How To Use A Silhouette Cameo: Heat Transfer Vinyl

Heat transfer vinyl is probably my favorite material to use with my Silhouette Cameo. It’s incredibly versatile, it comes in tons of colors, and you can find it in smooth, flocked, or glittery. Plus it sticks to cotton, polyester, and cotton/poly blends, so you can decorate pretty much any fabric items that you want!

If you’re new to your Silhouette cutting machine, this “How To Use A Silhouette Cameo” series is perfect for you! Today we’re covering how to use heat transfer vinyl, so pull up a chair and learn more about this awesome crafting material!

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo - Heat transfer vinyl tutorial

Heat transfer vinyl is perfect for decorating t-shirts, canvas bags, baby onesies, etc. And it’s super easy to use!

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo: Heat Transfer Vinyl

Here’s what you need: (affiliate links below)

The first thing you need is a design to cut out of your heat transfer vinyl. You can use any design you want, as long as your Silhouette can cut it out. But if this is your first time using heat transfer vinyl, I suggest starting with something simple!

If you like the Dr. Seuss quote that I used, you can find it here: Silhouette Studio file

How to cut heat transfer vinyl

Heat transfer material needs to be flipped to a mirror image before cutting. Once you have a design loaded into your Silhouette studio software, click on the graphic, click on the Replicate icon in the toolbar at the top, and choose Mirror Right or Mirror Left.

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo - Heat transfer vinyl tutorial

This will create a mirrored copy of your design; feel free to delete the original design so you don’t accidentally cut out the non-mirrored version!

Once you’re ready to cut out your design, load your heat transfer vinyl into your Silhouette. You can load the material directly into your Silhouette, or you can load it on a cutting mat. If you’re loading the material directly, set the width of your rollers to accommodate the vinyl, place the material on the Silhouette, plastic backing side down, select “Load Media” on the screen of your Silhouette, and push the Enter button to load the material.

If you’re using a smaller piece of heat transfer vinyl, you can stick it on your cutting mat to hold it in place. Place the material on the cutting mat, plastic backing side down, select “Load Cutting Mat” on your Silhouette screen, and push Enter to load the cutting mat.

Then click on the Cut Settings icon in the top toolbar, and choose Heat Transfer Vinyl from the menu. Choose “Smooth” if you’re using smooth heat transfer vinyl, or “Flocked” if you are using flocked or glitter heat transfer vinyl.

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo - Heat transfer vinyl tutorial

Change your blade depth to the indicated setting and click “Cut”. Once your Silhouette is finished cutting, unload the media or cutting mat.

How to apply heat transfer vinyl

Trim the heat transfer vinyl close to your design, cutting through both the plastic backing and the material. Then start weeding away the extra vinyl by pulling it off the plastic backing.

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo - Heat transfer vinyl tutorial

You can use the Silhouette hook tool to weed out smaller pieces of vinyl.

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo - Heat transfer vinyl tutorial

Once you’re done weeding the extra heat transfer vinyl away, place the material on your project with the plastic backing side up. Thanks to mirroring the design before you cut, your image or text should now be facing the correct way!

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo - Heat transfer vinyl tutorial

Now comes the “heat” part of heat transfer vinyl! Turn on your iron, all the way up to the highest setting, and turn off the steam. Place a clean dishcloth over your design and press the hot iron into the design for 45-60 seconds without moving the iron. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s important that you don’t move the iron and apply constant pressure the whole time. (This may singe the dishcloth a bit, so use an old one you don’t care about!)

After 45-60 seconds, lift up the iron and gently peel the plastic backing away from your project. The heat transfer vinyl should remain attached to your project and the backing should easily peel away. If the vinyl is still slightly stuck to the backing, let your project cool down for about 30 seconds, then place the cloth over the design and press the iron into the design again for another 30 seconds or so.

On cotton or polyester, 45-60 seconds should be enough, but if you’re using something else (like the burlap I used on this project), you may need to repeat the 30 seconds cooling, 30 seconds heating process a few times before the vinyl fully sticks to your project.

Once you peel away all the plastic backing, you’re done!

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo - Heat transfer vinyl tutorial

If you need more project ideas, check out all of the other projects I’ve done with my Silhouette Cameo by clicking here!

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Disclosure: The links in this post are Silhouette affiliate links.  Any purchases you make through those links help me to keep this blog running, and Silhouette’s affiliate program is what lets me offer you guys awesome discounts!

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Amy says

    4 years ago

    I’m getting ready to do a heat transfer vinyl but am wondering why it has to be mirrored and not printed straight up?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      When you cut heat transfer vinyl, you actually cut on the back side of the vinyl, so you need to mirror your images and text so they are correct in your finished project! Heat transfer vinyl is actually two layers, one layer of vinyl and one plastic backing layer. You only want to cut through the vinyl itself and leave the plastic backing sheet whole to keep your design together when you transfer it to your project. So you load the heat transfer vinyl into your machine with the plastic backing side down against the stick mat and the vinyl side up, but this is “backwards” in the machine, so you want to mirror the design so that when you look at it from the front (through the plastic backing) all of your images and letters read correctly. 🙂

  2. Lori Griswold says

    7 years ago

    Can you use any kind of vinyl or do you need to buy silhouette brand?
    Thanks

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      You can use any vinyl as long as it is the right size to fit in your cutting machine! Or any size you want if you’re cutting it by hand with scissors or an X-acto knife. 🙂 I just like the Silhouette brand vinyl because the Silhouette cutting machine has preset settings for cutting that vinyl so it always comes out with a nice clean cut, but there are plenty of other brands out there if you want to look around!

