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  Getting Started Guide · Basics of Heat Transfer Vinyl · Comparison Chart · Troubleshooting Help · Pressing Instructions · Vinyl Cutters

Getting Started with Heat Transfer Vinyl

Heat transfer vinyl allows you to create attractive, professional custom clothing with NO printing involved! Simply attach a vinyl cutter to your computer, pick out your desired vinyl material, and send your image/design from your vector or cutting software to the cutter to create the transfer. When the cutter is done cutting, peel away the excess material and press -- it's that easy!
What You Need

Heat transfer vinyl

Artwork (one or two color logos, lettering, etc is best!)

A vinyl cutter or plotter

Heat press

Blank garment

Weeding tool

Teflon sheet
Which Vinyl To Use?

Coastal Business Supplies offers a huge variety of heat transfer vinyls and it may be a little overwhelming at first!

For most projects, a standard heat transfer vinyl such as Easyweed Heat Transfer Vinyl or Digi-Cut PU Heat Transfer Vinyl will be perfectly sufficient. They work great on cotton and polyester garments, including hoodies, hats, sweatpants, and t-shirts, as well as our fabric imprintables such as totebags!

Coastal Business also carries the Cadflex Heat Transfer Material, which is an excellent and durable material perfect for transferring onto athletic jerseys and uniforms, and other large-surface single color applications. It's offered at a more affordable price point for large team-wide jobs, and the thicker material has excellent durability, perfect for heavy-wear conditions.

For application to workout clothing or anything in general that needs to have some flexibility and some stretch, Easyweed Stretch Heat Transfer Vinyl is the vinyl that you would probably consider. It can be applied to performance wear blends, including Lycra and spandex, and the vinyl itself is able to stretch liberally with the fabric below for no wrinkling or tearing!

Many folks also use heat transfer vinyl on nylon surfaces, such as awnings, and also leather, but these particular blends are difficult to transfer on. On a job using a material such as this, we recommend the use of Easyweed Extra Heat Transfer Vinyl which has an extra-strong adhesive for binding to difficult textiles.

Coastal Business also offers a multitude of other specialty vinyls, such as glitter vinyls, metallic vinyls, flock vinyls, and reflective vinyls.

Looking for printable heat transfer vinyl for garments? Click here to view information about solvent printers, printing, and transfers!
Designing With Vinyl

When creating vinyl transfers, starting with a vector or vectorized image is best. This can be designed in any software, but some popular vector programs are Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, and Inkscape. It's important to think ahead when designing how your image will be cut into the vinyl, and this is especially true with designs with multiple colors on different layers. Full-color images with shading and highlighting don't often translate well to be a vector transfer, and since there is no printing, you cannot achieve any photo transfers. For example, in the below images, the flower on the right would be an image you could easily vectorize and create a vinyl transfer from, but the flower on the right involves too many colors and gradients in color to be able to create with heat transfer vinyl.

Good design for vinyl
Would be more complex
   to vectorize or create
Could not be done with vinyl
Good design for vinyl
Would be more complex
   to vectorize or create

When using multiple colors, you will have to think of your image as composed of layers, with smaller details or sections of different color overlaid on top of the larger flat image. These larger layers are pressed first, with the top layers pressed last. For example, if you were to create a multi-color flower image like the example above, you would have to create your design as such:

A shirt that looks
like this..
... Starts out in multiple
layers like this!

Cutting Heat Transfer Vinyl

Heat transfer vinyl is often sold on a roll with the cuttable side wound inside, but always doublecheck this just to be sure. You will load the material into the cutter with the cuttable side facing upwards, and the clear plastic carrier underneath. If you're not sure what side to cut onto, pull the material away from the corner slightly to determine which layer is the clear plastic and which layer is the vinyl. You will always cut the vinyl only, never the clear plastic carrier. Once the pinch rollers are clamped down, we highly suggest using the "TEST" function of your specific cutter to do a quick cut that will help you determine if you need to adjust your cutting force.

General Cutting Force Settings

Standard Vinyls 16-17 60-70 g/f
Glitter Vinyls 21-23 120-140 g/f
Flock Vinyls 19-21 90-110 g/f
Reflective Vinyls 18-20 90-110 g/f
All settings are assuming that you are using a new 45* blade, with proper blade extension, and a low speed setting (ie: around 10). They're not exact by any means, but a good close estimate for you to begin doing test cuts at.

All vinyls can be cut with a new 45* degree blade, but for some vinyls, such as flock, glitter, and reflective, we strongly recommend using a 60* degree blade instead. This will allow more precise cuts for more detailed designs on these thicker vinyls, as well as longer lifespan for that blade. Cutting thick materials with a 45* degree blade will work, but it will dull it much faster than normal.

It's also important to note that when cutting your designs with heat transfer vinyl, you must ALWAYS cut in reverse. This is because you are cutting onto the backside of the vinyl, and the clear plastic liner is attached to the front/top of the vinyl material.

For more information on cutting with vinyl cutters, click here!
Weeding Heat Transfer Vinyl

After your material has been cut completely, cut the sheet from the roll and begin the wonderful process that is weeding! Weeding is simply peeling away and removing all the excess vinyl that you do not plan to transfer from the clear carrier. It's incredibly easy to do, just a little time-consuming until you become a pro at the technique. Using a weeding tool, palette knife, dental pick, or even tweezers can make the task infinitely easier as well.

If working with lettering or complex designs, it can be easier to remove all the smallest inside pieces first, and then the large outer area of excess material first. If it's hard to imagine what that means, this visual might help clear it up a little:

Sheet of vinyl with design
cut into the material.

Remove the smallest
elements first...

...and then the entire outside!

One common issue that people run into when weeding designs is that on smaller lettering or more intricate designs the vinyl does not weed cleanly or lay flat on the plastic carrier. For designs that are highly detailed, we recommend using a vinyl with a stickier clear carrier, such as Easyweed Heat Transfer Vinyl.

Pressing Heat Transfer Vinyl

Once you've completely weeded out the transfer, all that's left is to press it to the garment. At this point you would have in your hand a reverse of your image cut into the vinyl material, held on a clear plastic backing that at this point will act as a transfer tape. Simply flip this over, and lay it onto the garment laid out onto a heat press---prepared at the time listed on the vinyl's instructions---and position it where you like, making sure that the clear carrier is on top (it will be the much glossier side of the two). Once in position, press for the instructed amount of time. Depending on whether the vinyl is a hot peel or cold peel material, you may have to wait before removing the carrier from the top.

When pressing two or more colors onto a garment, we recommend you press the first color layer(s) for about half the amount of time usually recommended (with Easyweed vinyl, you can press for about 2-3 seconds), and the final layer for the full amount of time. You can technically add as many layers of vinyl as you want, but after about 3 layers on top of one another, comfort becomes a factor. When working with designs with a great amount of detail, and especially layers that need to be specifically aligned with others, we recommend using Easyweed Heat Transfer Vinyl. This vinyl in particular is exceptional with multiple layers because the adhesive bonds very quickly, allowing you to press for a short amount of time without any change in the shape of the vinyl. It is also a hot peel material, and being able to remove the carrier easily without pulling the fabric around the transfer is especially important when specific alignment is key.