Are you overwhelmed by the many different types and varieties of vinyl? Are you not sure which vinyl to use on a mug, on wood, on shirts, for glass etching, etc.? Then, this is the post for you! Learn all about the different types of vinyl, and find out what you need. This post contains affiliate links, which help to support this site at no extra cost to you.
I absolutely love crafting with vinyl, but I completely understand that it can be really overwhelming when you just starting out in the wonderful world of vinyl crafts.
Years ago, when I was just starting to figure this whole vinyl crafting thing out, I got a grab bag full of random vinyl pieces from Expressions Vinyl (one of my favorite online vinyl shops). While it was a great way to try out lots of different types of vinyl on the cheap, because I was unfamiliar with vinyl, I had no idea which vinyls should be used for which projects or how to use any of it! What type of vinyl should I used for shirts? Which vinyl works on wood? What kind of vinyl is that? I had no idea.
Now, after lots and lots of vinyl crafting, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on vinyl (I even made an entire online course all about crafting with vinyl and your Silhouette), and I want to share that with you all. Hopefully I can help you figure out which vinyl vinyl to use for whatever project you have in mind. Let’s start off by talking a bit about what the different types of vinyl are.
PSST – If you are brand new to crafting with vinyl, be sure to check out my Vinyl 101 page to find all of my vinyl resources for beginners.
TYPES OF CRAFT VINYL
There are two basic types of vinyl – Adhesive Vinyl and Heat Transfer Vinyl. Within each of those two larger categories, there are different types and styles, which I will talk more about in a bit.
Adhesive vinyl (sticker vinyl) is a thin flexible material with a pressure-sensitive adhesive that can be cut in any design and applied to all kinds of smooth, hard surfaces. Heat Transfer Vinyl (iron on vinyl, t-shirt vinyl, or HTV) is a similar material with a heat-activated adhesive that is designed to work with fabric surfaces (or any surface that can stand the heat). Both types of vinyl are available in either rolls or sheets, usually 12″ wide.
ADHESIVE VINYL VS. HEAT TRANSFER VINYL
If you ever happen to be in the same position I was with my vinyl grab bag, holding a piece of vinyl not sure what kind of vinyl it is, then I hope this little explanation will help you figure it out!
Adhesive Vinyl can come in all kinds of colors and finishes, but it will always have a paper backing and be sticky to the touch when that backing is peeled off. Heat Transfer Vinyl, on the other hand, does not have a paper backing. Instead, HTV, has a clear plastic carrier sheet that covers the top of the vinyl. The other side is where the adhesive is (it is not sticky or tacky to the touch), and this is the side of the vinyl that you will cut on.
Now you know what the two basic categories of craft vinyl are, but there are lots of types within each category. Let’s talk a little more about types of adhesive vinyl, and then we will move on to heat transfer.
Which type of Adhesive Vinyl should I use?
Some adhesive vinyl is meant for permanent, outdoor application and some is designed to be removable for indoor application. Usually (although not always), permanent outdoor vinyl has a glossy finish while removable indoor vinyl has a matte finish.
Permanent outdoor vinyl is perfect for outdoor signs, car decals, mugs or other items that will go through the dishwasher. Most permanent vinyl has a glossy finish, but not all (Oracal 641 is a matte vinyl with a permanent adhesive). Permanent vinyl can be removed, but it may do damage to walls, paint, etc. One of the most common and popular brands of permanent outdoor vinyl is Oracal 651, which you can purchase from Amazon, Expressions Vinyl, Swing Design, Consumer Crafts, and I’ve even seen it in my local Michaels. Oracal 751 is an extra long lasting permanent adhesive vinyl. This may be your best bet for products that will be washed or that you want to really last a long time.
Removable indoor vinyl is great for wall decals, indoor signs, stencils, and any time you want a temporary application. Removable vinyl often has a matte finish. Oracal 631 is a popular type of removable vinyl that you can find at Amazon, Expressions Vinyl, and Swing Design.
