How to Layer Vinyl on a Shirt Like a Pro: A Step-By-Step Guide
Sure, printing with one color of vinyl sounds easy peasy. But what about layering multiple vinyl colors to create a well-detailed shirt design? It’s possible and you can do it!
At first, creating multiple layers of vinyl to print on a shirt may sound intimidating. But with practice, patience and precision, in no time you’ll get hooked on creating more of this masterpiece.
In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to layer vinyl on a shirt like a pro. Learn how to set up the design with multiple colors, cut, weed, layer, and iron directly to a shirt or any garment for that matter. Yes, you can print on a shirt, canvas bag, pillowcase, and other garments using vinyl.
TeckWrap Craft Neon Regular Color Heat Transfer Vinyl
What Kind of Vinyl Do do You Need to Use?
For t-shirt or garment printing, only heat transfer vinyl is used. That’s the first thing you need to take note of. There are two kinds of vinyl — adhesive and heat transfer vinyl (HTV).
Adhesive vinyl is for crafts like mugs or tumblers. While heat transfer vinyl or otherwise called iron-on are for t-shirt and garment printing.
Adhesive and heat transfer vinyl are different so make sure not to confuse both. HTV has a plastic carrier sheet on top of it and its backside has a heat-activated adhesive. When heat and pressure are applied between the HTV and a garment, it sticks to the surface.
What projects can you make with a heat transfer vinyl other than t-shirt printing? You can print HTV on any garment like a pillowcase, canvas tote bag, apron, and many more.
You can even use HTV to print on mugs, wood signs, and tumblers. However, in this article, the main focus will be printing layered vinyl on a t-shirt.
So let’s cut to the chase and let the learning start! Here are the materials needed for this project. Remember, you can use multiple layers of vinyl, and the color combination is up to you. List down all the materials needed and collect them.
- A cutting machine like Silhouette or Cricut
- Heat press machine, EasyPress or a household iron
- A garment of choice (T-shirt or canvas bag)
- Your vinyl of choice (regular or special vinyl)
- Cutting matt
- Weeding tool
- Lint roller
- Optional: Craft knife, thermal tape, parchment paper, Teflon sheet,
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Layer Iron on Vinyl on a Shirt or Any Fabric
Before anything else, here’s what you need to know about layering vinyl on a shirt: special vinyl should be the top layer. Regular vinyl must be the base layer.
Why hide the beauty of special vinyl on the bottom? Also, when you layer the special vinyl at the bottom, it will affect the overall look of the design. So you don’t want that.
What are special vinyls? Glitter, holographic, foil, flock, rainbow stripes, opal, galaxy, and anything with a special design or product feature. Also, do not forget to put the settings to ‘mirror’ when sending the vinyl to the cutting machine.
These are important reminders you shouldn’t miss out on before getting started on this project. Layering multiple vinyls for garment printing will eventually be easy with constant practice and dedication. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to layer vinyl on a shirt.
Step One: Pick Your Design
The first step is to choose the design you want to print on a shirt. You can look for free SVG cut files or use the ones available in Cricut Design Space. Once you’ve established the design you want, then you can choose the vinyl colors you can use.
For example, you want to print this design below. So what kind of vinyl colors do you need?
Image from Pixabay by Hassas_Arts
You can use yellow for the frame of the glasses and polo shirt, violet for the flowers, orange for the tiger’s skin, black for the details, light blue for the water splash and details on glasses, lastly, dark blue for the border of the water splash.
Once your vinyl colors are complete and you got the SVG file of this cute tiger, upload it to your design space. Let the design space do its magic by separating each intended colo of the print, and don’t forget to turn on the mirror setting.
You’ll be needing your mat to stick the vinyl while cutting so make sure to change the setting and select iron as cutting material. This way, your cutting machine will automatically adjust its blade, speed, and pressure while cutting. Then send to cut!
