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Looking to make your own t-shirt designs? Then you need heat transfer vinyl. This is the sticker vinyl that uses a heat source (iron or press) to transfer a design to fabric. There are a lot of ways to have fun with heat transfer vinyl while making your own unique apparel but looks aren’t everything! You must be sure your transfer withstands washing, wear, and the dryer. Today we will look at how to make your heat transfer vinyl last longer, but first, an overview of how to use this special material.
Heat transfer vinyl vs adhesive vinyl
Do not confuse heat transfer vinyl with adhesive vinyl. Adhesive vinyl is the type of sticker cut from a sheet and adhered to a surface with transfer tape. While it can be used on fabric, it is way more suited to stiff fabrics on signs or other firm, immovable surfaces. Adhesive vinyl will sit on fabric, whereas heat transfer vinyl fuses with fabric. For t-shirts, always choose heat transfer vinyl. We did an in-depth blog about this. See it here.
Long lasting transfers
Here are some tips for keeping your transfer looking shiny and new for the long-term.
- Choose the right vinyl. The key to long-lasting heat transfer is starting with a high-quality vinyl. It also comes formulated for dark fabrics, light fabrics, or both. Further, heat transfer vinyl comes formulated for ink jet or laser printers. Since both deploy ink differently (spray vs toner/roller) it’s important to choose the one that works best with your printer.
- Choose the right heat source. For a few t-shirts or as a home hobby, a household iron is just fine. While it takes a bit more work to calibrate and doesn’t get as hot as a heat press, it can and will do the job. If you are making large batches of t-shirts or making shirts for sale, invest in a heat press. They are faster than an iron, reach higher temperatures, and deliver outstanding results consistently. However, this brings us to our next point, which is all about temperatures.
- Use the right amount of heat. Before going for that heat press, decide what kind of fabric you’ll be working with. You may not need all the heat the press can produce. You may be better off with a high-grade iron. For example, delicate fabrics like acrylic, nylon and spandex only need about 275◦F for the transfer. Silk is slightly heartier and can take up to 300◦F. Cotton is very durable and uses about 400◦F, and linen is the heavyweight champ able to take a good 445◦F.
- Be patient after the transfer: You’ve completed your first transfer and it looks great! But hold on – don’t wear it right away. Avoid wearing, washing, folding, etc. for at least 24 hours. This gives the fabric and the transfer time to fully bond and cool.
- Wash with care: For the finished product, avoid soaking your t-shirt. If you get a stain, spot clean the area instead. Use mild soaps, no bleach and no fabric softener. Turn it inside out to wash. Use the delicate cycle and dry on low heat. Avoid the iron too! Ironing over an already set transfer can ruin it. If, for some reason, if it has wrinkled up in the wash, try smoothing it out as soon as it comes out of the dryer and is still a little warm.
- Hang it up: Help keep your shirt looking new by hanging it up when you are not wearing it. Remember, vinyl is a type of plastic albeit a flexible one. If it’s in a crumbled heap on the floor or the bottom of the laundry pile, that is going to affect it over time.
You can make your own t-shirts by using heat transfer vinyl. Extend the life of your design by choosing the right vinyl for your printer and fabric, choosing between an iron or heat press, using the best amount of heat for the fabric of your choice, not wearing or washing the t-shirt for 24 hours, washing with care and hanging up the t-shirt when not in use. With these tips your heat transfer vinyl will look fresh and new for a long time.
Ready to get started? Royal Elements has everything you need. Our online store sells printable vinyl, adhesive vinyl, and heat transfer vinyl along with transfer tape, laminating sheets, magnetic sheets, and more. We love to see the projects you make using Royal Elements products. Post your results online with the hashtag #royalelementsstickers so we can feature your designs on our social networks (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube).