HTV ─ what does HTV mean?

HTV is an acronym for Heat Transfer Vinyl. HTV also goes by a number of different names including HTV vinyl, iron on vinyl, heat press vinyl, iron on heat transfer vinyl or t shirt vinyl. Don’t let all these vaguely related terms confuse you though because they all refer to the same heat transfer material. Read on for your ultimate guide to heat transfer vinyl.

What is HTV? The low down on heat transfer vinyl

HTV crafts – decorating t shirts with heat transfer vinyl

HTV is a polyurethane material that is used widely for decorating textiles, apparel as well as non-textile consumer products. The most common use of HTV that you can see around you is in t shirt printing. Heat transfer vinyl is widely used to decorate t shirts, fabric and other apparel with all types, sizes and colours of designs and letters. HTV is a very popular medium for industrial apparel decoration. However due to its low costs, speed of application and endless design options, heat transfer vinyl has also become a popular go-to decorative medium by small industries and home-based crafters.

How to use HTV? The process of heat transfer vinyl explained

HTV or heat transfer vinyl is actually a very thin sheet of polyurethane material that is temporarily stuck onto a stiff plastic backing for support. It first needs to be precisely cut to create the design or text you need on your garment, and then it needs to be ‘weeded’ to get rid of the unwanted HTV pieces surrounding the cut. Finally it needs to be heat pressed with a lot of pressure on to the desired fabric. The heat causes the polyurethane material to melt and the pressure transfers and embeds the melted material into the fibres of the fabric being decorated. Once the HTV has been heat pressed on to the fabric, the stiff plastic backing can be peeled away to reveal the final design or text.

A quick guide on cutting heat transfer vinyl

When considering how to cut heat transfer vinyl to create custom heat press transfers, it is important to remember two main things:

Heat press design – always use a mirror image
  1. You must only cut the HTV and not the supporting plastic sheet
  2. You must cut a mirror image of the heat press vinyl design that you want to transfer because you will be pressing it face down on to your desired fabric.

While you can always cut out the heat transfer vinyl using a pair of scissors, you can only get quick and precise results using an electric vinyl cutter. The range and price of vinyl cutters vary widely and the subject deserves a separate post in itself. For now, suffice it to say that as long as you keep the two points above in mind, you should be able to cut and use HTV without any major problems.

The main heat transfer supplies you need for your HTV crafts: the vinyl cutter and heat press

Electric vinyl cutter

We have already talked about electric vinyl cutters and how they can make quick work of cutting heat transfer vinyl. But what do you do once you have cut your HTV? Do you simply move on to a heat press? The answer is no, because you need to weed your design next. For this, you will need a hooked weeding tool designed especially for weeding vinyl by helping you pick and peel off the excess HTV pieces. It looks very much like a dentist’s tool!

HTV weeding tool

Following this, you can move on to your vinyl heat press machine.

What is a vinyl heat press?

Heat press machine

Simply put, it is a machine with two padded plates that can be clamped shut really tightly. The plates also heat up to a high temperature. When you place your HTV on top of a fabric and clamp it between the plates of the heat press, the HTV melts away from its backing plastic sheet and seeps into the fabric, thus transferring your design on to the fabric.

Which heat transfer vinyl press should you buy? Everything you need to know before purchasing your first heat press machine

There is a wide variety of heat press machines on the market. As a crafter though, it is important to identify which kind of heat press will be suitable for your needs. For example a cheap heat press might not necessarily be the best one for your purposes; however a commercial heat press would also be too big or too expensive for your needs.

Swing away heat press

As a home-based crafter though, the best heat press for vinyl will generally be small and compact to allow you to store it away easily. We suggest your consider the classic swing away heat press wherein the top heated plate completely swivels away from the bottom one. Once you have laid down your heat press designs on the fabric, you can swing the top plate back into position and then press and lock it in place. This protects your knuckles from getting singed from the heated top plate! For example the quiet book projects you see on this website were made using this compact swing away heat press which is perfect for domestic use.

Besides, if you are in the market for a heat press, don’t shy away from looking around and even considering a used heat press machine. It might end up saving you a tonne of money compared to buying a new heat press.

