Today you will learn, from start to finish, how to make custom T-shirts with your Cricut Maker, and Cricut Explore.
One of the biggest reasons people, including myself, buy a Cricut is because you can make beautiful T-shirts. If you have Cricut and haven’t explored this feature yet, I recommend you to do it. If possible today.
I don’t mean to be pushy, but I love all the things you can accomplish with this machine.
On this step by step tutorial, we will be covering the three most important aspects that every custom T-shirt must undergo to have the best possible and long-lasting results.
- Uploading the SVG files to Cricut Design Space and touching things up. I will be providing you with two SVG files for you to follow along as well.
- The cutting and weeding process. I will teach you how to arrange the designs on the MAT as well as the best practices for weeding, plus how to cut it with either the Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore, or Cricut Joy.
- For transferring the design on your T-Shirt, we will be using both a regular iron and the EasyPress 2, so no matter what you have on hand. I’ve got you covered.
Tip: if you want to learn everything you need to know about iron-on (HTV) and master how to use it on different surfaces, make sure to check this amazing tutorial I put together.
Make a Custom T-Shirt Step by Step Tutorial
Before we get our hands on this project, I want to explain to you how this tutorial will unfold (I don’t want you to get confused).
There are two SVG files that we will be using:
- MOM LIFE #thebestlife
- BABY LIFE #tiredmom
Here’s the thing. Since both files are very similar, I will only explain the Cricut Design Space cutting and weeding steps with the first file MOM LIFE #thebestlife.
However, for the transfer process, I will be using both designs. For the “MOM LIFE” file, I will be using the EasyPress 2. And for the “BABY LIFE” file, I will be using my household iron.
With that said, let’s get started!
Download the files to follow along!
To download the file(s), you NEED to be on a desktop or laptop, and you must click on the button to trigger a download file on your pc.
Depending on your browser settings, your PC sometimes asks where to save the file, although most of the files will be in your download folder.
If the image opens in a new window (this may happen because of your browser settings), right-click on it, select the option “Save Image As,” and choose where you want to save the file.
SVG files look like web page files when you download them.
Make sure to follow me on Instagram and tag me so I can see all of your creations! (I’d love to see you over there).
And just so you know, I also have a library full of free SVG files and Printables for all my subscribers, a.k.a Daydreamers. You can see a preview right here or get access by filling out this form.
The materials for this project are very simple. Here is a list of everything I used:
- Long Sleeve Black T-shirt & Black Babysuir (or any T-shirt you have on hand)
- White Iron On or Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)
- Any of the Cricut Explore Machines or Cricut Maker
- Fine Point Blade & Light Grip Mat (Standard Mat works great too)
- Weeding Tools
- Regular Household Iron Or EasyPress 2
- Parchment Paper if using a household iron.
- Easypress Mat or small towel
Cricut Design Space Steps
Once you have downloaded the SVG files I provided at the beginning of this tutorial, go ahead and log in on your Cricut Design Space.
If you are a beginner and are still figuring out Cricut’s software, I recommend that you read my fantastic and Ultimate Cricut Design Space tutorial.
Now let’s have some fun!
1. Upload your Files & Weld
After saving your file on your computer, go ahead on and click on the upload option located on the left panel of the canvas area.
As you can see in the screenshot below, you can now upload an image and pattern. Go ahead and click on the “Upload Image” button and select the SVG file from your computer. After you do that, the image will appear on recently uploaded images.
Select the uploaded “MOM LIFE” SVG and then click on insert images.
After clicking on insert images, the file will show up inside the Design Space Canvas area.
As you can see, on the Layers Panel, the design is in multiple layers. Before we proceed, let’s organize this file. Select the file on the canvas area and click on “Weld,” located at the Layers panel’s bottom.
Now, the design is in single layer and ready to go.
2. Using Templates to Resize your Design
One of my favorite things to do when I am making a T-shirt design is to use templates. This option takes so much pressure off my shoulders, and it gives me the peace of mind to know how my design will look on my T-shirt!
Here is how you do it!
On the left panel of the canvas area, there is an icon called templates. When you click on templates, you will explore all of the surfaces available for you to visualize your design.
If you have more doubts about templates, make sure to read my complete guide on how to use them.
You can look for a particular template by typing a keyword. I typed in “T-shirt” and I got a wide variety of options.
Sometimes you may not find the exact template you need, but don’t let that stop you.
For instance, there was no template for the long sleeve t-shirt I bought for this project. Therefore, I used the “Classic T-shirt” and changed the size to small and the color for black because that’s what I was going to use.
If you don’t trust the template size because, let’s face it, there are many brands, and you want to make sure you size your project 100% correct, you can change the measurement of your t-shirt template.