Step 2: Cut and Weed Vinyl
Since heat transfer vinyl is cut in reverse, you need to place the HTV on the cutting mat with shiny side (right side) facing down. Make sure to line the mat properly between grid lines, they’re there to guide you for a reason.
When it’s ready, press the load button, and continue loading each vinyl color until the last layers have been cut. Set them aside and prepare to weed the vinyl.
When weeding the vinyl, you should use a high-quality weeding tool or weeding pen to ensure you can precisely weed the excess vinyl up to the most intricate detail.
But wait, some beginners may ask what weeding means, it’s pretty simple. Weeding means you have to remove the excess vinyl around the image, that you don’t want to get transferred to the shirt.
When weeding vinyl, all you need to do is to remove unwanted vinyl away from the edge. What remains on the carrier sheet will transfer to the shirt or garment you’re printing.
So make sure that even small spaces that must not be on the design should be removed.
While weeding, there are challenges you might encounter and that’s okay. Here are some tips to remember in case you encounter any problem weeding:
Tip #1: If the HTV doesn’t come separate easily from the carrier sheet.
If this is the case, make a small knick in the corner of the design using your weeding tool. Just a small knick to raise the vinyl, not weed all way through. Or if you can find other corners of the design to weed easily yopu can start from there and work your way through.
Tip #2: If you’re having a hard time seeing the cut paths.
If you a have a dark-colored HTV, there may be chances that the cut paths are not seen clearly. There are two things you can do, make sure you have enough lighting by having a desk lamp on your side (that helps a lot).
Or you can check the design space on the cutting machine’s software to remind you of the cutting path. For Cricut users, you can use Cricut BrightPad on your computer to help revela the cut line and make the weeding process easier.
Tip #3: Remove bubbles and flat it out.
Always use a scraper tool or a credit card to remove bubbles and smoothen out the vinyl. If you do not remove bubbles or not smooth out the vinyl’s surface, it may result in a messy application.
Tip#4: Stack the layers.
When you’re done weeding all the vinyl, it’s a good idea to stack all the layers of your design. Why? This is to make sure that everything fits perfectly, and of course you weeded the vinyl correctly. Don’t worry about the design getting ruined, because it won’t.
Stacking the vinyl does not mean you’ll directly apply it to the gament. Working on an adhesive vinyl on a tumbler and heat transfer vinyl on a shirt is different.
Step 3: Press the Vinyl
Granting you have stacked the layers and you know the designs fit well, then it’s time to take out your EasyPress or prepare your heat press machine. But hold on, can you use a household iron to print vinyl on a t-shirt? Yes you can.
However, the heat and pressure may not be enough to ensure that the vinyl sticks well to the garment. For best results, it’s always recommended to use a heat press machine or an EasyPress. Now it’s time to press the vinyl layer by layer.
How to Press the Vinyl Layer by Layer
- Set the heat press machine temperature to 305°F
- Pre-press the shirt so the moisture wicks out
- Pre-press the shirt for 5-10 seconds with light pressure
- Start with the bottom layer of HTV
- Press it for 20 seconds (recommended cotton setting)
- Apply medium pressure on heat press machine to ensure the vinyl sticks well
- Let the vinyl cool before removing the carrier sheet, a safe time is 2 minutes
- Place a used clear carrier sheet above the pressed vinyl (if you think the pressed vinyl might get exposed to direct heat)
- Align the second layer over the pressed vinyl on the garment
- Repeat the process and press for 20 seconds
- Repeat the whole process until you’re finished pressing all the layers
Tips when pressing vinyl to the shirt:
- Specialty vinyl should always be the top layer
- A regular heat transfer vinyl can be used as the base
- Examples of specialty vinyls: Glitter HTV, holographic, opal or any special-looking vinyl
- Remember that the temperature of the heat press machine differs on the type of garment you have and the type of vinyl you use.
- Typically, the recommended temperature for cotton shirts and regular HTV is between 300°F to 315°F. Make sure to confirm this with the shirt manufacturer or in the product description of the vinyl.
