One of the best ways to design custom t-shirts is to use heat transfer vinyl. Using this versatile graphic design method, you can cut out everything from lettering to logos to fun images. But before you can get started using your awesome HTV designs, you need to know how to find the best shirts for heat transfer vinyl.
The best shirts for heat transfer vinyl contain either 100% cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester. Other important factors to consider include the fabric’s quality and weight and the shirt’s price. Finding a brand that offers a variety of fits, sizes, and colors will also help when using HTV on shirts.
In this article, you will learn what characteristics make the best shirts for HTV. You will discover the top ten brands selling blank shirts for vinyl. Finally, you will find tips on how to place a bulk order for blank tees.
What Fabric is Best for Heat Transfer Vinyl?
Heat transfer vinyl works best on 100% cotton shirts in most cases, though you can also successfully apply HTV to polycotton blends and even to 100% polyester with a few modifications.
You should not try to place HTV on most other types of fabrics, though. Many synthetic materials like rayon and acrylic will melt in the heat press. Of course, any shirt fabric could melt or scorch if you do not apply the correct temperature and pressure!
Cotton works well for HTV because it can handle high heat without any damage (though you need to use preshrunk cotton shirts to avoid shrinking around your HTV design). A blend of 60% cotton and 40% polyester also makes a popular fabric choice for HTV because the cotton keeps the shirt soft, but the polyester makes it cheaper and more durable.
You can apply HTV to polyester fabric, but you have to carefully balance the high heat needed to seal the vinyl adhesive vs the chance that a synthetic like polyester can scorch in the heat. A protective Teflon sheet between the fabric and the press can help with this issue.
Best Shirts for Heat Transfer Vinyl
The best shirts for heat transfer vinyl depend on factors like the type of graphic design method used, the type of fabric, the fabric shrink rate, the quality vs price of the garment, the weight of the fabric, and the fit of the shirt.
Graphic Design Method
You can use several different graphic design methods when applying HTV to a shirt. The most basic is to cut out shapes or letters from sheets of HTV, but you can also use special types of HTV or even use a process of sublimating onto HTV and then attaching it to a shirt.
The simplest graphic design method for HTV starts with a digital image, which could feature lettering or the outline of various shapes. After translating the image into a cut file, an electronic cutting machine (like a Cricut) will cut out the outline of the shapes or letters. You then peel away the excess vinyl, leaving the shape you want, and arrange it on the shirt before using a heat press to activate the adhesive on the vinyl.
This basic method does not impact what kind of shirt you should use because you can attach regular HTV to cotton, polyester, or a fabric blend. You want to ensure the HTV color contrasts nicely with the color of the blank garment, but you could safely use cotton or polyester here by adjusting the heat press settings.
If you want to use more than one color in your image, you can separate each color into a separate cut file and cut out the shapes from one sheet of vinyl at a time. Then layer HTV shapes on top of each other to form a multi-color design. This method requires adjustments to the heating period to make sure both layers of HTV heat properly.
Generally speaking, this method is easier on 100% cotton shirts because you don’t have to worry about overheating the polyester while applying multiple layers of HTV.
You can also use special effects with HTV by using special types of vinyl like glitter, glow-in-the-dark, or metallic versions. Each type will come with special heating instructions that tell you what temperature to use and how long to leave the shirt in the press.
You can use a wide variety of shirt types with special effects, though you may want to consider making sure you use garments with a good fabric weight for heavier types of HTV, like the glitter version.
Finally, you can also use a two-part process to apply a sublimated design onto a sheet of HTV treated with a polyester coating. Then use a heat press to apply the vinyl sheet to the shirt. This gives you a nice background for a photo or full-color image.
Printers often use this method to easily apply full-color designs to black or dark-colored shirts. The image does not pop well if you print directly onto a dark fabric. Putting it on a sheet of treated vinyl first allows the image to contrast nicely with the shirt.
Type of Fabric
As you saw earlier in this article, 100% cotton is always a good fabric choice for an HTV shirt. You can also use cotton blended with other fibers or polyester.
- Cotton shirts cost more but feel softer and have excellent breathability. They also handle HTV well because cotton will not melt under high heat. On the other hand, cotton fibers can shrink in some cases if not properly pretreated.
- Polyester shirts cost a lot less, but this plastic-based synthetic material will melt under the wrong conditions. You can use polyester and HTV in a heat press, but you need to follow careful temperature guidelines.
- Blended fabrics like polycotton provide a good compromise between these two types of fabric. A 60/40 or 50/50 shirt will often work well with HTV.
