Working With T-Shirt Transfer Vinyl: What You Need to Know

Working With T-Shirt Transfer Vinyl: What You Need to Know
Authored By Michael Soltis 0 Comment(s)

Whether you are doing it as a hobby or business, there is a lot of fun to be had with t-shirt transfer vinyl. With a few inexpensive items to get you started and a little creativity, you can make one-of-a-kind t-shirts for yourself, friends and family, or clients. Today we will look at some things you need to know when working with t-shirt transfer vinyl.

You must choose between a heat press and iron

The choice between a heat press and a household iron when working with t-shirt transfer vinyl comes down to how often you will use it. An iron takes longer and can be harder to calibrate, while a press is efficient and creates superior results. However, you don’t need to buy a press if you are going to make just a few t-shirts for yourself or for a team event. Presses are an investment better suited to a business, side hustle, or person that wants to use t-shirt vinyl on the majority of their clothes.

Different materials require different heat settings

To get the best results, you must match your material with its optimal heat setting. For common fabrics this will range between 250◦F – 400◦F. Some aspects that affect the temperature include the inclusion of glitter, working with metallics, photo transfer, and if you are using light or dark fabrics. If you have a heat press for t-shirt transfer vinyl, see the manufacturer’s instructions for temperature settings. Sources vary as to the best settings, but ballpark figures are: 445◦F for linen; 400◦F for cotton; 300◦F for silk; and 275◦F for acrylic, spandex, and nylon.

You may be able to remove a scorch mark

A scorch mark on the fabric now and then is inevitable. However, if you act fast, you may be able to remove it and save your shirt. Start by putting laundry soap or regular white vinegar on the spot and rub in the liquid with your fingers. Brush away any charred bits that come off the fabric but be gentle – you don’t want to rub a hole into the spot. Wash the area in hot water or put the shirt through a hot laundry cycle. Remember, however, that this method may not work if the scorch mark is severe, and solvents like vinegar can discolor dark fabrics. It’s best to have a few backup t-shirts on hand just in case you scorch or make a mistake on one.

Choose between light and dark t-shirt transfer paper

T-shirt transfer vinyl comes in light and dark. This gives you a better range of t-shirt colors to work with. Basically, if your design is a darker shade than the fabric, use light transfer paper. If the design is lighter than the fabric, use dark transfer paper. The weights of the paper are different. Transfer paper for light fabrics is thinner so the image blends better onto the surface. Dark fabric t-shirt transfer vinyl is thicker so the underlying fabric doesn’t show through your design.


T-shirt transfer vinyl can give you some issues if you have not paid attention to your setup, heat levels, and work area. Just some of the things to watch out for include forgetting to set the printer to the right setting for photo or transparency paper (which prints t-shirt transfer vinyl better than the regular printer setting), not setting the printer to its highest resolution, working on an uneven surface, working on a non-heat safe surface, forgetting to remove the t-shirt transfer vinyl backing (this is more common than you think!) and more. For a comprehensive list of 23 common mistakes when using t-shirt transfer paper, click here.

There is a drying and setting process

It doesn’t take long to do the actual transfer and the result is nearly dry to the touch, but you cannot wear or wash the shirt right away. T-shirt transfer vinyl takes about 24 hours to set and must be stored flat while setting. Also avoid washing the shirt for 24 hours after it is done. If you have scorched it and will be trying to fix it using the method above, washing too early could affect the quality, fade, and permanency of your design.

Dryer-safe T-shirt transfer vinyl is available

If you don’t like air drying your clothes and want something that stands up in the dryer, choose a t-shirt transfer vinyl designed to maintain colorfastness and durability while in the wash/dry cycle. This type of vinyl is elastic to expand and contract slightly with temperature changes; stiffer materials tend to crack instead. A good t-shirt transfer vinyl will also have anti-fade properties, so your design looks great for months – maybe even years!

It’s not just for t-shirts

Since t-shirt transfer vinyl works on a variety of materials, you can have a lot of fun enhancing jeans, jackets, ball caps, and more. Use your own designs, have a fun family craft night with the kids, make up team jerseys, create band merch – there is so much you can do with t-shirt transfer vinyl, so get creative and have fun!


Use t-shirt transfer vinyl for your hobby or business. Depending on how frequently you will make t-shirts or other items, choose between a household iron or a heat press. An iron is good for small, infrequent projects. A press is better for small businesses, side gigs, and larger volumes of work. Match the temperature setting to the fabric. If using a press, follow the manufacture’s guidelines. If you scorch the fabric, don’t despair. You may be able to remove the burn by rubbing it with laundry detergent or distilled white vinegar, then washing it in hot water. However, it is best to have a few backup t-shirts just in case of a mistake like a burn or incomplete transfer. T-shirt transfer vinyl is formulated for light or dark fabrics. This is to ensure a smooth transfer that works well with the background. Take some steps early on for the best results. These steps include setting up your printer for high-resolution printing and having a clean, flat, heat-safe work surface. Don’t wash or wear your design right away. Wait for 24 hours. Choose t-shirt transfer vinyl that is washer/dryer safe for longer lasting results. T-shirt transfer vinyl can be used to enhance other items of clothing. Be creative and have fun.

Ready to get started? Royal Elements sells t-shirt transfer vinyl, printable vinyl, and adhesive vinyl, along with transfer tape, laminating sheets, magnetic sheets, and more in our online store – and our blog has plenty of design tips. 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).

Visit and today to learn more.


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