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Cricut Shirt Making for Beginners: Step by Step Tutorial!

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Cricut shirt making is one of the best ways to use an electronic cutting machine. Learn how to make t shirts with a Cricut from the beginning to end!

My favorite crafting tool is hands down my Cricut.  If you’ve been following me a while then you know how much I love my cutting machine.

I absolutely love having control over personalizing whatever I want.  Making t shirts with my Cricut is one of the reasons I bought a Cricut in the first place and oh my, have the shirts I’ve made gotten better over the past eight years!

So for this tutorial, I wanted to share everything that goes into Cricut shirt making from the beginning to the end.  We will cover how to design a custom shirt in Cricut Design Space, to cutting it, weeding the iron-on vinyl and then how to apply the design to a t-shirt.

Cricut beginners, I have you in mind for this project, so we will be going very in-depth.  I also have a full video tutorial at the bottom of the post, a list of Cricut shirt ideas and printable directions.  If you like this tutorial, I’d love if you’d give it a star rating at the bottom!

making shirts with cricut pinterest

What is the Best Cricut for Making Shirts?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, ExpressionsVinyl.com and/or Cricut.com. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my links (purple text). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

This is a question I get asked a lot so I thought we’d start here.  The simple answer is ANY!

The two Cricut vinyl cutting machines out now are the Cricut Explore family and the Cricut Maker.  The Cricut Explore, Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker cut iron-on vinyl or HTV for shirts the same way and even use the same blade and housing. 

You’ll need the fine point blade for cutting all types of vinyl.  This blade comes standard in all Cricut machines.

If you want to know more about the differences between the two machines, I have an entire post on which Cricut is best for you if you want to check it out.

Which Vinyl do I use for Cricut Shirts?

Craft and Cricut vinyl has confused everyone at some point!  There are so many different vinyls and they are needed for different projects.  The two main types of vinyl are adhesive vinyl and iron-on vinyl.

For making t shirts or sweatshirts, you will need iron-on vinyl or heat transfer vinyl (or HTV).  A common question is, what is the difference between iron-on vinyl and HTV?  Simple answer… Nothing!

And to make things a bit more confusing different brands call the type of vinyl that adheres to materials with heat by different names.  Cricut vinyl for shirts is called iron-on vinyl.  Other companies call it heat transfer vinyl or HTV for short.  So it is the same thing, just different brand names.

Iron on vinyl, heat transfer vinyl, and HTV are all used interchangeably among crafters, so just know it’s the same thing.

Popular brands of heat transfer vinyl are Siser Easyweed and Fame Crafts HTV.  My personal favorites to use are Cricut iron-on vinyl and Siser Easyweed.  ExpressionsVinyl.com is a great place to buy Siser brand and Cricut.com has deals on their iron-on vinyl.  Plus Amazon always has everything!

Then all brands have different types of iron-on vinyl.  Specialty iron-on vinyl includes patterned, glitter, holographic, sparkle, printable, mesh, flex, mosaic, and more.  My recommendation would to try at least two different brands and see which one you like working with the best.

What Other Tools Are Needed for Cricut Shirt Making?

Besides a Cricut and iron-on vinyl, you will need a few other supplies when you begin making shirts for the first time.

  • Weeding tools – you will need a tool to weed out (or remove the excess) iron-on vinyl
  • Light Grip Cricut Mat (or older standard mat that’s less sticky)
  • A heat source – either an EasyPress, heat press, or household iron.  
  • Something under the heat source like an EasyPress mat or towel.
  • Telfon sheets or protective sheet, like wax paper
  • Laptop or computer to design your shirt in Cricut Design Space

Designing a Shirt in Cricut Design Space

So now you know what Cricut and supplies you need, let’s get started in designing a custom t-shirt in Cricut Design Space.  (In case you just want to use my Blessed Mama SVG file, I have it for you to download for FREE below!)

Probably the hardest part of making a shirt is deciding on what design you want to put on it.  But the great thing is you can make as many shirts as you want!

