Preparing Surfaces for Applying Vinyl

T-shirts, pencil boxes, ornaments, shadow boxes, mixers, water bottles, canvas bags….even my Silhouette Cameo.  You name it, I want to put vinyl on it.  I can’t walk through the store without wondering what cute design I can put on something.  And this mindset has come in handy when I want to create a special gift, or let’s be real….a last minute gift!  But, it is important to prepare the surface for applying vinyl.  You have spent time creating the design, cutting, and weeding the vinyl, that you want it to look its best!  So today I am going to share some tips for preparing surfaces for applying vinyl.

Applying Vinyl to Glass or Plastic.  One of my favorite things to make is personalized water bottles for little pirates and princesses traveling to see the Mouse.  I need the vinyl to stay put when those bottles are in those little hands!  So, I clean it first.   I use a alcohol on a cotton ball.  I just give it a few swipes, and set it aside to dry.  This cleans off any extra dust, or surface particles and gives you a nice clean surface to start with.  This same method is important on glass, like the ornaments below.


Applying Vinyl to Wood.  This is something I have really struggled with.  I have learned to sand the wood until it is uber smooth.  Then, add some paint.  In fact, for my daughter’s Princess Jewelry Hook, I went with the distressed paint look, in turn it got a lot of sanding!  I just used basic DecoArt craft paint for her sign, and the vinyl is still sticking!  I have also seen others us Polycrylic over the paint before applying the vinyl.  I think it is personal preference, and may depend on the project you are making.

Princess Jewelry Hook #princessroom #littlegirldecor #silhouetteamerica

Applying Heat Transfer Vinyl to Fabric.  I choose to use a household iron for applying my HTV.  I have had a lot of luck with this, and good luck with the vinyl sticking wash after wash.  First, I heat the iron as warm as possible.  Then, before applying the HTV, I run the iron over the surface and iron out any wrinkles from folds.  While the fabric is still warm, I lay down the HTV and cover it with parchment paper. Then, I start pressing.

Minnie Shirt 5

Following these simple steps to preparing your surface for vinyl will make a huge difference in your finished project!

Stop by every day in October to see a new Silhouette tip, trick, or project!  In case you missed it….

Downloading Fonts to Use with the Silhouette Cameo

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Carrie (887 Posts)

Carrie is the author and founder of A Princess and Her Pirates. She likes to share her Disney travel tips, crafts, recipes, and ways that she finds JOY everyday in her life! She believes that everyday brings new joy, and that everyone needs to have a little happiness in their life! She is the wife to a sweet pastor, and mom to three kiddos-twin boys and a princess girl. Carrie is a travel agent with Destinations in Florida, where she enjoys making MAGICAL vacation memories for everyone! Contact her today at to start YOUR vacation planning!


  1. Hi there, thanks for the tips. What alcohol do you use? Would an alcohol wipe work?


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