By Savannah Sher | Published Aug 19, 2022 11:41 AM
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Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) used to be relegated to commercial use, but with the increased popularity of at-home cutting machines—such as the Cricut—the possibilities have become endless. Unlike standard adhesive vinyl, which works like a sticker, heat transfer vinyl permanently affixes the vinyl to another material. HTV is designed specifically for use on clothing, hats, bags, and other items made of porous materials.
Shopping for heat transfer vinyl online, however, can quickly become overwhelming because so many options are available at a wide range of prices. This article breaks down what to look for and discusses the key considerations to keep in mind when shopping for the best heat transfer vinyl.
Keep reading for tips on choosing the best option, and explore our curated picks for some of the best heat transfer vinyl for your arts-and-crafts projects.
Although it’s easy to assume that all heat transfer vinyl offers similar performance, several factors affect its functionality. Keep reading to learn about the important features to consider when choosing a heat transfer vinyl.
A primary consideration for most users when choosing heat transfer vinyl is ease of use. This is particularly relevant for beginners. Before choosing an HTV, consider the ease of cutting it, weeding it, and transferring it. Since this won’t be immediately evident when looking at the product’s specifications, it’s best to look to user reviews to establish how easily others could work with the HTV.
Generally speaking, however, thinner HTV is easier to cut, both by hand and with a machine, and also tends to be easier to transfer. Each sheet of heat transfer vinyl features an adhesive backing that the crafter must remove as the final step in the process. Some backings are designed to be removed soon after pressing, when the material is still warm, while others are designed for removal only once the project has cooled completely.
When shopping for heat transfer vinyl, one of the first decisions to make is the desired color. HTV rolls feature a single color, whereas some sheets come in variety packs that include a wide assortment of colors, allowing users to experiment until they find the perfect design. The disadvantage of these packs is that they typically feature only a small quantity of each color, so rolls will likely work best for large projects.
Along with its standard colors, HTV comes in specialty finishes such as metallics, glitter, puffed vinyl, and flocked designs. These unique finishes are occasionally available to try in multipacks of HTV sheets.
Heat transfer vinyl comes in either rolls or sheets, depending on the quantity. Both sheets and rolls come in a standard width of 12 inches, but their length varies. Sheets tend to have lengths of 10 or 12 inches to fit on standard cutting-machine mats, which typically measure 12 inches long by 12 inches wide.
The thickness of heat transfer vinyl has a major impact on how easy it is to work with. A thinner material is easier to cut and weed (removing excess pieces). Medium-weight HTV measures 0.35 millimeters (mm), and heavy-weight HTV measures 0.5 mm. Look for a thin HTV with a thickness of 0.25 mm for the best results when handling the material.
One of the top considerations when choosing heat transfer vinyl is durability. It’s important that the material won’t crack, bubble, or fade over time. Since HTV is often used for adding designsto clothing, it’s essential that it can stand up to repeated washing. Opt for high-performance HTV products, which are designed to stretch with clothing as it’s worn. Some brands will outline how many washes their vinyl can withstand as well as the ideal water temperature to use to ensure durability.
When designing items that don’t need to be washed frequently—such as hats and tote bags—users can opt for more affordable heat transfer vinyl options since they don’t need to be as durable.
With all that’s been covered about heat transfer vinyl, it’s time to start shopping. The following are the top picks for the best HTV.
Those getting started with using heat transfer vinyl and looking for an excellent color variety should consider this multipack from J and J Packaging. The set includes 42 sheets, each of which measures 12 inches long by 10 inches wide. The sheets are easy to weed and are made from thin material that adheres well to a wide variety of materials. The vinyl is machine washable, and according to the manufacturer’s internal testing, garments printed using their heat transfer vinyl can be washed more than 50 times at 40-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures without becoming damaged.
This pack comes with 32 colors, with five sheets each of white and black. The additional colors include neutrals such as cream and brown, metallic hues such as gold and silver, and a selection of neon-bright shades.
Get the J and J Packaging heat transfer vinyl on Amazon.
Once the user has decided on a design and is looking for a larger quantity of a single color of heat transfer vinyl, these rolls from HTVRONT are an excellent budget pick. Each roll is 60 inches in length and 12 inches in width, providing plenty of material for your next creative endeavor. The vinyl is suitable for use on a wide variety of materials, including cotton, polyester, Lycra, spandex, and sports mesh.