If you don’t want to design something yourself, there are tons of sites that have free SVG files or you can purchase one off of Cricut Access or Etsy.  I have an entire section of SVG files you can choose from.

But if you are wanting to make really unique shirts, then learning how to use and design in CDS is essential.  Once you get used to it, it’s really pretty straight forward software.  I have a five-part series on in-depth Cricut Design Space tutorials if you need additional help learning about it.

For this shirt tutorial, let’s make something easy like just words and free to get you used to it.  Again all of this is in the video tutorial at the bottom of the post, but I will write out all the steps too.  There is a short overview video at the top (or side) for those that might just need a little refresher.

Open up Cricut Design Space and click on New Project. CDS is now offline so you will have to download it if you haven’t already done so.

A blank canvas will open up like this.

new canvas cricut design space

Click on the text button on the left side.  I like to put my words into different text boxes so I can use different fonts and manipulate the size easier.

After you click on the button, a box will pop up.  Type a word in it.  For this custom shirt, I type “BLESSED” into one text box.   I clicked on “Text” again and typed “Mama” into the second box.

Then I click back on “Blessed”. Then I clicked on the font drop down on the top left and picked a block text.  Since most computers come with Arial, I selected Arial bold.

text box cricut design shirt

Then I clicked on “Mama” and selected a script font.  Just pick one you like and already have installed on your computer.  I couldn’t remember what was standard so I picked Best Dreams. 

If you want to learn more about text, make sure to read where I get free fonts from and how to upload them to CDS.

search font cricut

If you pick a script font, it will not come into CDS with the letters attached.  The simplest way I have found to connect the letters is to click the “letter space” down button until most of them are connected. 

Then click “ungroup” on the top right and move them individually so they overlap. 

connecting letters cricut design space

Once they are the way you want them, use your cursor to put a box around “Mama” and click the weld button on the lower right.  This will connect all the letters so they are one continuous cut.

weld cricut

Click on the individual words and then use the double arrow to make them bigger or smaller.  You can always click the lock to unlock if you want to change them unproportionate. 

Move the words around until they are exactly as you want them on your t  shirt.  Now use your cursor to put both words in a box and click on “attach” on the lower right corner. 

This will tell the Cricut to cut them exactly as they are.  (If you are going to use more than one color of vinyl, only attach the words or images that will be the same color).

attach cricut design space tutorial

The next step is optional but I always like to see what my Cricut t shirt will look like by using templates.  Click on the template button on the top left side and a whole bunch of different templates pop up.  I scrolled down until I saw scoop neck shirt.

cricut shirts making

When you click on it, it will bring it onto the canvas.  Now you can change the type, size, and color if you want to see exactly what it will look like. 

I’m not too picky about the color part, but I like to see how big I want the iron-on image on my shirt.

cricut shirt template

Then I move the wording into the center of the shirt and use the double arrow circle to drag until the size I want it. 

I still always measure my shirt that I am going to be using to make sure it’s about the same size as the one on the screen.

using templates cricut design space

Make sure to SAVE your design. 

designing in cricut design space

Now we are ready to hit Make It on the top right corner.

using cricut templates

FREE Blessed Mama SVG Cut File

Sometimes the file will look blurry when you first open it, but once you download it, the SVG will open up clearly. If you need additional help, make sure to check out my video on how to download and upload files to CDS at the bottom of the post.

As a reminder, all of my FREE SVG files are for personal use only. Please click here to purchase a commercial use license if you want to use the files to sell items.

To use the file I used, click here to download it.  

How to Cut Iron On Vinyl with a Cricut

The most important thing you need to remember when making shirts is that you need to cut your iron-on vinyl in MIRROR setting.  This is because the plastic transfer sheet is on the front side so when you apply the heat to the plastic the bottom of the iron-on vinyl will melt and adhere to the fabric.

cricut mirror setting

There are two places to turn on Mirror setting.  The screen that comes up after you click Make It will be the prepare screen.  Simply click the button so that it turns green next to “Mirror?”.

