Design Your Own Holiday Christmas Sweaters

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How to Use HTV for a Cool Christmas Sweatshirt

Whether you think of them as ugly or cool, making your own Christmas sweater is a fun way to celebrate the season. One of the easiest ways to make a custom Christmas sweater or sweatshirt is by using heat transfer vinyl (HTV). This versatile craft material comes in a wide range of colors (there are even metallics and glitter colors), and it’s super easy to apply; all you need is an iron. HTV is non-toxic, so kids of all ages can use it, making this a great holiday project for the entire family. Since the only supplies you need are the vinyl sheets, a design, and a craft knife, it’s quick and easy to clean up once you’re finished.

We’ve created this guide and video to give you four sweater designs using HTV that you can either copy or use for inspiration. The steps are essentially the same for each design; we’ve simply used different types of HTV to show you the options of colors, finishes, and textures you have available for making the most outstanding Christmas sweater you can.

You don’t want to miss a single design or step, so we recommend watching the video all the way through and reading all the steps before getting started.

List of Supplies

Make Your Own Ugly Christmas Sweater

Use these steps to apply our designs, or your own, onto a sweatshirt. Once the design has adhered and is completely cool, it is permanent and should withstand laundering.

Step 1. Start with a drawing

First, do a few quick pencil or marker sketches. If you’re uncomfortable drawing something freehand, you can find design and image references on the internet. Pick the sketches you like the most, then draw them more detailed on a new sheet of paper. An important thing to remember, especially if you’re adding text, is that you will be creating a mirror image of it before printing.

TIP: Unless you have a lot of experience cutting heat transfer vinyl, we recommend you use simple designs without a lot of tiny elements.

Step 2. Put the drawing into a computer graphics editor

Upload your drawing into a computer graphics program by scanning it in or uploading an image you’ve created on the computer. Using vector painting in your graphics editor allows you to scale all the elements of your drawing freely and also to duplicate them into the number you need. When ready, check the painting’s size, comparing it to the sweatshirt’s size. You want it to be large enough to cover the entire front of the sweatshirt without going over the seams as well as not be too small, making it hard to see or out of proportion with your body. At this stage, you can still make corrections.

Next, separate the elements into groups based on their colors. Don’t forget to make a mirror image when preparing to print it, and always keep in mind the sizes of the plotter (the computer hardware device used to print vector graphics) and the vinyl. The artist in the video used these sizes:

  • Christmas trees sweater - 30x25 cm
  • Christmas stockings sweater - 30x25 cm
  • Arteza garland sweater - 30x30 cm
  • Rudolph sweater - 30x25 cm
Christmas Img Christmas Img Christmas Img Christmas Img

Step 3. Cut the vinyl

Before cutting the vinyl, it’s important to make sure you will be cutting the correct side. Taking a few minutes to figure out which side you’ll be cutting and which side you’ll be pressing onto the sweatshirt will save you the anguish of doing it wrong.

The design is cut out on the colorless side of the vinyl sheet. This side is apparent on most of the colors, but there are a few — black, white, silver, and gold — that look so similar on both sides it’s hard to tell. In these cases, you can find out which is the colorless side by taking the end of your scissors or the tip of a craft knife and scratching a small section on both sides of the sheet’s corner. One side will lift away from the adhesive and this is the side that you will cut.

Follow your craft cutting machine’s directions for the placement and cutting of the vinyl.

Step 4. Add the design to your sweatshirt

The artist in the video uses scissors to cut around the plotter-cut elements to free them from the larger sheet of vinyl. He uses a craft knife to cut details into certain elements he’ll be using, such as the highlights on the ornaments in the Christmas trees sweater. When he’s ready to add ornaments to the trees, he arranges them first on the trees to get their placement right before cutting them out individually and sticking them (colorless side up) to the back of the trees.

TIP: Compose all your elements separately. Once everything is the way you like it, arrange them on the sweatshirt, moving them around until you get the design you like best.

Step 5. Press the design onto the sweatshirt

Follow the instructions for pressing or ironing the HTV elements onto the sweatshirt. For designs that go across the front and on the sleeves, such as the Christmas tree sweater, press each picture to the parts of the garment separately and in stages — first the front, then each sleeve.

Step 6. Finish

After the pieces have completely cooled, gently remove the film over each and your sweatshirt is ready to wear!


  • The adhesive on the back of the HTV sticks poorly to garment seams. To prevent your design from falling off, apply it to flat, unobstructed surfaces on your garment.
  • When making your initial drawing, it’s best to keep all the separate elements of your design no less than 2-3 mm apart. This will make transferring the picture onto the fabric easier.
  • Silver and gold vinyls are more sensitive to hot temperatures and heating times than the other colors. If overheated, they may not keep their shapes.
  • Don’t forget to mirror your image before printing. This can be done during the digitalization stage or right before plotter cutting.
  • Don’t forget to cover your picture with the protective film before pressing it.

Now you know how to use HTV to make a Christmas sweatshirt. It’s your choice whether to make it “ugly” or not, but no matter how you choose to make it look, it’s sure to get a lot of attention! You can also use this step-by-step guide to make a Christmas hoodie or add holiday-themed designs to T-shirts, tote bags, and home decor items to make your holidays more festive or as great DIY gifts for your family and friends.

Watch the video and get inspired! After you’ve watched it, you’ll be more than ready to make your own Christmas sweatshirt.

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1 comment

Aubrey, thank you for the information. We also sell heat transfer vinyl supplies and apparel. We offer one of the best prices on the market and free shipping for orders over $99. Here is the website if your readers want to see:


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