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How to Print a T-Shirt Using Heat Transfer Vinyl

by Winnie Li Updated on April 16, 2023

T shirt printing is in massive demand these days as people use them for marketing, presenting as a gift, personalization, unique appearance, sports, uniforms, etc. You might have noticed people wearing personalized T-shirts at events, conferences, expos, and many occasions for the marketing of their brand and product. Common people, especially couples, also love to wear such T-shirts with their photographs, favorite quotes, and affirmations.

Thus, making such T-shirts is an excellent idea. You can make it for yourself, friends, and family. Moreover, you can also turn it into a profitable business by printing t shirts at home. Nowadays, with the help of a desktop vinyl t shirt printer and a heat press machine, it is possible to make DIY printed shirts and sell them online to make a handsome profit.

vinyl t shirt printing

If you are looking for the simple method to make a DIY printed T-shirt, you are in the right place. We will teach you how to print such shirts with heat transfer vinyl using xTool M1. We will discuss everything about heat transfer vinyl t shirt printing in detail and clear your doubts and questions, if any.

In This Article

  • What is Vinyl T-shirt Printing?
  • Advantages of Vinyl T-shirt Printing
  • How is Heat Transfer Vinyl T-shirt Printing Done?
  • Things You Need for Heat Transfer Vinyl T-shirts Printing
  • How to Print a Heat Transfer Vinyl T-shirt Using xTool M1?
  • How to Determine the Quality of Heat Transfer Vinyl and the Print?
  • Conclusion

What is Vinyl T-shirt Printing?

Vinyl t-shirt printing, also known as heat transfer vinyl (HTV) printing, is a fantastic way to personalize t-shirts and apparel with custom designs, logos, or text.

There are two main ways to make vinyl t-shirts using heat transfer vinyl:

Using Pure Heat Transfer Vinyl

Pure heat transfer vinyl comes in a wide range of colors and finishes (glossy, matte, metallic, etc.). These sheets are essentially thin layers of plastic with a colored or patterned design.

This method involves cutting out designs from heat transfer vinyl sheets using a vinyl cutter and then pressing them onto a t-shirt using a heat press.

making vinyl shirts with a cutting machine

Using Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl

Printable heat transfer vinyl functions similarly to pure vinyl, but with a special inkjet-compatible coating. This allows you to print full-color designs directly onto the vinyl sheets using an inkjet printer.

Because the design is printed directly onto the vinyl, there's no separate cutting process needed. You can still use a cutting machine to precisely cut out the design after printing, especially for intricate designs. Similar to traditional cut vinyl, a heat press applies heat and pressure to bond the vinyl to the t-shirt.

t shirt printing with printable heat transfer vinyl

A broad spectrum of applications showcases the versatility of vinyl t-shirt printing. From custom designed clothing for fashion brands to personalized shirts for special events, fundraising, sports teams, and even corporate promotional merchandise - the possibilities are truly limitless. 

The vinyl printing technique is also frequently employed in producing personalized home décor items like cushion covers and tote bags, amplifying its application beyond just apparel.

vinyl printed items

Advantages of Vinyl T-shirt Printing

If you have ever researched T-shirt printing, you might have noticed vinyl is preferred for T-shirt printing. It is the best material for printing shirts because it is durable, stretchable, thin, soft, and appealing.

stretchable vinyl for t shirt printing

Vinyl vs Screen Printing

Vinyl printing is much easier than screen printing. The process is straightforward and very quick, and beginners can also try it without any hassle. Moreover, there are no environmental hazards. The best part about vinyl t shirt printing is that it can also be done on a fewer number; there is no need for bulk orders to make the process profitable.

Things You Need for Heat Transfer Vinyl T-shirts Printing

You need several things for DIY vinyl T-shirt printing. Other than heat transfer vinyl, you need a viny cutter or an inkjet printer, depending on which method you're using, a heat press, and software to make the vinyl shirt design or pattern.

1. Vinyl Cutting Machine (xTool M1)

To cut the desired pattern or graphic from the heat transfer vinyl. We recommend xTool M1, which is the world’s first hybrid laser and blade cutting machine. It can cut materials using the laser as well as the blade. For hard objects, the laser can be used for engraving and cutting, and for materials that cannot be cut with laser, such as vinyl, the blade cutter is suitable.

vinyl cutter

It also comes with light-grip and strong-grip cutting mats that keep the vinyl stable during cutting. Usually, cutting machines cannot focus on the details, but xTool M1 is commendable. The result is nearly as accurate as screen printing. It can consider minute details and offer extra precision that is not possible in common cutting machines.

