heat transfer vinyl

Heat Transfer Vinyl vs Iron On: Is There a Difference?

Table of Contents

heat transfer vinyl

Personalized Shirt

Image from Teckwrap Craft Instagram Page


There are so many varieties of vinyl that you can use for mugs, shirts, glass etching, and wood. You may feel overwhelmed with these varieties that you are uncertain which type to use for your project.

Basically, what is vinyl? Vinyl is a material that can stick to various surfaces like glass, wood, ceramic, metal, fabric, and many more. Which vinyl type is best for shirts? Which one is best for wood? Which one is best for glass? 

Two Packaging Presentations of Vinyl

Generally, vinyl comes in 2 different presentations: rolls and individual sheets.


htv rolls

TeckWrap Craft Craft Opal Vinyl 5ft Roll Bundle

Image from TeckWrap Craft Website    

Common vinyl rolls have a dimension of 12 inches (width) and 12 inches to 20 feet in length. There are some rolls that may have lengths of up to 40 feet. There are fewer design and color options when you want to use vinyl in rolls.

Individual Sheets

individual htv sheets

TeckWrap Craft Vinyl Individual Sheets

Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page

When you choose to purchase a vinyl in individual sheets you have tons of options for designs and sizes. Though, individual sheet sizes are commonly available in 12x12 inches and 12x10 inches. The great thing about individual sheets is that you can purchase a pack with multiple colors.  

There are two common types of vinyl. These are Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) and Adhesive Vinyl. Each vinyl type can be used for specific materials

What Is Heat Transfer Vinyl?

A Heat Transfer Vinyl is also called iron-on vinyl, or t-shirt vinyl. Heat transfer vinyl is similar to a heat-activated adhesive used for fabric surfaces. It can even work for heat-resistant  surfaces. Heat allows the designs to firmly stick onto the surface making them durable. 


Looking at your closet, you may have tons of clothing garments with Heat Transfer Vinyl on them. When transferring your HTV to fabric, you can use a heat press machine or even a basic household flat iron.

There are different types of HTV. There are HTV that is designed for stretchy fabrics such as leggings and spandex. While there are some HTV designed to work best with cotton and poly-bends.

There are several items that you can apply HTV on. If you are a beginner, you can start making customized shirts for your family. You can even personalize your baby’s onesies. You may also personalize your home by applying HTV on pillowcases, dish towels, bath towels, and many more.

For smooth HTV, the temperature ranges from 300-315°F. You may refer to a heat guide to help you determine which HTV is best for certain fabrics and at what temperature to heat them on.

A heat transfer vinyl doesn’t have a paper backing. Instead, it has a clear plastic carrier sheet covering the top portion of the vinyl. The opposite side of the plastic carrier is the adhesive. The adhesive is not sticky or tacky to touch. This is the cutting side of the vinyl.

Types of Heat Transfer Vinyl

Heat Transfer Vinyl also comes in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns. The design output that you want will dictate which type of HTV you will use for your project. HTV is available for purchase either in sheets or rolls. Here are some of the different types of HTV:

Regular (Solid color) HTV. Regular HTV is the most common type of HTV. It is usually of a matte finish. Neon colors are also available.

regular heat transfer vinyls

TeckWrap Craft Regular PU Heat Transfer Vinyl Roll 5ft


 Flocked HTV. Flocked HTV is a special type of HTV. Flocked HTV feels like suede, soft, and with a raised feel. Using flocked HTV can add thickness and texture to your design.

flocked htv suede like

TeckWrap Craft Flock Heat Transfer Vinyl Sheets


Glitter HTV. There are several color options for glitter HTV. However, glitter HTV is difficult to weed. If you need to weed, it is advisable to do this in a room with enough daylight.

heat transfer glitter vinyl

TeckWrap Craft Neon Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl 5ft Roll Bundle


Metallic HTV. Metallic HTV often comes in gold and silver colors. It usually has a matte finish.

metallic vinyl

TECKWRAP Craft Metallic Heat Transfer Vinyl 5ft Roll Bundle


Holographic HTV. Holographic HTV changes shade depending on the angle you look at it.

holographic vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT Holographic Heat Transfer Vinyl Roll 5ft 


 Foil HTV. Foil HTV looks stunning and shiny. When working with foil HTV, you have to be very careful for it is a delicate material.

