Getting started with Heat Transfer Vinyl

Making a professional quality print on virtually any garment with great ease, with only a very small investment in equipment. Sounds too good to be true? With the MagiCut brand, TheMagicTouch has a huge experience in this field, and we know it is true! MagiCut consists of over three hundred different Heat transfer vinyl’s in solid color, flock, glitter, printable vinyl’s and many more. So, it is clear from the outset that starting with Heat transfer Vinyl is interesting and offers many business opportunities. In this article we tell you all you need to know to get started with Heat Transfer Vinyl and show you how easy it is to make perfect logos, lettering, numbers, and fashion designs to almost every type of workwear, sportswear, leisurewear, and promotional accessories. Let’s get started!

What is Heat Transfer Vinyl?

Heat Transfer Vinyl is also sometimes referred to as Flex or textile foil. In this article we will refer to it as Heat transfer Vinyl or HTV in short. It is used to decorate garments with a single-colored foil. Heat Transfer Vinyl is available in many different appearances like solid colors including Neon, glitter and metallics among others. And what about appearances like patterns, reflective surfaces and even Glow in the Dark? On top of that, Heat Transfer Vinyl is also available in a printable variant where first a full color print can be applied which is then cut by either the same machine or a separate cutter. Heat Transfer Film consists of three or more layers. In most cases these are:

  • Hotmelt glue
  • The actual color of design layer (or layers) or the print layer
  • Carrier

1. Hotmelt Glue layer

This plays an especially important role in the process, as it enables the HTV to bond with the garment when pressed on the heat press. If the heat and some medium pressure is applied, the polyester hotmelt bonds with the garment and after pressing this ensures the foil to be part of the product it is pressed on. There are diverse types of Hotmelt and the type of Hotmelt determines how long you press and if it suitable for polyester fabrics.

2. Color/Design or print layer

This is the layer the end user will see on the garment. It can be a color, have a metallic or glitter effect, provide a reflective layer or many more of the three hundred different HTV MagiCut has on offer. Some of the design layers consist of several layers themselves to create unique effects like holographic effects or color transition. In most cases this layer consists of Polyurethane. Or this can be the print layer. With printable HTV, this is the layer where the large format inkjet printer like for instance a Roland BN-20A creates the image, before the contour of the image is cut by either the same machine or a separate cutter.

3. Carrier

Also sometimes referred to as “Liner” or “Backing”. Anything that must be cut by a cutting plotter, must be mounted on a carrier. This carrier is a transparent polyurethane which is ideal for this job. The cutter cuts through the design layer(s) and the hotmelt layer, but not through the carrier. This allows the design to have many separate elements that remain all together on the carrier. More on this here below where we explain how it works in more detail.

The color/design layer is bonded together with the hotmelt layer. The combination of these two layers is fixed to the carrier which is transparent. Thanks to this composition the HTV can be cut in mirror image on the hotmelt side. The rear of the HTV so you like. The cutter cuts through the combined hotmelt and color/design layer, not through the Carrier:

The combined Hotmelt color/design is bonded to the carrier with what is called a Pressure sensitive adhesive. The challenge of this adhesive is to be very strong during the cutting process, but very loose after the HTV has been pressed onto the garment. MagiCut offers some variation here, as with smaller designs you want this bond to be stronger for easier cutting and weeding of the minute details, but with larger designs and bigger runs a lower bonding enables quicker processing as removing the excess material (weeding) is faster. That’s why 123Flex has an incredibly low bonding adhesive for faster weeding and quicker removing after pressing and 123Premium Flex has a more bonding adhesive for the carrier for smaller details in the design.

And what about Printable HTV? This works the same. There are a few differences however: To enable the large format inkjet printer to actually print on the HTV, the layer that will be visible on the garment has to be on top instead of being on the carrier. After printing, cutting, and weeding an application tape must be stuck onto the print. This application tape sticks to the printable layer enough to pull it off the carrier. Then the situation is the same as with non-printable HTV. The application tape is the new carrier and can be put onto the garment, application tape up. After pressing the application tape is removed from the garment just like the carrier is removed. What remains is a full color printed and free formed cut design on the garment.