  3. Melissa says

    7 years ago

    Hi! I’m having a really rough time getting my silhouette to cut the vinyl. It cuts only parts of it. For example, if I had a circle, there would be only half of the circle cut out. Im not sure what I’m doing wrong. I used the recommended settings, then I’ve tweaked them a bit, but it always comes out only partially cut! And if it isn’t partially cut, then the dumb thing cuts all the way through the clear plastic as well! I’m so fed up with this thing that I’m just to tears! :,( I was planning on using it for my new etsy store so I wouldn’t have to appluque everything. The machine is a big investment for me and I’m just so distraught! 🙁 any ideas what’s going on?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      Oh no, I’m so sorry you’re having issues! When that happens to me it’s usually just the machine being overloaded or the data transfer being slightly corrupted. Try turning off the machine, unplugging it from your computer, restarting your computer, plugging the machine back in, and turning the machine back on. That fixes a lot of the weird “unexplainable” issues. Another option is to double check your design and make sure it’s all set to Cut. Like in the circle example, we visually see a circle as one uninterrupted line that meets itself at the beginning and end, but in the actual file it may be two half circle lines that are touching each other, and perhaps one of those lines is set to No Cut or something weird like that. I really hope this fixes it for you, I know how stressful it can be when the machine is doing wonky things!

  4. Tanya says

    7 years ago

    How can you use a small piece of heat transfer vinyl? (One that is too small to reach both rollers)

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      I almost always use a cutting mat to cut heat transfer vinyl. You don’t need to; it’s thick enough to go through on it’s own, but I like the extra security of sticking it to the mat so that I can be sure it doesn’t move. So if you stick it to a mat you can use any sized piece of vinyl!

  5. Dawn says

    7 years ago

    Thanks for the tutorial. Question – I used the settings that machine listed but its cutting all the way through – so right through the plastic as well – have you run into this before? I’m not sure what the issue might be. I’ve done the heat transfer before without issue.

    Thanks!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      That’s weird Dawn! It sounds like your blade depth is set too high, but if you’re using the settings the software suggests it shouldn’t be doing it. Are you using a cutting mat, or just loading the vinyl without a mat? I’ve notived that sometimes it cuts too deep when you don’t use a mat, so maybe that will help? Otherwise, you can try overwriting the settings and lowering the blade depth a notch or two and see if that fixes it.

      • Ally says

        7 years ago

        I’m having this same problem 🙁 I use the cutting mat and the heat transfer settings in Silhouette Studio, even changed my blade to 1, and it still cuts through the backing as well. I went through a few sheets of HTV last night before I finally gave up.

        • Jessi Wohlwend says

          7 years ago

          When you load the cutting mat are you using the Load Mat option or the Load Media option? The Load Media option tells it to cut a little further down into the material because there isn’t the “height” of the mat behind it, and every once in a while I totally forget and choose Media instead of Mat when I load the mat and it totally cuts through the mat! Other than that, the only other thing I can think of is to turn off the Silhouette, unplug it, restart your computer, plug the Silhouette back in, turn it back on, and try again. Sometimes resetting both the machine and your computer helps it put itself back to normal.

  6. Bev says

    7 years ago

    OMGosh! It looks sooo much easier and far less intimidating now that I have read this! And just in the nick of time too, as I may be able to drum up some business making Anti Bullying shirts for a group at the school here, if I can find the right colors and a good deal on HTV.

    Thank you for the tut!!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      Oh good, glad it’s less daunting now! Check Expressions Vinyl for deals on vinyl online; I get a lot of my stuff from there and they have tons of colors and sizes and types!

  7. keri @ shaken together says

    7 years ago

    I love the transfer on your burlap canvas – what a fun project! Pinned!

  8. Heather says

    7 years ago

    So glad you used a burlap canvas for this. I bought one awhile ago without a plan and it’s been sitting in my craft closet ever since because I wasn’t sure what I could put on it. I figured I would eventually find something to hot glue onto it. HTV would be way better! Have you ever layered HTV? Thanks for another great tutorial!!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      The burlap definitely works, but it takes a little more patience to make sure it’s really stuck on there! And I have layered HTV before, but only the smooth kind. In theory I imagine it would work for flocked or glitter too, but I’m just worried it will make it stick out too much from the shirt or whatever since it’s thicker than the smooth vinyl.

      If you haven’t tried layering before, it’s pretty simple! Just put a piece of HTV on like normal, let the whole project cool down for about a minute, then place the second piece on top and iron it on just like normal. Just be careful when peeling the backing off the second piece of HTV because the vinyl will definitely stick to the vinyl underneath, but if it hasn’t quite stuck to the rest of your project, you’ll want to go slow to make sure you don’t pull the first piece of HTV off your project accidentally!

  9. Crystal says

    7 years ago

    Love the sign!! Thanks for the tutorial on how to do the heat transfer. You don’t know how many times I’ve had to YouTube videos to find out how to do things on the Silhouette. Thanks so much!!

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