BEGINNER VINYL TIP:
Try using removable vinyl for your first project! It is easier to work with because the adhesive isn’t as strong as permanent vinyl.
Glossy and matte are not the only kinds of adhesive vinyl! You can find fun, specialty vinyls in all kinds of colors, patterns, and styles! (Be sure to check the description of the product when you purchase to determine if it has a removable or permanent adhesive.) Here are just a few types you might want to try out.
- Stencil Vinyl
- Etched Glass Vinyl (learn how to use etched glass vinyl HERE)
- Glitter Vinyl (I used glitter vinyl to make these phone cases and this pumpkin)
- Metallic Vinyl (I used a metallic vinyl on this mug)
- Patterned Vinyl (Check out this post for creative ideas for using patterned vinyl)
- Chalkboard Vinyl
- Glow in the Dark Vinyl
- Transparent Vinyl
- Printable Adhesive Vinyl (learn all about working with printable adhesive vinyl HERE)
As you can see, there are so many options! The most important thing to consider when choosing an adhesive vinyl for your project is the type of adhesive – do you need a removable adhesive or do you need something that will stand up to sun, water, and lots of handling? Once you have determined if you need a permanent or removable adhesive, choose whatever color or style you like that has that type of adhesive.
Next up, let’s talk heat transfer vinyl!
Which type of Heat Transfer Vinyl Should I use?
Just like adhesive vinyl, heat transfer or iron on vinyl comes in lots of different colors and styles. For basic smooth HTV, I recommend Siser Easyweed because it is easy to work with, comes in tons of colors, and washes and wears well. You can find Siser Easyweed at Amazon, Expressions Vinyl, and Swing Design. Silhouette and Cricut both have smooth Iron-On material that works well too.
Let’s check out a few different types of HTV.
- Flocked HTV is thicker than smooth HTV, has a velvety texture, is super easy to weed, and is the HTV I recommend for beginners. (See a project using flocked HTV here.)
- Glitter HTV can be a little trickier to weed, but is super sparkly and looks great. (This pillow uses glitter HTV.)
- Metallic HTV
- Holographic HTV (I used holographic vinyl for the lenses of the glasses on this shirt.)
- Reflective HTV (This post is all about working with reflective heat transfer vinyl.)
- Stretch HTV is extra thin and stretchy. (I used stretch vinyl on a pair of leggings for my daughter.)
- Patterned HTV (Check out this post for creative ideas for using patterned vinyl)
In general, all iron on vinyls should work on all fabrics and materials that can stand up to the heat of your iron or heat press, so when choosing an HTV you want to mainly consider the look you want. However, certain types of vinyl will work better for different types of fabrics or designs. For example, holographic and metallic vinyl is often stiffer and because of that it works best with designs made up of smaller pieces rather than large stretches of vinyl. Similarly, stretch vinyl works better with stretchy knit, ribbed, or athletic fabrics. All HTV is washable, but following some simple guidelines will help your finished piece to stay looking good for longer.
So, Which Vinyl Should I Use?
Phew – that was a lot, right? Hopefully after reading about the different types of vinyl you have a good idea of what kind of vinyl you need for whatever project you are dreaming up.
Here is the basic rule: In general, if your surface is hard and smooth (things like walls, mugs, bottles, picture frames, mirrors, boxes, etc.), then go with adhesive vinyl. If your surface is soft and can withstand heat (clothing, shoes, books, tote bags, etc.), then heat transfer vinyl will work best.
However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, I prefer to use heat transfer vinyl on wood because I find it is easier to apply to wood surfaces and looks closer to painted wood. (You can read all about that here.)
Now that you know which vinyl to use for your project, check out my post on the best places to find cheap vinyl to make sure you are getting it at a good price! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.
Until next time, Happy Making!
Check out my latest vinyl project posts:
[the_grid name=”Vinyl Projects”]
Comments + Project Love
Isabel Kenyon says
Do you have a booklet or catalog that I could print on this info? I am new and trying to figure things out and love this post!