Patterned HTV. You can choose from several designs of patterned HTV.

snowflakes pattern vinyl christmas vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT Snowflakes Pattern Heat Transfer Vinyl Roll 10ft


SportFlex Iron-on. This works best with stretchable fabric like nylon, polyester, and neoprene. SportFlex Iron-on is used for swimsuits.

Reflective HTVThis type of HTV is made of PET protective film liner, micro glass beads, and hot melt glue. The micro-glass beads reflect light and the HTV design is visible in the dark.

rainbow heat trasnfer vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT Rainbow Heat Transfer Vinyl Roll 5ft


There are certain HTV that will turn out better for certain types of fabrics. So, it is best to choose the appropriate HTV that works best for your project.

For instance, if you are working with a design consisting of small pieces, using a holographic or metallic vinyl is recommended. Stretch vinyl, on the other hand, is better used with stretchy knit, and athletic fabrics.           

If you want quality output, it is recommended that you use premium quality heat transfer vinyl. Using quality HTV will make project-making easy for you. You are less susceptible to errors and damages. 

Generally, HTV works on practically all fabrics/textiles or any material that can withstand a heat press or the heat coming from a household flat iron. All HTV are washable and permanent.

How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl 

 Are you planning to design your shirt? Here’s the list of the things you will need:

  • T-shirt or fabric of your choice
  • Cutting machine
  • Weeding pen
  • Scissors
  • Cutting mat
  •  Heat press or a simple flat iron
  • Ironing board or heat resistance hard surface
  • Teflon sheets or parchment paper to protect your flat iron or heat plate

How to Tell the Temperature if You Are Using an Ordinary Flat Iron?

If you are a beginner, you will most likely use your flat iron at home. You may not have the luxury of buying a heat press for your vinyl projects just yet. So how will know the best temperature setting for your project?

You can figure out the right temperature by doing a test. You may cut a small piece of vinyl and a piece of fabric. Try ironing the HTV onto the fabric and see the effects of testing various temperatures. You will eventually find the perfect temperature for your project.

What’s the Difference Between a Heat Press and an Iron?

If you are a beginner or you are still saving up to own a heat press, an ordinary house flat iron is your best option for doing HTV projects. With an iron, you may feel more in control because you can see the transferring process while ironing.

On the other hand, if you have a heat press, it is recommended that you use it for your projects. The heat press spreads the heat evenly throughout your design. This makes the job easier and you can get it right every time. You minimize vinyl and fabric waste when you use a heat press.

HTV Design Example

For instance, you want to have an all-text design printed on your t-shirt. Here is a step-by-step procedure on how to use an HTV on a t-shirt.

  1. Choose the font style that you want for your text design. Arrange the text in your preferred layout.     
  2. You have to mirror your text image for HTV is applied in reverse.
  3. Position the HTV on the cutting mat. Use a cutting machine for design precision. Then, weed your design by pulling out the excess vinyl.
  4. To remove moisture and wrinkles on your t-shirt, it is advisable to pre-press it before transferring your design.
  5. Place the HTV onto the shirt and press it using a flat iron or heat press. You may want to use a Teflon sheet on top if the vinyl sticks to the hot surface. You can remove the carrier sheet after the material has cooled down (about 10 minutes)


from Teckwrap Craft YouTube Channel

How to Cut and Weed HTV

First off, what cut setting should you use? Whatever brand of cutting machine you may have, there are cut setting charts provided. 

Different brands have different blades, accessories, and settings. It is best to read your cutter’s manual and do a trial cut before beginning your project.

A carrier sheet is attached to the sticky part of the vinyl. This is the side that you can see when cutting your design on a cutting mat. The shiny part of the HTV is the backing. This is the side facing the cutting mat.

