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Common HTV Mistakes

Common HTV Mistakes

Vinyl 101: Tips and Tricks on How to Avoid Common HTV Mistakes

Creating craft vinyl projects is a tale full of creative satisfaction. Unfortunately, some get stuck on a chapter defined by mishaps and frustrations. True indeed! Crafters don't always get a happy ending. Just a single mistake can ruin what should be a moment of triumph. Mistakes are bound to happen from new seeds of talent breaking their way into the beautiful world of HTV and even to master makers.  

So, why confine yourself to such a sad story when you can thrive and enjoy the happy ending we all dream of having– a successful HTV project?

Today, join us as we set sail to a brand new escapade. One that will teach us how to avoid the bad practices of adhering heat transfer vinyl. An informative adventure that will open our eyes to the most common HTV mistakes crafters make. Fire away and let the learning begins!

Common HTV Mistakes

Mistakes can haunt you at any point in the process. It's not just during printing but also in the pre-pressing and post-pressing stages that a dilemma can come at you. So how can we spare ourselves from the frustrations of a failed vinyl venture?

I got an easy one for you! The best way to avoid them is to know them!

Being mindful of these faulty steps is a great way to ensure an error-free HTV transfer. Finding out how these mistakes occur teaches us how to do things right and how to dodge any of the following HTV mistakes:

Pre-Pressing HTV Mistakes

These involve all the preparatory activities, such as designing and vinyl cutting.

1. Not mirroring the design

One of the earliest mistake any beginner crafter tend to commit is not to flip the image they plan to use. This simple yet essential step in making any HTV project is responsible for keeping our graphics in the correct orientation. So, everything needs to be mirrored, whatever design you have, be it full images or letterings.   

This problem is rooted in a crafter's unawareness of how HTV works. To explain it plainly, HTV combines two layers of materials- the vinyl sheet with heat-activated adhesive and a thin plastic-like carrier sheet. Since it's the vinyl sheet that's being pressed on the substrate, this side must be the one facing down the surface of the substrate because its other side, the carrier sheet, will then act as a shield against extreme heat. This is the logic behind design mirroring. 

2. Faulty Vinyl Insertion 

HTV is not like paper that you simply feed to a printer. Nope! That's not the case with a heat transfer vinyl. However, other crafters failed to remember this wisdom. As a result, they end up cutting on the carrier sheet. So, why does it matter if you cut there instead of on the vinyl side?

It matters because the carrier sheet holds the entire design together. It's the one responsible for keeping each design element in alignment. Cutting through the carrier would be a waste of vinyl since you can no longer use such, or if you would, it will be a long and tedious transfer. Don't worry! You're safe from committing another mistake if you insert the HTV with the vinyl side facing up. 

3. Wrong Cutting Blade Depth

Have you experienced cutting through the carrier sheet? Or otherwise, barely cutting the vinyl at all? This cutting issue is costly trouble that irks newbies and seasoned HTV enthusiasts.  

If you think that merely clicking the print button on your vinyl cutter makes the job done, then there lies your problem. Cutting blades are not universal. It needs to be adjusted depending on the type of project and HTV you're working on. Typically, basic HTVs are cut using standard blades or 45-degree blades, but for thicker materials such as Glitter HTV and Flock vinyl, thick blades or 60-degree blades are recommended.

To achieve the perfect cut, you need to sweat a little to learn the technical aspects of the different types of cutting blades. It may cost additional effort and time, but I assure you that the payoff is worth it.

But if you're in a hurry and looking for an instant solution, here are some temporary remedies. 

Check if the blade is extended out way too far. If it does, it can cut through the backing sheet of the vinyl. To avoid this, the blade should stick out at least half or as thick as your credit card. Any thicker than this will result in a cutting problem. To check if you got the blade setting right, get a vinyl scrap and perform a test cut.

4. Failing to check any manufacturer's note or instruction

Cracking, shrinking, early peeling, or bubbling! These are some unwanted effects of not following the manufacturer's application instructions. For example, a handful of fabrics need to be prewashed while others need to be pre-pressed before being used in an HTV project.

It's normal for most fabrics to shrink by at least 5% when you wash them, so prewashing is essential to avoid any deformity or distortion in your design.

Meanwhile, pre-pressing is another necessary additional instruction you need not skip. Most fabrics, especially those made from 100% cotton, tend to contain extra moisture. So, the objective of this step is to remove all the unnecessary water content that may affect the overall transfer quality.

Ignoring these extra steps may only lead to disappointment. You don't want to be haunted by the consequences of your laziness. Don't rush! Take your time, check and follow these essential care tips to make your projects long-lasting.

5. Not planning the exact placement of the design

There's no better sight than seeing your design adhere to where you want it to be. Unfortunately, some aren't so lucky to get the same result. Always find a center point to avoid a misaligned, slanted, or off-center design application.

