Whether you’ve been bitten by the custom apparel bug or you’re adding to a business that you already have, learning how to design and create your own T-Shirts at home using vinyl transfers is an adventure to embark on.
(This post is about making custom shirts for personal use or for your family and friends. If you’re interested in learning how to start a T-shirt business, check this post.)
You’ll first want to consider the fabric of the T-Shirts that you’re going to be using. Will it be Jersey or Cotton? Will it be worn frequently or just a few times? Each question will help you to determine your chosen fabric and transfer design. You’ll want something that will last for the duration of the garment.
The first step is to pre-wash your T-shirt. Regardless of what your fabric is, this is a very important step. You want to remove all of the sizings so that it won’t shrink with your newly applied design. This step is vital so don’t even begin until you’ve completely washed and dried all of the shirts that you plan to use the transfers on.
Next, you’ll want to have an understanding of the type of heat transfer that you’ll be using. There are many styles and finishes to select from. There are smooth transfers that have a matte finish, there are glossy finishes, glitter, and flocked finishes. You can also add in rhinestones after you’ve applied the design.
There are many kits available on the market today and each type will boast its own pros and cons. Explore your options thoroughly so that you know what you want and are purchasing.
Creating your design is fun. Plan it out and determine where you want everything to go. Consider all of your options carefully as once it’s applied, it’s on there. Remember, you’re going to flip your design to a mirror image so take this into account for the placement of your design.
Once you’ve determined all of the above, you’ll have to cut your design. This can be done with or without a cutting mat. If the design fits on a cutting mat, this is the way to go. It will give you sharper and clearer lines. Larger designs will be a bit more challenging to cut.
Always make sure that you load your heat transfer into your machine placing the clear plastic backing down.
Once you’ve printed and cut your transfer out, you’ll want to weed it. This means that you trim out the design so that you are removing any portions of the transfer that you don’t want on your T-Shirt.
Now it’s time to arrange your design. This is easier said, than done. Keep in mind that you’re, working upside down so if you want a specific element in a specific location it’s going to be reversed.
You’re now ready to iron your design on or transfer it with your heat method. Read and reread the instructions for this step. You don’t want to make a mistake here. Since you’ll be using high heat, it’s important to put a towel down between the heating element and the transfer (if you’re using an iron). If you don’t, the plastic may get all over your iron or other heat transfer method. You can also use parchment paper in lieu of a towel. Many prefer this to the towel as it is thinner.
Leave your heat source on the transfer for the proper amount of time. Each type of vinyl transfer will have its own specific instructions so be sure that you follow these carefully. Any movement of your heat source could disrupt portions of your design. Ensure that the edges are all completely covered. When you release the heat source, very carefully pull up a corner of the backing and ensure that your design has transferred completely. Don’t move it just carefully peel it up. If anything hasn’t transferred, gently place the transfer back down and repeat the heat application. Be careful to not dislodge the transfer until you know it has properly transferred or you may have uneven edges and transferring.
Allow your transfer to cool for a few minutes before you completely lift it off. This ensures that you won’t accidentally lift off any of the transfer that you’ve worked so hard to transfer to your T-Shirt. Gently peel the backing off of the T-Shirt ensuring that you’re not pulling or tugging any of your design off. Go slowly and make sure that the backing is completely cooled off before you begin to peel it off.
Laundering your new T-Shirt will be the next concern. Your T-shirt can be worn as soon as you finish it. However, most clothing requires laundering now and again. Always turn your T-Shirt inside out if it has a design on it. This will ensure that the design isn’t being roughed up in the laundry.
If the design is heat sensitive (most vinyl is) use a cold wash and turn it right side out and lay flat to dry. Avoid using the dryer as the heat in the dryer can wrinkle the vinyl design on your T-Shirt. If the T-Shirt needs to be ironed, make sure that you don’t iron the design itself. Iron around it. This will prevent any of the vinyl being removed from your T-Shirt.
You’re going to require the following to make your own heat transfer vinyl T-Shirts:
- An Iron or heat source
- Vinyl Transfer of your choice
- T-Shirt of either jersey or cotton
- Ruler to line it up
- Parchment paper or a towel
Once you’ve determined that you have everything that you need you’re all set to go. Have fun with your newfound hobby and explore many options and ideas. Be careful, it’s an addicting hobby and you may find that you’re spending a lot of time doing this. That’s okay, it’s meant to be fun. Your friends and family will enjoy wearing your creations and you may just find that your new hobby is a new business.
- DIY Custom T-shirt at Instructables
- Print Your Own Iron-On T-Shirt Transfers at LifeHacker AU
- A Beginner’s Guide To Using Heat Transfer To Create T-shirts by The Pinning Mama