What’s The Difference Between Heat Transfer Vinyl & Adhesive Vinyl?

Should you use heat transfer vinyl or adhesive vinyl on your next project?


While it is pretty clear cut what should be used when, the answer will sometimes depend on what you want to use it for.


For most projects you can use only one or the other, but for a few projects, you have the option to choose between the two.


In this post I’m going to compare adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl and share with you which is used for what!


Comparing Adhesive Vinyl & Heat Transfer Vinyl



I need to mention that Cricut use their own lingo for these materials:


I have made the mistake (a few times unfortunately) of buying Cricut Vinyl when I really wanted Cricut Iron On.


I am used to calling them adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl! Despite the different names, Cricut’s products work just the same and are a premium vinyl.


What Is Heat Transfer Vinyl?


cricut heat transfer vinyl iron on adhesive

Cricut sell a huge range of quality heat transfer vinyl


Heat transfer vinyl, or HTV, is a product that is applied to t-shirts and other substrates by heat. You will have had many t-shirts and other garments with HTV on it! The heat transfer can be done using a heat press machine, a home iron, or the recently released Cricut EasyPress.


HTV vinyl comes in sheets or rolls, and has two parts to it. There is the vinyl and the carrier sheet. They are both joined together and come apart during the heat transfer.


There are different types of heat transfer vinyl, including:


Perhaps the most well known brand of heat transfer vinyl is Siser EasyWeed HTV. I have to confess that this is my favorite brand, just because it is so easy to use, and it looks and feels great.


What Can You Press Heat Transfer Vinyl Onto?


Heat transfer vinyl is most commonly used for t shirts and other clothing. I use it all the time on baby onesies. However, you can press it onto a ton of other surfaces – some of the following I haven’t even tried myself yet!


You can press HTV onto:

  • T shirts
  • Sweatpants
  • Baby onesies
  • Sweatshirts
  • Hats and caps
  • Shoes
  • Wooden farmhouse signs
  • Swimsuits
  • Placemats
  • Teatowels
  • Baby and children’s clothes
  • Canvas tote bags
  • Stretched canvas (a reverse canvas project, for example)
  • Drink coolies
  • And much more!


Heat Transfer Vinyl For T Shirts


htv vs adhesive vinyl which is best

A t-shirt made with Siser Glitter HTV


If you press HTV onto your clothing correctly (as per the manufacturers instructions), it will adhere well and last many washes.


Adhesive vinyl cannot be used on clothing. This would be like putting a sticker onto your t-shirt and then expecting it to last. Therefore, it’s always best to use HTV for clothing and fabric.


How To Use Heat Transfer Vinyl


Here’s what you need in order to use heat transfer vinyl and make your own t shirts:


HTV Design Example


Here’s a quick example of how to make an HTV design in Cricut Design Space and to press it onto a baby onesie.


1. I chose a free font and arranged the text as you see below.


how to make a tshirt with htv


2. Mirror your image because HTV is applied in reverse.


adhesive vinyl vs heat transfer vinyl


3. Place the HTV onto the cutting mat and then weed the design (pull away excess vinyl) to be pressed.


4. Pre-press any fabrics to remove moisture and wrinkles before you press your design. Place the heat transfer onto the onesie and press with your iron, EasyPress, or heat press.


htv vs adhesive vinyl pressing onto shirt

I used the Cricut EasyPress for this project


Once the design has been pressed onto the garment, the vinyl carrier sheet is removed. For most HTVs (including Siser & Cricut) the carrier sheet can be peeled off while warm.



Where To Buy Heat Transfer Vinyl


Siser heat transfer vinyl for t shirts

As I’ve already mentioned, Siser HTV is my favourite, and I buy it from Amazon more than anywhere else. Just because I love Amazon! But it is worth comparing prices with some of the other retailers below. See the range of Siser HTV on Amazon here OR this Siser EasyWeed Review.


cricut iron on heat transfer vinyl

Cricut Iron On is another HTV I have a lot of experience with. I love their many varieties and colors of iron on vinyl. There’s always something new to try. You can see the range on their website.

expressions vinyl for heat transfer vinyl iron on adhesive

Expressions Vinyl is another heat transfer vinyl retailer. They only sell Siser HTV, so it’s worth comparing prices with Amazon. Check out their range and prices here.

happy crafters heat transfer vinyl

Happy Crafters also sell a wide range of HTV – including glow in the dark heat transfer vinyl and a whole lot of really pretty patterned HTV. Check it out for yourself here.


You have the option to buy heat transfer sheets or rolls in different widths and lengths.


Because I use the Cricut Maker, I can’t use vinyl wider than 12 inches (unless I want to trim it to size myself, which I don’t). Many HTV sheets are sold in 12 x 12 inch sheets, which is what I prefer. However, for vinyl colors that I use a lot of (black & white heat transfer vinyl, for example), I will buy a 5 foot rolls or larger.


It is best to go with a known brand of premium heat transfer vinyl. The quality of the vinyl will determine how easy it is for you to do your project, and the quality of your finished custom t shirt.


