Can You Use Premium Vinyl on Shirts? Here’s What You Need to Know

can you use premium vinyl on shirts

Applying Heat Transfer Vinyl on a Shirt
Screenshot Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page

Can you use premium vinyl on shirts? The short answer is no, as it is adhesive vinyl and will have poor adhesion to fabrics. Read on to know what you can use on shirts and where premium vinyl is best used for.

Premium vinyl is either permanent or removable adhesive vinyl and one of its main features is the ease of weeding.

If you are a seasoned crafter, you know very well that there are so many vinyl options for various crafting projects. Choosing the best vinyl for your project is relatively easy to do.

However, if you are a neophyte, you can be overwhelmed with the different kinds of vinyl. You might be confused as to which vinyl type is best to use. Most crafters start with T-shirt designing simply because shirts are common and accessible materials.  

With T-shirt designing, there are plenty of vinyl options to choose from. The type of vinyl you will use would depend on whether the shirt will be commercially sold or for personal use. Keep reading this article to find out if premium vinyl can be used for shirts.

What Is a Craft Vinyl?

Craft vinyl comes in two basic types:  adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl. Adhesive vinyl has a paper backing and is sticky when the backing is peeled. Adhesive vinyl is available in permanent and removable adhesive vinyl.

However, heat transfer vinyl doesn’t have a paper backing. Rather, it has a clear plastic carrier sheet covering the top portion of the vinyl. The opposite side of the carrier sheet is the adhesive side.

On the contrary, the heat transfer vinyl’s adhesive side is not sticky or tacky to touch. This adhesive side is the side of the heat transfer vinyl that will be cut on.

What Is Adhesive Vinyl?

premium vinyl on crafts
Holographic Adhesive Vinyl on a Candle Glass Can
Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page


Adhesive vinyl is also referred to as premium vinyl or sticker vinyl. It is a thin and flexible material characterized by a pressure-sensitive adhesive.

Just like a sticker, it has a sticky side that is covered by a paper backing. Adhesive vinyl is best used for smooth, non-porous, and hard surfaces. It could also be used for unconventional or awkward-shaped objects.

The design side of an adhesive vinyl may come in a matte or glossy finish. Some may include embellishments with a glittery finish, metallic finish, and various patterns. Adhesive vinyl comes in rolls or individual sheets. Most adhesive vinyl is sold in sizes suitable for most cutting machines.

vinyl sheets
Vinyl in Individual Sheets
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vinyl rolls
Vinyl in Rolls at TeckWrap Craft
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What Are the Types of Adhesive Vinyl?

Beginners often use adhesive vinyl to make fast and easy designs. There are two types of adhesive vinyl with two different strengths: removable and permanent.  Removable vinyl is also called indoor vinyl, while permanent adhesive vinyl is called outdoor vinyl.

Removable Vinyl

Avoid using removable vinyl on rough and porous surfaces, for they will not stick. Removable vinyl is used on fabrics when the design is used for temporary, seasonal, or one-day occasions. You can use removable vinyl on the following materials:

  • Ceramic mugs
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Mirrors
  • Home appliances
  • Glass objects
  • Pots
  • Vases
  •  Wood
  • Windows
  • Walls
adhesive vinyl on glasses

Vinyl on Drinking Glasses

Removable vinyl is not recommended for shirts because it easily peels off and cannot withstand washing. Removable vinyl is recommended for materials that will not be exposed to frequent washing.

This type of vinyl is a good alternative for enhancing low-impact items such as household decorations and mirror ornamentation. Removing this type of vinyl will not cause damage to the surface or material.

Related post: Can You Iron on Permanent Vinyl?

Permanent Vinyl

You need to use permanent adhesive vinyl for projects that will be frequently exposed to harsh conditions like changing weather and regular washing.

 Premium permanent vinyl or outdoor adhesive vinyl is ideal for items you want to decorate permanently and for items that will be heavily used and washed, like mugs, water bottles, car decals, and glasses.

Expect damages when you remove permanent vinyl on a surface. If you are certain about the design on the surface or material you are working on, then go for permanent adhesive vinyl.

vinyl rolls
TeckWrap Craft’s Collection of Premium Quality Craft Vinyl
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When Should You Use Adhesive Vinyl on Fabrics?

While adhesive vinyl is a versatile type of vinyl, it may not be the best choice for fabrics. Though, you can use it on fabrics when you are just practicing or creating a temporary design. When peeled off, it won’t leave a residue on the fabric.

Adhesive vinyl can be a good choice for stencil designs on shirts or canvas totes using fabric paint or paint pens. A stencil made from adhesive vinyl sticks securely well onto fabrics so that the paint may not bleed through. Adhesive stencil vinyl can easily be lifted off from the fabric when the design is filled up with paint.

Advantages of Using Adhesive Vinyl

The great thing about premium vinyl is the fact that it is cheaper than heat transfer vinyl. With premium vinyl, you don’t need an iron or heat press. Premium vinyl can also be applied to any surface regardless of shape, surface type, and glasses. This characteristic of premium adhesive vinyl is impossible for heat transfer vinyl.

