HTV or Heat Transfer vinyl is vinyl that has a heat activated adhesive that can be applied to fabrics and other materials.
I always recommend starting with high quality products and in my experience, you will have less headache when creating your projects. Throughout the post I will share what brands I used on the shirts created, tips to cutting & applying, and share recommendations on where I buy those supplies.
Affiliate links my be present in the following blog post and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
The Basics of Cutting HTV with Silhouette
Step 1 – Create the design you want to cut.
Step 2 – Place the HTV correctly on the cutting mat in the same location on the grid as what shows on the Silhouette Studio software or load the vinyl directly into the machine to cut without a mat (click HERE for more tips on Cutting without a Mat).
For most HTV, you will place the shiny side down on the cutting mat. This is the carrier sheet and you are cutting through the backside of the vinyl. However this is not for ALL types of vinyl. For instance, some patterned vinyl it is laid pattern side up, cut through the front, and then a Heat Transfer carrier sheet is applied to transfer it to the shirt.
Step 3 – Mirror the design, if needed. This is for most HTV, but not all.
Step 4 – Choose the cut settings for the brand of HTV.
Step 5 – Send to the machine to cut.
Now, that we have the basics, let’s take a look at specific examples.
Ultimately, how you cut the design is going to be dependent and differ depending on the design you use. For instance, is it a one color design? Is it a multi-color design? Are parts of the colors overlapping? Is the design layered?
In this post, we will cover some basics and cut with 1 color.
My first tip for a beginner or for any of my students is that while you can cut without a mat with the Silhouette machines (except the Curio), I still recommend cutting with a mat until you get used to how the machine cuts. Then when you are feeling comfortable you can branch out and test the waters with cutting without a mat. This will help eliminate a few possible issues that can occur as a beginner because you are simplifying things.
Two resources I want to share here are:
Tips to Get The Most Out of Your Silhouette Mat
This will come in handy to make those mats last longer
Cutting Without A Mat
When you are feeling adventurous or a bit more comfortable with your machine you can test this out. While the tutorial is written with a Cameo 3, the tips will apply to all machines you can cut mat-less with.
Let’s start simple and work up from there.
Note: In the following photos, you will see me using a Cameo 4 machine to cut. While I used my Cameo 4, these tips will apply to all Silhouette machines. I am using software version v4.3.353 in this tutorial.
One color designs
Step 1 – Create or find the design you want and open it on the Silhouette Design mat and size it as needed.
I am using “I Tell Dad Jokes” by Honeybee SVG – Design #293250 from the Silhouette Design Store.
The first thing I like to do is to change the Transparency on the Page Setup Panel to 0%, so I can see the grid lines of my mat (in v4.2 & prior it is referred to as Reveal).
This is how I know how big of a piece of HTV that I will need. I will cut my HTV piece down to 12″ x 10″ and place it on my cutting mat shiny side down.I use a paper trimmer to cut down my 12″ vinyl to the size I need.
There are several reasons I do this, but the main one is that it helps make my cutting mats last longer. I am only placing my material on the mat where I am cutting and no peeling a full sheet of material off the mat each and every time.
Why use that adhesive where it is not going to cut?
For more tips on the cutting mat click HERE.
Step 2 – Flip the design (also called mirror) on the Silhouette Design screen. Right click on the image and choose Flip Horizontally or Object > Mirror > Flip Horizontal.
Why do we need to mirror? For most HTV, the carrier sheet is attached to the vinyl. This means that you place the HTV upside down (shiny side down) on your cutting mat and you cut through the backside of the HTV.
Now, there are exceptions to this and you will learn as you go and start working with different materials. One of these exceptions is some patterned vinyl, like Sparkleberry Ink HTV. It is amazing vinyl, but since it is printed with a pattern on it with a special printer, you will lay it pattern side up and cut through the top and then use a Heat Transfer Mask to transfer the vinyl to the shirt or other material.
Here is an example of Sparkleberry Ink printed vinyl found in this post using the Subtract feature with HTV. The patterned vinyl was cut pattern side up and a transfer mask applied and then the solid Siser Easyweed was cut the same as this tutorial.
The next thing to note is that there is a “HTV Mirror” pop up that you will get when you use a preset cut setting in the Silhouette software. I prefer to mirror (flip horizontal) the object myself so I know exactly where it is going to cut on the cutting mat. Since I have flipped my image, when I get to that pop up, I choose “Send As Is“.
