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Silhouette Heat Transfer Vinyl Tips for Beginners

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio
Whether you're new to Silhouette or just new to using heat transfer vinyl, we've got some tips and tricks for you.  Heat transfer vinyl is a special type of vinyl that can be cut on the Silhouette machines which can then be transferred to fabric be it clothing, pillow covers, bags, etc.

I suggest keeping your first heat transfer project a simple one, by working with something easy like a t-shirt that has a big open area and is easy to iron.  You may also want to test out HTV on an inexpensive piece first until you get the hang of it. I got this shirt at the craft store for just $1.

You can buy individual pieces of heat transfer vinyl at places like Expressions Vinyl or you can get started with the Silhouette HTV starter kit.  The kit is available on Amazon and can almost always be found for less than the price it's sold for in the Silhouette Online Store. I scored it on sale for about $25 - totally worth the price since it comes with 5 or 6 pieces of vinyl, the hook tool, and a $10 download card to the Silhouette Online Store.  An idea book and instructional DVD are also included.

Gather all your supplies before you get started. Here's what you'll need:
  • Heat Transfer Vinyl
  • T-Shirt or other fabric where you want to place the heat transfer
  • Hot Iron
  • Thin cotton fabric like a handkerchief or sheet
Let's get started...
Open up Silhouette Studio.   I made a t-shirt for my daughter with Elsa from Frozen. I will share some tips on using two colors of heat transfer vinyl in a follow up post, but for now let's just work with one.  Get your design all ready in Studio.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that when you transfer your design it will be the mirror image of you're design in Silhouette Studio.  If you have a design with no text, it's most likely not a big deal if it's the mirror, but if you have text, you want to be sure to flip your design horizontally.   I did not include the text on my daughter's shirt, but I have added it to the design for this example so you can see what it should look like as you go to cut.

Here's what the design originally looked like and the orientation I want when it goes on the shirt.

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio

To mirror the image, group everything together and click on 'Open the Replicate Window' icon.  Click either 'Mirror Right' or Mirror Left.'  This is what you have now.

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio, replicate window

Select the original design (mine is on the left above) and delete it and then you can move the mirrored image over into the cutting area.

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio, mirrored

When you're ready to cut click on the 'send to Silhouette' icon (circled below)  You'll need to change the settings to Heat Transfer Vinyl - be sure to pick either smooth or flocked.  Flocked is the HTV that's kinda fuzzy.  I was working with smooth so I selected Heat Transfer Material - Smooth.

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio, test cut

Now here's where it gets a little tricky.  The machine suggests a very low blade setting of 2.  Perhaps it's because my blade is dulled or perhaps it's for some other reason, but I had to have my blade on a 6 to get it to cut through the vinyl, but not cut through the backing.  You likely won't need it that high, but I suggest performing a test cut first so you don't waste an entire piece of HTV. 

Also, the manufacturer suggests cutting without the mat.  I prefer to use the cutting mat whenever possible because I feel like it holds the medium in place better and gets a better cut.  I have cut HTV both ways and it works fine.  Just be sure you either check or uncheck the 'Cutting Mat' box depending on how you're cutting.  Regardless of whether you're using a mat or not, the shiny side of the HTV should be face down.

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio, shiny side, Silhouette Portrait

Now you're ready to cut...don't forget your test cut!

When the design is cut unload it from the machine and weed it, but leave your design ON THE CLEAR BACKING!!!  I apologize that these pictures are of two different color vinyls, I forgot to take a few pictures the first time around....


Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio, snowflake

If you need to cut the design pieces apart, so you can properly position them on your shirt, you can do that now. 

Here's where the magic happens. Lay your shirt out flat on your ironing board and have your iron really hot.  Position your design exactly as you want it to look.  Be sure the clear plastic backing is up and the vinyl is touching the shirt or whatever you're transferring the design to.  If you have text, it's easy to see now why you needed to mirror the image before you cut.

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio

Take your extra piece of material - the sheet or handkerchief - and lay it down on top of the vinyl/backing.  Now press your iron down on top with a lot of pressure for about 45-60 seconds. 

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio, ironing

Remove the iron and the extra fabric and slowly peel up a small area of the clear backing.  If the vinyl does not stay on the shirt, lay it all back down and add more heat and pressure from the iron. If the heat transfer vinyl does stick, and it should, slowly peel away the backing.

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio, peeling

When I posted a sneak peek of this design on Silhouette School's Facebook page many of you asked about how I did two colors of vinyl. I will be sharing a tutorial on how to make heat transfer design with multiple color vinyl tomorrow.

Heat transfer vinyl, HTV, tips, beginners, Silhouette tutorial, Silhouette Studio


PS. Not sure what's going on with her hair...haha

Thanks for coming to class today at Silhouette School.  If you like what you see, I'd love for you to pin it!


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