Some types of fabric can shrink when exposed to heat, creating a skewed, misshapen look to your HTV design.
To avoid this, you can use polyester, which does not shrink. You can also use a blend of polyester and cotton to cut down on any chance of shrinking, Or you can use cotton that comes preshrunk, meaning that the garments go through a special factory process to prevent any more shrinking in the future.
Before buying blank shirts from a particular brand, do your research and see what other consumers have said about the shrink rate of the shirts.
Quality Vs Price
Another factor in choosing the best shirt for heat transfer vinyl is the quality vs the price.
Whether you want the shirt for yourself or buy a bulk order of blank tees to resell, you want to look at the garment’s construction. Does it use double lines of stitching? Do the stitches look small and regular, not large and sloppy?
Other quality factors include nice touches like tearaway tags for people with sensitive skin and the seam style used to attach the sleeve to the shirt.
But of course, you have to weigh all those quality elements against the cost. It stands to reason that nicer shirts usually cost more! Factors like shipping cost and bulk discounts make a difference when you price out t-shirts.
One key element to consider when picking the best shirt for HTV is the weight of the fabric. T-shirt fabrics use weight per square yard to describe the thickness and heft of the material. Lightweight shirts weight around 3 oz per square yard, while heavy shirts weight above 6 oz per square yard.
The weight of the shirt depends partly on your personal preferences. Do you like wearing a light, silky-feeling tee or a warmer, heavier one?
If you plan to sell the shirts, remember that heavier fabrics are slightly better because they last longer. But lightweight blank tees will cost less when you buy them in bulk, so the price might also impact your choice.
Finally, choosing the best shirts for HTV depends on the style and fit options. Most brands will offer a wide range of fits and sizes for you to choose from. If you want to buy a shirt just for your own personal use, you just need to select a brand that offers blank tees in your size and in whatever fit you like best, such as a women’s cut or athletic fit.
But if you want to sell your HTV shirts, you will want to find a brand that offers a big range of blank tees. For instance, does the brand sell 5XL shirts or up to 3XL? Does the brand only offer unisex fit tees, or can you get both women’s and children’s fits?
On top of this, look at design elements like the type of neckline offered. If the brand offers blank tees with both V-neck and crewneck tees, you will have more options to provide your future customers.
Best Shirts for Cricut HTV: Top Brands
Now that you know the key factors that determine the best shirts for HTV take a look at some of the top t-shirt brands to see who sells the best shirts for Cricut HTV.
1. American ApparelAmerican Apparel sells expensive, high-quality tees that you can buy in many different colors, styles, and cuts. This brand will make a great choice if you want to offer premium tees to your customers at a high price or make just a few nice tees for you and your family.
2. Fruit of the LoomFruit of the Loom may sound like an old-fashioned underwear brand to you, but these days, they also sell a small selection of quality men’s and women’s t-shirts. These shirts have nice features like tearaway tags and dense, heavy-weight cotton fabric.
On average, individual shirts cost around $17 from this brand, so you have to pay for the high quality!
3. GildanGildan t-shirts are one of the most popular choices for HTV shirts. The company offers up to 70 color options for both men’s and women’s shirts and uses 100% cotton in most of the styles (except some heather-patterned shirts that do contain polyester).
This is also the brand of blank shirts sold by the popular crafting store Michaels–Gildan shirts offer a reliable, good-quality surface for all kinds of decoration, from screen printing to HTV.
4. HanesHanes offers a generous range of types of shirts and many special features, like V-neck or round-neck shirts, tearaway tags, and even special activewear fabrics like Nano-T. Hanes shirts contain 100% cotton and have a good weight. Plus, you can get certain models as low as $4 apiece, though pricier shirts can cost up to $20 each.
Anvil is a Gildan brand that offers a limited range of affordable blank t-shirts, hoodies, and long-sleeve shirts. These come in several different fabric types, including soft ringspun cotton and tri-blend material. Plus, you can find both men’s and women’s sizes.
Pricing for these shirts depends on where you purchase them. You can easily find them on Amazon or from various discount sellers.
4. Bella+CanvasBella+Canvas markets almost exclusively to t-shirt printers and small businesses looking for quality blank shirts. You can find pretty much any blank garment you want here, ranging from simple unisex tees to crop tees to sweatsuits! They use Airlume ringspun cotton and offer many colors and washes, like a unique faded vintage-style wash.
The only downside to this popular brand is that most of their sizing ranges only up to 2XL. Plus, individually priced shirts cost over $20 apiece, though the brand does have a wholesale purchase option.
