The Complete Heat Press Guide

adhesive & htv vinyl

Bright Star Crafters Heat Press Guide

We get it! The World of Crafting can be a totally confusing territory for beginner crafters. That’s why we’ve put together this Complete Heat Press Guide, plus a quick intro about HTV and how to apply it. You’re going to love it.

Learn and compare different types of heat press for all your Cricut Crafts and projects. We’re here to answer the Whats, Whys, and Hows as we break down all the kinds of heat press and where you might use them. Let’s get started!

Why Do You Need A Heat Press?

It’s simple really: You can’t really use regular adhesive vinyl to customize fabric items. Permanent Adhesive Vinyl is a great option for hard, smooth surfaces, but if you’re looking to customize fabric materials like a t-shirt, pencil case, hat, or stubby holder–and have them last in the wash–the wise thing to do is to use Heat Transfer Vinyl.

When Do I Need To Use A Heat Press?

  • Using Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV or sometimes referred to as Iron-On Vinyl) on fabrics to activate the adhesive backing and allow it to adhere to the fabric
  • Using sublimation paper or infusible ink on sublimation-ready fabric, ceramics and other hard surfaces. This process is a little different from working with HTV, but a heat press works best here.

Types of Heat Presses:

  • Household iron
  • Mug press
  • Hand held heat press
  • Clamp heat press

Using Household Irons

Image Credits: Hey Let’s Make Stuff

This can be great to use when you’re first starting out and only want to do tiny projects.

Pros: It’s an affordable alternative as most household irons are readily available.

Cons: Only works on tiny projects. It’s really hard to get a consistent finish as it’s hard to know the exact temperature. You’ll need to turn off the steam setting, empty out the water, and avoid the steam holes, ensuring you only use the flat part to get even pressure.

Using Mug Presses

Image Credits:

Mug presses are used with sublimation paper or infusible ink. You can get stand-alone mug presses or ones that hook up to a flatbed heat press.

Pros: They’re usually easy to use and can be very affordable especially if you get one with a flatbed heat press.

Cons: You’ll need to use mugs with flat edges so that the print is applied correctly with even heat and pressure. If you want to press ‘tapered’ mugs or tumblers that are larger at the top than they are at the bottom, you’ll need to check whether you can adjust your mug press to suit.

Check out this quick tutorial video on how to make a DIY Mug with Sublimation Paper to see how we’ve used a mug press for this project.

Love this Christmas mug? We got more easy tutorials of fun crafting project inspiration. Just click on the button below.

Using Hand-Held Heat Presses

Image Credits: Hey Let’s Make Stuff

These come in a range of sizes from mini to medium and are great for beginner crafters. You can choose to buy a Cricut Mini Press or Easy Press. There’s also a huge range of more affordable options from brands like Vevor.

Pros: Most are quite affordable, especially the ones that come with a mug attachment. They have heat settings, so it’s easier to control and get a consistent finish. Different sizes are good for different things, so think about the kinds of crafts you’ll be making before you buy. They’re usually a lot smaller than clamp heat presses, so they’re easier to store or travel with. If you’re working with designs on items with small surface areas, the mini-press is very handy. Applying HTV to canvas shoes and small cosmetic bags is a breeze with the mini-press, but for larger items like tees and onesies, you’d be better off buying a larger hand-help press.

Cons: You need to ensure you’re pressing using a lot of pressure on a hard surface (not an ironing board), pushing with your whole body for the duration of your press. That means you’ll need to be holding your heat-press down and can’t do anything else while you’re waiting for your print to adhere. This type of heat press can be a pain when pressing sublimation or infusible ink designs, ‘cos they require longer to finish than HTV. You’ll also find the press can move slightly which can cause blurring to happen with sublimation or infusible ink. Yikes!

This quick tutorial on how to use HTV Vinyl on a onesie can show you what the hand-held heat press looks like and how you can use it.

Click the button below to check out more fun HTV projects!

adhesive & htv vinyl

Using Clamp Heat Presses

Image Credits: Hey Let’s Make Stuff

If you’re doing a lot of crafting then you’ll want to upgrade to a clamp-style heat press. This is basically like the handheld one, but the handle is pulled down, which makes holding the fabric and design in place easier and stress-free.

Pros: They’ll usually give you the most professional finish every time. The design will stay in place and won’t blur, which makes it great when pressing sublimation or infusible ink. You can continue cutting or weeding your next designs while your press is doing the work for you. You can get through loads of presses in a short time.

Cons: They’re the most expensive option of all heat presses. They can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. There are different thickness settings that you’ll need to set up for each type of fabric. If you’re using different thicknesses for different projects, you’ll have to change them every time. This can be quite a pain! You’ll need different sizes for different projects, especially if they have zips or fasteners like onesies.

To have an idea of what a clamp-style heat press looks like and how it works, check out this quick video on how to make a Dad shirt using HTV Vinyl.

Get inspired with loads of other clever ideas by looking through our blog menu. You’ll love learning how to make your own customized gifts and get the most out of your Cricut machine.

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BONUS: Beginner’s Guide To HTV

What is HTV? What Can I Make With It?

HTV or Heat Transfer Vinyl is a specialty vinyl polymer that can be used on certain fabrics and materials to create customized designs and products. It often comes in a roll or sheet form with an adhesive backing, so it can be cut, weeded, and placed on a substrate for heat application. Heat Transfer Vinyl usually comes in single colors, but it can also be produced in special options such as patterned, glitter, flockedholographic, glow-in-the-dark, reflective, or 3D puff.

Bright Star Crafters’ HTV Vinyl can be used to customize dark or light-colored t-shirts, totes, and almost any kind of fabric your project calls for.


Our HTV vinyl is designed to be heat pressed onto most fabrics that allow heat including tees, onesies, hats, pencil cases, tea towels, and more!

How Do I Apply HTV?

Check out our quick HTV video tutorial for easy steps on how to cut, weed, and apply HTV! You can also read up our short article on How To Use HTV on Shirts. For more HTV project inspiration, click the button below.

Got HTV Projects and Ideas To Share?

Tag us @BrightStarCraftersUSA on Instagram and Facebook to show us your Cricut Crafts. Who knows? We might just feature your genius ideas on our blog! We can’t wait to see what you create!

Want to Join our Community of Crafters?

If you love seeing what other Crafters are making and you enjoy talking about all things Crafting, you’ll love our Bright Star Crafters Facebook Group. Come say hi!

Subscribe to our Youtube channel to see more clever Crafting projects or visit us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date with our latest Cricut Project Tutorials, giveaways, and promotions.

Bright Star Crafters has super cute custom patterned HTV vinyl sheets in loads of colors and patterns you’ll absolutely love. Try them on blank baby onesies and blank kids shirts. The best part? They’re printed in the USA and shipped super fast! You’ll love them!