It is advisable to accurately measure your design before cutting it. The design size will depend on you, but, using a guide can help you come up with a better decision. Here is a list of some recommended design dimensions for t-shirt projects:

  • Adult t-shirt: 11” x 11”
  • Youth t-shirt: 7” x 7”
  • Toddler t-shirt: 5” x 5”
  •  Baby onesie (0-3 months): 3” x 3”
  • Sleeve measurement: 2” x 11”
  • Pocket size: 4” x 4”

How to Transfer HTV

It is recommended to prewash the fabric before using it on your HTV project. Vinyl sticks better to a clean surface. This is done to avoid the possible shrinkage of some fabrics after the first wash.

After washing and drying your fabric, it is time to heat it. You may use a heat press or ordinary flat iron to transfer the HTV to the fabric. For regular vinyl, you can remove the carrier sheet even if it is still warm. For foil iron-on, it is advisable to remove the carrier sheet when it has cooled down.

You have to flip your design horizontally before cutting it. The proper way of cutting is by placing the plastic side of the vinyl on the mat with the mirror image.

This is important especially when you have a text design. You should flip your design so it can be read correctly.

How Long Will an HTV Stay On a Fabric After Numerous Washes?

How long an HTV will last largely depends on the quality of the HTV you used. The better the quality, the longer it can last. Do not put your clothes with HTV in a dryer.

To ensure that your HTV lasts, remember to turn the shirt inside out and wash it with cold water. If you forget to do this crucial step, you may end up with a bubbly and wrinkly vinyl.

If you are using metallic or foil vinyl, expect the sheen to gradually fade after the first wash. To minimize the fading effect, you can opt to hand wash the garment instead.

What Is an Adhesive Vinyl?

Adhesive vinyl is also called sticker vinyl. It is called a sticker vinyl because it is like a big sticker that you can use right away without needing heat to transfer the design you want.

Adhesive vinyl is a thin flexible material that has a pressure-sensitive adhesive. Adhesive vinyl can be applied to all kinds of smooth and hard surfaces. You can cut an adhesive vinyl according to your design of choice.

Adhesive vinyl is versatile to use. You can create more projects with adhesive vinyl. It is advisable to use adhesive vinyl if you are working on awkwardly shaped designs that are too intricate to be heat transferred.

But, if you want to use adhesive vinyl to stretched canvas, you first have to coat the canvas with acrylic paint or spray with a clear coat. Make sure the paint is completely dry before applying the adhesive vinyl for it to stay longer. 

Adhesive vinyl is available in different colors and finishes. It always has a paper backing and is sticky when the backing is removed. 

Types of Adhesive Vinyl

There are two types of adhesive vinyl. The two types are Permanent Outdoor Vinyl and Removable Indoor Vinyl. It is common for permanent outdoor vinyl to have a glossy finish while a matte finishing for a removable indoor vinyl. Though, there is permanent outdoor vinyl that has a matte finish.

Aside from glossy and matte finish adhesive vinyl, you may also try specialty adhesive vinyl. Specialty vinyl comes in fun colors, styles, and prints or patterns. These specialty adhesive vinyl include the following:

  • Foil Vinyl.
Foil is a shiny and stunning vinyl. It is similar to holographic vinyl but the only difference is it doesn’t change colors.
  • Stencil Vinyl. 
Stencil vinyl is used for projects that require paint. It is often used for wood painting.
  • Etched Glass Vinyl.
This is also called frosted glass vinyl for it looks and feels like real etched glass.
  • Mosaic Vinyl
Mosaic vinyl is a unique vinyl type. Mosaic vinyl sheets are comprised of small shapes like circles and squares.
  • Glitter Vinyl.
Who doesn’t love shimmer and glitter? Your project will surely stand out if you use glitter vinyl. However, if you are a beginner, using glitter vinyl can be tricky. You may find yourself struggling to weed excess vinyl.
glitter vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT LA Warehouse Glitter Adhesive Vinyl


  • Metallic Vinyl
Metallic vinyl is available both in matte and glossy. It also comes in shades of gold, silver, and many more.·
metallic adhesive vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT Metallic Satin Chrome Adhesive Vinyl


  • Holographic Vinyl
A holographic vinyl is beautiful to look at because it gives off different shades of color when viewed at different angles. A holographic vinyl is a great choice for unicorn-themed projects.
holographic adhesive vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT Holographic Sparkle Adhesive Vinyl


