When you have a Silhouette machine, who can resist making personalized t-shirts? Not this girl. I applied this HTV design on a t-shirt for my sarcastic, Canadian-literature-lovin’, cat-cuddlin’ Daughterly One.
It uses one font in a variety of sizes and weights to add interest in a rectangular design. I cut this one a little smaller than 4″ x 3″ to use as a chest design, but it can easily be enlarged to use as a regular size t-shirt design.
And since not everyone is a cat person, I created a dog-cuddling alternative. Both designs are completely customizable—swap out any of the sayings for something that fits your intended shirt-wearer. I’ve got everything you need to do that: free download file, free font, and full instructions.
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What you need…
- Heat transfer vinyl – in contrasting color to shirt. I used white Siser Easyweed
- Iron or heat press
- Parchment paper or Teflon sheet
- Silhouette cutting machine – My Cameo is currently powered by Silhouette Studio Designer Edition version 3.3.638 but I’ll keep this tutorial Basic Edition friendly.
- Free cut file ↓↓↓
I used Caviar Dreams because it’s easy to read, the letters are a good distance apart to allow for thickening, and the dangly letter bits (you know, that hang below letters like g, p, q etc.) are short, so you can get the text lines nice and close without them bumping into each other. To use Caviar Dreams in this project, you must have it installed on your computer (of course, feel free to use a different font if you prefer). You can download Caviar Dreams for free at fontsquirrel.com. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it on your computer, it’ll appear in the Font Style window in Silhouette Studio the next time you open it.
Changing the design…
I’ve got you cat lovers *and* dog lovers covered with a design for each in the free cut file. If you like either design as-is, you’re more than welcome to cut it, press it, and away you go (skip this section and scroll down to “Getting it on the shirt…”). If you’d like to customize one of the designs, choose the one you’d like to work with and read on.
STEP ONE: The easiest way to keep the design in a rectangular shape is to actually work inside a rectangle as you build the design. So draw a rectangle (using the ‘Draw a Rectangle’ tool), and drag it over top of the design so the bottom lines are just touching. Drag the sides in until they’re just touching the design.
As you can see, I’m customizing the ‘cat cuddling’ design here, but it works the same for the dog design. Now, if you’re an old pro at Silhouette Studio, go ahead and create new text lines, one text box per line, drag them into the rectangle, size them to fit and add offsets to thicken the words to your liking. You got this. Go. :^) Scroll down to the “Getting it on the shirt…” section. But if you’re new to offsets or Silhouette Studio or haven’t designed much, keep reading for a detailed how-to.
STEP TWO: To free up the top two lines to make them say whatever you want, ungroup the design (to ungroup, select the design, right-click, then select ‘Ungroup’ from the pop-up list). Drag away whatever you don’t want in your design.
The two designs are the same width, so if you want to add a line or two from the dog design to this one, go ahead. You could even stack a ‘&DOG CUDDLING’+dog on top of the ‘&CAT CUDDLING’+cat if you like.
Here’s how I did that: I ungrouped until the dog was separate from the text, then dragged the text to the right until ‘CUDDLING’ was just touching the rectangle a little above the cat. Then I selected ‘& DOG’ and tapped my right arrow key on the keyboard until the G was just touching the rectangle. I flipped the dog so he was facing right instead of left (select the dog image, right-click, choose ‘Flip Horizontally’ from the list), and dragged him into place so that his tail was just touching the rectangle and the top of his head was about even with the top of ‘& DOG’
STEP THREE: Using the text tool, type in the words you’d like to use, one line per text box. As a rule of thumb, for lines with fewer letters (e.g., SARCASM and SMILES), I used upper case letters only, and lines with more letters (e.g., ‘Telling Stories’ and ‘CanLit Quotes’), I used lower case except for the first letter of each word. For this example, I’m going to add BAD JOKES and ‘Tap Dancing’ to the cat design.
