DIY Shadow Effect Heat Transfer Vinyl T-Shirts

DIY layered shadow effect heat transfer vinyl custom pet parent t-shirts
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Wearing my heart on my sleeve? Don’t mind if I do! Take a peek at our DIY layered shadow effect heat transfer vinyl iron-on pet parent t-shirt ideas and tips. Get inspired to make your own unique design. Purrrfect or pawesome for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or just because!

Our Custom Pet Parent T-Shirts

With Mother’s Day coming up in a few weeks and Father’s Day not long after for those of you up north (Father’s Day is in September here), we’re sharing our custom heat transfer vinyl pet parent t-shirts. I made these first when I got my Cricut as a test for cutting size (little Dalmatian dots) and iron-on resilience. The bright blue shirts were bought as part of our dog vision walkies wardrobe changes, so they were the perfect target for some pet parent territorial marking.

Testing Heat Transfer Vinyl for Use and Durability

When hubby gifted me my new Cricut (yay!), he also bought some supplies, including a multi-pack of different coloured non-Cricut vinyl. It was way cheaper, but came with the risk of uncertain quality. I figured a small sleeve design would be a perfect way to test, as the shirts would still be well worn even if the designs didn’t hold up in application on subsequent wash-and-wear. Fortunately, there were no issues on either front. The sleeve is also an easy to wear placement for anyone who might not be into a highly visible front or back designs. Single colour felt kind of plain, so I decided to style things up with a layered two-colour shadow effect.

Ideas for Creating Pet Parent Custom T-Shirts (and More)

I went with “Dali Momma” and “Dali Dad” but the awesomeness of having a Cricut is being able to create just about anything you want!  What would your pet parent title be?  Dog Mom? Fur Momma? The Dogfather? Poo Slave? Treat Dispenser?  I’d love to hear it!  

If you don’t have a cutting machine, very simple designs could be hand cut or you can buy custom transfers from other crafters on sites like Etsy. There are also some very cute ready-to-use iron-ons for dog lovers available for purchase from craft suppliers or online. Alternatively, you can stencil or draw your own unique design using fabric markers or paints.

Creating a Custom Heat Transfer Vinyl Design

If you are using a different type of cutting machine, the concepts can be adapted to other software or tools. When creating and applying, follow the directions of your specific machine and materials. 

Creating a Design

I created my text and dots outside of Cricut Design Space and then imported it as an image file. A simple design typography and circles could easily be created directly in Design Space, like our DIY typography dog treat bags. When working with script fonts, I prefer to save my self the hassle of joining the letters (an annoyance in Design Space when using non-Cricut script fonts) and import.

The font used in my project is Pacifico. It’s one of my personal favourites. It’s free and I really like how the script is clearly legible and a little fatter than many script fonts. That makes it great for both weeding and reading. 

The underlining Dalmatian dots are the same type of pattern that we use all over the place in our branding. It’s super easy to create your own circle patterns in any program. If you’d like to grab a copy of mine for use, it’s available in Dropbox for download. (Personal / non-commercial use only please, as with all of our freebies). The smallest dots in the size I used for sleeves definitely pushed the boundaries on both cutting and clean weeding. A good test project!

Preparing to Cut and Create

Whichever design method you choose, double check the measurements before you finalise for cutting. Since we’re cutting to iron on, it needs to be flipped before cutting. Either reverse the completed welded or attached design (flip horizontal) before sending to make, or toggle mirror on within the making process. Ready to make! From here, just follow the Cricut system prompts and instructions for your chosen vinyl. 

Layering Heat Transfer Vinyl for Shadow Effect Lettering

To create an offset shadow effect with the text, I am using two exactly identical cuts of the same typography in different colours. With small designs like this, the extra material use for the covered portions would be waste material if weeded out anyway.  The bottom layer is applied first and then the top layer is positioned in offset. The offset creates the shadow effect. The top layer can be applied either slightly above or below and/or to the side, depending on the look you’d like to create. 

Creating a layered heat transfer vinyl design for shadow effect lettering

Layering heat transfer vinyl is super simple and is pretty much the same as direct single layer application, but you do need to take care to ensure that your base layer(s) are covered and that you don’t apply heat for longer than necessary in each step to avoid damaging the vinyl. Here’s how the process was applied to create our custom Dali Momma and Dali Daddy t-shirts.

DIY Layered Shadow Effect Heat Transfer Vinyl T-Shirts

Supplies and Materials

To make a similar DIY shadow effect heat transfer vinyl t-shirt, you will need:

  • T-shirt 
  • Heat transfer vinyl in at least two complimentary colours for layering
  • Computer controlled cutter and associated tools
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Teflon sheet (optional)

Creating the Custom Iron-Ons

  • Create (or purchase) your custom design. See above for DIY tips and ideas.
  • Prepare and cut the design on suitable heat transfer vinyl (or alternative material). See above for tips. Ensure it is correctly sized for your application.
  • Cut portions of the design in another colour (or colours) for any areas being applied in two offset layers for shadow effect.
  • Once your design is cut, weeded, and ready to go, double check everything together before application.  Position and check the placement of your full design with the offset layers before committing to ironing it into place.  I decided that I liked the pink-on-black for my bright blue shirt, but preferred black-on-white on the royal blue shirt. I also shadowed my two shirts in opposite side-to-side directions because of where the “y” in daddy ended up relative to the underlining circle design.
Applying layered heat transfer vinyl to create shadow effect lettering on a DIY t-shirt design

Applying Layered Heat Transfer Vinyl for a Shadow Effect

  • Ensure that your t-shirt is clean, dry, and wrinkle-free before applying your transfers. 
  • Position your base layer and carefully iron into position. To avoid over baking the vinyl, it is best reserve any long pressing for after the design is fully layered. Heat application and backing removal must be done per the instructions for your chosen vinyl product. If using a hot-peel product, allow to cool before applying the next layer.
  • Position your top layer. Ensure that the previously positioned design layer is covered to avoid any contact with the iron and carefully iron the top layer into position. Heat application and backing removal must be done per the instructions for your chosen vinyl product.

A Teflon sheet is extremely handy for extra protection, if you have one, and this is especially important when layering. If your base design is larger than your top layer, you can also hang onto your backing post-peel and re-use that to assist with protection when applying the top layer. I like to do this, where feasible, even with the Teflon sheet. No matter what you’re using, don’t place your iron directly on exposed vinyl as you may damage the design and/or your iron.

DIY layered shadow effect heart transfer vinyl pet parent t-shirts

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