If you want to create a two (or more) color design, you will need to learn how to layer vinyl. Here are two EASY methods for layering vinyl – one for adhesive vinyl (any type,) and one that shows how to layer heat transfer vinyl (or HTV) to keep the design together. It doesn’t matter if you are just trying to match up the design like I show here or actually putting vinyl on vinyl…the process for how to layer vinyl is exactly the same.
How To Layer Adhesive Vinyl (Method for Cricut, Silhouette Cameo, or Portrait)
Layering adhesive vinyl is the easiest because you can add registration marks to layers of the design before you cut them. A registration mark is simply a shape that stays in the same spot on each layer of vinyl so you can match them up and piece together the design later. Ideally, you will use two shapes – one on each side – to make it even easier to be super precise.
Printers often use black lines that look like an angle or even circles to match up the layers of color. When we are cutting vinyl, we need to do this too. You can use lines, rectangles, really any shape will do. *Shoot, while we are talking about this, I don’t know why I don’t use a cute shape like a star or something! Doing this next time. 🙂
In your vinyl cutting machine program add a registration point on each side (left and right) to each layer of the design so when you cut them, each will have a shape in the same spot like this. *Note – I only used ONE registration mark in the photo shown, but you should definitely add TWO – one on the left and another on the right – for precision.
Cut and weed each layer of vinyl, making sure you keep the registration marks in the same place.
I actually sometimes duplicate the design and delete stuff to create two layers in my vinyl cutting program. If you move one off the cutting mat on the screen, it won’t print…a useful way to separate the layers for super visual people like me!
One layer at a time, transfer to your transfer tape. On the second layer, match up the registration point to the first one you have already transferred. Do your best to match them up exactly. As you can see, pretty darn close is pretty darn good, too! Here is me carefully trying to line up the registration marks…
Here you can see that the green registration mark (here a rectangle) is covering up the pink one. This is what you are going for (only you might be even more precise about it than I am which is a good thing!)
How to layer heat transfer vinyl or heat press vinyl
Layering heat press vinyl is a little bit more “eyeballing it” than with adhesive vinyl because you aren’t able to line up registration marks and the design on the transfer tape first (since there is no transfer tape.) You also can’t assemble the design before you iron it which is a bit more tricky. The trick to layering heat transfer vinyl is making sure you iron each layer down as you go and pay attention to the order of layers in your final design.
I find it very helpful to have a picture of the final design I am trying to achieve next to me while I am working. It is easy to get confused once you are faced with three layers of vinyl and no reference points to figure out which you should iron (or heat press) down first.
You can see that this design file had a registration mark to use for adhesive vinyl…I avoided ironing it down and eventually cut it off the layers altogether since you can’t really use it for heat transfer vinyl (unless you like weird rectangles over your design lol.)
*I wondered if it would be possible to add a piece of painter’s tape or even scrap fabric where the registration mark is so I could still use it to line things up. Next time I try it, I’ll update this post and let you know if it is an option!
Heat Transfer Vinyl Steps
In this toddler police shirt design, blue was the first layer, yellow was the second layer, and white (with the lettering and detail) was the third, or top, layer.
Place the background piece where it will go on the final shirt or surface. Iron it on just enough to stick to the shirt and make the clear backing removable. Peel off the clear backing
Next place the middle layer on, lining it up as best you can with the first layer. In this example, you can see some of the design elements line up with each other as well as registration marks would have so it was easy to determine what goes where. Iron layer two in place. Peel off the clear backing from the second layer. At this point, two layers will be attached to the shirt or surface.
Now, line up the top layer and iron that on. This will be what you see in the front of your design. Give it extra weight and time if you need to make sure it is pressed down on the shirt well – this is the final ironing stage. Now peel off the clear backing to reveal your finished design!
Tip! How To Layer Vinyl Without Bubbles
Now that you know how to layer vinyl like a boss, you might want to take it a step further and learn how to layer vinyl without bubbles…those pesky little pockets of air that look ugly and shorten the lifespan of your design. Vinyl bubbles are really more of an issue with adhesive vinyl, not so much heat transfer vinyl in my experience.
The trick to avoiding bubbles in your vinyl is to make sure you are intentional with how you stick down your design: press the middle of your design to the surface first, then use your vinyl scraper to press the design to one side at a time, in one smooth motion from the middle out. Next, do the same from the middle upward and then downward. Finishing by pressing the design down from top to bottom to make sure it is stuck securely on there.
I have found bubbles in my vinyl can also result if I have gotten lint or dirt on it (like if I dropped the decal before getting it on there (ah!) So clean hands and surfaces well before you start a vinyl project.
Bubbles or wrinkles are also more likely if you are applying vinyl to a curved surface. If you can’t get it applied without a wrinkle, you might need to cut the design smaller so it has less surface area to curve around.