Your entire text or image will flip over on its own.  If you don’t remember on this screen, you can also change on the Make It screen.  And Cricut is so smart that they also have it on the instruction page after you select your material.

HTV or Iron On Vinyl Setting

If you have a Cricut Explore Air or Cricut Explore Air 2, turn the wheel to Iron-On.  Or you can turn it to Custom and then use the drop-down menu as I do with my Maker.

If you are using everyday iron-on vinyl, then this setting will show up on Popular Materials and you just need to click on it.  But if you are using a specialty iron-on vinyl, then I like to hit the Search all materials and use the drop-down menu to select “Iron on vinyl”.

htv cricut settings

Then all of the different Cricut iron on vinyl settings will pop up.  Scroll down and click on the type you are using. I love that this takes the guesswork out of using the setting wheel.

how to cut iron on setting

Then you will get the instruction screen.  This screen will tell you exactly what you need to do to cut iron on vinyl. 

See how there is a little caution triangle that says, Make sure Mirror is turned on and that your material is placed shiny side down on the mat? I mentioned how smart the Cricut is, right?

cutting iron on vinyl cricut

Applying HTV to a Cricut Mat

Cricut mats come in different grip strengths (depends on how strong the adhesive is). A light grip (or blue) mat is recommended for all types of vinyl since it sticks pretty easily to a mat. 

If I have an older standard (green) mat that has lost a lot of its tackiness, I will use that if I don’t have a blue mat handy.

shiny side htv

Iron on vinyl will have a shiny side with a plastic backing and a duller side.

patterned iron on vinyl shirt

Place the iron on vinyl with the plastic backing (or shiny side) DOWN. If you are using a patterned iron-on vinyl like I am, the pattern will go face down.

iron on vinyl shirt

Then I like to use a brayer to make sure it’s nice and flat.  When the arrow link starts blinking on your Cricut machine, push the mat all the way up to the rollers and under the brackets.  Push the blinking light to load the mat.

cutting iron on vinyl

Once the Cricut light starts blinking, push it and let the Cricut do its thing!

Applying Iron-On Vinyl to a Shirt

At this point, I like to turn on my EasyPress 2.  When I checked Cricut heat guide, it said to preheat the EasyPress to 340F for patterned iron-on vinyl and set the time to 30 seconds.

If you don’t have an EasyPress, make sure to check out my tutorials on how to use a heat press and how to apply HTV with an iron if you are using one of those.

When the Cricut has stopped and the arrow light starts blinking, push it to unload the mat.  Cut off any extra vinyl so you don’t waste it. (I accidentally cut off a part of my design… ugh… try not to do that!)

weeding iron on vinyl

Use a weeding tool to remove the extra pieces of HTV (this is called weeding).  I like to start from a corner and hook my tool into the vinyl and pull it up.

weeding iron on vinyl
weeding iron on vinyl

Keep pulling the iron-on vinyl until all of the excess is removed.  Then use the tool to remove the little pieces inside the letters.

weeding iron on vinyl

Once the EasyPress is preheated, place the t shirt on an EasyPress mat or towel and press it for about 5 seconds.  This helps remove the moisture out of the shirt.

To find the center, I like to fold my shirt in half and press it in the middle.  This forms a crease.  Then I gently fold my iron-on vinyl image in half to form a crease.

cricut shirt maker
making cricut shirt

Now it’s easy to line up the middle of the shirt with the middle of the iron-on.

cricut iron on shirt making

You’ll notice I’m missing a small piece of my image…eek!  I address how I fixed this in the video at the bottom, so make sure to watch it if you are curious. (or you can save this post to watch later!)

weeding iron on vinyl shirt easypress

Press the iron-on vinyl for 30 seconds.  Let it cool slightly and then remove the plastic backing.

how to make cricut shirt

Now flip the Cricut t shirt over and press the backside for 15 seconds.  That’s it!  

making shirts with cricut
making shirts with cricut

Making Shirts with Cricut Video Tutorial

Now that you know how to make vinyl shirts with a Cricut, I wanted to give you some Cricut shirt ideas.  These are some of the shirts or onesies I’ve made with my Cricut in the past.

