How to Cut Puff Vinyl on Cricut: A Step-by-Step Guide

how to cut puff vinyl

Known as 3D puff heat transfer vinyl, this unique htv material has become an prevailing material for creating unique textured designs on t-shirts, hats, bags etc. This specialty vinyl puffs up into a raised, 3D effect when heat is applied during the application process. The finished result is a design that stands out with an embossed, dimensional texture. It creates a raised finish on fabric rather than a smooth application like regular htv. When heat is applied, the vinyl will expand and “puff up” to a thickness of 1-3mm off the fabric surface.  This unique material is easy to cut and apply using a home craft cutter like the Cricut Maker or Explore Air 2. It takes a bit more care during the process compared to smooth vinyl, but the awesome textured results are worth it!

Compared to regular heat transfer vinyl, puff vinyl requires some special considerations when cutting and applying it to get the best possible results. In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover all the basics you need to know to successfully cut and press puff vinyl using a Cricut machine. Follow our guide, you will learn how to cut puff vinyl on cricut.

How Does 3D Puff Vinyl Work?

Puff vinyl gets its magical 3D effect through its specialized layered construction. The top layer is made of a heat-sensitive polymer resin that will expand when heat applied. This sits on top of a flexible and stretchable polyurethane middle layer. The plastic protective plastic carrier sheet, like normal htv, is to protect the major membrace.

During application, the carrier sheet stabilizes the vinyl and prevents it from expanding prematurely. Once applied to the fabric and heat is applied, the middle layer allows the vinyl to expand vertically without resistance. The vinyl can puff up from a thickness of 0.2mm to 1-2mm in height off the fabric surface when you use right heat setting!

 This creates awesome texture and dimension in the finished design. Light will also reflect off the raised areas differently, making the vinyl designs appear to stand out and pop off the fabric.

Supplies Needed for Cutting Puff Vinyl

Cutting and applying puff vinyl requires almost the same supplies with what you’d normally use for flat heat transfer vinyl. Here’s an overview of the materials you’ll need:

Puff Vinyl

Obviously the first thing you’ll need is the puff vinyl material itself. There are a few different brands of puff vinyl including Siser, Chemica, TransWonder etc.

Some popular brands to consider:

 ·       Siser easy puff vinyl – One of the most popular options, available in a wide selection of puff colors and sizes.

 ·       Chemica 3D Flex Ultra – France brand long been established.

 ·       TransWonder premium puff vinyl heat transfer – Great choice both in balance of quality and budget. It is known for its durability and easiness of use. Literally the best puff vinyl on the market now.

Carrier Sheet

As mentioned above, puff vinyl comes attached to a clear, thin plastic carrier sheet that acts as a backing during cutting, weeding and application. The carrier sheet protects the vinyl during the process and stabilizes it during heat application.

Cricut Cutting Machine

To cut puff vinyl, you’ll need a plotter cutting machine that can perform “kiss cut” – where the blade fully cuts through the vinyl layer but does not cut into the backing sheet.

Take Cricut for example, any of the following models will work great:

 ·       Cricut Maker

 ·       Cricut Maker 3

 ·       Cricut Explore Air 2

 ·       Cricut Explore Air 3

 ·       Cricut Explore 3

 ·       Cricut Joy

Weeding Tool

 You’ll need a good weeding tool for removing the excess vinyl once your design is cut. Look for weeding tools with very fine tips that can get into small areas of your design. A tweezer or dental tools work great.

Heat Press or Professional Craft Iron

Using a professional heat press or Cricut easy press is highly recommended to get the best results. But an iron with holes is not recommended.  Set your iron-on setting to around 300-330°F to get best result.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cut & Press Puff Vinyl with Cricut

 Now that you understand the unique qualities of puff vinyl and have your supplies ready, let’s walk through the full process step-by-step.

Step 1: Design Your Project

 First up, decide on the design you want to create with your puff vinyl. This can be text, shapes, logos, or any combination in SVG or PNG files.

 Open Cricut Design Space and start a new project. Create your design or upload SVG images you want to use.

 Keep in mind:

 ·       Simpler designs tend to work best with puff vinyl, without tiny intricate details.

 ·       Avoid any extremely narrow sections in your design, as these could tear or overlap after finishing.

Step 2: Mirror Your Design

 Flips or mirror your design horizontally so that when it’s ironed onto fabric, the orientation will be correct.

 In Design Space, select your design and click the “Mirror” button.


 Mirroring the design horizontally

 If you skip this step, your vinyl design will end up backwards when you apply it!

Step 3: Set Machine Settings

 Cutting puff vinyl with cricut requires some special machine settings compared to other materials. Here are the recommended settings to use in Design Space:

 ·      Dial Set: Switch to “Custom” or “Iron-On”

·     Custom Material Set to: Glitter Iron-on if you set dial Custom

 ·      Pressure: Set to “Default” or “More”

 ·      You want a blade setting that will cut fully through the vinyl but not the backing

 ·      Multi-cut: Turn on 2-3 passes

 These settings will allow the Cricut blade to kiss cut through the puff vinyl layer only, leaving the backing intact. The extra passes and pressure help cut cleanly through the thick vinyl.


 Cricut machine settings for puff vinyl

Step 4: Load the Mat

 Place the vinyl onto cutting mat, with the shiny side down against the sticky surface. Use lint roller to ger away wrinkles or bubbles. You can use standard or strong grip mat.

starndard grip

 Tip: If your mat loses stickiness, renew it by washing lightly with soap or detergent in water.