One common zone of faulty placement is the left and right chest area. Placing the design near the edge of this area is a BIG NO. Once worn, the design you intend for either the left or right side will appear printed near the armpit area. To secure the center spot of either left or right chest, use the side edge of the neck collar as your center point.

During Pressing HTV Mistakes

Religiously obeying all the steps and tips above won't guarantee a successful HTV application. This next stage has caused more headaches than all the problems you might encounter during the designing and cutting phase.

1. Disregarding Heat, Pressure, and Time Setting

Were you ever caught disregarding traffic signs? Then this one is the equivalent of that violation. Instructions are provided for us to follow. Just like those traffic signs across the streets, these settings are there to guide us. The most common reasons why HTVs won't adhere are rooted in these factors.

Heat Setting

There's a general belief that the hotter the temperature, the better the result. Regrettably, there's no truth to this! Each type of HTV has its specific temperature setting. Some types of vinyl require higher temperatures, while others don't.

All wise crafters would know that using too much heat can burn and add a scorched mark to the vinyl decal. Plus, there's also the possibility of melting the fabric should you apply extreme temperature. As their solution, some beginning crafters choose to go in the opposite direction and apply low heat instead. This seems logical since we are avoiding the consequences of using high temperatures. However, this insufficient heat can also serve another problem. Remember that HTV is packed with heat-activated adhesive, and by applying only minimal heat, this adhesive might not activate fully. Thus, causing HTV to peel off or not adhere completely.

Proper Pressure

Just as much as incorrect heat setting can affect the outcome, too much pressure or lack thereof can negatively impact also the result.

Over application of pressure can detach the adhesive from the HTV. On the other hand, applying a low-pressure level can hinder the HTV from bonding completely with the substrate. These faulty pressure applications lead to weak bonding, causing the vinyl to fall off.    

Time Setting

Lastly, we must address the final variable as equally important as the first two. Ensured proper heat and pressure settings were insufficient to adhere to heat transfer vinyl successfully. Without the right timing, your efforts can instantly turn into nothing.

Not pressing long enough will not provide sufficient time for the heat to activate the adhesive. Conversely, pressing for too long risks burning vinyl and the garment.

The heat, pressure, and time settings are not complicated requirements. It's a matter of acquainting yourself with the correct information. And usually, this information is handed to us by the manufacturers. All we need to do is reach their hand, read and apply.  

Bear in mind that there's no such thing as a universal setting. Each HTV has its unique settings. Just because something works right the first time doesn't mean it applies to the next. Let these accompanying instructions lead your way to a stress-free application.

2. Pressing on Uneven and Textured Surfaces

Heat transfer vinyl bonds as long as the surface is flat. This is an essential requisite to achieving even pressure and even heat. These two factors are vital recipes in the vinyl to adhere appropriately.

That's why it's not surprising that some HTV fanatics encounter problems when trying to press over these areas: pockets, zippers, embroidery stitches, buttons, and bulky seams. The roughness and unevenness caused by these accessories make any surface an unsuitable zone for vinyl application.

But don't think of this as a hopeless case. Some tricks allow you to conquer these tricky parts. Your first option is to raise the print area using a heat press pillow or a rolled towel so that the heat press platen will only touch the smooth areas around the accessory. Another option is to leave the hindering parts hanging off the heat press to allow you to close the platen fully and apply the required pressure. 

3. Mixing Mismatch Materials

Unlike adhesive vinyl, HTV isn't capable of delivering multicolored graphics not unless you try layering a couple of colors or different vinyl varieties. But, this particular method requires a certain level of experience and knowledge. This is where the trouble kicks in—many attempts to perform this trick without doing any research. You can't simply grab HTVs and decide to mix and match them together.

Often, crafters tend to pair the wrong materials. So, when planning to layer vinyl, it's best to take note of the following:

  • Generally, thicker types of vinyl should be applied directly to the fabric to ensure a strong adhesive hold.
  • Regular HTVs are the top choice for the base layer because of their smooth surface.
  • Never use textured HTVs such as Glitter HTV and Puff Vinyl as your base layer because the rough surface will prevent the next layer of vinyl from fully sticking. Instead, these types of vinyl are perfect for the last layer.
  • Smooth-textured HTV, like regular HTV, can be layered on top of itself up to four times. In contrast, we can't layer specialty vinyl like Glitter, Flocked, Holographic, and Puff Vinyl on top of itself.
  • When combining two different textured HTVs, we only recommend creating two-layered designs. You can go for three, but best if you stick to two.

To guarantee success, remember that the general equation for layering vinyl is to use smooth HTV as the base and specialty vinyl as the top layer.


Another problem that most crafters experience when layering vinyl is overpressing. Since you need to apply two or more layers of HTV, many crafters tend to press each layer using the required time. This practice can lead to the underlayer's cracking, wrinkling, or scorching since it is being overly exposed to high temperatures for more than it should.

