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How to Decorate T-Shirts With Cricut®

How to Decorate T-Shirts With Cricut® - Threadsy

Nicole Rollender |

The possibilities are endless when you purchase a Cricut decorating system. An iron-on vinyl design is great for creating a brand-new shirt to wear for yourself or to sell if you’re starting a brand-new t-shirt business. A Cricut machine is a smart investment for a hobbyist or an experienced decorator who’s starting to sell their designs. In this short tutorial, we’ll review the six basic steps to create an iron-on t-shirt with your Cricut tools, so you can see how easy it is to get started. Plus, we answer the questions we hear most about getting started.

Gather Your Equipment, Tools and Supplies

Before you start your iron-on t-shirt project using a Cricut cutting machine, take the time to gather what you need. We recommend this list of items to have on hand:

  • Cricut cutting machine
  • Cricut EasyPress, iron or heat press
  • Cricut EasyPress mat or a towel
  • Cricut Design Space app
  • Cotton t-shirt
  • Iron-on vinyl
  • Cutting mat
  • Weeding tool
  • Material trimmer
  • Cricut TrueControl knife

Pro tip: Before you buy your Cricut suite of machines and products, watch online tutorials and reviews to decide which ones are right for you. Read all of the instructions carefully when you receive your Cricut products so you’re familiar with how they operate.

6 Steps to Create an Iron-On Design With Cricut

Get ready to create an iron-on vinyl t-shirt design using a Cricut cutting machine!

Step one: Create your iron-on t-shirt design.

The first step is to make or create your vinyl t-shirt design. You’ll use the Cricut Design Space program. If you don’t have it yet, don’t worry: It’s free to download. You can opt for the desktop version on Windows or Mac, or grab the app for iOS iPhones or iPads or the one for Android devices. 

You’ve got a few options to choose from to create your iron-on graphic in Cricut Design Space, whether you want to do it with templates, an uploaded file or from scratch. First, login to Cricut Design Space. Click on “New Project,” and then select “Templates” in the upper left corner. Pick “Classic T-Shirt,” and then choose a style, size and color.

You’ll find lots of images, shapes and text for your iron-on t-shirt in Cricut Design Space. To view them, click on “Images” to quickly browse the library for ideas. You can resize any image you choose to fit your t-shirt by using the “resize” handle located in your lower right corner. Cricut users recommend starting with a simple, one-color design that doesn't have a lot of detail if you’re new to the system. 

Pro tip: If you’ve got graphic design experience, you can upload your own image or a purchased SVG file to the Cricut Design Space. Just click the “Upload” button you see on the left-hand sidebar. Then, add your file to your “New Project.”

Step two: Cut your iron-on design with your Cricut machine.

Now, get ready to prepare your vinyl and the mat for cutting. Load your vinyl onto the mat that comes with your Cricut cutter. Place the vinyl “shiny side down” so your Cricut machine cuts the vinyl, rather than the clear plastic backing. Then, press the button to load the mat into your Cricut machine. Head back to your computer and Cricut Design Space to send your design file to your cutting machine.

When you’ve finalized your design, click on the green “Make It” button in your upper right corner. Then, on the next “Prepare” screen, toggle the “Mirror” to “green” before you start cutting. Then, click “Continue.”

On the next “Make” screen, select your base material. You can look at “Browse All Materials” to select the type of iron-on material you’re about to cut. If you select iron-on, Cricut Design Space will prompt you to double-check that you’ve toggled “Mirror” to green and that your iron-on material faces shiny side down on the mat inside the cutting machine.

Finally, it’s time to cut your design! Load your mat and click the flashing “Go” button to cut the design.

Step three: Weed your iron-on design.

Unload your mat once your Cricut machine has finished cutting your vinyl design. Next, it’s time to grab your weeding tools. We’re not talking about removing unwanted plants from your garden here! Weeding in this context means removing all of the extra pieces of vinyl you don’t want to transfer onto your t-shirt. For example, that means those bits in the middle of letters like “p” or “o”. 

You can use a hook-shaped weeding tool to start pulling up the extra vinyl. Then, you can remove the vinyl bits up off the carrier sheet with your fingers. After you’ve removed the larger vinyl pieces, you can use tweezers to weed out the smallest bits. The more intricate the design, the longer it may take you to weed the extra pieces.

Step four: Prepare to press your iron-on vinyl design.

It’s almost time to adhere your vinyl design to your shirt! Place your Cricut EasyPress mat or a clean towel on a flat, heat-resistant surface. (Stay away from ironing boards since they’re not stable.) Heat your iron, heat press or Cricut EasyPress tool to the temperature and pressing time to use according to the type of vinyl and shirt fabrication you’re using. For an iron, use the cotton/linen setting, which will give you the highest temperatures.

