If you're just getting started with Cricut, knowing the difference between Iron-On Vinyl and Adhesive Vinyl and when to use each kind can be a little bit tricky!
They are packaged almost exactly the same and while they may appear to be very similar, they are actually quite different.
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WHAT IS IRON-ON VINYL?
Iron-On is typically referred to as Heat Transfer Vinyl within the crafting community, you’ll also hear it shortened to HTV. Cricut's HTV is branded as Iron-On.
If you’re not familiar with Cricut’s Iron-On Vinyl, it's a heat-sensitive adhesive that can be applied to fabric, metal, paper, and wood. It also comes in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and types such as SportFlex, Patterned, Glitter, Holographic, Foil, Mesh, and Smart Iron-On.
When you're shopping for Cricut Iron-On, look for the purple StrongBond label.
The most popular Iron-On is Everyday Iron-On (pictured above). It’s versatile, and durable, comes in a variety of colors and it's user-friendly. It’s my go-to material for the majority of Iron-On projects.
Iron-on has two different parts: a clear carrier sheet and the actual iron-on material. The carrier sheet is heat resistant and allows you to iron on your design without damaging the heat transfer vinyl. When cutting iron-on or heat transfer vinyl, you'll place the material with the clear plastic carrier face down, so you only cut through the vinyl, not the carrier sheet.
This material can be layered to create beautiful and colorful designs. Just look at all of those pretty colors. The possibilities are endless!
Here (below) are a variety of different projects I've made using Iron-On Vinyl.
What is Adhesive Vinyl?
Cricut Vinyl is essentially customizable sticker paper. It's perfect for creating permanent or easily removable decals, labels, and designs to create gifts, home decor, and anything else you can think of.
The most popular Vinyl is Premium Vinyl. It is available in both permanent and removable options. There are many different types of vinyl and your surface will determine the type of vinyl that you want to use for your specific project.
Like Iron-On, vinyl also consists of two different parts. The top shiny material is vinyl and it has a sticky adhesive backing. This is the material you will be cutting and applying to create your project. The second layer is a paper liner. You can think of vinyl as a sticker. On top, you have the sticker and on the back, you have a paper liner that prevents it from accidentally sticking to things.
Vinyl can be applied to the majority of flat surfaces. It works best on non-porous items like walls, glass, and plastic.
Here (below) are a variety of different projects I've customized with Adhesive Vinyl.
Iron-On Vs. Adhesive Vinyl
If you're just getting started with Cricut, knowing the difference between Iron-On and Adhesive Vinyl and when to use each kind can be a little bit tricky!
They are packaged almost exactly the same and while they may appear similar, the two are NOT interchangeable.
I've created a visual guide (below) to help you spot the differences and tell them apart!
Save this visual guide to your Pinterest here!
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Iron-On Vinyl Unwrapped
Heat Transfer Vinyl or Iron-On has two layers. You can learn more about Iron-On Vinyl here.
The first layer is a clear liner called the carrier sheet, this is a heat-resistant plastic that can withstand high temperatures of heat without melting. This is what protects your Iron-On from burning.
The second layer is the actual Iron-on. When you look at it from the matte side, you're seeing the back of the Iron-On or the unactivated adhesive side. You’ll notice it’s not sticky yet and it requires heat in order to be activated and applied to a base.
Heat Transfer Vinyl & Iron-On are not the same as Adhesive Vinyl!
Adhesive Vinyl Unwrapped
Adhesive Vinyl also has two layers. You can learn more about Vinyl here.
The first layer is the actual vinyl material. This is what you cut and apply to a variety of non-porous bases like glass, walls, and plastic.
The second layer is the carrier sheet which is also referred to as the paper backing. This layer is peeled away to reveal the sticky adhesive of the vinyl material.
It's almost identical to the concept of a sticker. Simply peel away the paper-like backing and you're left with a sticky layer that can be applied to a base.
Unlike Iron-On, Vinyl is applied to a surface using pressure instead of heat. Applying large amounts of heat to Vinyl can cause it to melt and become deformed.
Something important to note is that Vinyl can NOT be used in place of Iron-On and vice-versa. In some rare instances, they have a small crossover of bases (like wood) that they can both be applied to, but they definitely aren't interchangeable.
How to Spot the Differences
A quick way to tell Iron-On Vinyl apart from Adhesive Vinyl is to pay attention to the liner/carrier sheet.
Adhesive Vinyl has a backing that is peeled away to reveal a sticky adhesive, it may even feature a grid-like pattern to help you make straight cuts.
Iron-On on the other hand has a clear, shiny protective carrier sheet that's used to protect the Iron-On from heat during the application process.
How Does the Application Differ?
How do I apply Heat Transfer Vinyl?
When you cut Iron-On material with your Cricut machine you need to remember to mirror your design. Since the material is cut with the shiny side down, the design needs to be mirrored in order to turn out correctly.
Once you've cut and weeded your design, you will place your design face down on your base material. This means the actual heat transfer vinyl should be touching the material and the clear plastic carrier should be on top.
Then, using a heat tool of your choice, be it an Easy Press, an iron, or the new Cricut Autopress(!), apply pressure to the top of your design.
How do I apply Adhesive Vinyl?
Vinyl requires a much more straightforward application than Iron-on since it does not require a heat source to bond.
Once you've cut and weeded your design, you can really treat it like a sticker. If it's a small or simple design, peel away from the paper backing and adhere to your surface.
For larger or more intricate designs, you will want to use transfer tape to apply the design. Transfer tape allows you to keep all the components of your design together and in their proper place while moving from the carrier sheet to your project surface.
Simply cut a piece of transfer tape the same size, or slightly larger than your vinyl design. Remove the backing of the transfer tape and lay on top of your vinyl design. Smooth with the scraper tool to remove bubbles.
Then remove the paper carrier sheet from the vinyl. You're now left with your vinyl design stuck to the transfer tape. Place the transfer tape onto your project design. Cricut transfer tape comes with a printed grid on it, which is so helpful for ensuring you apply your design exactly where you want.
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So now that we've covered the basics, what projects are you going to try?! And tell me, do you prefer vinyl or iron-on?