Hi Isabel! I have been working on getting a printable guide put together, and I will hopefully have it up soon! 🙂
Please let us know when the printable guide is ready! Yours is the most easy to understand than I the others I’ve look. I would really love to get this guide without having to print all the ads. Thank you Louilbse
I am new and learning. I find your information easy to follow and very informative. When that guide do come out, if haven’t already, I will be purchasing one.
Rayne Geddes says
Will you please let me know when the printable version is available.
Bonnie McNeil says
I really need one!, Bonnie
Thank you for sharing this information. It was a huge help. Now I know where to begin. I am looking forward to your guide too. Thank you again. Wendy 🙂
Delaine Litman says
I am a true beginner. What does “easier to weed” mean?? Thanks for the explanations that are simple enough for a novice like me! ?
Weeding is the word for removing the excess vinyl from around your design. I find flocked vinyl to be easier to weed because it’s a bit thicker and the cut lines are usually pretty easy to see. Glitter vinyl heat transfer vinyl, on the other hand, tends to be more difficult to weed as the cut lines are harder to see and I also find it tears a bit more easily. I hope that helps!
What vinyl do I use for glass for print in cut
Hi! I am trying to put a logo on a squeezable water bottle but no matter what kind I use it cracks. Is there something that has some give to it but can be applied to a rubbery/plastic surface? I can send pictures if that will help.
Melissa Rodriguez says
Great post! Can you use premium permanent vinyl on T-shirt’s?
For T-Shirts, you will want to use Heat Transfer or Iron On Vinyl. Here’s my beginner’s guide to working with heat transfer vinyl: https://persialou.com/how-to-use-heat-transfer-vinyl/
I got wayy too much oracal 631 with a bundle I bought on black friday. Is there anything i can use to seal it or adhere it with like maybe spray adhesive to make it more permanent. Everything I read says it comes off easily. I want to use it for ornaments and glasses. Any advice is appreciated!
I have never tried using any kind of spray adhesive or sealant with Oracal 631, so I can’t say for sure. I think that it might work okay with ornaments, but I don’t think you will have a lot of luck with glasses or anything that needs to be washed. It should work great for most decor projects though! Good luck!
you can use spray coating or mod podge to seal the vinyl.
Looking to add a design to fabric which will not withstand the heat for HTV. The fabric is a polyerster and spandex blend. Is there an adhesive Vinyl you recommend?
I am a newbie trying to learn the language of cutting – I so appreciate this post. Thank you!
Thank you for such a comprehensive guide to vinyl. It makes the terror of opening my Cricut’s box just a bit less daunting. Do you have favorite sources for the various types of vinyl?
I have lots of adhesive vinyl. Can I use it to iron designs on fabric? Do I have to use heat transfer vinyl?
For fabric applications you need to use heat transfer. You could stick an adhesive vinyl decal onto fabric, but it will just be like a sticker. In order for the design to bind with the fabric and for it to be washable, you must use iron on or heat transfer vinyl.
This was a very helpful article about how to use vinyl. I am brand new to Cricut and need all the help and information I can get. Your article was clear and easy to understand. Thanks a bunch! I am looking forward to getting your newsletters!
Joanne Dozier says
Can you use heat transfer vinyl on mugs and then heat press them with the cup attachment on my heat press? Also I mistakenly bought the new cricut premium vinyl thinking it was permanent as I wanted to add it to a cereal bowl but it turns out it is the removable Matte kind. Will that work or do I need to buy the permanent kind instead??
You can use heat transfer vinyl on ceramic! I have been meaning to get a post up all about that. I will try to get it done soon, but basically you can use HTV on any surface that can stand the heat. You can check out my post on using heat transfer vinyl on wood here: https://persialou.com/apply-heat-transfer-vinyl-wood-diy-wood-signs-video/ I would probably use a small craft iron for a mug or you can get mug adapters for heat presses although I have no experience with that personally. I think if you are going to be washing and handling something, I would definitely use permanent adhesive vinyl.
This made perfect sense to me, newbie here. Thank you.