What Is Adhesive Vinyl?


Cricut adhesive & heat transfer vinyl

Cricut sell a large range of quality adhesive vinyl


Adhesive vinyl is just like HTV, except it’s not applied with heat, it’s just a great big sticker!


As with HTV, there are different types of adhesive vinyl you can choose from. You can choose one with a temporary or removable adhesive, such as Oracal 631, which is great for things such as wall decals.


Or, you can get vinyl as a permanent adhesive, such as Oracal 651, which is ideal for everything, especially outdoor use on things such as signs and cars. Oracal 651 is also suitable for mugs which will be washed many times. There are also other types of specialty adhesive vinyl available for specific situations.


What Can You Put Adhesive Vinyl Onto?


You can apply adhesive vinyl onto:



Adhesive vinyl is best for things that are not going to be washed or even handled a whole lot (so definitely not clothing!).


It’s fine for cups and mugs – though they say not to use in a dishwasher. However, I do put my mugs with adhesive vinyl through the dishwasher, and they’re totally fine. They’ve been through dozens, if not hundreds, of times and haven’t begun to peel.


It’s not best to apply adhesive vinyl to anything that is rough or porous as it won’t stick well. When applying adhesive vinyl to stretched canvas for example, it’s best to coat the canvas in a layer of acrylic paint or to spray it with clear coat before you apply your vinyl (make sure the paint is completely dry first). This will help the vinyl to stick better.


The same goes for wood, which you can also sand down and stain before applying vinyl.


How To Use Adhesive Vinyl



Here’s what you need to make your own adhesive vinyl decals:


You will need to cut your design with the backing paper side down and the vinyl facing up, in your cutting machine. Unlike with HTV, you do not need to mirror your design before you send it to be cut.


Here’s how the process goes (also see video on how to use adhesive vinyl below):

  • cut your design into the vinyl
  • remove the excess vinyl
  • apply transfer tape over the top of the adhesive vinyl and burnish
  • pull away the sticker paper
  • apply transfer to the surface and burnish
  • remove transfer paper leaving only the adhesive vinyl on your project



Where To Buy Adhesive Vinyl


oracal adhesive vinyl pressure sensitive vinyl

Oracal is one of the best adhesive vinyls for craft projects. It can be bought on Amazon, through the Expressions Vinyl link or Happy Crafters link below.


Siser heat transfer vinyl for t shirts

Siser also has a range of adhesive vinyl called Siser PSV. PSV stands for ‘pressure sensitive vinyl’. This is easy to cut, weed, and apply. See the range of Siser EasyPSV on Amazon here OR see the Expressions vinyl link below.


cricut iron on heat transfer vinylCricut are well known for their adhesive vinyl (what they simply call ‘vinyl’). As with their Iron On, I love the huge range or vinyl types and colors. You can see it all on their website.


expressions vinyl for heat transfer vinyl iron on adhesive

Expressions Vinyl sell various brands of adhesive vinyl, including permanent and removable adhesive vinyl. They offer Oracal 651 & 631, as well as Siser EasyPSV. See everything they offer here.


happy crafters heat transfer vinyl

Happy Crafters is also a supplier of top adhesive vinyl. They always seem to have some extra special vinyls that I can’t find anywhere else. See it for yourself here.


HTV Vs Adhesive Vinyl


Should you use heat transfer vinyl or adhesive vinyl?


Heat transfer vinyl is always best for clothing and for fabric items such as tote bags, cosmetic pouches, drink coolies, mousepads and so on. The use of heat allows the design to firmly adhere to the substrate, making it more durable.


Adhesive vinyl is great for awkwardly shaped objects that aren’t able to be heat transferred. Overall, adhesive vinyl can be a lot more versatile with the things you are able to create with it. It’s great for making wall art, or for decorating things such as glass chopping boards!


This video from Expressions Vinyl shows some interesting and unconventional ways of using HTV (you might get a few new ideas!):



Pros of Using Heat Transfer Vinyl


  • It is more durable and lasts a lot longer when used on canvas, wood, ceramic etc.
  • HTV is better for business – if you want to sell great, high quality products, then HTV will give a better result (as long as it’s appropriate to be used on the substrate)
  • It is more fun doing heat transfers, especially with a heat press!


Pros of Using Adhesive Vinyl


  • Likely to be cheaper than using HTV as you need less equipments
  • Apply adhesive vinyl to awkwardly shaped surfaces, like wine glasses. You can’t do this with a heat press!
  • Easily applied to outdoor surfaces, like vehicles
  • It’s quicker to use and less complicated than HTV. You don’t need to buy a heat press, learn how to use it  and learn how to use it. Once you have cut your design you can simply apply it with your hands.


I hope you now have a better idea of when to use HTV and when to use adhesive vinyl. As you see, there are pros and cons to using each, depending on the project you have in mind. You can consider which is going to be more durable and which is going to be more convenient. You can choose which is going to be cheaper and which one is best for the surface.


Thanks for reading! Please leave us a comment down below and tell us about a project you have completed recently!


Pin this post for later! 🙂



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Comments 26

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