Heat transfer vinyl is a great material to work with. You can make your own custom shirts, bags, shoes, baby onesies, hats and so much more! If you can iron it, you can add heat transfer to it! There are a lot of tools you can use to work with heat transfer, some are a must have and others are just “nice to have.” Let’s take a closer look at some HTV tools…
The first tool you’ll need is a die cutting machine. There are several die cutting machines on the market, but the Silhouette Cameo and the Cricut Explore are two of the most popular. Which machine you pick is really up to you. They both cut heat transfer wonderfully. If you need help deciding which machine is right for you, you can download the software for free (Silhouette Studio and Circut Design Space). Most of the differences between the machines comes from the software, so playing around with the software can help you make a good choice.
Once you have a die cutting machine, you’ll want to look at heating tools. You can apply heat transfer vinyl with either a heat press or an iron. Which you chose will depend on how much you heat transfer vinyl you plan on working with and if you plan on selling your creations.
Check out this post to answer the burning question: Do you need a heat press?
There are some handy tools that you can have with heat transfer, but the one you’ll reach for most often is a good hook tool. A hook tool will help you weed (remove) all the extra pieces that aren’t part of your design.
If you have a heat press, you may want to invest in a teflon sheet. Some heat presses come with one included, but if not, they’re fairly inexpensive. A teflon sheet covers your design while you press. It is non-stick, so bits of heat transfer vinyl don’t get stuck to your press and they help protect your design so it doesn’t melt to your press. Don’t have a teflon sheet? No worries, you can use a thin tea towel instead. It’s not non-stick, but it will do the trick. If you’re using an iron, you’ll still need to cover your design, so a teflon sheet or tea towel will be a must.
Another tool you might use with a heat press is a pressing pillow. I used the pressing pillow to help adhere my design when I had the magnetic button in the way (see above). It’s also helpful if you are trying to heat press a hat or over the seam of a shirt. Maybe not a must- but a real plus depending on what you make!
Mistakes happen. Adhesive remover will help you fix them. Once you get the vinyl off your project, a little adhesive remover will get rid of any residue.
Heat tape is heat resistant and can be pressed or ironed. Use a bit of heat tape and it will help keep your design in place while you transfer the design to your project surface. Heat tape is especially helpful when working on an awkward surface such as a hat or stuffed animal!
A light table is helpful when you are weeding your designs. Cutting heat transfer will leave the slightest of lines for you to weed by. Add a light table behind your cover sheet and those lines will be easier to see.
For my “super secret” tip on making weeding easier, check out: Weeding Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl: Made Easy
Some additional tools you might find helpful:
A sturdy table. Heat presses are heavy, and if you are using an iron, you’ll need to press down firmly to make the vinyl transfer over. A sturdy table is a must!
A (sliding) tee square. These are usually used in architecture or industrial design, but they’ll help you line up your design and make sure it’s on straight.
A three ring binder with plastic dividers. This is helpful for storing all your cut and weeded designs. If you have a lot of designs to cut at once, this will be a life saver because you can weed everything at once and stick the designs to the dividers in your binder until you are ready to press everything. If you make designs ahead of time, this will work for storage too!
Heat proof gloves. Heat transfer is all about getting things hot. Whether you’re just working with a freshly pressed shirt, or if you’re trying to press an awkward project to the top plate of your heat press, heat proof gloves would save your digits from getting burned.
A flat Iron. A flat iron is used to flatten/straighten hair. It’s also quite useful for small heat transfer jobs or hard to get to spots. That flat iron in your bathroom is like a mini heat press when you think about it! They’re great for adding monograms to sandals, initials to a backpack strap or even putting on Girl Scout patches!