Two more crucial heat press supplies to get your HTV crafts off the ground

Getting into HTV crafts is great fun, but you need to have all the basic supplies at hand. You might have the best vinyl cutting machine and the best heat press, but you also need the following two essential heat press supplies to get on with your HTV crafts.

PTFE sheet

PTFE sheet or Teflon sheet

A PTFE sheet, also called Teflon sheet or Teflon fabric, is a heat proof fabric that you must lay on top of your HTV inside the heat press, before pressing your custom heat transfer vinyl designs. The PTFE sheet forms a protective barrier between the heated plate and HTV, stopping the heat transfer letters and designs from sticking to the hot plate. Using a Teflon fabric in this way can quickly and easily get you flawless results with your heat transfer printing.

HTV ─ heat transfer vinyl

HTV roll

Of course you cannot create any HTV crafts without heat transfer vinyl! This is something that you need to invest in as an on-going cost of crafting, like people go through paper or glue or sewing thread. You can purchase HTV vinyl rolls or HTV vinyl sheets. However if you have a very specific colour scheme that you will be using for all or most of your HTV crafts, perhaps wholesale vinyl would be the best way to cut down on these on-going variable costs.

For example if you design monochromatic t-shirts, you could purchase black heat transfer vinyl rolls instead of separate sheets or HTV bundles. This would cost you less per unit of HTV used. However remember that cheap iron on vinyl might not necessarily be the best solution to your HTV crafts. It is best to experiment first with either a heat transfer vinyl bundle, or a sample HTV swatch from a wholesale supplier, to figure out what kind of HTV suits your needs.

There are so many different types of HTV available on the market that their classification deserves a separate post in itself. Remember that the best HTV vinyl for you will be the one that you feel most confident about using and that gives you consistently good results every time you create your HTV crafts. With enough initial experimentation, this might just turn out to be a cheerful yet cheap heat transfer vinyl that will give you long lasting satisfactory results in your HTV crafts.

Where to buy HTV vinyl ─ how to ascertain for yourself the best place to buy heat transfer vinyl

Heat press printing has come a long way from its industrial restrictedness. Now there are hundreds of sellers, both online and with physical shops, selling heat press supplies to end users at highly competitive prices. When you first set out to purchase your HTV, you will feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of sellers in the market, each one appearing to offer almost identical products with similar USPs. As a crafter and a buyer though, don’t get bogged down by the variety of HTV vinyl available. Instead, go back to the basics and look carefully at what you need, rather than what is available.

For example if you are just starting out to experiment with HTV crafts, a HTV bundle might be the best route for you. This will give you a wide assortment of different types of HTV samples. You can play with the vinyl cutter and heat press, creating different designs with your HTV bundle, getting a feel of how this craft works. The best place to purchase such HTV bundles would be online marketplaces like Amazon or Ebay where you can easily get cheap HTV vinyl in an array of colours and textures.

Once you have developed enough confidence with HTV crafts and if you are considering creating something larger using more HTV, you might want to look into purchasing iron on vinyl rolls instead of sheets. HTV vinyl rolls might seem more expensive upfront, but because of the relatively larger quantity, the cost of your HTV vinyl per unit will go down, resulting in more cost savings for your large HTV craft projects. It is better to look to a specialist vinyl supplier like GM Crafts for purchasing heat transfer vinyl rolls as you can find a wider variety of HTV here, along with more helpful customer service that is tailored to your needs. Specialist vinyl suppliers also give out discounts on multi-buys as well as periodical sales that can end up saving you £££ in the long run.

Finally if you have decided that you need larger quantities of HTV in specific colours only, it is best to go down the wholesale vinyl route as this is where you will find the greatest cost savings per unit of HTV used. You will have to do some research online as well as make phone calls to suppliers to settle upon your favourite seller. Always remember to first request a sample of the HTV vinyl that you are considering to purchase in bulk. Also keep a careful check on the seller’s quality of customer service. It is important that you only trust a seller with your money who can offer good customer service and advice on your HTV. Remember that the question of where to buy heat transfer vinyl is not as simple as sourcing only the cheapest HTV; you must also get a quality product along with excellent customer service to make your purchase decision a breeze.

You can read about how heat transfer vinyl (HTV) plays a key role in making a quiet book at this link. Happy crafting!