An Introduction to Layering Heat Transfer Vinyl
So you’ve mastered the art of using your Cricut to create simple heat transfer or iron on vinyl designs, but what’s next? You’ve probably seen countless beautiful designs made from heat transfer vinyl (HTV) that comprise a range of colours, shapes and maybe even textures (glitter, holographic or maybe patterned?).
In this blog post we are going to look at this next step - using HTV to create more complex designs. This process is known as layering and is simply just the placing of multiple shapes cut by your Cricut to build a more detailed design.
If you’re new to Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) - check out this Introduction to Heat Transfer Vinyl post first to get you familiar with the basics and a few hacks to make your crafting journey simpler.
Step One - Find or Make a Layered Design
The Cricut Design Space has a large library of different images which you can use, either for free or for a small fee. If you’ve purchased a Cricut Access subscription this might be your preferred option.
Alternatively, you can look outside the Cricut package. I’d recommend looking on the following websites for freebies and purchasable SVG files: Lovesvg.com, Svgandme.com, Creativefabrica.com, hellosvg.com and 3dsvg.com. You can also undertake wider searches on Google which can bring up other sources too. Etsy is also a great place to find unique SVGs.
Most sites and downloads will come with a licence for personal use. For commercial use, if you are looking to make items to sell, you’ll need a commercial licence. This might be included as standard or you may need to pay a slightly larger fee for the privilege.
Step Two - Editing the Design
I found that even though my design had all the layers coloured, I still needed to edit it once I'd loaded it into Design Space to join ("weld") the parts of the same colour together. Otherwise the software tries to be helpful and moves all your spaces together when it cuts. Great for saving vinyl, not so great for newbie vinyl layerers!
If the two parts the same colour are at opposite ends of the design and your piece is quite big then you might find that the welding step is not necessary. However, if you are working with a design which has lots of small detailed pieces close together then you'll probably find the welding step vital! Think trying to freehand line up and press eyes or a whole face in multiple presses vs a single press with everything in the perfect place.
The easiest way I found to weld neighbouring parts was to turn off (using the eye symbol on the right hand toolbar) all other colours leaving just colour you're looking at. You can then easily select the items and weld them. Do this in sequence for each layer you want to combine.
Step Three - Set your Cricut and Cut.
The Cricut and Design Space will automatically group your design onto different mats depending on colour so all you need to do is make sure you match up the right colour vinyl, place it the right way up (shiny side down) and allow the Cricut to do the rest. I usually opt for the Iron on + setting but you'll know which option is best depending on the thickness of your HTV. For glitter vinyl you might even want to go for the next option up again.
As always, don’t forget to use the mirror button!
Step Four - Weed your sections
As you'd expect, the next step after your cut is to weed out your excess vinyl. You’ll need to do this for each layer. I always cut away excess material too and save that for later. You never know when you might want to do a tiny cut with those scraps!
Tip: If you are having trouble seeing which sections of your HTV to weed, try rubbing a little baby powder over the back to help bring out where the cuts are. It's a bit of a game changer!
Step Five - Layering
Depending on your SVG file and design you might find it is really obvious which order you should layer your pieces, for others it might not be as clear at first glance. I'd always recommend doing a trial run before you begin sticking things down to see what your finished design will look like. This may sound like a bit of a faff and a step to miss out but it’ll be handy to make sure when all the pieces are together your design in still central.
With the Fa La La Lama cut, I placed the body in the centre of my jumper but when I added the Christmas hat the design was too high and almost touching the neckline of the jumper. Without a dry run I'd have been pretty stuck - and annoyed!
When you are ready to begin the heat pressing stage, start with the base layer only. Using your iron or heat press, press the layer down, as you would with other HTV pieces. I always place a cotton sheet over the plastic HTV sheet to avoid the plastic melting.
Once the vinyl has stuck, peel off the plastic backing paper. I find this is easier once the vinyl has cooled a little. If you’re really struggling to part the two pieces you possibly haven’t used enough pressure when you’ve placed the iron/heat press onto the HTV. You can press again though so no worries.
For the next piece place it in the desired position and press again. Repeat this with each additional section until you’ve built up your entire image. Don't worry about pressing them all down firmly, we’ll do that at the end. You just need to press well enough to remove the plastic backing paper each time.
The main tip I’d give about working with heat transfer vinyl is to make sure you hold the iron still. This will prevent the pieces moving out of place before the adhesive dries. When you press additional layers, the adhesive on every layer will become sticky once more and so it’s possible that if the iron moves pieces which were initially perfectly stuck in place can move out of place.
Once all your layers are placed and the backing paper removed, do a final press across the whole piece to ensure it's all stuck down well and won’t peel off after the first wash or wear.
Tip: If your iron or heat press aren't large enough to do this as a single press, lift and re-press the piece as needed. Try to avoid sliding the iron to press across the warm image as this could move layers out of place.
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