- Remember not to apply direct heat to the vinyl because it will srtick to heat press machine, thus the whole project might get ruined. That’s why you need to cover the pressed vinyl with a used clear carrier sheet, from the previous layer pressed.
- The combination of right heat and pressure is important for the vinyl to stick well to the shirt. Too much heat may cause the vinyl to melt, not enough heat will cause the vinyl not to stick well to the shirt.
Check out this video from the TeckWrap Craft Instagram page, on how to iron multiple vinyl layers on a pouch made of canvas fabric. In the video, a mini EasyPress machine was used. See screenshots of the process below.
Step 1: Base layer
Step 2: 2nd layer - blue vinyl
Step 3: 3rd layer - pink vinyl
Layering heat transfer vinyl in a garment (Creation can be seen in the TeckWrap Craft Instagram Page)
Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) Available at TeckWrap Craft
Using three or more vinyl colors on your T-shirt design will give life to your creations. Not just for T-shirt printing but for your other DIY projects as well such as wood signs or tumblers. That’s why before starting on any project, you should know the vinyl options you can choose from.
Mind you, there are tons of options out there. Choosing the right color combination and adding a little sparkle by using glitter iron vinyl wouldn’t hurt. In fact, it will make your project stand out. So to speak, here are the heat transfer vinyl available at TeckWrap craft.
PU Heat Transfer Vinyl (Regular Vinyl)
PU Heat Transfer Vinyl from TeckWrap Craft (Available in White, Black, Yellow, Red, blue, Grey, Gold, Silver, Light Green, Purple, Green, Sky Blue, Orange, Pink, Lemon Yellow, Neon Yellow, Neon Green, Neon Rose Pink, Fuschia, Tiffany, Light Blue, Brown, Maroon, Aqua and Rose Gold)
If you need a glossy and smooth-looking finish to your T-shirt design, you should use a PU heat transfer vinyl. PU is a regular heat transfer vinyl so you can use this as the bottom layer. In fact, this is the recommended vinyl base. But if you want this as the top layer, you may do so as well.
Flock Heat Transfer Vinyl (Specialty Vinyl)
TeckWrap Craft Flock HTV (Available in Pink, Black, White, Blue, Fuschia, Dark Blue, Green and Brown)
If you want an embossed-looking print on your shirt a flock heat transfer vinyl is the secret. If you use flock HTV, the finished print will look like it has a raised or added dimension. Much like a textured velvet or suede feel and is a perfect alternative to embroidered printing.
This is a specialty vinyl so it cannot be the bottom layer when printing to the garment. Once again, only use specialty vinyls as the final layer. Flock has velvet-like texture, so if you layer glitter heat transfer or other type of specialty vinyls on top of it, most likely, it won’t stick.
Patterned Heat Transfer Vinyl (Specialty Vinyl)
Buffalo Patterned Vinyl from TeckWrap Craft (available in White & Black, Green & Black, Red & Black, Orange & Black, Orange & White)
Are you printing a shirt for the holidays? This Buffalo patterned HTV is the perfect choice. You can look for free SVG cut fles of Christmas elves or tiny elves and stick them to winter hoodies or T-shirt. It’s the perfect Christmas gift to your family and loved ones.
It’s a specialty vinyl, so make sure it’s the bottom layer. Why hide the beauty of this vinyl when it’s the cherry on top of your holiday gift? Aside from shirts and hoodies, you can also print this in bedshets and pillow cases.
Galaxy Heat Transfer Vinyl (Specialty HTV)
TekcWrap Craft creation using Galaxy Heat Transfer Vinyl
Star Wars hoodies for your kids? Then a Galaxy HTV is the perfect choice! This is a specialty vinyl, so it should be the top layer. The galaxy design matches perfectly with opal and holographic vinyl as well. It’s available in Nebula Cyanine Black, Starry Bright Sky, Nebula Purple, and Nebula Orange.
Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl (Specialty HTV)
Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl at TeckWrap Craft (Available in Neon Peachy, Neon Green, Light Purple, Purple, Rose Gold, Silver, White, Colorful White, Black, Lime Green, Aqua, Apple Green, Gold, Red, Champagne Gold and Coffee Gold)
Do you want shinning shimmering splendid design on your shirt? A glitter iron on vinyl will seal the deal.
With a TeckWrap craft glitter, you can create stunning designs and patterns for your shirt, hoodies, bags and many more. It’s a specialty HTV, so make sure it’s the final layer of your design.
Colorful Splash Heat Transfer Vinyl (Specialty HTV)
Colorful Splash Heat Transfer Vinyl available at TeckWrap Craft
(Available in Berry, Soda, Ocean and Grape color hues)
Unicorn prints? Add more color to your design with a Colorful Splash HTV. This eye-catching and vibrant vinyl adds more life to any creation especially in garments. This iron on vinyl is a specialty type so make sure not to use this as a base layer.
Glow In The Dark Heat Transfer Vinyl (Specialty HTV)
Glow in the Dark Heat Transfer vinyl available in TeckWrap Craft (Available in Neon Yellow, Neon Pink, Neon Green and Neon Orange)
If you’re planning on creating a T-shirt business that caters to rave parties or clubbing, then this Glow in the dark HTV is a great iron on vinyl. It will look beautiful in daylight and glows brilliantly in dark settings.
This is perfect for Halloween T-shirts as well. Glow in the dark HTV is a special type of vinyl so always make this the top layer.
Snowflakes Pattern Heat Transfer Vinyl (Specialty HTV)
Snowflakes Pattern Heat Transfer Vinyl at TeckWrap Craft (Available in Green, Red, Black, Orange & Black Plaid, Green & Black Plaid)
Along with the Buffalo Plaid HTV, you can use this Snowflakes pattern for your next Christmas jacket. Of course you can’t layer both HTV because they’re specialty vinyl. But you can create a design with plaid and snowflakes print.
PU Marble Heat Transfer Vinyl (Regular Vinyl)
Creation from TeckWrap Craft using PU Marble Heat Transfer Vinyl (Available in Apple Green, Sweet Pink, Lime Green, Brilliant Blue, Khaki Brown, Sunset Orange and Emerald Green)
This type of HTV has a similar look with a Color Splash vinyl. The main difference however is it’s marble-looking finish. As you can see on the creation above, it was used as a base layer, which you can because it’s a regular vinyl.
Stitch looks awesome in Khaki Brown Marbe vinyl and you can’t deny the bag looks incredibly cute. It’s catchy, playful,
Marble art is fun and thrilling. Our PU Marble heat transfer vinyl lets you cut and transfer alluring shapes, letters, and figures onto your t-shirts, hoodies, and clubwear.
This vinyl is extremely thin and lightweight with easy weeding so you can create perfect shapes and sizes down to the delicate details.
The high-quality PU material makes our vinyl the most durable HTV in the market. Customize your clothes and accessories with super-catchy decals and slogans adorned with a colorful, marbled pattern.
With strong waterproof adhesion, the vinyl remains fresh and tough even after multiple washes. You won’t ever have to worry about the vinyl fading or peeling off!
What to Look For in a Heat Transfer Vinyl?
- Super-thin and flexible texture allows easy cutting of small shapes and letters
- Easy cutting and weeding to your desired shape, size, contour, or angle
- Simple yet eye-catching Christmas heat transfer vinyl
- Smooth, glossy finish
- Stretchable and lightweight
- Easy transfer onto dry, smooth cotton fabric surfaces
- Washing-machine friendly
- Easy, clutter-free cutting and weeding
- Ideal for cotton t-shirts, hoodies, bags, hats, pillowcases, bedsheets.