Premium vinyl is easy and quick to make or apply on surfaces. The application procedure is less complicated than heat transfer vinyl. You wouldn’t need to familiarize yourself with another machine like the heat press.

Premium adhesive vinyl can be easily applied on outdoor surfaces and fixtures. It is also used for vehicle designs and outdoor signs.

vinyl on tote bags
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How to Apply Adhesive Vinyl

You will need to create your design using a Cricut Design Space or any software that you may have. You will need adhesive vinyl, transfer tape, and weeding tools. You don’t need to mirror or flip the image.

In placing the vinyl on a cutting mat, position the vinyl where the backing paper side faces down and the vinyl is facing up. Once the design is cut, you have to weed out the excess vinyl.

Apply transfer tape on the weeded adhesive vinyl and burnish. Remove the sticker backing and apply what’s left onto the surface, and burnish. As soon as the vinyl adheres to the surface, you can remove the transfer tape.

craft vinyl
Screenshot Image Showing How to Remove Excess Vinyl
Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page

What Alternatives to Use on Fabrics

Since adhesive vinyl is not a good choice for permanent shirt designs, then what is the alternative? The alternatives that produce quality and permanent fabric designs are heat transfer vinyl (HTV), infusible ink, and sublimation.

Heat transfer vinyl, infusible ink, and sublimation are not like regular vinyl that you can simply stick on. These three methods need heat for them to work. Unlike stickers, the use of heat bonds the design securely to the fabric. This makes it sturdier and more durable compared to adhesive vinyl.

Infusible ink and sublimation printing are outstanding alternatives to adhesive vinyl on fabrics. These two methods are similar in technique for they use dye to permanently fix the design onto shirts.

These two techniques don’t make the design bond with a blank surface; rather it infuses ink on the fabric. These two are similar but differ in the manner in which the ink is delivered.

Heat Transfer Vinyl

premium vinyl on shirts
Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page


The most common and effective way of adding a design to fabrics is by using heat transfer vinyl. Also referred to as Iron-On vinyl, T-shirt vinyl, or HTV, it is a material that is quite similar to adhesive vinyl minus the sticky side.

Aside from fabrics or shirts, heat transfer vinyl is also used for any material that can withstand heat and pressure, such as:

  • Tote bags
  • Cosmetic pouches
  • Mousepads
  • Coolies

It is advisable that you use high-quality HTV for easier weeding and transfer and can withstand long-term washing. It will also dictate the quality of the finished product.

Heat transfer vinyl is a heat-activated adhesive vinyl. Heat transfer vinyl can be activated using a heat press or a simple flat iron. A heat press allows the uniform distribution of heat and pressure for the HTV to better adhere to the fabric.

Just like adhesive vinyl, you may also need to weed complicated designs before applying HTV on fabrics. Using quality weeding tools, you can easily weed out the excess vinyl.

If you want to invest in a weeding kit, it should contain tools for precision cutting and tools to easily position the vinyl, and tools to help smoothen out the design when placed on the fabric.

Using HTV on fabrics can be tricky, but the results are worth it. Fabrics that have HTV designs are durable and can last a long time. Shirts with HTV designs can be washed without you worrying about damaging the design.

Though, over time, the design may start to flake or crack. This is fine and expected, for the shirt has been used and washed countless times.

vinyl rolls for crafting
Variety of Adhesive Vinyl and Weeding Tools
Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page


Infusible Ink

Infusible ink transfer sheets are quite similar to vinyl sheets that you can insert into digital die-cutting machines. Infusible ink transfer sheets are made of dried ink which is infused into the shirt when heat is applied to it. Similar to adhesive vinyl and HTV, infusible ink designs are weeded. They also come in different colors and amazing designs.

Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is done differently than infusible ink and HTV. With sublimation printing, you need an inkjet printer, sublimation paper, and sublimation ink. Sublimation printing is very flexible. The designs and colors are limitless because you can easily create designs and print them out.

Advantages of Using Heat Transfer Vinyl

The first known advantage of HTV is its durability and long-lasting design adherence to canvas, wood, ceramics, and other materials. HTV is also highly preferred by most businesses for it produces high-quality products.

Lastly, doing HTV projects is more fun and interesting because you use a heat press or iron while doing it. It feels like you are doing a science experiment!  

htv on babies clothes
Heat Transfer Vinyl Design on a Baby Onesie
Screenshot Image from TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page

When to Use Special Types of Heat Transfer Vinyl

HTV is highly recommended for shirts and other fabrics. Shirts would be boring if heat transfer vinyl only comes in basic colors. There are special types of HTV that can be used for certain types of fabrics. These special varieties of HTV are:

  • Stretch HTV
  • Glitter HTV
  • Flocked HTV
  • Reflective HTV
  • Holographic HTV
  • Metallic HTV
  • Patterned HTV
Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl in Colorful Black

Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl in Colorful Black

Iron-on vinyl is made to withstand heat and pressure. Your choice of HTV will depend largely on the design you want to make. There are certain types of HTV that work best for certain types of fabric.