On the Layers Panel, click on the “Classic t-shirt” thumbnail, then on the top menu, under the “Size” drop-down menu, select the option “Custom,” and type in the exact measurement of your t-shirt. (You may need to unlock the proportions.
It’s time to resize your project.
Select the design on the canvas and drag it by the bottom-right corner until it fits the template. Keep in mind the cutting limits of your machine.
For the Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore, your design can be 11.5 x 11.5 inches if using a 12×12 cutting mat. or 11.5 x 23.5 inches if using a 12×24 mat.
I’ve also included a nice graphic to help you size your design based the best placements for iron-on.
Once you weld, resize, and you are happy with the way your design looks, click on “Make it” to send your design to your machine.
2. Make it – Mirror On Image
We are getting closer to completing our project!
After clicking on “Make it,” you will be prompted to connect your machine and follow the cutting process.
However, for Iron-on or HTV projects, it is crucial (EXTREMELY) that you turn on the Mirror Option located on the left panel area.
The reason you need to do this is that when you cut this type of material (Iron on), you are cutting it upside down. Therefore if you forget this vital step – as I have in the past – your design will look backwards on the transferring process.
Not fun at all!
3. Select Materials:
At this point, all of the steps, I just explained, will work with any of the Explore family machines or the Cricut Maker.
Now, since I want you to be able to create this project no matter what type of machine you have, let me show you the little differences you will see on each machine.
Cricut Maker Instructions: select the material by browsing all of the materials Cricut has to offer. I already had mine marked a favorite, so I was able to pick it from here.
Cricut Explore Air 2 – Instructions: If you use everyday iron-on, you can move the smart set dial to the iron-on setting. However, my favorite thing to do whenever I use my explore machine is to always have the dial on custom and pick the material from “Design Space.”
Cricut has so many types of of iron-on and they vary a lot and using “iron-on” may not work if you use the dial.
Cutting and Weeding – Best Practices
It’s cutting time.
We are using the light-grip blue mat because vinyl is a very thin and light material. If you want to learn more about all of the mat differences, check out my great guide!
You can also use a green mat as well.
To cut your design to perfection follow the next steps:
Step 1: Place Iron-on vinyl on your mat pretty/shiny side down; this is very important. If you place it the other way, you will not cut the vinyl, but the transparent material that it is adhered to.
If the material seems to have bubbles, you can gently use the scraper to smooth out the vinyl on the mat.
Step 2: Install the fine point blade and load your mat into the Cricut by tapping the little arrow on your Cricut Machine. After you are done with this, go ahead and press the Cricut’s logo button and see the magic happen.
Cricut Design Space will inform you when your design is 100% cut. When this happens, unload the mat to weed out the file.
Step 3: Remove all of the negative parts of your design. I recommend that you open the image again to make sure you cut out the right negative pieces.
I wish I had followed this advice! I removed the “LIFE” part of the file the wrong way, and I had to cut it again. So, take your time and enjoy the process.
I find weeding so relaxing!
Transfer Vinyl to T-Shirt
The moment of truth!
After doing all the steps in Design Space (cutting and weeding), we can now transfer our beautiful design to our T-Shirt.
Do you remember I said I would use the “BABY LIFE” file at the end of this tutorial? For this part, I will be using a standard household iron and the EasyPress 2.
Also, something to keep in mind and is worth mentioning is that Cricut recommends you prewash your items without any fabric softener before you press them.
However, since I can be a little rebellious sometimes, I went online to see other opinions on forums. And I found that people use them on new clothing as well, and never have any problems.
So it’s up to you. In the future, I will plan on comparing how this affects after washing. In the meantime, follow Cricut’s recommendations.
Let’s get started.
Transfer Iron On with EasyPress 2
These instructions also work with the first version of the EasyPress. So you can use that one as well.
The temperature that Cricut recommends for everyday Iron-on as a material and cotton as a base is 330 °F so go ahead and preheat your EasyPress.
f you have other base material or another type of vinyl like foil or glitter, make sure to check Cricut’s guide, for most optimal results.
Check out the next gallery and let’s chat about each step.
Step 1: Once your EasyPress is preheated, get rid of some of the wrinkles and press for about 5 seconds on the area, you plan to transfer your design.
Step 2: Gently apply pressure for 30 seconds on your design. As you can see, I have the medium-sized press; and since this design was larger than the EasyPress, some areas had to be overlapped.
I pressed for 30 seconds on each side; this is ok for the regular Iron-On, so don’t worry about it. However, if you are working with foil Iron-on try, not to overlap any areas as this material is quite delicate.
After you are done with pressing, turn the T-shirt around and press for about 15 seconds on the back to finish up the process.
Step 3: Wait a little bit until the design has cooled off enough, and then peel it off while it is still warm to the touch.
Learning Experience: If you have the EasyPress Mat, I recommend you to use it, as it allows you to press the garment deeper against the heat, compared to using a firm surface as I did.
