So, you’ve decided to start using heat transfer vinyl? We think that’s great! You’ve been endlessly surfing the web to find the perfect design for your first project. You found one you love, and now you want a piece of the action! Maybe you’ll make a cute onesie for your best friend’s new baby or a cool shirt to wear to your kid’s games, the options are endless, but like most people, you probably don’t know where to start. The process may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be making your own pieces in no time! Actually, you may end up making shirts for everyone and their mother (just don’t forget your own mother–moms love handmade gifts from their kids, no matter what their age ).
We know the first cut is always the hardest, so we came up with a guide to jumpstart you from square one. Design software, cutting machines, HTV, weeding tools, it can all seem pretty daunting. You have lots of great ideas of what to make, but you’re a little short on the confidence to execute. Fear not, because we have put together a guide that will make the entire process a breeze.
Step One: Preparing Your Design and Cut Files
The first step is deciding exactly what is it that you want to design. We suggest starting with something simple. The easiest way to start is by downloading ready to cut files. There are seriously thousands out there! Etsy is a great place to checkout. Simply pay a few dollars to download a design. If you are using a Silhouette, you can check out the Silhouette Studio Shop and download designs right to your computer. Once you start searching the hard part won’t be where to find designs but which ones to turn into a shirt. Most designs are only a few dollars, but that can start to add up, so you may also want to search for some free cut files on Google or Pinterest. Lucky for you, we here at ImPRESSED Vinyl have our own club that offers free SVG files just from being a member. Once you’ve found the perfect design, it’s time to get started in your design software.
If you haven’t already done this part, now is the time to download the software that came with your cutting machine. We are big fans of the Silhouette Cameo, and as mentioned we love Silhouette Studio; we find it to be very user-friendly and great place for beginners. Cricut Design Space is also very easy to learn. Dabble around and decide which one is the most user-friendly for you!
Step Two: Scaling the Design
Once you have your design picked out and loaded in the software, it’s time to determine the scale of the design according to what you will be applying it to. You can use HTV on many different mediums: hats, sweatshirts, bags, you name it! As I am sure you guessed, the most popular route is the basic t-shirt. Since you will probably be making those more than anything, you want to take a peek at our Tshirt Scale Cheat Sheet found here. This is a great guide to print out and keep with your vinyl.
**PRO TIP FOR BEGINNERS: Start small by going big! Use a t-shirt or large tote bag to use in your first design, so you have a lot of room to operate. You want to use a garment that you are comfortable with and one that wouldn’t be devastating if you don’t quite get it right.
Step Three: Mirroring
Mirror, Mirror before you press because this is the most important step! Especially when using HTV mirroring is vital for your design to transfer correctly. If your design isn’t mirrored before you transfer, the words or design will come out backward and unreadable. So, no matter what program you are using to create your design, make sure you mirror it before printing otherwise you’ll have to start right back at square one!
**PRO TIP FOR BEGINNERS: If you’re using Silhouette Studio (our favorite program) to mirror you simply right click your design and choose “Flip Horizontally.”
Step Four: Weeding Boxes
The final step in creating your design is preparing the weeding boxes. These are boxes that go around your design that helps weeding go smoothly. What is weeding? Well, that’s the process of removing all the excess vinyl away from your design before application. Weeding boxes exist to minimize wasted vinyl and ensure that leftover vinyl sheets can be used (meaning no more funky cut outs making sheets virtually unusable). Weeding boxes are made using the rectangle drawing tool in your design program.
**PRO TIP FOR BEGINNERS: Don’t draw your weeding box too close to your design. It would be best to leave about a half inch around the design.
Rome wasn’t built in one day, and similarly, your finished product won’t take just one step. You can find Part 2 (Cutting) and Part 3 (Application) here. We hope that this series can help you begin learning and loving heat transfer vinyl crafting.
Love getting tips and tricks on all things HTV? Make sure to check back for new content each week. Also, don’t forget to join our Insider’s Club to receive information on promotions, giveaways, and FREE SVG files.