Cricut remains one of the most popular image transfer devices currently available. Perfect for a wide range of ages, their designs can be used to add flair to virtually any shirt or accessory. Our article is going to help teach you how to use Cricut iron-on vinyl in nine simple steps. The steps will be ordered chronologically and will include aftercare tips as well.
Here are the materials you need to obtain a perfect result:
- Cricut cutting machine (Cricut Explore Air 2)
- Scissors and other weeding tools (Cricut basic tool set)
- Cricut in the color of your choice (Cricut Iron In Lite White)
- Cricut cutting mat (Cricut Standardgrip Cutting Mats)
- (Optional) Cricut heat pressing machine (Cricut Easy Press)
- An appropriate object type for decorating
- A pattern of your choice
9. Pick the Right Bonding Material Type
The first thing to take into account when learning how to use Cricut iron-on vinyl is that you must use the right type of materials for bonding. Generally speaking, Cricut’s iron-on vinyl is best suited for cloth materials like t-shirts, duffel bags, and other apparel items.
Cricut does have another type of vinyl material that is not designed for iron-on purposes. This vinyl product tends to be used for wall decorations, mailbox lettering, and other jobs that are exposed to the elements. You can easily identify the two products by their trade names.
Their iron-on vinyl is more commonly known as Iron-On Lite. In addition, their traditional vinyl material has a sticky back that adheres to materials without heat application.
8. Sign up for the Cricut Image Editing Software
The second thing first-time users must do when learning how to use Cricut iron-on vinyl is signing up for Cricut ’s image editing software. The software is called Design Space and is completely free to use with the purchase of your Cricut machine. The software can be accessed via your desktop, be it laptop or PC.
Once you have created your account, sign in and start a new project. Feel free to browse the available patterns to see if one suits your needs. If there is a personal image that you would prefer to use, you can upload that to the software and use it instead.
A fun point to remember is that Design Space is also compatible with iOS devices and available as a standalone app on the App Store. For users in the United States, there is a beta program for Android Users as well. All changes that you do on one device are carried over to the next thanks to the program’s cloud programming. Below, there’s a video tutorial that explains how to use the Cricut software.
7. Prepare Your Cutting Board and Material
The next step to consider when learning how to use Cricut iron-on vinyl has to deal with cutting board preparation. Now that you have found an image that you are satisfied with, it’s time to prepare the cutting board and the vinyl material that you picked.
Before you do this, take this time to make sure that your image is reversed in the Design Space program. You can do this by clicking the option on the right called “Mirror Image (For Iron-On).”
You should now see a graphic representation of where the material should be aligned on your Cricut cutting board. Make sure to align the vinyl in the appropriate corner. On top of that, smooth out any edges or bubbles that may be present. In the end, the plastic side of the vinyl sheet should be facing down.
Bonus Read: How to screen print shirts professionally
6. Select Materials and Start the Machine
You’re now ready to select the material type on your Cricut Explorer Air 2 and start the cutting process. Using the dial on the right-hand side, select “Iron On.” Now, carefully make sure that your board and vinyl material are placed under the rollers per the manufacturer’s directions. Your Explorer Air 2 should already be plugged in and turned on at this point.
If it’s not, push the power button on the top of the machine. Now, finish the loading phase by pushing the arrow icon to cause the machine to pull the cutting board inside. Once the “C” is flashing, press it to begin the cutting process.
5. Release The Mat and Start Removing The Negative Image
At this point, your mat should now be ready for release. Simply press the arrow button again on the machine to release the cutting mat. The process you are about to complete is commonly called weeding. This is where the tools that you purchased will come into play.
The weeding tool closely resembles the tool that dental hygienists use to clean your teeth. It has a hooked end and is used to carefully lift the negative elements of your heat transfer image away from the rest of the finished product.
Once you have removed all of the negative image elements, it’s time to separate the image from the cutting board. To do this, simply peel the edge away in a corner using a 45-degree angle.
4. Preparing For Image Transfer
You’re now ready to begin the image transfer process. This is the most delicate step when learning how to use Cricut iron-on vinyl. Carefully position your transfer image with the liner side up in the desired area. You can use pins to help hold the image in place to ensure that you achieve the straightest transfer possible and to mark your place.
The next steps will vary based on if you are using a traditional iron or the Cricut Easy Press. For best results, we strongly recommend using the Cricut Easy Press device. The reason for this is that it has predefined heat settings that are designed specifically for Iron-On Lite and other Cricut products.
3. For Cricut Easy Press Users
Select the appropriate heat setting and allow the Easy Press device to reach the desired temperature. When it’s ready, preheat the desired bonding site by placing the Easy Press on it for 10-15 seconds with a clean towel over the bonding site. This will protect the area from marks and allow it to reach the desired temperature.
Now, place your design back on the area and apply the Easy Press to it. Wait for 15 to 30 seconds for each section. Allow the area to cool slightly and attempt to remove the clear liner. If there are any areas that are not fully bonded, carefully replace the clear liner and heat it again until the image is fully bonded.
2. For Traditional Irons
Start by making sure that the bottom of the iron is free of any stains or residues. Next, make sure that the steam setting is turned off and that your iron is set to the highest heat setting possible. In most cases, this will be a cotton or sturdy setting.
Afterward, apply a clean cloth to the desired bonding site and preheat the area for 10 to 15 seconds. Reposition the transfer sheet with the clear layer on top and place a clean terry towel over the area to protect it again. You’re now ready to apply small amounts of heat to each section. Remember to pick the iron up to apply it to a new section instead of moving it side to side.
Once the front is done, you will follow the same process on the back as well. Allow the transfer sheet to cool slightly before attempting to remove the protective layer. If any areas are still not bonded to the item, apply heat again to the areas until bonding is complete.
1. Aftercare and Beyond
No guide on how to use Cricut iron-on vinyl would be complete without an aftercare section. It’s important to note that most items should be machine washed inside out to help prevent accidental damage to your new decal. In addition, you can extend the life of your design by only using the tumble dry setting or air drying whenever possible.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how to use Cricut iron-on vinyl, you’re ready to start your own creative projects at home. Just remember to start small and to pick objects that work well with the material you are using. If you have any design tips you would like to share, feel free to post them in the comments area.