How to make a Custom Shirt

When I got my Cricut, I had heard a rumor that I could make my own custom shirts, but I didn’t have the slightest idea how that was possible. I kept hearing all these different phrases and acroynms and I couldn’t keep anything straight! Once I knew what I was doing, I realized how simply it truly is, but it took a lot of Pinterest searching and googling to do so. My goal for today, is to get you the information you need so you can get crafting! (This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from a link, I will get a small profit, with no extra cost to you.)

What materials do I need?

  1. Shirt – Any ‘normal’ shirt will work! If it is some sort of cotton or polyester, it should work no problem. Other materials (such as spandex or jersey) may work, but they need special treatment, so I don’t recommend them for beginners. Shirt can be any color.

2. Heat Transfer Vinyl – This is where most of the shirt confusion begins. The terms, iron-on, heat transfer vinyl, iron-on vinyl, and HTV are all the same thing! This is a special type of vinyl that does not adhere until heat is applied. When shopping for it, make sure one of these phrases is listed. If it says adhesive vinyl (permanent or removable), or just vinyl, it will not work for a shirt! Always double check before purchasing. Also note: Heat transfer vinyl has a built in transfer sheet; no transfer tape is needed.

3. Heat – You need a way to get the vinyl hot so it will adhere. A regular iron will work just fine. I did this for a very long time. If you decide to take it up a notch, a heat press or Cricut Easy Press have been created specifically for this purpose.

4. Cutting Machine – I will always recommend a Cricut, but any cutting machine will work (even a pair of scissors)! If you are using a Cricut you will need a fine point blade and green mat.

5. Weeding Tool – You need something to remove htv that you don’t want on your shirt. It doesn’t have to be complicated! I recommend a safety pin. There are also special weeding tools and tweezers that can be purchased.

6. Heat Safety – Make sure you have a safe place to apply some heat. I use a traditional ironing board for most projects, but you can always lay a towel on a table, or purchase a special heat resistant mat. You will also need some sort of barrier to keep your heat from burning your shirt. I recommend parchment paper or a Teflon sheet.

What steps do I need to follow?

First, design your project. Your image/words must be mirrored. If you are using a Cricut, simply click the ‘mirror’ button on the Make It screen.

Make sure the slider under Mirror is turned on and turns green.

Place the vinyl on your mat, shiny side down (the shiny side is the transfer sheet) and select the iron-on setting. Cut.

When the design is done cutting, it is time to weed (remove unwanted htv pieces). Get your weeding tool/safety pin and remove the vinyl from the transfer sheet. (See image below.)

The words are mirrored with the htv on top and the transfer on bottom. I am removing htv pieces that I don’t want on my shirt.
When you are done weeding, flip design over and make sure it is exactly how you want it.

Now, it is time to press. Wash, dry, and iron your shirt so it is free of dust, lint, and wrinkles. Place it on your heat resistant surface. Warm your shirt with your iron. (Honestly, I don’t think this step is totally necessary, but nearly all htv recommends it.) Place your htv on the shirt. Make sure it is exactly how you want it, because you only get one shot! Place your parchment paper/Teflon sheet on top.

From bottom to top: Ironing board, shirt, htv (transfer sheet on top), Teflon sheet. My Teflon sheet is not big enough for this design so I just did the top half and then moved the sheet before heating the bottom half.

Now, add heat! The average htv needs to be heated to 300 degrees Farenheit. If you are using a normal iron, the Wool setting is recommended. Regardless of the heat method you are using, you need to press the heat, not iron. So, place your iron in one spot and add some pressure. You want to do this for 30 seconds before moving to the next area. Again, press down, don’t rub around. (Trust me, I know from experience. Rubbing/ironing is going to take way longer and won’t last nearly as long.

When the vinyl has adhered, you should be able to pull off the transfer sheet. Most vinyls recommend doing this while it is still warm, but a few require it to cool completely, so read your packaging. Throw away the transfer sheet and you are done! Make sure you let the shirt cool completely and it is ready to wear!

Now, I know that was a lot of information, so I am including a condensed version as well so you can check the steps as you go.

  1. Prepare design and mirror.
  2. Place htv shiny side down and cut.
  3. Remove any unwanted pieces (weed).
  4. Wash, dry, and iron shirt.
  5. Place htv on shirt and press at 300 degrees.
  6. Remove transfer sheet and let cool.

I hope this has helped! I promise, after a few tries, you will be crafting like a pro! Let me know if you have any questions, and happy crafting!

Need some heat transfer vinyl? I’m giving some away on my Instagram page! Click here to enter the giveaway.

Here are a few shirt ideas for you as well.

Train by Lovesvg. I am giving away all of these colors! (Plus a lot more!)
Shark from shopcraftables

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