Crafts,  Home & DIY

How to Make Shirts With Cricut {Step by Step!}

If you’ve ever wanted to try to make shirts with your Cricut machine, you’re in luck – because today, I’m taking you step by step through exactly how to make t-shirts using a Cricut cutting machine. I’ll give you instructions for every detail from how to design the shirt, how to cut out the vinyl, and how to attach it (whether you have a Cricut EasyPress or just a regular old iron!).

Ready to learn how to make shirts with Cricut?! Let’s do it!

Collection of three shirts made with the Cricut EasyPress

I’m a sucker for a good graphic tee. There’s little I love more than a good graphic t-shirt or sweatshirt. If I’m being honest, about 90% of what I wear consists of graphic tees!

I recently got a Cricut Explore 3, and with it I also got a Cricut EasyPress. With these two tools, I’ve quickly become a shirt making machine because all I want to do is make cute t-shirts and sweatshirts. It’s a simple craft that’s so satisfying!

A Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air are also both great options for designing and cutting shirts. Basically, you can do this with any Cricut machine! This is a great project for beginners, because you’ll feel so accomplished but it’s so easy to do.

I can make shirts with my Cricut?!

Let’s be clear, you aren’t making the actual shirt with your Cricut – you’re just buying a plain shirt and adding a vinyl design to the shirt!

Didn’t want anyone to think we were getting too wild up in here.

We’ll get into the actual designing of the shirts in a moment, but don’t feel distressed if you aren’t a whiz on the computer and don’t know how to design a shirt. I promise it’s easy, and I’ve got a few resources for you if you really don’t want to design your own.

This is gonna be simple, I promise!

Collage of images of the process of making a shirt with heat transfer vinyl. Text overlay says DIY graphic tees using a cricut

How to Make Shirts with a Cricut: Step by Step Tutorial

You’ll Need…

  • A blank shirt. Cotton or polyester blends work best – other fabric may melt under the heat press.
  • A Cricut cutting machine
  • Iron-on vinyl (You can use the Cricut brand, or purchase other brands on Amazon)
  • Cricut cutting mat
  • Cricut Easy Press or an household iron
  • Weeding tools

Step One: Prep your Shirt

First, you need to wash and dry your shirt! This is a really important step that you don’t want to skip. The vinyl may not hold onto the shirt correctly if it hasn’t been washed ahead of time, so take the extra few minutes to get this done before you get started.

Step Two: Design Shirt

Now, you’re ready to create your design!

You have a few option here – you can design your own shirt using Cricut Design Space or another design program, you can use a pre-made design within Cricut Design Space, or you can purchase an SVG that’s ready to go!

Design Your Own Shirt

Screenshot of design in Cricut Design Space

If you choose to design your own shirt, the sky’s the limit and it’s just about what you’re able to do! You can create it within Cricut Design Space, or you can use another design program and import it. Either way, this option is great for simple designs or for someone who has some confidence when it comes to creating designs on the computer.

I often use this option when I’m making a shirt that’s just text, or when I know exactly what I want and it’s simple enough to tackle myself.

For example, when I was writing this post I was making some race day shirts for an upcoming half marathon – they’re just text, so it was really easy to whip something up in Design Space. I like this option because I can get exactly what I want without compromising on anything.

Use a Pre-Made Design from Design Space

Screenshot of projects from Cricut Design Space

If you have a Cricut Access membership, you can create all sorts of cool projects that other people in the Cricut community have designed already. Just browse around until you find a t-shirt design that you love, and click on it to make it.

It couldn’t be simpler to design a shirt this way, and you can choose just about any design you see to add to a shirt. For example, the “MAMA” design on the cosmetic bag in the photo above would also make an adorable sweatshirt, no?!

Purchase a Shirt Design

Screenshot of SVG files from shirts on Etsy

Finally, if you don’t feel confident making your own shirt design and you don’t see anything on Cricut Access that you love, you can purchase an SVG online (I love to use Etsy) for just a couple of dollars!

This is how I get most of my shirt designs that are more complex or specific. Often, when I’m browsing Etsy for graphic tees and I see one I really like, the seller will also have an SVG of the shirt that you can buy. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to find SVG files of cute shirt designs, and they’re usually only $2-$3! Simply purchase the design, then upload it into Design Space and you’re good to go.

Psst: Click here for the Luke’s diner SVG you see in this post, and click here for the David Rose one.

Other Tips

As you’re working on designing the shirt, you can use a shirt template within Cricut Design Space to help you visualize the size and placement of your design.

