Cutting heat transfer vinyl (HTV) using a Cricut, Silhouette, or any other cutter/plotter can be confusing to even seasoned crafty veterans that have been around a while. The two most common questions are:

  • How do I put it on the mat?
  • Do I need to mirror my cut?

The importance of which way to put the HTV on the mat for cutting is also relevant to whether you mirror your cut. The best way to determine whether the side facing up is going to be touching the garment when applied or is it going to be the outward facing side after it’s applied. If the side facing up when cutting the HTV is going to be attached to the garment, the cut should be mirrored. Whether you place one side or the other against the mat in order to cut HTV with a Cricut or another machine can be a little more difficult to determine.

How do I put HTV on the mat to cut my design?

Regular HTV

Let’s start by discussing what we will call “regular HTV”. The types of heat transfer vinyl that would fall into this category is the vast majority of HTV products on the market. Solid colors, glitter, some foils, holographics, and more would be considered as “regular HTV”. These products come with heat transfer mask already attached, usually as a clear sheet that often times (not always) has a sticky feel to it when the HTV is peeled away from it. This heat transfer mask is commonly referred to as a “carrier sheet” because after cutting and weeding your design, the design remains intact for placement and pressing just like transfer tape that one would apply to adhesive vinyl to transfer it to the surface it’s been applied to.

One of the worst habits one can get into when it comes to giving instructions or advice is to tell someone to apply the HTV to their mat “shiny side down”. For some brands and product lines this is true because on these products the carrier sheet is glossy and the adhesive side is dull. However, this is not always true so it’s best to avoid the habit of this phrase. Sometimes the carrier sheet has a matte finish and sometimes the adhesive can be glossy. Sometimes it’s both, so if you follow the “shiny side down” rule, you’ll end up wasting a sheet of heat transfer vinyl. If you are unsure which side is the carrier sheet, pick the corner of the sheet a little and the side that’s clear will go down against your mat for cutting.

Printed Pattern HTV

Some types of printed pattern HTV come with the carrier sheet attached and you treat it just like Regular HTV as described above. However, much of the printed pattern HTV on the market does not have the heat transfer mask, a.k.a. carrier sheet, applied because the surface has to be exposed to print on it. Since HTV is very thin, printable HTV for this purpose comes applied to a backing sheet to add some structure to it so it can feed through a printer and remain in place without wrinkling. The front surface is exposed and that allows it to be printed onto. In these cases where the HTV has no carrier sheet on the front side you would apply it to the mat with the printed side up and DO NOT mirror the cut. After cutting and weeding your design, apply the heat transfer mask (carrier sheet) and use it to remove the design from its backing sheet just like you would with adhesive vinyl.

As you can see there are often times a little thought is required to determine how to cut heat transfer vinyl. Remember, if you are looking at the adhesive side that is going to be against the garment and if you can read it, yeet it–that cut should have been mirrored.