Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl: Answers to Common Problems

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Cover Image

Hey Crafters!  Whether you’re a seasoned crafter or a total newbie, everyone encounters problems once in a while with their projects. Today we will be answering some common questions that crafters have when it comes to using Heat Transfer Vinyl. So follow along while we make a cute fall tea towel and troubleshoot common HTV problem areas such as backward cuts, weeding issues, missing Teflon, and trouble with the vinyl adhering to your material.

Supplies Needed:

ImPRESSED Vinyl™ heat transfer vinyl
Teflon sheet
Cutting machine (I used a Silhouette Cameo)
-Weeding hook or craft tweezers
-Home iron or heat press
Blank tea towels

STEP ONE: Create 

Open your computer software program (I used Silhouette Studio) and either create your design from scratch or import a file. Here I used a fun file from the Silhouette Design Store. Now with Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV), you MUST mirror your image. This is because we cut on the backside of the material, not the clear carrier sheet.

Right-click your design and select flip horizontally.

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Create Image

As you can see, the original heat transfer vinyl design on top is now mirrored on the bottom. The bottom design that is selected in blue is the one we want to cut.

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Mirrored Image

Problem: Your design cut backwards.
Solution: Remember to mirror your image before cutting. Don’t forget to remove the original from the design screen before you send it to cut. 

STEP TWO: Cut & Weed 

Once your image is mirrored, go to your cut settings and select Heat Transfer, Smooth. Remember to adjust your blade accordingly.

Time to get your HTV ready. Notice there is a glossy/shiny side and a dull/matte side.

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Peeling Carrier Sheet

The shiny side is a clear plastic carrier sheet that holds the heat transfer vinyl in place. We don’t want to cut on this side. The dull side is the actual vinyl. It is the adhesive side but only sticks with heat. This is the side we want to cut on – make sure to always place the shiny side DOWN onto your cutting mat.

Load your mat into the cutting machine and let it go to work!

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Cutting Vinyl

Once your design has been cut, start to weed (peel) away the heat transfer vinyl that is not part of the design. This part sometimes causes issues for crafters. Look at the picture below. Here we have a design that will not weed correctly.

Problem: Design didn’t cut all the way through and is difficult to weed
Solution: There are several reasons this could happen:

  • Your blade is dull or chipped

  • The cut settings were not correct for the material

  • There are scrap pieces stuck next to the blade 

When using a new brand of HTV it is worth spending a few extra minutes to determine the correct cut settings before proceeding. You can find recommended cut settings for imPRESSED Vinyl HTV hereSome machine settings may need to be adjusted, based on the brand of vinyl. Each brand varies slightly in thickness of the vinyl.  This is why you should ALWAYS do a test cut in the corner before cutting the entire design. If your blade is dull, you’ll want to manually adjust the depth until you get a clean cut. Use a needle to make sure inside your blade has no scrap pieces of vinyl or paper stuck on it.

If you get a clean cut, weeding should go smoothly. Your design should stay put on the carrier sheet and all the excess vinyl that is not part of the design will pull up easily. Use a weeding hook or a pair of craft tweezers to weed (peel) out the insides of the letters.

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Difficult to Weed 1

Once your design has been weeded, it should look like this. Don’t worry that it’s backward. We mirrored the design so that is what we want!

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Properly Weeded

STEP FOUR:  Application

Now that our design is weeded, it’s time to bring on the heat! Turn on your home iron to cotton settings with no steam. If using a heat press or an Cricut EasyPress™,  follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for heat settings. You can find recommended heat settings for imPRESSED Vinyl HTV here

Pre-press your towel and to remove any moisture and iron out any wrinkles. We want a smooth, wrinkle-free surface to work with.

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Iron

Take your weeded design and place it right-side-up where you want it on the towel. You can move it around as much as you’d like (until heat is added to it).

Once it is placed where you want it, place a Teflon sheet over your design and press for 20-25 seconds each area. Why use a Teflon sheet? Well, a Teflon sheet helps to protect your design during heat application. It also helps to distribute the heat which helps release the transfer from the carrier sheet. If you are using a hand-held iron or an Cricut EasyPress™,  make sure you adding adequate pressure during application as well.

Remember when using a home iron or Cricut EasyPress™ with HTV we are not ironing like we normally do with a shirt, going back and forth. With HTV we are pressing and holding for the allotted time, then lifting the iron and pressing again onto the next area. The HTV needs time for the adhesive to be activated by the heat and adhere to your material.

Problem: I don’t have a Teflon sheet
Solution: If you don’t have a Teflon sheet, a thin cloth or piece of parchment paper will work as well. The purpose is to create a heat barrier so you don’t burn your HTV from the direct heat of the iron.

STEP FIVE: Removing The Carrier Sheet 

Seems straightforward right?  Well not all HTV is created equal.  It’s important to know if the brand you are working with is hot or cold peel. Our brand of HTV, imPRESSED Vinyl, is COLD peel. This means the design needs to cool off at least 1 minute before attempting to peel off the carrier sheet. Otherwise, your vinyl will lift off, as shown below:

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl Remove Carrier Sheet

We do not want that! Here is another view of a design that was heated enough time, but did not cool yet. As you can see, the adhesive starts to lift off as well:

Troubleshooting Heat Transfer Vinyl HTV not sticking not adhering

Problem: My heat transfer vinyl keeps lifting off when I try to peel the carrier sheet off
Solution: Here are several reasons why your vinyl may not be sticking:

  • You’re peeling it off before it has completely cooled

  • You did not give the HTV enough time to adhere (some heavy materials require a little more press time)

  • Your iron isn’t hot enough

  • You’re not applying enough pressure during application 

  • You’ve pressed TOO long and the vinyl has melted and will not stick

Alright, once your vinyl is applied properly and you have allowed the design to cool (45-60 seconds), you can now carefully peel off the clear carrier sheet, revealing the finished product!

Sometimes everything looks perfect, but that’s not always the case.

Problem: My heat transfer vinyl is starting to peel off after going through the washing machine
Solution: Sounds like your vinyl didn’t adhere very well. Be sure to add enough heat and pressure for a solid press on your fabric. For longer-lasting HTV designs, wash inside out in cool/warm water. Avoid very hot water & the dryer.

A good adhesion will sometimes be noticeable by the little grooves of the fabric material showing through the vinyl.

So there you have it! Hopefully, the above tips will help you avoid the typical HTV pitfalls. We hope you now have the answers you need to move forward with confidence.

Happy crafting and…


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