  • Click on templates in the top left corner
  • Chose “classic t-shirt”
  • Use the drop down menus to select the size and other specifics

This makes it really easy to get the design sizing exactly right, and gives you a good idea of what it might look like once you put it on a shirt!

One more tip? Don’t forget to mirror the design before cutting it! If you leave it as-is, you’ll end up with a backwards design once you transfer it. Trust me on this one.

If you want to use multiple colors, you’ll do layers of vinyl. Design it in Design Space and you should be able to have each color on a separate mat. Cut each one, then layer them onto the shirt one at a time as you work!

Step Three: Cut Vinyl

After you’ve made your design decision and got everything set up in Design Space, you’re ready to cut the vinyl and get started.

What kind of vinyl should I use?

Any permanent iron-on vinyl or heat transfer vinyl will work for making a shirt. The Cricut brand is really high-quality and trustworthy, but there are plenty of other brands available on Amazon that work just as well! EasyWeed is a really popular brand, and I’ve also had good luck with HTVRONT brand vinyl.

How to load the vinyl

You’ll notice that vinyl has a dull side and a shiny side. The shiny side is the part with the plastic backing (also called a carrier sheet), and this is the part that will go face down when you’re cutting.

Place the vinyl on a Cricut cutting mat and press firmly all over to be sure it’s fully secure.

How to Cut the Vinyl

Once your design is fully ready and you have the vinyl loaded onto the cutting mat…

  • Click the “Make it” button in the top right corner of Design Space.
  • Click the “mirror” toggle switch on the screen that pops up. Don’t skip this step! Then, click “Continue”
  • Select your base material – if you’re using the Cricut vinyl, you can just select Everyday Iron-On from the Popular Materials menu. Otherwise, browse for what you’re using!

Load the mat and click go!

Step Four: Weed Vinyl Design

Close up image of a woman weeding a design for a cricut shirt

With everything cut out, it’s time to clean up the vinyl a bit so that you’re ready to transfer it on.

What does it mean to weed your design?

After cutting your shirt design, you need to remove anything that you don’t want to transfer to your shirt. If you use the heat press as it is, you’ll transfer everything, including the negative space!

Instead, grab a weeding tool (this is optional, but hugely helpful), and peel up all of the pieces of the design that you don’t want on your shirt.

Once you’ve removed anything you don’t want, it should look exactly as it will once it’s on the shirt – just a mirror image.

Woman holding a vinyl shirt design

Step Five: Transfer Vinyl to Shirt

Now comes the fun (and most satisfying) part!

It’s time to transfer your vinyl to your shirt using a Cricut EasyPress or an iron.

  • Find a good space to work. It needs to be sturdy, clean, and able to handle a bit of heat.
  • Preheat the Cricut EasyPress or your iron according to Cricut’s heat guide. Be sure to stick to the correct temperature for the material you’re using! On an iron, use the Cotton setting and make sure steam is turned off. Allow it to warm up fully before starting.
  • Lay the shirt flat on the EasyPress mat or on a spare towel.
  • Use the EasyPress or iron to preheat the shirt for 5 seconds to smooth any wrinkles.
  • Set iron-on vinyl on the shirt and get into exactly the position you want it to be. Place it shiny side up!
  • Apply heat to the vinyl design using either the EasyPress or your iron. Apply medium pressure for about 30 seconds.
  • Flip the shirt over and apply heat to the back for about 15 seconds.
  • Let the shirt cool to the touch before removing the plastic backing.
woman using a Cricut EasyPress to make a t-shirt

And just like that, you’re done! Make sure to wait at least 24 hours before washing the shirt so the vinyl can fully adhere, and when you wash it in the future turn the shirt inside out to help protect the design.

A couple of tips for aligning the design:

Generally speaking, starting your design about 2-3″ down from the collar is a great place to start. If you need help placing the design, you can either use a tape measure to make sure it’s centered, or you can fold the shirt in half to create a create in the center. Then, fold the vinyl design in half to create a crease. Line up the creases on the shirt and the vinyl and you’ll know it’s centered!

That’s it! Now you know how to make shirts with Cricut machines.

If you have any trouble getting your vinyl to stick on the shirt, simply apply more heat, and maybe try turning it up a bit. These shirts should last you for a long time if you take care of them, so go forth and make all the shirts you can!

These would make great gifts for anyone for the holidays, or cute shirts for any events you have with your. family. Or, of course, you can just make shirts for everyday wear just because you can.

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