Thank you for the tips! I’m a beginner and I’ve been trying to apply adhesive vinyl to clear mugs, but I’m not sure if it’s the vinyl or the transfer tape (or both together), but I’m having a problem getting it to, first of all, stick to the transfer tape and then sometimes the vinyl is having a hard time transferring from the transfer tape to the glass. I’m having to literally work at every single letter to get it to come off the transfer tape and stick down, sometimes causing a letter rip. Could it be the font as well? The bigger the font, the easier it seems to lift. I’m just not sure what I’m doing wrong. Is the type of vinyl and transfer tape I’m using together?
It could be an issue with the transfer tape or the vinyl or the two working together. Which brands are you using? Are you using a vinyl with a permanent adhesive too? It should really grab onto the mug. You may also want to try cleaning the mug with some rubbing alcohol first to help you get a nice clean surface to start with. Another thing I have noticed as far as getting vinyl decals to come up off the paper backing is making sure you are getting a good “kiss cut.” You are making me realize I could probably add another section about this, so thank you! Basically, you want your cut to just go through the vinyl and not through the paper backing. If your cut is going a little deep and cutting into the paper backing as well then I think it makes it more difficult to get the decal off the backing and onto the transfer tape.
Thanks for this post… Curious if you know the difference of the Oracal 813 (considered the stencil vinyl) or the Oracal 651 or 631. I have used the 651 and 631(matte) interchangabley for making vinyl stencil on wood and they work great. I just ran across the 813 and I see a lot of people use the Oracal 813 (which seems to be more expensive and I think it says less sticky). Am I missing something? What’s the draw to the 813?? Why should I pay more, does it work better and if so how? THanks!
Thank you for great info.
I now understand the choices. But how do I get my logo onto the vinyl?
Patricia stonkus says
Ive started to make coasters. That means seeing vinyl pieces together. So far so good.
When my sewing machine told me it needs a break I looked at the vinyl scraps and found they can make great ornaments. Keyrings or magnets. And many don’t need further cutting as they create wonderfully imagunative shapes by themselves. Problem. I need to be able to glue these pieces together. I’ve tried crafting glue. The glue doesn’t hold. Gorilla glue is better for strength but any residual glue beside or under the item turns white when I try to remove it. Some if the pieces I’ve has to toss were striking and I hated to lose them. I’ve been using several types of vinyl but it doesn’t seem that my vinyl is on the same page as yours. Can you help?
If its on a surface use mod podge. then put the vinyl ontop of that. and you can seal it a bit of mod podge on top. you can also get one that is safe in the dishwasher. i have done a few plates and coated them with the mod podge and they have lasted in the dish washer. just make sure its the right mod podge.
Alicia Commoroto says
Hi! First I would like to say thank you for this website! I have been so confused with all of the different choices and opinions people have on what we should and shouldn’t use on what materials and this post has become the light at the end of the tunnel for me! Lol
Now for my question. I’ve started a project a few weeks ago and I’ve been stuck on the printing portion of the project and was wondering if you could spare any advice! I have designed something that I need printed on a PU leather tire cover. The design is 22″ by 22″ and I already have the tire cover. My problem is, 1. I can’t decide on what type of vinyl is best since it needs to be weatherproof, and 2. Where in the world can I order a design that fits those dimensions? I swear, I’ve emailed over 20 printing companies that said they can’t help me! Lol
Literally ANY advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!!
Hi Alicia! Are you wanting to cut a design to apply to the tire cover or are you actually trying to print a design? If you are cutting a design and then applying it to the cover, and it is leather, then I would go with a Heat Transfer Vinyl, and if you are working with a Silhouette, you will have to cut the design in two pieces and then apply both to the cover. The techniques I used in this post should help with that: https://persialou.com/giant-otomi-wall-diy-with-vinyl/ I hope that helps! Good luck!
OMG, you are a lifesaver. Your page is the first one I opened and bookmarked it before even reading past the opening paragraph. My bf and I are picking up our dye sub printer and vinyl cutter plotter tonight and you page answered questions I didn’t even know I had yet. Thank you for sharing what you have learned, allowing others like myself to the wonderful world of vinyl.