STEP FOUR: To make the words easier to work with, change the fill color to black, (to do that, select the text boxes, click on the ‘Open the Fill Color Window’ icon and select the black box), and change the line color to none (to do that, click on the ‘Open the Line Color Window’ icon, and choose the large cross-hatch box between black and the eyedropper). And while you’re at it, change the font to Caviar Dreams or whatever you’ve decided to use (to change the font, select the text boxes, click on the ‘Open the Text Styles Window’ icon, and select your font from the ‘Font Styles’ box). So now my new lines look like this:
STEP FIVE: One at a time, drag the text boxes into place above the cat and drag the text box corner in to resize the text so it fits exactly inside the rectangle (the first and last letters should just be touching the rectangle).
As you can see, the font looks a little thin on the jokes and dancing lines I’ve added—a little bland compared to the lines below them. No problem. Add a small offset to thicken the fonts a little, and that’ll add some pizzazz and balance things out. I’ve dragged SARCASM and ‘Telling Stories’ over so you can see how thickening them just a little makes a difference.
STEP SIX: To add an offset (actually, three or four, and then you can audition them to choose the thickness you like), drag BAD JOKES and ‘Tap Dancing’ to a blank area of the mat and place them side by side with lots of room underneath. Select them both (hold the shift key down to select them both at the same time), and click on the ‘Open the Offset Window’ icon (A) in the top toolbar.
Then click on ‘Offset’ (B), which will join the two text boxes into one selection and pop red lines around all the letters, like this:
The red lines are what an offset would look like using the default distance number of 0.125. Way too large an offset for what we want, but because we haven’t clicked ‘Apply’ yet, is completely changeable. In fact, do that now…replace the ‘Distance’ number (C) with 0.004 as the first offset. For this font, I left things at the default ‘Round’ (D), but go ahead and try ‘Corner’ and select it if you prefer it. Then click ‘Apply’ (E).
STEP SEVEN: Select anywhere in BAD JOKES and drag out the original black text and move it underneath. Repeat for Tap Dancing.
The offsets are made of individual letters, so if you try and move them, you’ll end up moving one letter at a time. To move them as a group, group them together (draw a selection box around the red BAD JOKES so all the letters are selected. then right-click, select ‘Group’). Do the same for ‘Tap Dancing’.
STEP EIGHT: Repeat STEPS SIX and SEVEN, a couple more times, using a Distance number (C) of 0.008 and 0.012, and if you want to try a little thicker, do it again using 0.016 or higher number. Change the fill color to black and line color to blank as above. You should get something like this:
Now it’s just a matter of dragging various combinations of sizes of each saying into the rectangle above the cat to audition them to find the arrangement you like best. When you have a combination you like, delete the rectangle, select all of the design parts, and group them together (right-click, then choose ‘Group’). I ended up going with the 0.008 offset of BAD JOKES and the 0.004 offset of ‘Tap Dancing’ to get this:
Getting it on the shirt…
If you’re new to heat transfer vinyl or need a refresher, I’ve got a ton of detail in How I Work with HTV. It’s a treasure trove of HTV info, I tell ya, a treasure trove! Here’s the fast forward version of how I applied the cat cuddling design:
Resize the design to fit your shirt. I like to print out 3-5 different sizes on computer paper, trim close to the designs, and then audition them on my shirt so I know I’ve got the right size before I cut any HTV. Here’s my winning audition:
Cut from HTV, weed, and position it on the shirt with the shiny carrier sheet up and HTV down. The lettering should all be the right way.
Cover with parchment paper or a Teflon sheet and press according to the HTV manufacturer’s instructions until the HTV is adhered properly.
Remove the carrier sheet by slowly pulling it back on itself. Cover the freshly applied HTV with the parchment or Teflon again and give it another going over with the iron (or another quick press in the heat press).
And, yo, you’re done…
I’d love to see the t-shirts you create with this idea. Share your pics with me via email eff at whatchaworkinon dot com or leave a comment with the words you used for your shirt. I look forward to hearing from you!
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