Step five: Apply your iron-on vinyl design to your t-shirt.

Now, center the vinyl design on your t-shirt shiny side up, about 2 inches below your shirt collar. Heat the design using your iron or your heat press with gentle pressure for the correct amount of time, usually around 30 seconds. Most likely, your vinyl application will require you to turn your shirt over and apply pressure on the back, for half the time you pressed the front.

Then, pull off the carrier sheet from your design, following your vinyl instructions. Some vinyl transfers require a hot or warm peel, which means that you should remove the plastic carrier sheet while it’s still warm. If your vinyl calls for a cool peel, you’ll leave the plastic liner on until the design and t-shirt cool completely.

Step six: Take care of your iron-on shirt properly.

Now that you’ve created your iron-on shirt with your Cricut, make sure you care for them properly so you can wear them for years to come. If you’ve used Cricut’s Everyday Iron-On vinyl, the manufacturer says the vinyl design should last up to 50 washes. 

We recommend waiting 24 hours after applying the iron-on vinyl before washing your shirt. Turn the shirt inside-out before you wash it on a lower heat setting. Air-dry the shirt if you can, but if you use the dryer, choose a tumble-dry low setting. Of course, never use bleach with your iron-on vinyl shirt.

We Answer Your Cricut FAQs

If you still have questions, we have answers! These are eight questions we hear most often about using a Cricut to create an iron-on t-shirt design.

What’s a Cricut machine?

A Cricut electronic cutting machine cuts the design you send to it from your laptop, tablet or phone. Yes, your Cricut looks like a printer, but it outputs designs it cuts out (rather than printing).

What’s iron-on vinyl?

Iron-on vinyl has a heat-activated adhesive that sticks to fabric when you press it with a heat source, like an iron or heat press. You’ve probably also seen iron-on vinyl called heat-transfer vinyl (or HTV); that makes sense since they’re the same thing just called by slightly different names. You can buy iron-on vinyl in lots of different colors, patterns and finishes, in sheets, rolls and packs.

How do I choose the right shirt for my iron-on vinyl project?

Decorators recommend using a high-quality shirt that has a smooth surface to get the best results. A smooth cotton surface is a great choice, but you can choose other fabrics as well that can stand up to the high heat of your iron or heat press.

What’s the ideal size for my iron-on vinyl design?

Good question! Your vinyl design should be at least 10 inches smaller than your shirt’s width, when you measure it from armpit to armpit. If your armpit measurements is 20 inches, then your design should be 10 inches wide or less.

Will I do harm to my vinyl design if I overheat it during application?

Short answer: Yes. You must follow the heating guidelines that come with your vinyl. Otherwise, your design won’t adhere correctly, and most likely will start peeling off.

Why isn’t my iron-on vinyl design sticking to my t-shirt?

There could be a few reasons why this is happening. First, we have to ask, did you pre-wash the shirt? If you skipped this step, this may be why your vinyl isn’t adhering to the fabric, especially if you didn’t remove anything left on the shirt surface. The second area to look at is if you heated your iron or heat press to the correct temperature the vinyl needs to bond with your fabric. Did you apply heat to both the front and back of your shirt, following your vinyl product’s guidelines? Finally, it may be worth a try to reapply the vinyl. Cover your design with a Teflon sheet (since you’ve already removed the paper backing) and press the front and back of your t-shirt for an additional 10 to 15 seconds on each side.

Why is my vinyl design peeling off or bubbling right after I applied heat to it on my t-shirt?

If you peeled the plastic sheet off your vinyl too soon or too late, you might be experiencing this. Check your vinyl instructions to see if they call for a warm, hot or cool peel. For example, a hot peel means you’d pull the paper backing off as soon as you remove your heat source. A cool peel means not removing the backing until the vinyl and t-shirt have cooled. 

Why is my vinyl lifting after I washed and dried my shirt?

If you find that the edges of your vinyl design start to lift after laundering, that means the vinyl didn’t adhere to the shirt properly. We recommend following the steps again to apply the vinyl, but use a Teflon sheet to replace the vinyl backing that you removed during the first application.

Shop Threadsy for the Best Deals on Cotton T-Shirts

When you’re shopping for high-quality men’s t-shirts and women’s t-shirts for your iron-on Cricut designs, look no further than the amazing selection on Threadsy. If you’ve been shopping for blank t-shirts from a big box retailer, it’s time to stop. Threadsy offers generous discounts for customers who purchase t-shirts in larger quantities. Our bulk discount program starts at $110, and the savings up to 15% automatically appear in your cart when you bundle your items. You’ll also enjoy free shipping on orders $50 or higher, with always-fast delivery. Don’t delay! Find your perfect t-shirt for your iron-on design today.