Thanks for the sweet comment, Mandi! You are so welcome! Good luck with the new adventure!
Hi, thanks for the very useful info! I’ll be referring to this site whenever I get stuck!
Question: what kind of vinyl would I use for silicone/rubber phone cases?
I’ve tried adhesive, but it doesn’t stick very well
THANK YOU SO MUCH! ❤️ This website has been SO helpful! I’m giving you a hug thru the screen! Thank you thank you thank you!
Lindi Olivier says
Thank you for this wonderful tips about the different types of vinyl. I’m also very new to this “vinyl world”. I do not have a heat press and were wondering if I should use heat transfer vinyl with my normal iron. I see you mentioned it a couple of times saying heat transfer or iron on vinyl. Is it the same thing? I would love to hear back from you.
Greetings from Sunny South Africa!
Just wondering about the safety of using vinyl for craft projects? I’m interested in using them for coffee mugs & also with wood engraving & acrylic sheets, but been reading about the whole PVC and toxicity of using vinyl and dangerous fumes/gasses so just wanted to hear your take on it. Thanks!
Hi I tried to add permenant vinyl to a glass. It sticks great but I feel like the vinyl could get pulled off easily. I bought dishwasher safe mod podge to seal it but you can see the streaks all over the glass now! Other vinyl glasses I have seen, you cant feel the difference between the glass and the vinyl. Is there a certain vinyl I’m supposed to use for glass, or a certain way I’m supposed to do it, or a better sealent so that when you feel it you can’t notice the difference between the glass and vinyl feel? Or on most glasses are you actually supposed to be able to feel the vinyl?
Esther Fernandez says
I would LOVE to be able to print out this lesson!! It is very well organized and easy to understand! Thanks. I’ve bookmarked it for future reference
Nicole Miele says
Is there a certain htv to be used on jean jackets? I am having all sorts of trouble getting the Cricut htv to stick.
WOW! Thank you soooo much for sharing! I am starting my business and was in the process of purchasing Vinyl. Something told me to do some research, and I was reluctant to run across your blog! You are HEAVEN SENT! Thank you so much!!
Michele Sharp says
Thank you for all of the useful information! If I am going to me printing on a leather luggage tag, do you suggest heat transfer or adhesive vinyl?
DL Carter says
I have been to the craft store 3 times this week, and just left out of sheer frustration. There are so many types of vinyl to choose from I just gave up. Your posts are so amazingly thorough. I’m so grateful for the information, and now have detailed resources for working with vinyl. Thanks for your posts, they are a life saver!
Newbie here, is the Cricut Premium Vinyl Shimmer good for car windows and other outdoor things?
Chris Cabrera says
Received as a Christmas gift a pack of vinyl for a Silhouette cutter but I have a Cricut can I still use it on Cricut Explorer. It sheets and a little thinner in texture but to me I can still use it for certain projects.
What would be the best vinyl to get for a car decal?
Vanessa Lockey says
Hello! I am trying to create a decal for my watch band but can’t seem to get any vinyl to stick to it. It is the rubber-type band used on fitness watches. Any advice?!
I’d like to know this as well! 🙂
I’m doing a project on wine glasses using 651 oracle paper. The problem I’m having is the word stencil is coming off after the cricut cuts it. Therefore I can’t weed it & use the transfer paper to adhere it to since there are no letters left. This paper isn’t working at all for me. What should I do different?
Kelly Edmonds says
I am new to the game… think i now have everything I need to start… i recently started buying supplies. I was in HL and they had Paper Studio 50% so the 12×12 sheets were $1.25. Bought 7 i liked forgetting remov vs perm… did not intend to buy remov at this point… when i gh ot home i discovered 6 said ‘remov’ on the back, the 7th does not specify… it appears to have a matte finish, tho its shiny… def not glossy… the big diffs between the 6 & the 7th: the 7th has asticker on front of the cellophane that says ‘new’, the white edge of the backing is visible, on the backing rear surface it doesnt say remov like the other 6, & the gridline pattern on the back of #7, is very light gray , rather than black like the other6… wasnt sure if was a case of ‘if its remov, it will say, if not, its perm’. I tried to find a website but all the links take me to vendors that sell P/S, like HL, or Michaels, or Amazon… i tried typing in the logical web address but takes me to where it says the domain name is available… can anyone help me… i figured i will test it on my 1st product but if i can find out beforehand that would be better
Venecia Stanley says
This article has been the most helpful I’ve read! Thank you. Do you have a printable with all this information in it?
