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Is Heat Transfer Vinyl The Same As Iron-On

Is Heat Transfer Vinyl The Same As Iron-On? – A Comprehensive Comparison

Heat Transfer Vinyl is a vinyl that utilizes both heat and pressure to adhere to fabric or woods. It requires either a home iron, heat press, or easy press to attach the vinyl.

Heat Transfer is equally known as iron-on vinyl.

On the flip side, an iron-on is a special paper that is transferable to fabric by applying both heat and pressure.

From their definition alone, it is difficult to draw out similarities or differences. You’d need a closer view on how the two designing materials work to know if they’re the same.

Therefore, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between heat transfer vinyl and iron on vinyl by designing a t-shirt.

How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl

If you’re new to the world of designing with heat transfer vinyl, here is how you can use it to make a design. Aside from t-shirts, you can use it to craft tote bags, wood designs, converse, and leather notebooks.

How to Use Heat Transfer Vinyl With Cricut or Silhouette

Step 1: Prepare the Cut File

Is Heat Transfer Vinyl The Same As Iron-On

In executing any craft with heat transfer vinyl, it will require you to prepare your cutting machine software.

You will need to prepare your cut file. Most cut files are in SVG, Studio, .png, or .dxf files depending on the software you’re using.

After selecting a design, you need to measure the surface to determine the size of your craft. Next, open up the cut file on the software of your cutting machine and adjust the design size to what you desire.

Next, you need to mirror or flip your design horizontally. You must mirror your design when working with heat transfer vinyl because you need to cut the design on the backside of the vinyl.

HTV comes with a transparent plastic carrier sheet that covers the top of the vinyl and another side with heat-sensitive adhesive.

The heat-sensitive adhesive side isn’t sticky or tacky to touch before heating.

You’ll cut your design on the adhesive side, while the transparent plastic sheet on the other side holds your craft in place until you patch it on the final surface of what you want to design.

To ensure that your design looks right when you apply it on the final surface, it will require you to mirror it first.

To mirror your design in Silhouette Studio, click on your design. Then head over to the Object drop menu, select “Mirror,” and finally hit the “Flip horizontally” option.

On Cricut, the process is similar. After uploading your cut file,  click on it and then hit the “Flip>Flip horizontally” option.

That’s all. Your design is now set for cutting.

Step 2: Cut Design From Heat Transfer Vinyl

After preparation of the cut file, load the HTV on the Cutting Mat. Place the HTV glossy side down on your mat such that you’ll be cutting from the backside.

Remember to always cut from the backside of the HTV, where the heat-sensitive adhesive is. The shiny side of the vinyl is the side with the plastic backing.

Adjust Cut Settings and Execute the Cut

Finally, modify your cut settings to suit the heat transfer vinyl material. The process varies depending on the machine you’re using.

You can execute small test cuts to be certain your cut setting is appropriate. When satisfied, load your cutting mat with the shiny vinyl side down into the machine and initiate the cutting process.

Step 3: Weed Out Excess Vinyl

Weeding out is removing the excess parts from your craft, that you don’t want to transfer to your final design.

Once you’ve removed the excess vinyl, turn it over to check how your final design will appear.

Step 4:  Iron

To activate the adhesive on the Heat Transfer Vinyl, you’ll need heat and pressure which you can both find from iron. Suppose you used a lot of HTV, a Heat Press or Easy Press might come in handy.

Iron your design for 10-20 seconds.

How to Use Iron-On Paper

Iron-on transfer paper is also commonly known as t-shirt paper. It works slightly in a similar way to heat transfer vinyl but with some exceptions.

Step 1: Prepare the Cut File

Mirror the light Iron-On paper

It is a fatal flaw not to reverse the image before cutting it when using light iron-on paper. Therefore, whenever you’re using light transfer paper, head over to the mirror mode to reverse the image.

As your design will face down on the garment, mirroring enables it to face the right direction after the transfer process.

Do not Mirror Dark Transfer Paper

When you choose to use dark transfer paper, your image should face up on the t-shirt before you execute the transfer. It doesn’t require you to reverse the image.

If you mirror your design, it will appear the wrong way round. What you see on dark transfer paper precisely looks the same way they appear on your final product.

Step 2: Cut Design from the Iron-On Paper


After preparing the design, load the iron transfer paper to the cutting machine. Then adjust the cutting settings to suit your preference and execute the cut.

Step 3: Weed Out Excess Iron-On Paper

Get rid of the excess part from your design that you don’t wish to transfer to the final product.

Step 4: Iron

Next, place a piece of cardboard directly below the shirt where you wish to iron the design. Then position your transfer paper on the fabric.

Iron-on the transfer paper with lots of direct heat. Set out your iron to the hottest point so that enough heat should transfer to the design.

HTV vs Iron On: Conclusion

If you are still wondering if heat transfer vinyl is the same as iron-on, you must have noted some similarities and differences from the above procedure.

For instance, heat yransfer vinyl utilizes vinyl material, while iron-on is paper. Again, there is an operational difference.

When using a light iron-on paper, it requires you to mirror your design the same way you’d do with the heat transfer vinyl. However, when using a colored iron-on paper, mirroring the design is not necessary.

Overall, heat transfer vinyl is similar to iron-on paper. The end choice is subject to your preferences.

James M. Rai has been screen printing T-shirts and other textiles professionally and as a hobby for more than 15 years. During that time, he owned and operated a small screen printing shop in northern California for more than 7 years. More recently, James has gotten involved with Cricut and other cutting machines.