Cricut Shirt Making for Beginners: Cricut Shirt Ideas!

All of these Cricut shirts have tutorials that go with them and some have FREE SVG cut files. Simply click on Continue Reading to go to the tutorial.

And here are some printable directions for making your own shirt with a Cricut vinyl machine.  If you liked this post, I would love if you could rate it in the star rating below!

making shirts with cricut

Cricut Shirt Making for Beginners: Step by Step Tutorial!

Yield: 1 shirt
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Beginner
Estimated Cost: Under $10

Cricut shirt making is a great beginner project for Cricut users! Learn how to make t shirt designs, cut iron-on vinyl, and apply HTV to shirts.

Materials

Tools

Instructions

  1. Open up Cricut Design Space, and select a new project. Insert an image or text of your choice.
  2. Use templates to size your image or measure the size of your shirt.
  3. Save your design and click Make It.
  4. Change the setting to "Mirror" on the next screen.cricut mirror setting
  5. Select iron-on vinyl as a setting or find a specialty iron-on vinyl in the drop-down menu.
  6. Apply the iron-on vinyl to a light grip mat with the SHINY SIDE DOWN.
  7. Load the mat and let the Cricut cut your design.
  8. Weed out the extra vinyl.
  9. Preheat your EasyPress to the temperature on the Cricut Heat Guide.
  10. Press a prewashed shirt for 5 seconds to remove the moisture.
  11. Optional to center - fold the shirt and press down to get a crease and fold the iron-on vinyl in half to get a crease. Match up the creases.
  12. Place the image on the shirt with the plastic backing facing up (so the words are going the correct way). Press the front side for 30 seconds. Remove the plastic backing.
  13. Flip the shirt over and press for 15 seconds.
  14. Your new Cricut shirt is all done and ready to wear!

Notes

See the post for a full step by step picture and video tutorial on every single step.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

If you’d like to save this DIY custom shirt tutorial for later or share it, simply hover over the top left of the image below and PIN It now!

cricut shirt maker diy pinterest

Please comment below with any questions!

Thanks so much for stopping by and have a creative day,

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Robyn

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Where do you put the wax paper? Does anything go in between to separate the front from the back of the shirt while ironing?

Tracy

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

I tried cutting an everyday iron-on but it didn’t cut all the way through. I double checked my material was set correctly and it is shiny side down. What could I be doing wrong?

Leap of Faith Crafting

Tuesday 1st of December 2020

It's not supposed to cut the plastic backing. You mean it's not cutting the top layer of just the iron-on vinyl?? Make sure your blade is clean. Punch it into a ball of foil to clean it and sharpen it some and make sure it's inserted correctly. If you are on the correct setting of iron-on vinyl and have the material shiny side down, the problem is probably the blade or housing.

Gale Trego

Sunday 2nd of February 2020

LOVE THAT!!! YOUR VIDEOS ARE SO ENJOYABLE TO WATCH AND LISTEN TO. I'D LIKE TO REQUEST ON OF FOIL! I DON'T SEE WHERE YOU GOT YOUR FONT AT, DID I JUST MISS IT? I ALSO GAVE IT FIVE STARS. LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT ONE. FINGERS CROSSED.

WELL DONE P.S. GET YOUR CRAFTING ON

Leap of Faith Crafting

Thursday 6th of February 2020

Thanks Gale! You are so sweet! I did list what font I used plus you can also grab the free SVG file. Blessed was in Arial bold and Mama was Best Dreams, which is a paid font. I will add foil to my list! Have a great day!

Sherry

Saturday 1st of February 2020

Awesome tutorial !!! It was so very helpful to have the step by step information. I rated it 5 stars but I don't know if it went through though. Thank you so very much .

Leap of Faith Crafting

Sunday 2nd of February 2020

Thank you so much!

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