Getting started with textile printing


Welcome to the world of textile printing! We want to use this post to give you an overview over how easy it is to indiviudalise clothes, bags, cushions and more with textile vinyls. Basically all you need are three things – vinyls, something for cutting, and a heat press or an iron – and you'll be done in three steps: Draw you design on the vinyl, cut it out, and apply it to the garment using heat and pressure. Quite simple, right? Well this might have been a bit fast so we're going to explain everything step by step.

Introduction: The Vinyl

Let's start by getting to know our vinyl. All vinyls have the same basic three-layer-structure. The middle layer is the vinyl that you're going to see later, for example on your t-shirt. The bottom layer is a heat-activated glue (hotmelt). It liquifies when sufficient heat is applied with a heat press or an iron. Because of the pressure the hotmelt will glue the vinyl and the fabric permanently together so it can resist washing and other demanding treatments.

The top layer is the so-called carrier which is transparent. Sometimes the this carrier also has a thin layer of adhesive (which would be a fourth layer). The sticky carrier is helpful because if parts of the vinyl get loosened by accident they can be reapplied. Great for beginners but also if you want to cut extremely detailed designs. If you buy your vinyls at our shop, the carrier side is also designated by a small sticker that can remind you which type of vinyl you're holding.

Vinyls come in many different thicknesses, colours, patterns, with glitter and metallic effects and for different fabrics.

  • Visit this page to get an overview over all our vinyls and their characteristics.
  • Visit our shop to buy our HappyFlex, HappyFlock, HappyGlitter, HappyFashion or one of the many other great vinyls.

1. Step: Designing

If you're good at drawing and/or only want to print simple designs like a heart, letters or numbers, you can draw your design directly on the vinyl. If your drawing on the glue side make sure to mirror your design, so it can be applied to the fabric the right way.

If you're going for a more intricate design, it can be worth investing in a cutter. Models for hobby (like the Silhouette Portrait or Cameo) almost look like home printers. But they have a blade instead of a print head which they tag across the vinyl to cut it. A cutter usually comes with a design software.

We created another blog entry with a basic explanation of how to create design with the Studio software by Silhouette.

Alternatively you can have a look at our download area where you will find dozens of cuttable files ready for your projects.

2. Step: Cutting

If you've drawn directly on the vinyl, you can use scissors for cutting. Just follow the lines ;)

Alternatively you have to tell the cutter where exactly it is supposed to cut using the software. You set cutting lines and send the design to the cutter.

Well, okay, it's not quite that easy. You will also need to adjust some settings in the software and on the cutter, so the machine will know which type of vinyl it is cutting and how it should cut. You will also have to decide whether you will use a cutting mat or not. Also make sure to load the vinyl into the cutter with the glue side facing up and the carrier facing down. You can find the settings for all our vinyls in one handy pdf file.

2.1 Weeding

Once the cutter has done its duty you will note that the vinyl doesn't look that much different from before. Just some thin cutting lines. You will now have to weed the design. That means taking away all the parts that you don't want to have on the garment. This is very easy when you use a weeder, a tool with a sharp point at one end. Tweezers can also be used. Put the tip of the weeder into one of the cutting lines and pull away the part of the vinyl that needs to be gone. It takes a little practice but is not really difficult.

3. Step: Printing

Whether you use a flat iron or a heat press for printing, what's always important is the right temperature and pressure settings. We have compiled them in a pdf file for your convenience.

Set your press or your iron to the right temperature and let it heat up. If you use a heat press like the HappyPress 3 or the HappyPress Pro you can also set the time and the pressure.

Pre-iron your garment to eliminate residual moisture and creases. Place your design, carrier side facing up, on the garment, place everything in your heat press (or on a steady  surface if you are using an iron), protect your design with a cover sheet and then it's time to PRINT!

Depending on the type of vinyl the design might need to cool off or you can peel the carrier off while it's still hot. Please refer to the pdf file to learn which applies.

We have some bundles in our shop to give you everything you need to get started:

  • Starter Bundle: includes a cutter, a weeder, and a vinyl package
  • Textile Printing Bundle: includes a heat press, a vinyl package and an optional weeder
  • Textile Printing Complete Bundle: includes a heat press, a cutter, a weeder, and a vinyl package