While you can let the software “mirror” it for you, it flips the entire mat and does not reflect that visually on the screen. For example if I have a smaller design than what I’m cutting above, if I let the software mirror the design by using the Pop up when I send to cut, it will cut where the yellow square is. So if I have placed my HTV material on the left side of my mat as it shows on the design screen, it is not going to cut on my material.
And also, it’s just habit because the Mirror pop up was not always around. However, it does save me on occasion when I have forgotten to mirror the design myself.
Step 3 – Cut the HTV to size and place on the cutting mat. I am using Siser Easyweed HTV in white for this project.
Now, something to note here is that when you order vinyl on a roll, it may not always be 12″ wide. This is pretty common as it is cut from a bigger roll originally.
Just like wood is not the exact size.
It is also the reason that I did not cut without a mat using this roll of Siser Easyweed HTV. It just barely fit under my rollers and I didn’t want to take the chance that it wasn’t securely in the machine. Plus it gave me a little more cut-able space by cutting it down and placing on the cutting mat.
Resize the design and make sure that the design on the screen shows in the same place as it is placed on the cutting mat.
Step 4 – Click on the Send tab in the top right corner to set up the cut settings.
Choose the material type in the Material drop down box.
I am using Siser Easyweed HTV and find that the Heat Transfer, Smooth option works well.To be honest, I find that the preset cut settings work well for almost all materials. But, keep in mind that blade sharpness, cutting mat stickiness, etc can all affect cut quality too!
Step 5 – Test cut – VERY IMPORTANT feature that can save you materials & time.
Any time I am cutting a new material, I will use the test cut to make sure that I will get a good cut.
There is nothing like cutting a full design on HTV, unloading the cutting mat, and finding out it didn’t cut well. It’s a great learning opportunity but let’s save some time & materials and get the habit of a test cut.
I promise it will help.
There are 2 ways I’ll share on how to do a test cut.
1. In the bottom right corner of the Send tab is a little button that says Test. This will cut a small square with a triangle out of it in the top left corner of the cutting grid.
If the first test cut doesn’t work, you can move it by using the directional arrows next to the Test cut button.
You can also change which Tool does the Test cut by choosing 1 or 2.
On software versions prior to v4.3, it will show as a red circle (Tool 1) or a blue circle (Tool 2). This is for the Cameo 3, Cameo 4, and Curio machines only.
2. Make your own Test Cut.
I use a capital ‘B’ as my test cut object often. The biggest thing you want is something that has both corners and curves to it. This will give you a good indication of how it’s going to cut.
Place the test cut object – the letter ‘B’ in a space on the HTV that will not be cut with the design, as shown by the bold red A above.
Next, select the design by clicking on it. This is very important. You will see a gray selection box appear around the object on the screen that is selected, as shown by the bold red B. If there is no object on the screen selected, it will not change the Action.
With the design selected, choose No Cut next the bold red C above. This will turn the cut lines OFF for the design and it will only cut the letter ‘B’ as the test cut.
If it cuts well the first time, you can either move the ‘B’ off the design mat or delete it. Then turn the cut lines back on for the design by selecting it again & choosing Cut.
If it doesn’t cut well, move the ‘B’ to a different free space on the HTV and adjust the cut settings to get a good cut.
Step 6 – Load the cutting mat. After double checking the settings, load the cutting mat in the machine.The left edge of the cutting mat should line up with the line on the left side that the 2 arrows on the machine point to.
When using a cutting mat, the rollers should roll on the left and right edges of the cutting mat as shown by the 2 top red arrows in the photo above.
Step 7 – Click on the Send button in the bottom right of the Send tab. When the cut lines are turned ON you will see bold red cut lines around the design, on this Simple cut option.
If the HTV Pop up appears, click ‘Send As Is’ if you have mirrored (flip horizontal) the design yourself.
Step 8 – Before you unload the mat check that it cut well.
This is another great habit to get into.
If for some reason that it did not cut well, you could send it back through again for a 2nd pass. However, if you remove the cutting mat, you will not get it lined up in the exact same place and it won’t cut in the same spot.
Step 9 – Unload the cutting mat.
Step 10 – Place the protective cover shiny side up on the table and flip the cutting mat upside down on top of it. Carefully peel the cutting mat away from the material. This is another way to help the material release and extend the life of the cutting mat – more tips HERE.
Why do I place the protective cover down on the table with the shiny side up? First, it protects the mat in any areas that have the adhesive exposed. By placing the shiny side (i.e. non-stick) side up, it will stick to my mat and debris won’t.
Why do I flip the mat over and peel the mat away from the material?