How does HTV work?

  • Make or import your design into the cutter software.
  • Load the HTV into the cutting plotter
  • The cutting plotter cuts your design in mirror image
  • Release the cut HTV from the plotter
  • Weed the excess material around the design
  • Align the design on your garment on the heat press
  • Press
  • Remove the carrier
  • Done!

How does Printable HTV work?

  • Make or import your design into the printer/cutter software.
  • Load the HTV into the printer/cutting plotter
  • The printer/cutter creates the print on the printable layer
  • The printer/cutter cuts the contour of the printed image
  • Weed the excess material around the design
  • Apply Application tape on top of the design and take the design off the carrier with the application tape
  • Align the design on your garment on the heat press
  • Press
  • Remove the application tape
  • Done!

Why choose Heat Transfer Vinyl?

The wonderful thing about HTV is that you can achieve a very high-quality print on practically every type of garment with a low investment in equipment. It is easy to learn to work with both the software and the actual transfer process you will have great results in very little learning time.

What types of HTV are there

Heat Transfer Vinyl can be divided in a couple of groups:

  1. Basic colors
  2. HTV for dark colored Polyester with Block Out coating
  3. Special design HTV’s
  4. Reflective HTV’s
  5. Printable HTV’s

1. Basic colors

Solid color HTV available in many colors. MagiCut offers these in two varieties: 123Flex and 123Premium Flex. The actual vinyl that ends up on the garment is the same in both varieties. The difference between these two is that 123Flex has a low tack adhesive carrier and the 123Premium Flex has a high tack adhesive carrier. Which you choose is personal preference and depending on the general size of your orders. If you do a lot of larger designs (E.g., sport shirts with big numbers and names) 123Flex works faster. The weeding is easier, and the separate transfers can be piled very easily with larger runs. If you get a lot of orders with small, detailed designs, you are better off with 123Premium flex and its higher tack carrier. The tiny details of the design stay on the carrier better than with the low tack carrier of 123Flex.

2. HTV for dark colored polyester with Block Out coating

This HTV has an extra layer, especially designed to be a barrier for color pigments that may migrate into the HTV. This unwanted process, often referred to as “bleeding” can occur when a light colored HTV print is transferred onto darker colored polyester garments. The Block Out HTV like MagiCut 123Premium Block Out Flex, gives the best protection to prevent this from happening.

3. Special design HTV’s

These HTV’s are one of the major reasons that make HTV unique. They offer designs that are impossible to achieve with any printing transfer system out there. Effects like glitter, holographic, color shifting metallics, and even glow-in-the-dark are unique to the HTV process. Check out the MagiCut HTV collection to see the unique possibilities of these HTV’s.

4. Reflective HTV’s

MagiCut HTV’s even come in a reflective variety. Another unique selling point as no digital printer can create reflective prints like these. Ideal for safety workwear, very striking promotion wear or great design garments. The MagiCut Reflex HTV is EN ISO 24071 certified for optimal safety and compliance for workwear and high visibility clothing in general.

5. Printable HTV’s

As mentioned before, MagiCut makes HTV ideal for printing and cutting with an Eco-Solvent printer/cutter like the popular Roland BN-20A for instance. MagiCut offers 3 kinds of printable HTV for wide application and many possibilities when combining full color printing with the high-quality garment prints of HTV.

When do you choose Heat Transfer Vinyl

When you want to create limited run or unique one-off designs onto as many kinds of garment as possible with a small investment and very high versatility in appearance. You can use all sorts of designs that are not obtainable with other digital printing processes like metallics, glitter, color shifting, glow in the dark, reflective and more. All this with a washability that is up there with the best and more than good enough to be used on garments that need intensive washing like workwear and sportswear.