  • Patterned Vinyl.
There are a lot of patterned removable vinyl varieties. Floral is the most common design for patterned vinyl. However, you may have limited design options for patterned permanent vinyl.
rainbow pattern adhesive vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT LA Warehouse Holo Rainbow Pattern Adhesive Vinyl


  • Glossy Vinyl

These are very shiny vinyl that comes in many colors.

glossy vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT NEW Glossy Adhesive Vinyl


  •  Matte Vinyl.
Matte vinyl is not shiny and is best used for projects that are meant to be classy and edgy.
matte adhesive vinyl

TECKWRAPCRAFT NEW Matte Adhesive Vinyl Roll

  • Chalkboard Vinyl
Chalkboard vinyl is a great option for personalizing your storage containers at home like cooking spices, kitchen pantries, and bathroom toiletries. Chalkboard vinyl is a perfect choice if you like using chalk and have great handwriting
  • Window Cling Vinyl.
You can use window cling vinyl if you want to decorate your window. This is vinyl is very friendly for it can be removed easily. You can cut fun images for your kid to decorate your windows.
  • Glow in the Dark Vinyl.
This is a special type of vinyl that absorbs ambient light during the day and emits the light when placed in the dark creating a “glow in the dark” feel.
glow in the dark vinyl


  • Transparent Vinyl
This is a clear vinyl that is best used for business branding and labeling.

Permanent Vinyl

Permanent vinyl is ideal for car decals, outdoor signs, mugs, or any item that is regularly used and washed. Permanent vinyl is great for decals to be used outdoors for it can withstand changes in weather conditions like rain, snow, and heat.

When you decide to buy permanent vinyl, check its lifespan if it can last for 3 to 10 years. You may remove permanent vinyl; however, it can damage the items you removed it from.

Removable Vinyl

Removable vinyl is great for wall decals, stencils, and indoor signs. If it’s your first time working on a project using vinyl, it is easier if you use removable indoor vinyl.

Removable indoor vinyl is great for wall decorations especially if you are renting a place. Removable vinyl will not damage the walls in case you are planning to move out.

You may also use removable vinyl if you are planning to decorate a certain item for a specific occasion and want to remove it after. For instance, you want to decorate a signboard containing your wedding details.

By using removable vinyl, you can reuse the signboard after your wedding and maybe use it as a menu board if you have a restaurant.

How to Use Adhesive Vinyl

Here are the materials you will need and the step by step procedure on how to create an adhesive vinyl decal:

How to Cut and Weed Adhesive Vinyl

In cutting vinyl, it is best to use a die-cutting machine. This type of machine can cut several types of materials with a lot of precision to detail. Scissors are not enough to make intricate cuts onto the vinyl.

Vinyl doesn’t come cheap. So, you make the most out of your investment by using a cutting machine to avoid waste. If you don’t have the budget to purchase a cutting machine, you may use a pair of scissors and start with basic shapes like stars and hearts.         

 Weeding simply means removing vinyl that is not part of the design. You need to do this after cutting your design. You will need a weeder to do the work.

If you enjoy doing these kinds of projects, it is advisable to get a weeder. If you don’t have enough budget for a weeder, you have the alternative of using home dentist tools.

When weeding, it is best if you have the original image as a reference. You want to avoid making the mistake of weeding out parts of your design that shouldn’t be weeded. It can be frustrating and a waste.

Adhesive Vinyl Decal Example

1.    Create your design and use a cutting machine. Securely attach the vinyl onto the cutting machine. Your vinyl shouldn’t move during the cutting process.

2.    Cut your design and remove the excess vinyl.

3.    Apply transfer tape over your design and burnish using a scarper or any application tool. A transfer tape is sticky but not as much as the vinyl.

4.    Position your vinyl onto the project surface. Pull away the sticker paper

5.    Gradually apply transfer to the surface and burnish.

6.    Gently remove the transfer paper leaving the vinyl onto the project.

What Is Printable Vinyl? 