If you don’t have it, use a towel between or underneath your T-shirt. It works just as well!
Since I didn’t use the EasyPress with a towel or mat, I had to press the front another couple of times.
You’ve been warned!
Transfer Iron On with Regular Household Iron
Finally, and for the FIRST TIME, I had success with my household Iron! Every single time was just a disaster.
No matter how many tips I saw online, nothing worked until it clicked! What if I use a towel as Cricut Recommends with the EasyPress? The result was mind-blowing.
The thing that I don’t like about the Household Iron is that sometimes you do need specific temperatures for different types of materials. Though this worked like a charm for the first time for me, I have to admit that I still love my EasyPress 2.
Step 1: Preheat your Regular Iron to the max heat. In the meantime, place a towel inside the onesie. You need to make sure it’s smooth and even across the area that you plan to iron your design.
Step 2: Get rid of wrinkles and press for about 5 seconds wherever you want your design to be located.
Step 3: Place your design and cover it with a thin cloth or with parchment paper (my favorite).
The reason why I used the parchment paper here and not with the EasyPress is that usually, you will require more heat presses with the regular Iron. So, if you expose your T-Shirt for that long, you will burn your clothing.
It has happened to me, and it can happen to you!
Step 4: Medium press for about 30 seconds on half of the design in a vertical way; then press for another 30 seconds on the right side. After pressing vertically, press horizontally on the top half of the design for 30 seconds, then the top bottom for another 30.
Turn around the T-shirt and medium press the back of the onesie (with the parchment paper on top) for about 30 seconds.
Step 5: Wait a little bit until the design has cooled off enough, but peel it off while it is still warm to the touch.
Note: Always allow 24 hours before you wash your brand new T-Shirt. Cricut recommends you dry inside out. However, I follow the garment washing and drying instructions of the base garment I used. Never Bleach!
T-Shirt Making Overview
How to Make Custom T-Shirts with your Cricut
- Iron On or HTV
- Black Long Sleeve T-Shirt
- Parchment Paper
- Small Towel
- Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore
- Cricut EasyPress (Optional)
- Regular Iron
- Weeder and Scraper
- Upload Design to Cricut Design Space
- Weld, resize and Make it with Mirror ON* and follow Cutting Instructions
- Load Mat with Iron-On material pretty side down** and Fine Point Blade
- Remove from Mat and weed design
- Transfer to your T-shirt*** and peal when the backing is still warm to the touch.
- Wait 24 hours before washing. Don't use bleach
*Always make sure to turn Mirror ON when working with HTV; If not, once cut, your design will be backwards.
** Remember to place Iron On or HTV pretty or Shiny side down.
*** If using a regular Iron, heat to max temperature and cover design with parchment paper to protect garment. Use towel to press against the T-Shirt and the Iron.
If using the EasyPress 2, preheat to 330 °F and press for 30 seconds in front, and then press for 15 seconds on the back. Use Towel or Easypress Mat to press against T-shirt and EasyPress.
Congrats – You are a Pro at making T-shirts with your Cricut
I hope this tutorial was very useful for you. I would love to see your creations.
Do you know it takes me over 25 hours to complete a single Cricut article? I know, it’s crazy! But I like to make sure that you understand EVERYTHING!
I would appreciate your support on Instagram / Pinterest / YouTube / as I am trying to grow my audience to keep producing great content!
Wednesday 7th of September 2022
What font did you use? I'd like to make a COLLEGE LIFE shirt for my granddaughter's first year at college. Thanks
Wednesday 29th of June 2022
Thank you so much for this article!! I didn't know about using a towel inside the shirt, nor did I know about ironing the backside of the shirt after pressing the front - soooo helpful!!!
Wednesday 29th of June 2022
It's a game-changer! I am glad you learned new things!
Saturday 18th of June 2022
I followed this tutorial for my first ever iron on project and it worked flawlessly! I used my home iron and parchment paper. Thanks for the easy guide!
Monday 25th of July 2022
You’re very welcome :)
Saturday 9th of April 2022
Thank you for this precise tutorial on making t-shirts. Although I feel I know how to do all of these steps, reading step by steps sure helps to ensure what and how I do it is correct and that the results are fabulous. I really enjoy your tutorials, they have helped in so many ways.
Saturday 12th of March 2022
I follow all instructions and use an easy press 2 and easy press mat and the heat guide online, but after washing (days later) some of the edges of my HTV peel up and make the design scratchy. When I re-press, the HTV gets wrinkled. I have tried to make my own shirts using many different types of blanks. Good quality t shirts, Cricut vinyl. Please help me understand what I am doing wrong.
Wednesday 18th of May 2022
If you used Cricut's vinyl and the instructions to the T, they have a satisfaction guaranteed. I would call them and mention your issue.