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How to do multi layer iron on vinyl?

Iron on vinyl, also known as heat transfer vinyl (HTV), allows you to create custom designs on fabric items like t-shirts, tote bags, sweatshirts and more. With multi layer iron on vinyl, you can create more complex designs with multiple colors and textures. This gives you the ability to make very customized and professional looking projects.

Materials Needed

To get started with multi layer iron on vinyl projects, you will need the following supplies:

  • Iron on vinyl in multiple colors/finishes
  • Heat press or home iron
  • Fabric item like t-shirt, tote bag, etc.
  • Weeding tool
  • Masking tape or transfer tape
  • Parchment paper or Teflon sheet
  • Cutting machine like Cricut or Silhouette (optional)

Choosing Your Iron On Vinyl

There are many different types of iron on vinyl available in various colors, textures and finishes. Here are some of the most popular options:

  • Smooth vinyl – This has a smooth, glossy finish and provides opaque coverage on fabric.
  • Glitter vinyl – Adds sparkle and shine with a glitter texture.
  • Flock vinyl – Has a velvety, velour-like finish.
  • Heat transfer metallic – Applies a metallic look like gold, rose gold, etc.
  • Printed vinyl – Allows you to apply full color designs.
  • Glow in the dark vinyl – Gives a glow effect when lights are off.

For multi layer projects, choose vinyls that complement each other. For example, you could use a smooth vinyl for the base layer and then flock or glitter vinyl for the top layer to add dimension.

Design Creation

There are a few different options when it comes to creating multi layer iron on vinyl designs:

Hand Drawn/Cut Designs

You can hand draw or hand cut your vinyl layers if you want a more handmade look. This takes more time but allows full creative control.

Vinyl Cutting Machines

A Cricut or Silhouette machine allows you to create and cut out vinyl layers precisely. This is the easiest way to get clean, intricate designs.

  • Design your layers in the machine software and size/arrange them how you want.
  • Load your materials into the machine and let it cut out each layer.

Print Then Cut Designs

Some vinyl cutting machines like the Cricut Maker have a “print then cut” function. This allows you to print full color designs onto vinyl then have the machine cut them out perfectly.

This is great for achieving full color images and textures.

Applying Multi Layer Vinyl

Once your vinyl layers are created, it’s time to apply them. Follow these steps for flawless application:

  1. Preheat your heat press or iron to ~315-320°F. The exact temperature may vary based on the vinyl’s instructions.
  2. Lay your fabric item on your work surface. If using an iron, place a pillow case or other cloth under it to avoid sticking.
  3. Arrange the vinyl layers on the fabric how you want them applied. Tape each layer in place with masking tape if needed.
  4. Carefully peel off the top backing sheet from the top vinyl layer.
  5. Evenly place a sheet of parchment paper or Teflon sheet over the vinyl layer.
  6. Lock your heat press or firmly lower your iron onto the vinyl. Apply heat/pressure for 10-20 seconds.
  7. Open the heat press or lift the iron and gently peel back the parchment paper.
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 for each additional vinyl layer until completed.
  9. Once cool, gently remove the top masking/transfer tape from the vinyl.
  10. Cover completed project with parchment paper and press for 5 more seconds to ensure full adherence.

After completing these steps, you now have a multi layer iron on vinyl project! Let cool fully before use and wash inside-out in cold water as needed.

Multi Layer Design Inspiration

Here are some ideas for creative multi layer iron on vinyl projects:

Layered Name/Quote

Use different colored vinyls for each letter/word to make them pop.

Boho Feather Pattern

Layer glitter, flock and printed vinyls to create a fun boho feather look.

Dried Flowers

Use muted vinyl colors in layers to imitate delicate dried flowers.

Watercolor Effect

Blend and overlap colored vinyls to create a painted watercolor look.

Wood Grain

Layer brown and tan vinyl with wood grain textures to imitate wood.

Galaxy/Night Sky

Use blues, purples and blacks in layers with glitter accents to create a galaxy scene.

Animal Print

Mix vinyl animal prints like leopard and zebra to make cool patterns.

Cricut Multi Layer Iron On Project

Let’s look at a step-by-step example of a Cricut multi layer project. For this whimsical design, we’ll use the Cricut Maker’s print then cut feature.

Supplies Needed

  • Cricut Maker machine
  • Cricut printable iron on vinyl
  • Cricut heat transfer vinyl – mint, pink, yellow, white
  • Tote bag or t-shirt
  • Weeding tool
  • Masking tape

Design and Print

In Cricut Design Space, upload or create a floral design you want for the background. Size it to about 8.5″ x 11″.

Select the print then cut option and print the design on Cricut printable vinyl. Weed away the excess vinyl.

Cut Vinyl Layers

Next, design and cut your iron on vinyl layers:

Vinyl Color Design Shape
Mint Flower
Pink Circle
Yellow Star
White Heart

Weed away the excess vinyl on each layer.

Press Vinyl Layers

Preheat your easy press to 315°F.

Arrange the vinyl layers on your tote bag or t-shirt. Press each layer for 10 seconds.

Start with the printed floral background layer first. Then add the mint flower, pink circle, yellow star and white heart.

Cover with parchment paper and press for 5 more seconds when finished.

Let cool completely before peeling off the top carrier sheet. Your multi layer iron on project is complete!


Here are some common issues and fixes for multi layer iron on vinyl projects:

Vinyl Not Adhering

If your vinyl layers aren’t sticking properly to the fabric, there are a few possible reasons:

  • Make sure you are applying enough heat and pressure. Increase time to 15-20 seconds per layer.
  • Check that your heat press/iron is at the right temperature for the vinyl.
  • Make sure your fabric item is cotton, polyester or blended. Non-apparel fabrics may not accept vinyl.

Bubbling or Cracking

If you notice bubbling or cracking of the vinyl after pressing, the likely issue is:

  • Too much heat or pressure. Reduce your heat press temp slightly or press with medium pressure.

Colors Bleeding

If you notice colors from one layer bleeding into another layer, it means:

  • You are applying too much heat/pressure. Vinyl layers should be pressed gently.
  • Reduce your heat press temperature or use lower pressure.

Weeding Issues

Tiny slivers of vinyl remaining after weeding usually means:

  • Your blade needs replaced or adjusted to have a sharper cut.
  • Go over problem areas again with more pressure.
  • Replace cutting mat if worn.


Doing multi layer iron on vinyl opens up lots of options for unique, customized projects. With the right materials and techniques, you can create layered vinyl designs that look polished and professional.

Pay close attention to your application temperature, pressure and time for best results. And don’t be afraid to mix colors, textures and effects. Layering iron on vinyl is an inexpensive way to take your fabric crafts to the next level.