Printable vinyl is different from the HTV and adhesive vinyl. Both HTV and adhesive vinyl need a cutting machine to create a design. The printable vinyl, on the other hand, uses a printer to create a design.

There are two types of printable vinyl – adhesive printable vinyl and heat transfer printable vinyl. Adhesive printable vinyl is used to make stickers and these are usually water-resistant. The heat transfer printable vinyl is still used for t-shirts and other fabrics.

An inkjet printer is necessary to create a printable vinyl. Do not use a laser printer. When urchasing a printable vinyl, you should determine if it is for dark or light fabric. For light-colored fabrics, the image should be mirrored before cutting. While mirroring is not necessary for dark-colored fabrics. 

 Which Vinyl Should You Use?

There is a lot of vinyl out there and it can get overwhelming and confusing. You may have a hard time thinking of what vinyl to use to have the best project output. So, here are basic rules for choosing the right vinyl for your project:

Rule 1: It is preferred to use adhesive vinyl when you are working on hard and smooth surfaces like walls, mugs, bottles, picture frames, boxes, and mirrors.

Rule 2:It is preferred to use HTV when your surface is soft and heat resistant such as clothes, shoes, and tote bags BUT you can also use HTV on glass, mugs, wood, any material that can withstand heat.

Advantages of Using HTV

If you are working on projects made of wood, canvas, and ceramic, it is better to use HTV for it is durable and lasts longer. HTV generally produces high-quality results that are best for businesses. Lastly, using a flat iron or heat press is more fun and exciting than just sticking adhesive onto a material. 

Advantages of Using Adhesive Vinyl

Adhesive vinyl is cheaper to use than HTV for it uses less equipment. With adhesive vinyl, you won’t need to use a heat press or flat iron that will require electrical consumption.

Adhesive vinyl is great for car decals because it is easy to apply. The procedure in creating projects using adhesive vinyl is quicker and less complicated than that of HTV. You only need your hand to apply adhesive vinyl.

Adhesive vinyl is great for unusually shaped designs and surfaces. You can use adhesive vinyl for wine glasses, vases, and cups. HTV is impossible to use for awkward surfaces.  

Where Can You Purchase Adhesive Vinyl and HTV?

Now that you know how to differentiate HTV from adhesive vinyl and when best to use them, it is time to make your purchase. Where can you buy quality HTV and adhesive vinyl? 

Teckwrap Craft specializes in producing a variety of unique HTV and adhesive vinyl. Teckwrap Craft vinyl products are suitable for several vinyl cutting machines. 


1.    Is Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) The Same as Iron-On?

Heat Transfer Vinyl is also referred to as Iron-on vinyl. Both types of vinyl need heat and pressure to transfer an image to fabric. However, there are a few notable differences between the two. Iron-on is a special paper that is lightweight than HTV and can be applied in one layer. HTV is more effective with large designs and using a heat press is recommended.


2.    Which Is Better Heat Transfer or Iron-On?

If you are after long-term quality, meaning the design won’t crack or peel for a long time, then HTV is better. Fabrics that use iron-on designs may crack and fade with several washes if they are not properly cared for.


3.    Is Heat Transfer Paper the Same as Vinyl?

No. HTV is vinyl and transfer paper is made of paper. Transfer paper is also called sublimation paper requiring very high temperature (about 400°F or more) to transfer the design flawlessly. Unlike with HTV, you can have a full-color design in a single layer using transfer paper. 


4.    Is Heat Transfer Paper or Heat Transfer Vinyl Better?

One is not better than the other. Both have their pros and cons. It is up to you which material is best for your project. Though, projects using transfer paper display a flawless look that is difficult to achieve with HTV. Transfer paper is relatively cheaper than HTV. But, if you want a durable and lasting design, you will be satisfied with HTV. 



It is about time you get your hands busy and let your creative juices flow. You now have a clearer picture of the differences between heat transfer vinyl and adhesive vinyl.

Both HTV and adhesive vinyl have their pros and cons. Regardless of this; it is still up to you to choose which one is best for your project at hand. You should always take into consideration which vinyl is more durable and convenient to use. You should also think which one will cost lesser.         

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.