Tips When Applying Heat Transfer Vinyl on Shirts
To address some tricky questions or to simply just get you started on the road to using heat transfer vinyl in your own crafts, we’ve put together a list of ten tips for vinyl beginners.
Why won't my heat transfer vinyl stick to the shirt? Not Enough Pressure. First things first, the most common reason your HTV may not be sticking to your shirt, sweater or whatever else you're applying it to maybe because you're not using enough pressure.
And pressure is important. Without it, your HTV projects may not be as long-lasting as you would like.
Don’t over-press your vinyl by keeping heat on it for too long. Start with 10–15 seconds and add more time if needed. Most heat presses come with an adjustable timer to help you keep track of your time.
If you want to layer your vinyl, you can! However, we recommend that you don’t put any layers on top of glitter vinyl. The surface of the glitter vinyl will prevent any other vinyl placed on top of it from adhering and sealing properly.
You can layer glitter pieces over other types of vinyl, but if you’re incorporating glitter vinyl into your projects, leave it on top, as you see in the photo below.
I’ll also teach you the importance of mirroring iron-on vinyl. The reason we “mirror” iron-on designs is because the iron-on vinyl comes adhered to a shiny, clear, heat-resistant liner that protects your design during the heat-transfer process.
This makes it necessary to position the material liner-side down so your machine can cut your design and leave the liner intact. If you don’t mirror each layer, your design will appear backward on your base material.
This is especially important if your design includes text. So for the best results every time, mirror your iron-on vinyl!
What temperature should a heat press be on for shirts? The ideal temperature for htv vinyl is 315°F. Apply strong pressure for 10-15 seconds to get a vivid and perfect design. In fact, preheating the fabric before pressing decals will make the design on the shirt better.
After applying heat transfer vinyl, you can peel the carrier sheet away from the project’s surface while it’s still hot. If you’re working with glitter vinyl, however, it’s best to peel it when it’s warm. (Just be sure you don’t burn your fingers!)
Avoid the Vinyl from Touching the Heat Press Directly
IMPORTANT: I repeat, you do not want any vinyl to touch your heat press or iron. Press it all down with your hand and make sure it doesn't want to move. If it wants to move at all, tape it down with heat-resistant tape to keep it perfectly in place.
Should you wash the shirt before iron-on vinyl? Additionally, a pre-wash is not always necessary either. If you prefer to wash your blanks, make sure to steer clear of liquid fabric softeners which leave behind an HTV repelling residue.
Why is my vinyl coming off my shirt after washing? The iron-on vinyl for shirts fall off when washing letters will happen more in the dryer because the heat inside the machine can soften the fusible used in decorative applications. It is possible that these items were not properly cleaned before adding the design to the garment.
Regardless of which heat option you use, EasyPress or iron, you need to wait at least 24 hours before washing. To wash, turn your project inside out and tumble dry on low. Your shirt should last at least 50 washes before showing signs of cracking or peeling.
Can you repress heat transfer vinyl? Solution: If your HTV is still peeling after following all the care and wash instructions, then it could be a pressure issue when it was applied. You can repress your HTV one more time with a lot more pressure than the first time it was pressed
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you layer heat transfer vinyl on top of each other?
Overlapping HTV and carriers will adhere to each other instead of the garment, but if they're trimmed then you can avoid overlapping and apply multiple colors at one time.
What temperature does my heat press need to be for vinyl?
315°F. In order to get the best output of vinyl, you will need a higher temperature than polyester. The ideal temperature for HTVRONT htv vinyl is 315°F. Apply strong pressure for 10-15 seconds to get a vivid and perfect design. In fact, preheating the fabric before pressing decals will make the design on the shirt better.
How long do vinyl shirts last?
Under normal use, the design should last more than five years. I recommend following these care guidelines to maximize the lifespan: Do not dry clean the garment.
Layering vinyl on a shirt is such a fun way to personalize your design and be creative. It makes your creations even more unique and the possibilities, endless! Just follow these techniques and start creating your fun designs!