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Can you print color on htv?

Heat transfer vinyl, commonly known as HTV, has become an incredibly popular material for decorating t-shirts, hoodies, totes, and other items. HTV allows you to create custom designs with your home printer and apply them to fabric using a heat press or iron. But many beginners wonder – can you print color on HTV or are you limited to solid colors?

The Basics of HTV

HTV is a specialty vinyl that contains a heat-activated adhesive on one side. To transfer a design, you cut the vinyl into shapes using a vinyl cutter/plotter machine or by hand. Then you weed away the excess vinyl and are left with just the design. The material is applied to fabric using a heat press or iron to melt the adhesive and bond the vinyl to the fibers.

Standard HTV only comes in solid colors – there is no ability to print layered colors or images on the vinyl itself. So at first glance, it may seem you are limited to solid color designs. However, there are a few different ways to achieve full-color prints using HTV.

Print and Cut HTV

The most popular way to print HTV in color is using the print and cut method. This involves printing your full color design as a reverse/mirror image directly onto HTV print and cut material. Some common brands are Siser EasySubli, Chemica Hotmark Print, Fashion Formula Print Freedom and more.

After printing, you take the material to your cutting machine where an optical sensor will scan registration marks that were printed around the edges. The cutter aligns to these marks and then cuts out your design with precision, weeding away the excess printed HTV. The end result is a full color HTV material ready to heat apply.


  • Achieve unlimited colors and photographic images
  • High precision alignment and cut ensures easy weed
  • Wide selection of printable HTV materials


  • Requires a printer and cutter machine
  • More preparation time required
  • Slight loss of image vibrancy after pressing

Overall, print and cut offers the most options for full color HTV projects. The only limitation is needing the right equipment.

Using HTV with Sublimation

Another way to print HTV in color is using a sublimation printing process. Sublimation uses special inks and paper to print designs that vaporize and infuse color into polyester fabrics. While you can’t sublimate directly onto HTV, you can combine the two processes.

The most common way is to sublimate your design onto polyester fabric first. Then layer HTV vinyl over the top and press again. The HTV will cut and adhere to the sublimated fabric, essentially laminating it while allowing the color to show through.

You can also print sublimation transfers to apply to HTV. Print your design in reverse onto sublimation paper. Press the paper transfer onto the adhesive side of HTV vinyl. Trim away excess paper and press onto fabric. The end result is color infused into the HTV.


  • Vibrant, photorealistic prints
  • No cutting/weeding needed
  • Use thin HTV for easy layering


  • Limited to polyester fabrics
  • Needs sublimation printer and supplies
  • More preparation time

If you have sublimation equipment, it can be a great way to add color to HTV projects. Just be mindful of the fabric type.

Using HTV with Inkjet Transfers

Inkjet heat transfer papers offer another option for printing color on HTV. There are different types, but generally you print your design in reverse onto the transfer paper. Press it onto fabric, peel paper away, and the ink remains on the fabric.

To combine with HTV, simply layer vinyl over the inkjet transfer paper before pressing. When peeled away, the color will be left behind under the HTV. This allows you to cut detailed HTV designs in any color combo.


  • Achieve full color without special vinyl
  • Use any home/office printer
  • Low investment method


  • Inkjet transfers can feel thick and stiff
  • Fades faster than other methods
  • Flimsy papers can wrinkle during layering

Inkjet transfers get the job done for an easy, low-cost option. Just know the colors and hand may not be as good as other methods.

Using HTV Adhesive Vinyl Sheets

Some manufacturers like Siser and Chemica make adhesive backed HTV specifically for layering over printed materials. These adhesive vinyl sheets have a glossy, transparent finish and sticky backing.

To use, simply print your color design on inkjet, laser or sublimation paper. Cut your HTV vinyl into designs, peel and layer over your printed paper. The adhesive sticks to the paper so you can press it onto a shirt easily. Peel the paper carrier away after pressing.


  • Make full color layered HTV projects
  • Adhesive gives smooth application
  • Glossy finish enhances colors


  • Limited selection of adhesive HTV
  • Printed papers can feel stiff
  • Paper may show through vinyl

Adhesive HTV sheets provide the easiest solution for layered color designs. Just know the end result will be thicker and may have a paper-like texture.

Alternative Methods

A few other unconventional options for adding color to HTV projects include:

  • Acetone Inkjet Printing: Print designs with acetone inks onto acetate sheets. Use as an underlay for HTV and press.
  • Infusible Ink Markers: Draw or dot color onto fabric with infusible ink pens. Layer HTV on top.
  • Fabric Markers: Color designs on fabric with markers before applying HTV. Works on cotton with sharpie-type markers.

These options work in a pinch but have limitations. Acetone ink fades quickly, infusible markers have limited colors, and fabric markers only work temporarily on some fabrics. For best results, go with a dedicated HTV printing option.

Comparing the Best Options

To summarize the top methods, here is a comparison of the key features:

Method Colors Fabric Types Durability Equipment Needed
Print and Cut Unlimited Any Excellent Printer, cutter
Sublimation + HTV Photographic Polyester only Very good Sub printer, heat press
Inkjet Transfers + HTV Limited Natural fibers best Good Inkjet printer, heat press
Adhesive HTV Any Any Good Printer, cutting machine

As you can see, print and cut HTV offers the most versatility and durability for full color projects. If investing in the proper equipment, this is typically the best solution. Sublimation works very well but is better suited for 100% polyester items. Inkjet and adhesive provide good alternatives with lower startup costs.

Tips for Superior Results

Whichever method you choose, following these tips will help you succeed with color HTV projects:

  • Use a high quality printer for vivid images
  • Choose fabric appropriate for the vinyl and inks
  • Print on the recommended print side for the HTV material
  • Allow proper drying time for inks before pressing
  • Use medium pressure and 5-10 seconds longer time during pressing
  • Perform test presses, especially with layered materials
  • Wash inside-out in cold water and dry on low heat

Taking the time to learn the nuances of your materials will prevent wasted projects. Be sure to read manufacturer instructions and recommendations.

Creative Ways to Use Color HTV

Here are some cool ideas to inspire your multi-color HTV projects:

  • All-over shirt designs
  • Personalized photo gifts
  • Sublimated HTV shimmer wall art
  • Color gradients and ombré effects
  • Delicate lace patterns
  • Athletic jersey numbers and names
  • Detailed logos and illustrations

Don’t be afraid to experiment and push your creative limits! Using various colors of HTV opens up so many possibilities.


In summary – yes, you absolutely can print beautiful, colorful designs using HTV vinyl! While standard HTV only comes in solid colors, there are several effective techniques to achieve custom multicolor projects.

Print and cut HTV provides the best overall results with unlimited design options. Sublimation HTV works very well but requires polyester fabric. Inkjet transfers offer a reasonably priced alternative. Adhesive color HTV sheets are also easy to work with.

Whichever option you choose, follow the manufacturer guidelines for optimal durability. With some practice, you’ll be making vivid, pro-quality HTV prints in no time. So don’t limit yourself to solids – unlock a whole new world of colorful heat transfer projects!