First, it helps to release the material from the adhesive with less force. Pulling up on the material from the mat, adds more force which can pull the adhesive off the mat. Second, it will help with the material not curling when it’s taken off the mat. This works especially well with cardstock and paper materials.
Step 11 – Weed away the excess vinyl from the design. I start with the outer edge of the design when I weed so that I know where my letters are and am not “picking” at the design.
As you do it, you will develop methods that work for you. Such as weeding tools. My personal favorite are the reverse tweezers from EK Tools. I love them so much that I have 3 pair, just in case one is put in a really “safe” place and I can’t find it when needed. I love the sharp tip for getting the vinyl started and then the tweezers to help peel it off.
Each brand, color, type of HTV will vary in how much you can see the cut lines. Some colors or glitter HTV are harder to see on. The more you do it the more comfortable you will get at what works.
Make sure to get all the little pieces like the insides of the A, D, P, etc. If I have a question as to what needs to be weeded out vs what stays, I look at the design on the screen to see what is filled with color and what is not.
And go slow, it’s not a band-aid you rip off. If you go slow and watch, if there is a spot that didn’t cut well, you can still salvage the design most times.
Step 12 – Press the HTV onto the shirt or other fabric object using the manufacturer recommendations.
I love that Siser has this on their site and also a handy app too!
Check out the full Siser site HERE.
On the Left side of the home page, move the mouse over the HTV header and it will expand. Choose your HTV type and then scroll down the page for the Cutter Settings and Application settings.
I set my heat press to 305 for 15 seconds for Siser Easyweed and it works every time.
And there you have a single color design, cut with the Silhouette, and pressed onto a shirt.
Q & A
Let’s talk about a few more things because I’m sure you have a question or two.
Do I recommend a heat press? Yes.
I recommend a heat press if you plan press a lot of HTV.
Especially if you plan to do a bunch of shirts or plan to make a business of this.
It will save you time & muscle power
Why do I recommend a heat press?
1. It is easier. Set the time. Set the temperature. Press for 15 seconds (or recommended time). And done!
2. Even pressure and more accurate heat.
What heat presses do I own?
I started with a use 15″ x 15″ Power Press that I received. It was great! These are often found on Amazon, however, be very careful in reading the reviews on the seller. I don’t think they are as good as they used to be and have seen them arrived damaged or non-functional. Just like anything else, check out the reviews.
I gave that heat press to a friend when I found a great deal on another 15″ x 15″ Craft Pro Press from Heat Press Nation. I LOVE that this has a slide out drawer on it and it was something I couldn’t pass up. The slide out drawer helps in getting the design placed on the shirt easier, so you are not reaching in under the hot top platen of the press.
Is it a necessity? No, but it sure is nice.
Personally, I need to have a 15″ x 15″ press. The shirt I pressed above is a 4XL shirt and I make those sizes often, so I feel it is well worth it.
I also have this smaller press. I use this one when I am traveling for classes as it weighs only 35 lbs. The 15″ x 15″ press above is not 35 lbs.
What other products would I recommend when using HTV?
Pressing pads or pillows. What are these? These are items that you place inside a garment such as a tshirt or bodysuit to lift up the area you are pressing to keep the seams from interfering with the pressure you are applying. If you press a shirt and there is a seam in between the top & bottom of the press, the press hits that seam and doesn’t get full pressure down on the area of the shirt or garment that is needed. This can interfere with getting a good, solid adhesion with the HTV.
Slide these in to the shirt under where the design will be placed, adjust the pressure on the heat press, and get that good pressure needed for the HTV to adhere.
Pressing pillows are another option, but I found they are a lot more expensive and condense a lot more when you press them, which if pressing multiple items can take longer.
Do you have to have a heat press to use HTV? General answer – No.
However, you want a brand of vinyl that can be pressed with a home iron if you do not have a press. Siser is one of those brands. The 2 biggest factors with HTV is heat and pressure. You have to have both or the HTV will not adhere to the material and last. Some brands like ThermoFlex are designed to be used with a heat press.
Now, that is a lot of links and recommendations to throw at you.
Do you need them all right now? No. But, I want you to have the resources to go to on where to find the same products that I recommend.
I hope that this helps provide you with some “secrets” to getting started with HTV. Or even if you have already been using HTV, maybe you picked up a few tips. I would love to hear if you did!
If you want to dive deeper into HTV check out these 2 video courses I have available. They are step-by-step courses taught just as I teach an in-person class, but available at your convenience.
Cutting & Layering HTV in Silhouette Studio – 45 minute video class
Creating a Knockout Design with HTV & Bonus HTV & Subtract in Silhouette – 1 hr class
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