What you should do is perform short and quick presses. For instance, you can start pressing the first layer for about 3 to 5 seconds, then press it for another 3 to 5 seconds after putting another layer. Through this technique, the first layer will receive an accumulated amount of heat and pressure that's enough to activate its adhesive. Repeat the process until you apply all the layers of the design. The goal is to give each layer almost the same amount of press time and not a different amount of time for each layer. Considering the time the base layer is exposed to heat, it's significantly less than the method above. This technique is the safest alternative to achieving a perfectly layered design.

Post Pressing HTV Mistakes

If you think you've escaped all the possible mistakes one can make when doing an HTV project, read this part. No matter how well done you've pressed your design if you overlook any of these things, you let go of your chance of a happy ending.

1. Untimely Peeling

Excitement can be a double edge sword, especially at this stage of being almost finished. I've heard stories from many crafters about how untimely peeling has stripped them of the chance to celebrate a successful HTV project. Why? All because they were carried away by excitement.

Unknown to many, there's also a peel setting for every HTV- cold peel and hot peel. Cold peel means that the carrier sheet needs to be removed once the HTV has cooled down, while hot peel permits you to remove the carrier sheet immediately after pressing.  

So, what can happen if one won't follow this instruction? Some vinyl requires additional cooling time to make the adhesive stick on the substrate entirely. If you remove what should be cold peeled right away, the vinyl will most probably come off with the carrier sheet, or worst; it can wrinkle or tear. Don't let a rush of emotion bring you down. Check the instruction and peel it right!

2. Washing too soon!

Washing the garment straight away is prohibited. The reason why many graphics fail to last is because of this reason. As a safety measure, allow at least 24 hours of curing time before washing to ensure that vinyl is completely bonded to the fabric.  

How do I fix HTV mistakes?

As proven above, mistakes are plenty and can happen at any time, but that doesn't mean we don't have the power to correct them. So, here are some proven ways to safely remove a mistakenly applied vinyl:

1. Use a regular home iron to peel off a small piece of vinyl.

With the help of a regular home iron, apply minimal heat through the backside of the garment where the faulty vinyl has adhered. Once the adhesive is reactivated, gently use a tweezer to remove the unwanted piece.

2. Using vinyl-removing agents for larger designs

While wearing gloves, flip the garment inside out, then apply the vinyl-removing agent under the area where the vinyl is placed. Once the adhesive is weakened, slowly remove the HTV. Wait for a few seconds for the product to settle.

3. Cover up the mistake with the exact design

If the vinyl you're trying to remove is sandwiched by other vinyl and you're afraid that using a vinyl removing agent may affect the others, then why not cover it up with the same design? In this way, you're not risking other finely adhered designs to remove once you push through with option #2.  

Discover More Great Articles On Crafting

Read these articles for more HTV Tips and Tricks, please click the links below:




Here are some more HTV concerns that you might want to know:

What happens when you over-press HTV? 

Over pressing HTV results from our desire to create a durable and high-quality press. And because of this desire, we tend to distrust the given guide by the manufacturers, thinking it's not enough. Well, you need to stop! This unhealthy practice can only do you more harm than good.

As I've mentioned countless times before, subjecting your vinyl to too much heat can burn, wrinkle and cause scorched marks. But what if these signs are not showing? Does that mean that it's still okay to keep pressing?  

The answer is no! Over pressing doesn't just damage the vinyl's physical form. This terrible mistake can also affect the adhesive strength of the HTV. The longer you expose the HTV to high temperatures, the weaker the adhesive becomes. This extreme heat eventually liquefies the adhesive, causing some of it to evaporate while too much pressure pushes the remaining adhesive outside the vinyl.

Can you fix the overheated HTV?

Unfortunately, overheated HTVs are not fixable, especially if the burn is noticeable. The only way to save your project from becoming a failure is to either remove or cover it up with the same vinyl design.

Why does my HTV shrink?

Another common issue many crafters deal with is a shrinking of HTV. This is yet again another observable aftereffect of too much heating. Following the recommended heat setting is the best approach to prevent or minimize this. Going beyond the required temperature increases the possibility of shrinking your HTV.

How do you know if HTV has adhered?

It's always better to conduct one final test to see if the HTV did adhere. If before this, your only basis to tell if the vinyl stick is if it falls off the fabric, then you are in great need of this tip.

You must understand that thick and thin vinyl is not checked using the same indicators. You can be confident that thin vinyl completely adheres when you can see through it the texture of the fabric. Meanwhile, it would be best if you have manual checking for thick vinyl. You need to feel if there are areas or sides lifting. You're 100% sure it's fully adhered to if there's none.

Making HTV projects isn't always about fun and success. Often, this journey can get a bit bumpy, with mistakes coming from here and there. The most important thing is not to give up and be fearsome in dealing with these problems. Take these HTV mistakes as an opportunity to hone your skills and craft better.  

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