Step 5: Cut the 3D Puff Vinyl

 With your machine settings dialed in and mat loaded, you’re ready to cut your vinyl design! Beware of use correct cut settings, which is key to success. Our suggested settings for puff vinyl on a Cricut is set the dial to custom, then choose Glitter-Iron-On with default pressure.

 Send the design from Design Space to your machine and let it work its magic. Watch closely to ensure the blade is cutting all the way through the vinyl but not cutting into the backing.


Step 6: Weed the Iron-on Vinyl

 After cutting, you’ll be left with your design still attached to the backing/carrier sheet, surrounded by excess vinyl. This is where the fun begins!

 Carefully weed away all the unwanted vinyl using your weeding tool, while leaving your design attached to the backing. Weed the large pieces first and then the small parts.  Patience is always a golden rule when dealing wtih HTV vinyl. 

puff vinyl01 1

 Carefully weed away excess vinyl after cutting

Step 7: Center Designs with T Shirt Ruler

 Align and center your t shirt design with a t-shirt ruler to achieve a professional look. Just align top part of the ruler with the collar of your T-shirt, you can’t miss it. 

 Make sure the surface where you’ll apply the vinyl on is smooth and lint/dust free.  Pre-heat the shirt for 2 or 3 senonds to remove wrinkles or humidity before heating 3d vinyl.

Step 8: Heat Press the Puff Vinyl HTV

 Lock your heat press or iron down onto the vinyl and fabric for 15 seconds at ~300°F.

 Use medium pressure – vinyl will puff requires gradual pressure and temps to fully expand and adhere correctly.

heat pressing puff vinyl

Heat Pressing puff vinyl

Step 9: Remove the Carrier Sheet

 After pressing, you can either warm or cold peel the transparent film away. As you remove the backing, you’ll see the vinyl puff up into an awesome raised 3D effect!

 Congrats! – you just transformed a plain piece of fabric into something super unique with the magic of puff vinyl!

 Tips for Cut & Press Puff Vinyl

 When working with puff vinyl, follow these tips will help ensure you get great results:

 ·       Always mirror your designs before cutting

 ·       Perform test cuts with small shapes like a triangle to fine-tune blade setting

 ·       Go slow and careful when weeding to avoid ruin the project

 ·       Don’t apply puffy vinyl on wood, leather(although in some cases it can) or glass.

 ·       Wash inside-out in cold water and tumble dry low after 24 hours of application

 Troubleshooting Problems about Use Puff Vinyl

 When working with this specialty vinyl, there are a few issues that can pop up. Here’s how to troubleshoot the most common problems:

 Vinyl Isn’t Cutting Through Fully

 ·       Use a new fine point blade instead of an old one

 ·      Check blade is set to the right cut setting that fully cuts through vinyl but not backing

 ·      Try increasing blade setting and/or pressure slightly

 Vinyl Pulls Up or Tears During Weeding

 ·       Press vinyl back down firmly onto carrier if it starts to lift

 ·       Weed larger piece first, then the small pieces

 ·       Work with patience when weeding small details

 Vinyl Not Adhering Correctly When Heat Pressing

 ·       Ensure you are pressing at the proper temp and time

 ·       Try slightly higher temp 

 ·       Stretch and smooth fabric before pressing

 ·       Ensure fabric surface is clean and lint/dust free

 Vinyl Isn’t Puffing Up Much After Pressing

 ·  Ensure that the pressing surface is flat and even    

 ·  Try slightly higher or lower temperature

 ·  Lower the pressing time a bit, like 12 seconds, and try again


 Q: Do I need to mirror puff vinyl designs?

 A: Yes, always mirror your designs before cutting to ensure proper application orientation.

 Q: What temp and time should I use to press puff vinyl?

 A: Around 300°F – 320°F for 12-15 seconds works best. 

 Q: Can puff vinyl be layered on top of other vinyl?

A: Yes, you can layer puff on top of other smooth heat transfer vinyl. Press each layer separately. For instance, Combining puffy and glitter vinyl is a fun way to add multiple visual appeal. Just press each one separately.

Q: Can I layer puff vinyl as base layer?

A: No, you can’t. This super puff vinyl expands like marshmellow, so it is very tricky to add other htv or puff vinyl on top.

Q: Is textured fabric ok for puff vinyl?

A: Smooth, medium-weight cotton works best. Avoid textured fabrics like terry cloth or very stretchy or water proof material.

Q: How do I wash and care for puff vinyl projects?

 A: Wait 24 hours, wash inside-out in cold water, tumble dry low. Avoid direct heat on vinyl areas.

Q:  What types of projects can I make with puff vinyl?

A: T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, bags, shoes, mugs, and more! It works on cotton, canvas, polyester, nylon, rayon, spandex, neoprene, or its blends.

Q: Is it better to use a heat press or iron?

A: A heat press or professional craft iron like the Cricut EasyPress will give you the best results and control over temp and pressure. But an iron is not recommended.

Q: Does puff vinyl stretch or distort when applied?

A: There may be some slight stretching, but the carrier sheet stabilizes it to prevent too much distortion during application.

Q: How long does puff vinyl last on fabrics?

A: With proper care, it can last about 0.5-1 years before needing to be reapplied depending on how often you use it. Wash gently and avoid direct heat.

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