Can You Use Heat Transfer Vinyl on Leather?
- Supply list
- Leather item of choice
- Cutting Machine
- Cutting and Weeding Accessories
- Vinyl of choice
- Heating Implement
- Carrier Sheet
- Basic Steps
- Will permanent vinyl work?
- Can I use high heat instead to make sure the heat transfer vinyl adheres?
- Cold peel or hot peel?
- Can I use real leather and not faux leather?
Can you use heat transfer vinyl on leather? In days of old, the only way to add a design to any leather material was by using a metal stamp to emboss on to the leather.
If embossing the leather wasn’t tedious enough, creating the metal plates was even more tedious and time consuming. And customizing leather items was something only the monied could afford since skilled artisans were the only people trained in leather crafting
But technology has made DIY leather projects easier and fun to do, making it easy to personalize any design of your choice to any leather item you want. Not only that, many leather good items are readily available at any dollar or craft store.
For purposes of discussion for this topic, when we speak of leather, we will be pertaining to faux leather or pu (polyurethane) leather, which is the most common and readily available material for leather DIY crafts.
Now let’s get started.
Leather item of choice
With the abundance of leather items available, you will probably never run of of items for your DIY. To give you an idea of the ready to use leather materials available, here’s a list of what you can customize:
- Reversible tote bags
- Baggage Tags
- Purses or wallets
- Laptop or tablet sleeves
A cutting machine is used to cut your heat transfer vinyl according to your specific design requirements.
The more popular brand of machines used by crafters and hobbyists are Silhouette Studio and Cricut machines, Both these brands have specific web based applications to bring your personalized designs come to life.
Cutting and Weeding Accessories
These items are purchased separately. For convenience however, you can purchase a tool kit. A tool kit includes the following:
- Cutting mat or mats
- Weeding tool
Vinyl of choice
For this project, the recommended vinyl to use is heat transfer vinyl which come in a variety of colors and types, and even texture. This material also adheres well to leather items.
Be mesmerized by the different htv materials available, see below for examples:
You may use a hot iron or a heat press machine, whatever you have available. A flat iron is preferred over steam iron. The holes on the plate of a steam iron make the heat distribution uneven. The preferred setting from HTV projects is cotton setting.
You may use a simple iron-like heat press tool or a heavy duty heat press machine. Make sure to adjust according to the appropriate settings.
You may err at the side of caution and put the settings at the lower range, this may require more presses, but at least it will not destroy your vinyl or faux leather. A popular heat press brand is Siser, and comes in different sizes.
This protects the vinyl and the faux leather from the heating tool. This may be any of the following:
- Parchment paper
- Teflon sheet
- Cover sheet
First off, prepare your work area with the materials and machines you will be needing.
Remove any clutter from your table, and wipe clean and dry the leather surface of your bag or whatever project you intend on using.
The way you apply heat transfer vinyl to faux leather is more or less similar to how htv vinyl is applied to other surfaces.
Prepare your design
Regardless of cutting software you use for your design, be it Sihouette Studio, or Circut Design Space, make sure to cut your design in mirror format. Why mirror the image? Because the design needs to be flipped during application.
Use the appropriate settings of your cutting machine depending on the htv used.
Load or add heat transfer vinyl on the cutting mat properly, otherwise your machine won’t cut.
Properly weed your design
This is why good quality weeding tools is a must to be able to remove any excess vinyl from the carrier sheet.
Weeding can be a tedious process and a sharp reliable weeding tool can remove even the smallest of any adhered excess vinyl pieces.
When applying your vinyl to leather, lay your htv flat on your leather surface, sticky side down, shiny side up.
Protect your design with a thin piece of cover sheet (i.e. parchment paper or teflon sheet).
If you are using an iron, cotton or linen temperature setting would be enough. More heat might melt or destroy the vinyl or the leather.
Press, not glide, the iron applying firm pressure for 15 seconds.
Check if the vinyl has adhered, if not repeat the process.
Peel the carrier sheet ever so gently.
Once the design is exposed, check for air bubbles and complete adhesion. You can check our guide on removing bubbles easily.
For good measure, you can apply heat again, you may use a lower temperature this time around.
Protect your design with a cover sheet. Apply firm pressure and iron.
Will permanent vinyl work?
Permanent vinyl is not recommended for garment and leather use, and is primarily used in decal production. Heat transfer vinyl is the vinyl of choice because it can adhere to leather (and garments) better.
Can I use high heat instead to make sure the heat transfer vinyl adheres?
The recommendation is cotton and linen setting, anything higher might melt not only your heat transfer vinyl but your faux leather as well.
Cold peel or hot peel?
Whether cold or hot peel depends on the particular brand as not all vinyls are the same. Read instructions on the packaging. In the case of Teckwrap, it is a cold peel so you need to let it cooll before peeling.
Can I use real leather and not faux leather?
Yes, you may, however, the variety of items for faux leather are more readily available and more affordable. You can even find faux leather items at your dollar store.
Applying vinyl to leather is the easy part.
Do follow the recommended settings for all your tools and machines, and even software.
In our haste to get things done, we might forget to follow as advised, and we will end up spending more time and materials redoing our worse, repeating our project.
Cutting machines rely on sensors to cut properly, so best to have a workstation with sufficient lighting.
Check the condition of your tools and machines every once in a while. A cutting mat might lose its stickiness from frequent use, same with your cutting blade, it can become dull. This is why most professional crafters encourage newbies to practice the habit of doing a test cut.
Starting a new crafting journey may lead to some hiccups and even a a series of minor frustrations as we navigate our way around the concepts, tools, software, machines, etc, but do make fun and learning a priority.
There are also tons of free online resources to get you started, thanks Google. Some crafters even offer free templates for you to readily print.
Before you know it, you will crafting your personalized DIY projects, for personal use or as leather gifts to family and friends - your creativity is up to you!