Learn the EASY ways to figure out which side of iron-on vinyl goes down when you cut it in this simple tutorial.
Iron-on vinyl is both a blessing and a curse. Iron-on vinyl (also known as heat transfer vinyl, or HTV) makes amazing designs for T-shirts and bags, but it can be confusing to work with, especially when it’s all new to you. And it’s essential you cut the iron-on vinyl and HTV on the right side, or it won’t work at all. But which is the right side? That’s the question! So I’m going to cut through all the confusion and tell you exactly how to figure out which side of iron on vinyl goes down.
I was inspired to help you figure out which side of HTV you cut after one of my new readers posted this question in my awesome Cricut Facebook group:
“Hi. I have a question. I’m cutting on teal iron-on for a t-shirt. I know that I have to have the shiny side down, but I cannot tell which side is the shiny side. They both look the same to me. I know it does make a difference, because I already messed up. I don’t want to make the same mistake again, but I’m still having trouble figuring out which side is the shiny side. Any suggestions?”
So frustrating, I know!
So, are you ready to cut iron on vinyl? I will show you how to figure out which side is up on iron on vinyl! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.
Project Materials: Iron On Vinyl Used In This Post
- Cricut Everyday Iron-On Vinyl (solid, outlasts 50+ washes, layer up to 3 colors, warm peel)
- Cricut Sport Flex Iron-On Vinyl (solid, stretchable, layer up to 2 colors, warm peel)
- Cricut Patterned Iron-On Vinyl (patterned, layer up to 3 colors, cold peel)
- Cricut Everyday Iron-On Mesh (mesh, outlasts 50+ washes, layer OVER solid colors)
- Cricut Express Iron-On Vinyl (solid, outlasts 50+ washes, applies up to 2x faster, matte finish, cool peel)
- Cricut Foil Iron-On Vinyl (foil, layer up to 3 colors, cold peel)
- Cricut Holographic Iron-On Vinyl (holographic, multicolor finish, can be layered OVER Everyday Iron-On, color may appear differently when applied to colored materials, cool peel)
- Cricut Holographic Sparkle Iron-On Vinyl (foil, layer up to 3 colors, warm peel)
- Cricut Glitter Iron-On Vinyl (glitter, outlasts 50+ washes, layer OVER solid non-glitter colors, warm peel)
- Cricut Glitter Mesh Iron-On Vinyl (glitter, outlasts 50+ washes, recommended for images 3″ or lrager due to mesh pattern, can be layered OVER Everyday Iron-On, cool peel)
- Cricut Mosaic Iron-On Vinyl (recommended for designs 3″ (15.2 cm) in diameter or larger, may be used as a bottom or middle layer, warm peel)
- Cricut Iron-On Designs (pre-designed decals, cold peel)
- Siser EasyWeed Heat Transfer Vinyl (solid, layer up to 3 colors, warm peel)
- My free SVG cut file (available in my free resource library—get the password at the bottom of this post)
How to Cut Iron On Vinyl With Your Cricut
The advice you’ll almost always see here is this: mirror your design and put the vinyl shiny side down on your cutting mat. This advice can be very confusing if you’re brand new, however. Mirror what? Shiny side where? But not to worry — I will explain!
First, whenever you cut ANY and ALL iron-on or heat transfer vinyl, regardless of the type or brand, you must always mirror (flip) your design before cutting. Mirroring means to FLIP your design prior to cutting so it appear backward (mirror image) from what it should look like when you’ve finished your project.
Happily, it’s very easy to mirror right in Cricut Design Space — just toggle the “Mirror” setting to on (green) in the mat preview window (which appears right after you click “Make It”). Here’s what that looks like in Cricut Design Space:
If you forget to do it on the mat preview screen, you can still mirror on the next screen — the “Make” screen. Just click the “Edit” link on the mat you need to mirror, as shown here:
You will even be reminded to mirror your design before you cut in Cricut Design Space if you choose an iron-on vinyl as your material:
Once you’ve got the design mirrored, you’re ready to cut out the iron-on vinyl. And all you do is put it shiny side down on your cutting mat.
But wait… which side is shiny side down? Let’s take a closer look.
Which Side of HTV Do You Cut?
Iron-on, heat transfer vinyl is made up of two layers — the vinyl layer and the carrier sheet. They come stuck together when you receive them, virtually indistinguishable. You want to cut the VINYL SIDE. In many, if not most, iron-on vinyls, the vinyl side is matte and the carrier side is shiny. That’s why they say to cut it shiny or glossy side down on your mat. That way, your mirrored design gets cut into the vinyl itself, allowing you to remove the vinyl that does not need to be transferred to your project.
Here’s the two sides of Cricut Everyday Iron-On Vinyl — here is the carrier side of the iron-on vinyl, which you can see is shiny:
And here is the vinyl side, which you can see is matte (not shiny):
So in the above case, you’d want to put that iron-on vinyl shiny side DOWN on your cutting mat to cut out your mirrored design.
But what if BOTH sides look shiny? Here’s an example of Cricut Sport Flex Iron-On Vinyl in Seafoam:
And here is the OTHER side of it — it’s white, BUT it looks shiny, doesn’t it? This white side is the vinyl side, so you want this side UP on your cutting mat.
This is confusing, I know. But remember that your vinyl is mirrored and will be applied face-up onto your final surface, so when you look at the vinyl side you are seeing the BOTTOM of the vinyl — the part that is going to stick and melt into your surface. That means it may not match the top side. It sometimes does, but it may not. Thus, if both sides are shiny and you can’t tell which is which, it’s the side that doesn’t match your vinyl color that is the vinyl side.
Which Side is Up on Iron-On Vinyl When Both Sides are Shiny?
Let’s go a little further down the rabbit hole. What do you do if both sides are the same color and both sides are shiny? Take Cricut SportFlex White Iron-On Vinyl, for example, which is shiny on both sides.
Here’s a closer look at the carrier side of the Cricut SportFlex White iron-on vinyl. Notice how it’s curled down.
And here’s the vinyl side of the Cricut SportFlex White iron-on vinyl — look closely, and you’ll see it’s ever so slightly less shiny. And it curls up!
We can tell the difference between these two white shiny sides in two ways:
- The carrier side is still shinier than the iron-on vinyl side, even if only by a little bit.
- The iron-on vinyl is put onto the roll carrier side out, which means the side that curls down is the carrier side and the side that curls up is the vinyl side
In the end, if you’re faced with two shiny sides the same color, the slightly less shiny side is going to be the vinyl side.
Help! I still can’t tell which side I cut iron-on vinyl on!
If you’re really stuck, there’s one more way you can tell. Get out your craft knife and make a small cut in the corner on the side you THINK is the vinyl side like this (cut only through the vinyl, not all the way through). Here’s a small piece of red Siser EasyWeed Heat Transfer Vinyl and I’ve got it shiny side down as I cut out the vinyl on the corner:
Now try to peel away the vinyl. If you can’t, you probably picked the carrier side by mistake. Flip it over and make another small cut in the corner, then try to peel it away. When you can peel away vinyl, you’ll know you’ve found the vinyl side!
And there you go — now you’ll always know which side is the carrier side and the vinyl side. And that means you always know which side goes DOWN (the carrier side) and which side goes UP (the vinyl side) when you cut your iron-on vinyl!
Now that we know how to cut our iron-on vinyl, I’m going to make some simple iron-on vinyl T-Shirts and show you how to do it, too! Here’s the step-by-step tutorial and video for an iron-on t-shirt.
If you successfully make something with iron-on vinyl, please share a photo in our Facebook group or tag me on social media with #jennifermaker.