The pack offers a variety of colors, from basics such as black and white to metallics such as rose gold. The vinyl is easy to peel and weed and offers excellent adherence. As an added bonus, this affordable heat transfer vinyl is Standard Global Services certified as being eco-friendly.
Get the HTVRONT heat transfer vinyl on Amazon.
Siser is known for making some of the highest-quality heat transfer vinyl on the market. The polyurethane-based material the brand uses is flexible and easy to work with, and weeding the vinyl is a breeze.
This set is unique in that it allows shoppers to choose 5 colors to mix and match from a wide variety of color options, including those with both glitter and standard finishes. Buyers will receive five sheets of HTV with their purchase. The standard sheets measure 14.75 inches long by 12 inches wide, while the glitter sheets are slightly smaller, at 9.75 inches long by 12 inches wide.
Get the Siser heat transfer vinyl on Amazon.
Those looking for a wide color selection will appreciate the variety offered in this multipack from Caregy. The kit includes 75 HTV sheets, each of which measures 12 inches long by 10 inches wide. Users can try a total of 57 colors, including standard finish options as well as sheets of holographic, leopard print, and camouflage HTV. The standard sheets work with either hot or cold peeling, while the holographic sheets should be cold peeled for the best results.
This HTV has been tested for durability by being washed 50 times at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As an added bonus, it comes with a pair of tweezers to make weeding easier.
Get the Caregy heat transfer vinyl on Amazon.
Although many brands of standard heat transfer vinyl are designed for use on sports jerseys and uniforms, there are also dedicated products designed specifically for that purpose. The Cricut SportFlex Iron-On Vinyl is meant to be used on nylon and polyester fabrics as well as on other activewear. It’s ultraflexible because it’s designed to move with the body for sports, yoga, and other exercises. It’s also durable and can withstand more than 50 washes.
This product comes in individual rolls measuring 24 inches long by 11.8 inches wide. Buyers can choose from a variety of available colors, including standard finish and metallic options.
Get the Cricut heat transfer vinyl on Amazon or at Michaels.
Metallic heat transfer vinyl creates a striking look on clothing, hats, bags, and other accessories. Although metallic HTV can be used alone, it can also be layered with standard-finish vinyl for a unique effect. This option from Tvinyl comes in packs of either 5 or 10 sheets, each of which measures 12 inches long by 10 inches wide.
Shoppers can choose from 17 colors, including standard metallics such as gold, silver, and bronze, and more unusual options such as rainbow silver. It’s compatible with cotton, polyester, and cotton/polyester blends, though it shouldn’t be used on more delicate fabrics. The backing can be either hot or cold peeled, making it easy to use.
Get the Tvinyl heat transfer vinyl on Amazon.
Glitter-finish heat transfer vinyl has endless applications, from kids’ clothes to glam gear for grown-ups. This multipack from Sghuo comes with 12 sheets in 10 assorted colors, but single colors—such as silver, gold, black, and red—can also be purchased. Each sheet measures 12 inches long by 10 inches wide and is designed with high elasticity, making it easy to use and durable once applied to clothing.
This HTV is designed to be cold peeled, so the backing should be removed 15 to 30 seconds after heat pressing it onto the fabric. It offers strong adhesion and is machine washable, ensuring the design won’t crack or fade.
Get the Sghuo heat transfer vinyl on Amazon.
After reviewing this guide, you now know more about purchasing and using the best heat transfer vinyl for your projects. We recommend J and J Packaging heat transfer vinyl because it includes a wide variety of colors, making it perfect for beginners. For those on a budget, HTVRONT heat transfer vinyl offers a high quantity of a single color.
Years of experience covering home goods and crafting supplies, as well as extensive product research, went into creating this guide. We explored more than 25 heat transfer vinyl options and weighed several practical considerations before making our recommendations.
Though shoppers now know more about choosing the best heat transfer vinyl, they may still be unsure of how to use it. The following tips and tricks should ensure flawless-looking HTV designs every time.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about using heat transfer vinyl.
Specialty heat transfer vinyl is needed in order to conduct a heat transfer. Standard adhesive vinyl is not compatible with this application method.
The matte side of the heat transfer vinyl goes up, and the glossier side goes down. The adhesive (matte) side is the side that gets cut.
Although a heat press makes the process easier, heat transfer vinyl can also be applied with an iron. When making commercial products, however, it’s advisable to use a heat press because it will produce more consistent and durable results.
Some HTV is printable, but it is not compatible with standard home printers. This type of HTV must be used with a printer that uses solvent, eco solvent, or latex ink.
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