Most importantly, the machine is very innovative. It has a smart camera, which can help you put the design on the vinyl through a preview interface, ensuring you the ultra accuracy. 

xTool M1 Vinyl T shirt Printing Machine

vinyl t shirt printer


Learn More

2. Vinyl T-Shirt Heat Press Machine

The next thing that you need is the t-shirt heat press machine. After placing the heat transfer vinyl on the fabric, you need to use the heat press to apply heat to the vinyl. There are portable and compact heat press machines available on the market that you can use at your home.

3. Software

For designing, cutting, and other edits on the heat transfer vinyl, you need software. If you are using xTool M1, then you can use its free software xTool Creative Space. This software allows you to create the vinyl shirts designs and control the machine. The software is user-friendly, even beginners can easily master it. It makes vinyl t-shirt printing easier than ever. You can also use LightBurn with xTool M1. It has tons of features, tools, and functions that allow professionals to take vinyl cutting to the next level.

How to Print a Heat Transfer Vinyl T-shirt Using xTool M1?

Step 1: Get the Vinyl Cutting Machine Ready

Get your xTool M1 ready. Connect it to your computer.

Step 2: Prepare the Vinyl Shirt Design

Like designing for any other graphic purpose, you can use design software such as Adobe Illustration, Photoshop, or CoreDARW to make the design for your vinyl t-shirts. Then open the software and upload the image/graphic. You can also write text in xTool Creative Space. Adjust the size and position of the image. Keep in mind that you need to mirror the image or text before cutting it.

mirror the vinyl t shirt design

Step 3: Cut the Vinyl Shirt Design

Now, you are ready to use the machine. Place the heat transfer vinyl on the machine and start cutting using the blade cutter. It will take minimal time to complete the job. When you are done, you will have the vinyl sheet. You might need to remove the excessive part on the foil using a knife or any other suitable tool.

remove the excessive part from the vinyl

Step 4: Apply the Vinyl to the Shirt Using Heat Press

Place the T-shirt on the t shirt heat press machine. Make sure the shirt is flat, and there are no wrinkles. You can iron the shirt first before using it on the heat press. Place the heat transfer vinyl on the shirt and adjust the position of the design. Arrange everything as you like. Use the hot press to heat the vinyl film.

use a heat press to apply the vinyl to the t shirt

Step 5: Remove the Vinyl Protective Film

Finally, you will have your T-shirt ready. You only need to remove the protective film or surface lamination.

remove the surface lamination after applying the vinyl to the t shirt

Step 6: Post-printing Process

Wash the shirt and let it dry. Your shirt is ready to use and sell.

heat tranfer vinyl t shirt

How to Determine the Quality of Heat Transfer Vinyl and the Print?

Appearance: You need to check the quality of the heat transfer vinyl foils before printing. After printing, you need to check the printing quality. There can be defects and issues, so we are going to share a few methods to test the quality.

check the quality of the heat transfer vinyl

Surface After Cutting: After cutting the vinyl and removing the excess part, the leftover vinyl should be smooth from the edges and areas where there are cuts made by the cutting machine. The coating or the layers should be intact after cutting. There should not be any wear and tear.

heat transfer vinyl after cutting

Stamping Performance: Once the vinyl is transferred to the fabric, make sure it looks perfect. There should be no bubbles, discoloration, cracks, shrinking, or anything like that. It should look clear, appealing, flawless, and attractive.

heat transfer vinyl t shirt

Washing and Drying Test: The last test is washing and drying. To check the quality of the stamping, have three times cold wash and three times hot wash, and dry the fabric for 60 minutes. Now, look carefully at the print. If the vinyl is still stuck to the surface of the fabric and there are no cracks, discoloration, and bubbles, it indicates the quality is optimal.

You can buy heat transfer vinyl from xTool. There are different types of vinyl foils available that you can use.


Vinyl T-shirt printing is relatively easy and can be done at home for personal as well as business purposes. You can customize the T-shirts as you like and make them more attractive and appealing. We have discussed everything you need for heat transfer vinyl shirts printing and the step-by-step procedure to do that. xTool M1 makes the whole process easier, and as it is a hybrid machine, you have a wide range of materials to choose from for cutting and engraving. Check more details related to xTool M1.

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