America offers a limited range of shirts and hoodies in men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes and cuts. Many have a lovely soft, vintage finish made with techniques like acid washing. Most of the tees contain a 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester.
This smaller company offers a popular wholesale line, though you have to contact the company for pricing.
Better yet, you can get most of their products at reasonable individual prices of $12-$16. The company also has a wholesale option for customers who create an account.
What Materials Do You Need for Heat Transfer Vinyl?
You need a few key supplies to get started using heat transfer vinyl, including a cutting machine and blanks.
- First, you need a way to create or edit digital images to turn them into vinyl shapes. Most cutting machines come with free access to a graphic design program that many home artists use.
- You will also need an electronic cutting machine to cut out the vinyl shapes or letters. Two of the most popular brands include Cricut and Silhouette for home use. Alternatively, you can also buy precut shapes or letters from craft stores or online sellers if you do not want to make this investment.
- Of course, you will also need to buy vinyl! HTV comes in wide varieties, running from simple matte sheets to glitter, neon, metallic, or even lace-like types.
- The HTV will not do you any good unless you have a blank to put it on! As you have seen in this article, you can find excellent blank t-shirts from many popular brands for this purpose.
- Finally, but perhaps most importantly, you need a heat press. This special machine uses both high heat and pressure to activate the adhesive on the back of HTV, causing it to stick permanently to the fabric of the shirt. You can try using your iron for small home projects, but this method is not recommended as your iron does not let you set a specific temperature and also does not provide an even spread of heat.
Best Shirts for Heat Press
The best shirts to use with a heat press contain 100% preshrunk cotton. Cotton will not easily scorch, melt, or skew in a heat press, making it a safe choice.
That said, you can certainly use shirts containing a mix of cotton with a cheaper content, like polyester. You simply need to adjust the temperature of the press to allow for the more sensitive polyester fibers.
You can even heat press on polyester shirts without damaging them at all! Some types of t-shirt designs, like sublimation printing, only work on polyester.
This table gives you an idea of the temperatures and times to use for your heat press with each type of shirt. But please note that you may also need to adjust these times and temperatures depending on what type of HTV you use. The vinyl packaging will provide instructions for this.
|100% Cotton||315℉ to 350℉|
|60% Cotton, 40% Polyester||340℉|
|50/50 Cotton and Polyester||330℉|
|Tri-blend Cotton, Polyester, Rayon||280℉|
Heat Transfer Vinyl for T-Shirts
One of the best things about designing heat transfer vinyl shirts is using many different kinds of HTV! Popular brands like Siser and Cricut offer many color and finish options, though you can find plenty of other brands to choose from if you search Amazon or online stores.
A few of the most popular types of HTV include:
- Matte vinyl, in thinner easy weed weight or heavier weights for a more textured surface.
- Stretchy HTV, which can flex better with knitwear or athletic wear without messing up the vinyl design.
- Glossy HTV that has a shiny surface.
- Glitter HTV, which has a rough, glittery surface coated to keep the bits of glitter from falling off.
- Flock HTV, which feels slightly flannelly or suede-like, depending on the style. If you like a softer, more velvety texture, you may prefer this over the more plasticky feel of matte HTV.
What Shirts are Best for Iron-on Transfers?
HTV or other types of iron-on transfers will adhere well to cotton or polyester shirts. But cotton shirts work best overall because you do not have to worry about melting the fabric as you do with polyester.
The trick in choosing the right shirt for HTV is that you need to use a high enough heat to attach the vinyl without damaging the fabric beneath.
Bulk T-Shirts for Heat Press
If you want to make HTV shirts to sell, you probably want to buy your blank shirts in bulk to get the best price. The good news is that you can find many wholesale or bulk sellers who offer the popular brands listed in this article, like Hanes and Gildan.
You can also search each brand’s website to see if the company offers a good wholesale discount; many brands, like Bella + Canvas, provide this service.
While wholesale prices can vary a lot, bulk orders usually have to contain at least 100 shirts. The price then depends on the quality of the item you selected.
The best shirts for heat transfer vinyl contain soft and breathable cotton. But you can also apply HTV to polyester if you take the right precautions. Other factors to consider when picking a shirt include the quality of its stitching and the weight of the fabric, as well as the variety of styles and sizes offered by the brand.
Some of the most popular brands selling blank t-shirts for HTV include Gildan, Hanes, Bella +Canvas, and Fruit of the Loom. Brands like American Apparel sell high-quality, expensive blank shirts, while newer brands like J America offer cheaper shirts. Other brands like Threadfast focus on providing shirts made in an eco-friendly manner.