What are the pros and cons


  • Equipment investment can be very low.
  • The washability of a print made with Heat transfer Vinyl is up there with the best.
  • Versatile: there are many types of foil available for many types of garments.
  • You can make designs with effects that are virtually impossible with any other digital printing process i.e. glitter.
  • User friendly software, no previous experience is required to get beautiful, high-quality results.
  • Special applications available like reflective and Glow in the Dark HTV.
  • Ideal for limited runs or unique one-off personalization.
  • Very well suited for company- or sporting gear thanks to the high durability.
  • Very suitable process for children’s clothing because of the eco-friendly composition.


  • More complicated designs with lots of tiny details may become too time consuming or physically impossible.
  • Multi-, or Full color designs require an Eco Solvent printer/cutter like the Roland BN-20A and a steeper investment.
  • Labor costs can be too high for print runs with higher numbers.

Which fabrics can Heat Transfer Vinyl be used on?

Most HTV films are suitable for cotton, polyester, or a mix of both. There are also special Heat transfer Vinyl’s for 100% polyester like soft shell. Untreated nylon and other special garments like a burlap bag can also be personalized with HTV. So basically, there are not many garments that cannot be personalized with HTV. Because modern HTV’s can now be transferred with relative low temperatures, even more fabrics can pe used for transfer printing. In summary:

  • Cotton
  • Polyester
  • Cotton/polyester mixes
  • Linen
  • Burlap
  • Polyester mixes with lycra or other elastic additions
  • Untreated Nylon

Why do I choose MagiCut HTV?

MagiCut offers a vast range of colors designs and specific HTV’s like reflective’s Block Out and Glow-in-the-dark HTV.

Because MagiCut is directly from the factory without any in between distributers or sub-dealers, it can offer a very high-quality product at a very competing price. MagiCut is a brand from TheMagicTouch, a company with a huge experience in making and marketing transfer products so apart from the quality products there is also the expertise to advise you and answer all your questions so in the end you can produce quality items with proper revenue that make your customers happy and return.

What do you need to get started

1. Plotting cutter

You need a cutting plotter which are available in many price ranges starting from as little as a couple of hundred of Euro’s all the way up to a few thousand Euro’s. When starting to cut HTV for garment processing you do not need a big cutting plotter. Which cutting plotter you can buy best depends on the budget. All Heat Transfer Vinyls are suitable for the current cutting plotters on the market. The Silhouette Cameo cutting plotter is a popular plotter for all starters and has excellent software. It is amazing what you can already do with one of these modest prized models.

If you want a larger format plotter, professional software and more speed and volume, the Graphtec cutting plotters are among the very best in the business. Available up to 160 cm wide if vinyl foils are also cut in addition to Heat Transfer Vinyl. You can go one up and choose an Eco Solvent Printer/cutter enabling you not only to cut HTV, but to print in full color on them as well.

2. Software

You need special software to make or import a design and send it to the cutter plotter or printing/plotter. However most plotters come with their own software so this is never an issue.

3. MagiCut HTV

Obviously you need the Heat Transfer Vinyl.

4. Heat Press

To transfer the HTV design onto the garment you need a heat press. As HTV does not require a very high pressure, you can use one of the more simpler heat presses, but always go for quality. More on heat presses and which one to choose here.

5. Application Tools

A weeding tool is very helpful for faster and more accurate weeding. The most advanced tools come with a little build in light to see the cutting lines better and are still only around $ 20,–. When you use an Eco Solvent cutter/plotter with printable HTV, you will also need Application Tape to transfer the design from the carrier onto the garment.

A summary of the MagiCut range of HTV’s

Here we provide an overview of each separate type HTV MagiCut has to offer with a short description of the specifics of that HTV.