JAN SLOMKOWSKI says
I am putting large removable vinyl mural pictures on the grandkids walls, but would like to add a temporary frame around each, also using vinyl. What is the best way to do that, and what product is best? Is there anything that comes in narrow strips?
Thank you so much for sharing all these valuable information! It helped me a lot clarifying many questions that was in my mind. I just got a cricut maker and I am super excited to try it out!
Best of luck to you!
What type of vinyl should I put on my shoes
It depends on the material the shoes are made out of, but if they are canvas or vinyl, then I would recommend HTV. I have a post on that here: https://persialou.com/diy-cat-shoes/
This post has really helped me clear up a lot when it comes to vinyl. Any suggestions which type of vinyl to use in a bathroom where it tends to get wet and has a lot of moisture?
Thanks a million!!
i work at a daycare and would love to do circle dots on the floor for lining up, what vinyl would you suggest i use for that? its the school tile
I would try a small permanent adhesive in a corner somewhere as a test to make sure it doesn’t damage the flooring, but I think that would be the way I would go. Removable might work as well. Maybe get a little piece of each and test how they hold up.
Check out the different kinds of Mod Podge
It dries clear
What brand of vynil should I use for gadgets skin like dualshock 4, phone, laptop, etc. Thank you so much!
Great website. Thank you.
Do you have any thoughts on what I’ve outlined below?
I want to apply a full sheet of heat transfer vinyl to a sheet of steel. I’ll then use an exacto knife to cut out designs, removing sections of the vinyl where I want the steel exposed. I’ll then put the steel into an acid bath.
The vinyl is my resist. After some time the acid will have eaten into the steel that’s exposed, leaving the area covered by the vinyl intact. I won’t go the traditional route of cutting the vinyl before application to the steel because the design is complicated and large.
I know this approach works as my late aunt used it but I didn’t learn her techniques before she died.
You can see some of her work here: https://rockbridgetimes.blogspot.com/2014/08/agnes-welsh-eyster-dear-friend.html. You’ll see the size and complexity I mentioned above.
From your website the process I’ve come up with to apply a full sheet of vinyl to a sheet of steel is this:
Matte: Vinyl side: faces metal
Glossy: Backing, clear side: faces up
Put cushy material between table and steel (e.g., towel, so can apply pressure against some give)
Use parchment paper between backing and heat source
Iron on cotton setting, no steam, with pressure
Lift clear plastic now and then to see progress
If have taken off backing and want to adhere better, use parchment paper and iron more
What do you use Cricut 536 prem. Vinyl for?
do you have a printed copy of a catalog you can send me with information on how vinyl works?
I’m trying to make myself or have a custom purse made but I want it on a bag that is saffiano leather. What would be the best type to put Disney pictures on the bag??
I am new to using my cricut maker so this was AMAZING information!! Thank you so much! I did find some Mod Podge that is dishwasher safe and dries clear that you can use on mugs, etc., Again, thank you
Great article very thro and informative!
After soaking up all of this knowledge you’ve shared
I’ve been leaning towards Permanent adhesive vinyl for the emblem on front & rear of my vehicle
I live in Seattle and figured this might be best choice considering our weather and weekly car washes
Any recommendations for this project would be much appreciated
Do htv gives good result on velvet fabric
Kelli Sloat says
This write up helped me sooo much. First time anything made sense in 2 weeks since I bought my cricut machine. Thank you!!
Devin dodd says
I’m having trouble finding if u can print on any htv vinal or if it is specific the type you use.