HTV can easily adhere to all shirts made of cotton and polyester. Even special HTV like glitter and foil works well too. Fabrics with HTV designs are all washable and long-lasting.

Holographic and metallic HTV are stiff types of HTV; thus, they work best with designs that contain small pieces. Stretch HTV, on the other hand, is best used for stretchy knit, ribbed, and athletic fabrics.  

You need to use stretch HTV for the design needs to stretch along with the shirt making it less likely to crack or peel off.

Is Heat Transfer Vinyl Permanent?

HTV, when applied to shirts or fabrics, can be permanent and can last for a long time. Though, HTV cannot be used for materials that will be exposed to outside elements. It is best to use permanent vinyl for materials that will be used outdoors.

Heat Transfer Vinyl in Red Snowflakes Pattern

Heat Transfer Vinyl in Red Snowflakes Pattern

How to Apply Heat Transfer Vinyl on Fabrics?

To prepare a shirt for iron-on vinyl application, you need to pre-wash it. Doing this will also help test whether the shirt is prone to shrinkage. It would be best to allow the shirt to shrink before you apply HTV on it.

If you are unable to test whether the shirt shrinks or not, you might end up having a shirt decal that cracks or peels off.

Prepare your design using the Cricut Design Space or any software available on your computer. Once you are done designing, you need to mirror the image or flip it for iron-on vinyl cuts vinyl in reverse. You wouldn’t want to waste quality vinyl, right?

Place your HTV face down or shiny side up on your cutting mat and insert this into your cutting machine. You will need your weeding tools to weed out your design after the vinyl is cut.

Once your vinyl is ready, it is time to adhere your HTV to the shirt. Pre-press the shirt to remove moisture and wrinkles. Lay your shirt flat on a mat or a solid, steady, and flat surface. This is done to ensure that the shirt is properly positioned and centered.

If you are using a portable heat press, place it on top of the HTV and press it down for 30 seconds. Finally, your shirt is done!

It would be best to let the decal sit for at least 24 hours before washing it. This will give the adhesive enough time to cure. After 24 hours, you may wash your shirt with cold water and hang it to dry.

holographic vinyl on fabrics

Wedding Pouch Designed using Holographic HTV in Gold

How to Tell the Difference Between Adhesive Vinyl and Heat Transfer Vinyl?

Adhesive vinyl and HTV are two distinctly different vinyl. HTV is cut from the opposite side of the adhesive vinyl. The clear or opaque plastic carrier sheet of the HTV acts like transfer tape. Adhesive vinyl doesn’t have a built-in transfer tape. Transfer tape is applied to adhesive vinyl upon application to the surface.

htv on fabrics
Heat transfer vinyl on bedroom slippers
Image from TeckWrap Craft Facebook Page



Can Premium Vinyl Be Used on Clothing?

Premium vinyl is adhesive vinyl, like a sticker, it is either permanent or removable. Thus, it is best used for smooth surfaces but is not advisable to be used on fabrics or any piece of clothing. Premium vinyl may initially adhere to the clothing, but it won’t hold up when washed and may peel off.

What Is Premium Vinyl Used For?

Premium vinyl is used for smooth and hard surfaces, as well as awkward-shaped surfaces. You use premium vinyl when you are working on temporary designs. You can use premium vinyl on glass, ceramics, canvas, wall decals, picture frames, boxes, and household appliances.

Can You Use Premium Removable Vinyl on Shirts?

Yes, you can use premium removable vinyl on shirts. However, don’t expect the vinyl decal to last for a long time. It may crack and peel off after your first wash.

What Kind of Vinyl Do You Use for Shirts?

Heat transfer vinyl is recommended to be used for shirts or any fabrics. Generally, HTV works well on all types of fabric and materials that can handle heat and pressure. Though, there are specific types of HTV that will work better on certain types of fabrics. For instance, holographic and metallic HTV works best for designs made of small pieces.

vinyl on tumblers and shirts
Heat transfer vinyl on adult and baby T-shirts
Image from TeckWrap Craft Facebook Page

Summing it all Up

Adhesive vinyl is a great type of vinyl for various crafting projects. However, adhesive vinyl may not be the most reliable choice for permanent and durable shirt designs.

HTV, infusible ink, and sublimation printing are all durable and permanent methods of giving shirts and other fabrics some life. Crafting is a versatile field that anything is doable. Whatever craft material you are working on, you will definitely find materials and techniques that can give you the best results.

Whenever you engage in any crafting project, choose a vinyl that is the best fit for the material you are using. The vinyl you choose should be durable, affordable, and convenient to work with.

For your next t-shirt design project, check out TeckWrap Craft. TeckWrap Craft offers premium quality vinyl at great prices. There are so many types of heat transfer vinyl to choose from. You won’t find yourself running out of ideas with TeckWrap Craft vinyl!

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