MagiCut 123Flex

MagiCut 123Flex is available in many colors, with a nice matte finish. 123Flex has a low tack carrier, allowing for very fast weeding, easy handling and piling of the cut transfers when pressing and warm peeling of the carrier. Can be transferred at very low temperature of only 130°C/266°F for ease of use and lower load of the garment during pressing or amazingly fast (3 to 5 seconds!) at slightly higher temperature of 155°/311°F.


MagiCut 123Premium

MagiCut 123Premium is available in many colors, with an nice matte finish. 123Premium Flex has a high tack carrier allowing for better handling of small detailed designs. Can be transferred at very low temperature of only 130°C/266°F for ease of use and lower load of the garment during pressing or very fast (3 to 5 seconds!) at slightly higher temperature of 155°/311°F.


MagiCut Stretch Flex

MagiCut Stretch is the most stretchy flex film for sportswear and stretchy fabrics with elastane or lycra. This thin variant feels extremely soft and is processed within 3-5 seconds at 155°C/311°F, or at only 130°C/266°F for 10-15 seconds for less burdening of the garment.


MagiCut Dimension

MagiCut Dimension flex is an extra thick and sturdy silicone flex with a sublistop function for printing sportswear, sports bags and many other garments. With a thickness of five hundred microns, dimension creates an authentic 3D look and is ideal for logos.


MagiCut 123Premium Sublibloc

MagiCut 123Premium Sublibloc is the fastest sublistop flex with the best price-quality ratio. It is a cold peel and can be processed at a low temperature for better performance on sensitive garments.


MagiCut Photochromic

MagiCut Photochromic is a true “magical” HTV: Appearing as a creamy white indoors and in low light conditions, the print can shift completely to a nice soft pastel color of choice when UV (sun light) hits it.


MagiCut Rainbow Spectrum

MagiCut Rainbow Spectrum HTV with a unique color shifting, metallic effect. Depending on the lighting the color will change and shift completely giving a very fashionable, spectacular effect.


MagiCut Glitter

MagiCut Glitter HTV with a nice smooth finish and subtle glitter effect. Very nice for fashion or children’s clothing.


MagiCut Reflex

MagiCut Reflex is a high reflective surface of this HTV makes it ideal for safety workwear, very striking promotion wear or great design garments. The MagiCut Reflex HTV is EN ISO 24071 certified for optimal safety and compliance for workwear and high visibility clothing in general.


MagiCut Flock

MagICut Flock is a unique HTV with a soft fiber surface. The real fibers create a print on garment that has a very luxurious feel and soft touch with e slight 3D effect.


MagiCut Metallic

MagiCut Metallic HTV offers a chrome like finish for the prints on garments. Available in many colors and a glass like finish you give a unique style to a design. Often used in Fashion and promotional wear.


MagiCut Soft Metallic

MagiCut Soft Metallic will obtain the shape of the fibers, resulting in a unique matte metal finish with surprisingly stretchable and very thin feeling end results.


MagiCut Holographic

MagiCut Holographic HTV with a unique holographic metallic effect. For the ultimate sparkly effect print on garments. Tip: Use a dotted font together with MagiCut holographic silver and you get a complete strass effect that looks exactly like the real thing, but with far better washability.


MagiCut Glow

MagiCut Glow is another enlightening idea; This HTV will “charge” with light when it is hit with sunlight. When in the dark, it emits the light as a green shimmer, making your design literally glow in the dark! Need an idea for Halloween or club-wear anyone?


MagiCut Hotmelt

MagiCut Hotmelt is an HTV for using with Hot Stamp foil. You transfer the design with MagiCut Hotmelt onto the garment and press again with the design covered with a sheet of Hot stamp foil. After pressing the design has been “metallized” by the hot stamp foil.


Now you know all the basics of Heat transfer Vinyl’s or HTV’s in short. After reading this it may come as no surprise that HTV’s have created countless high quality printed and personalized garments worldwide. Many business, small medium and large have discovered that this printing system can create high revenue with little investment, which is always a good combination to start with.

Want to see more?

Check out this article to download our MagiCut catalog.

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