more simple design due to the smaller size of the block I was working with.

(Note: While I found my glass blocks in an odd place, you can also find them at home improvement stores, like Home Depot, or craft stores, like Hobby Lobby.)

I used glass cleaner to wipe the block clean of any fingerprints and dust so it was ready for the vinyl.  Then I cut the vinyl lettering out using my Silhouette machine.  I pulled the vinyl off the cutting mat (leaving the backing on) and then trimmed the pieces down so I could more easily see how they needed to fit together.

How to Make a Holiday Glass Block--an easy decoration to make for yourself or as a gift for holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc

Then I got my transfer paper (affiliate link) out and placed each piece of vinyl in the correct place.  I kept the backing on until I was sure it was in the right place.  Then I pulled the backing off of each piece and placed the vinyl on my glass block, making sure it was centered.

How to Make a Holiday Glass Block--an easy decoration to make for yourself or as a gift for holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc

Using the back of your fingernail or a credit card, press down on the vinyl (on top of the transfer paper).  This smooths it all out, gets rid of bubbles and helps adhere the vinyl to the surface.  Then you can pull off the transfer paper.

(Side note: When I first started working with vinyl, I was kind of resistant to using transfer paper, but it sure makes my life a lot easier, especially when I’m transferring intricate designs or words. It’s worth the time and money in my mind, but it’s also completely up to you whether or not you use it. Also, I tend to reuse smaller pieces that haven’t lost their stickiness which saves a little money.)

To complete the block, I wrapped coordinating ribbon around the bottom and sides, tied it in a knot on the top and cut the ends on an angle.  I didn’t have red and white ribbon that I liked so I used a narrow ribbon on top of a wide ribbon and I think it turned out so cute!

How to Make a Holiday Glass Block--an easy decoration to make for yourself or as a gift for holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc

How to Make a Holiday Glass Block--an easy decoration to make for yourself or as a gift for holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc

These blocks would be such an easy gift to make for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, baby showers, etc.  I love that they are completely customizable and not time consuming at all.  You could even make a few of them to keep on hand for last minute gifts.  Start to finish, this project took me less than an hour (including design time in my Silhouette software).

What are your favorite projects to make with vinyl?