Make Your Own Custom T-Shirt with Cricut (Even If It Gives You Anxiety!)

My journey to making my first custom t-shirt started with a pretty classic case of “OMG I WANT TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT” while scrolling Instagram and seeing people customizing their own t-shirts, mugs, tumblers… making their own stickers, cards, decor… 

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…but then I looked up the price of the Cricut Maker and thought “SHEW I need to SAVE for that!” So that’s what I did – I budgeted money out of every paycheck and and eventually bought a whole bunch of things to start my Cricut journey (including specifically the mint-colored Maker, of course):

What I bought when I dove into Cricut-land:

  • Cricut Maker – this guy is the current “bee’s knees” as he does more than the other Cricut models in terms of materials he can cut, including fabric and balsa wood
  • Extra mats – I read a LOT of information about Cricut mats, and determined that even though you can clean them yourself, I wanted to have extra ones on-hand for when one inevitably kicks the can
  • Cricut basic tools – cut, lift, snip, burnish, and weed ALL the things!
  • Cricut Sport-Flex Iron On Vinyl (aka Heat Transfer Vinyl, aka HTV) – this is what I used to make my first t-shirt, even though it isn’t “recommended” for 50/50 cotton-poly tees, a number of bloggers who have been doing this way longer than me said it was fine, and it was indeed fine
  • Cricut Vinyl (non-htv) – I got the black and white pack, which also included transfer tape

Because I had done a lot of research in advance and set a savings goal, I also opted to get the EasyPress and the mat that goes with it:

  • Cricut EasyPress 2 (9×9) – I read a lot about household irons being dismal for HTV, but I’ve also read a lot about people who have no issues – do whatever is best for you and your budget!
  • Cricut EasyPress Mat (12×12) – Same story – you may have the proper space to use your ironing board or a different material to protect your surface from heat, so you may or may not want this mat

As you might be able to tell, I spent quite a bit investing in Cricut (I did get 5% cash back though with my Amazon Chase Rewards Visa ((not a referral, just an awesome card)), so that helped!). I was so excited when my Cricut finally arrived, and my husband and I unboxed everything and set it up, and I was terrified to use it.

TERRIFIED.

How does this machine ignite sooo much of my anxiety? What if I break it? What if I can’t do this? What if I mess everything up and this was a giant waste of money?

It took me over a month to complete the starter project. And then another month to do another project that I designed myself, that really didn’t turn out. But now, amidst being in COVID-19 lockdown, my husband somehow convinced me that I am fully capable of figuring it out. So I sat down, and sketched out what I wanted my Gildan t-shirt (that I bought in the beginning of February) to say.

Custom t-shirt sketch for cricut maker

Yes, that’s a reference to one of the best country songs ever, Daddy’s Money, by Ricochet (where are my 90’s country music fans at?!). And it suits me to a T (see what I did there?). Okay, okay, on to the how-to.

A note about anxiety: sometimes it hangs out forever, sometimes it clears up, and sometimes you’re right in the middle, where a brief period opens and if you can get through it, you can come out on top. Thank goodness for sneaking out through the brief period on this one.

How to Make a Custom T-Shirt with your Cricut Maker:

1. Whether you know what you want to do or not, open Design Space (I use this on my husband’s laptop, but people use it on all sorts of devices)

2. Select ‘t-shirt’ from the templates and input the type and size of your t-shirt (I left my design in this tutorial, but you’ll start with a blank canvas)

T-shirt template for cricut maker in design space

Since I knew I wanted a turnip green on my t-shirt, I searched Design Space for an image of a turnip green, and there were surprisingly quite a few, but all required Access. Okay, time to bite the bullet and sign up for that free month of Access for Design Space (just remember, it’ll bill monthly after that and it’s cheaper to sign up for a year if you’re going to commit!). 

Search design space for access images

From there, it’s pretty easy-peasy:

  1. Add a text box (from the left pane navigation) to your t-shirt
Add text to you custom t-shirt design in design space cricut maker

4. Type what you want your t-shirt to say

5. Find a font that you like (you can select only fonts included in access so you don’t get your heart set on something that has an additional cost)

6. If you want to, add an image (from the left pane navigation) and find what matches your design 

Add images to your custom designed t-shirt in cricut design space

7. Design! Get creative – be simple, be complex, take it easy, go crazy! I already knew what I wanted thanks to my sketch, so I just worked with the words until the design matched my sketch (hint: if you have multiple lines of text, use multiple text boxes. This will give you a lot more flexibility with line spacing)

8. Sizing is important – you’ll want to figure out how big you want the design to be on the shirt, and that will vary depending on the size/cut of the shirt you chose. I found that based on my measurements, anything from 10 – 11.5 inches across the chest and 3 inches below the neckline of a large men’s t-shirt would look good to me.

9. When you feel like you’ve got it where you want it, click “make it” in the top right-hand corner! 

10. SUPER IMPORTANT: If you’re using HTV of any kind, you HAVE TO MIRROR YOUR IMAGE. Just think – in order to iron/heat press the image on and not burn the vinyl, the vinyl needs to be reversed (mirrored). You can mirror your image from the “make the project” screen or the following screen. If you don’t, your image will be backward when you iron/heat press it on. 

Mirror image in cricut design space for custom t-shirt with htv

11. Cut just enough vinyl for your project so that you waste as little vinyl as possible. 

12. Stick it to your mat, vinyl side up (also super important! Not sure which side is the vinyl? It’s the duller of the two – the shiny side is the carrier that allows you to transfer the vinyl to your t-shirt). A few things I saw recommended the blue light grip mat, but trust me, use the green one! 

13. Follow the on-screen instructions and voila, your Maker will make!

Circut maker cutting out htv for custom designed t-shirt

14. Next up: weeding. I’d seen a lot of complaints about weeding, and perhaps after doing it for a long time or on something extremely intricate I could see how you’d be annoyed, but I actually enjoyed weeding (meaning removing the vinyl you DON’T want on your final project) this vinyl.

Weed the vinyl cut by your circut maker to make a custom t-shirt

Now it’s time to actually put the vinyl on your shirt. The steps below are for using an EasyPress. 

15. Depending on what your shirt is made out of, set the EasyPress to recommended temp from Cricut’s Heat Guide. Note: When I selected my vinyl and my t-shirt, it said that the two weren’t compatible. But a quick Google search showed me that many people were using this vinyl and this t-shirt at the normal cotton settings, so that’s what I went with. Please do this at your own risk!

16. After my EasyPress heated up to 315 degrees, I followed the Heat Guide Instructions to preheat the shirt for 5 seconds, lightly press the graphic on for 30 seconds, then press the back of the shirt for 15 seconds, and wait until the plastic was cool to peel it away. 

Use an easypress 2 to put htv on your t-shirt cricut maker

Ta-da!

Look mom, I made a t-shirt!

my first custom-made t-shirt using my circut maker

I’m super-happy with how it came out, and I’m even more excited to keep making now that I’ve conquered some of the brutal anxiety that had my poor Maker sitting unused for several months. 

Do you have a Cricut? What are you favorite things to make? Tell me in the comments!