What’s the Difference Between Adhesive Vinyl and Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)?

If you’re new to vinyl, then chances are you are wondering what the differences are in all the vinyl you hear about. Isn’t all vinyl the same? Is it anything like my parents’/grandparents’ vinyl records? Why do I need to know about vinyl?

Well, in the crafting world, vinyl is one of the most common materials we cut using our craft cutters such as Silhouette Cameo or Portrait, Cricut Explorer, and others. To answer some questions from above. No, not all vinyl is the same. It is nothing like vinyl records. And, if you want to personalize clothing, ornaments, blankets, frames, keychains, glasses, and more, you’ll want to use vinyl for all of that.

Adhesive vinyl has a sticky back like a sticker. Some vinyl is super sticky and referred to as permanent or outdoor (like Oracle 651). It can be hard to remove, may leave residue, and may cause damage to some surfaces upon removal. We tend to use it on cups, windows, and keychains. Other vinyl has less stick and is considered temporary or indoor (like Oracle 631) and doesn’t tend to leave marks or residue when removed. Indoor walls or party themed designs meant to be temporary are good examples of when we use it. We use adhesive vinyl on windows, walls, cups, glass, wood, keychains, and more. It just depends what your purpose is as to which type you use. There are other types, as well, for boats that stay in the water and various other specialty situations. You’ll find these two usually suit your regular circumstances just fine.

Heat Transfer Vinyl or HTV requires heat and pressure to adhere to a surface. We use HTV on clothing, blankets, hats, bags, canvas, and even glass and some other surfaces we normally use adhesive vinyl on.

You need either an iron or a heat press to apply HTV and need transfer tape to adhere adhesive vinyl. Both types come in a variety of colors, prints, and textures ranging from glitter to flocked. It all depends on preferences, surfaces, and needs as to which vinyl you use.

One of my favorite places to buy vinyl is Heat Transfer Vinyl 4 U. They recently started carrying adhesive vinyl, too, which is just great. One reason I love them is shipping is free with a $35 purchase. Another reason is they allow you to order vinyl in bulk but mix and match the length and colors. So, I might buy 5 yards of smooth vinyl, but I may get up to 15 colors while still enjoying the discount of buying more vinyl at once. I may buy 3 yards of black but only two feet of hibiscus, one foot of lime, and a yard of purple. So I can sample a new color and bulk up my needs at the same time while saving money. These are big benefits in my book! Plus, they’re really nice. If you have a question or issue, just give them a call.

One word of caution when buying vinyl, if the deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Vinyl is one product you don’t want to cut corners on. Off brands can be very difficult to weed, or even cut because thickness varies, and there are plenty of people just looking to scam the small business owner/personal crafter. Order from places you trust. There are many great name brands like Siser, Chemica, Expressions Vinyl, and more. Trust your judgement and know that knowledge is power.

Be sure to leave your comments below. If you found this information helpful, save it and share with friends who would benefit, as well.

Thanks for reading,


27 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Adhesive Vinyl and Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)?

  1. Valerie miller says:

    Super helpful! Just trying it out on a faux leather bag and it’s not as easy as I bought. So I need an HTV with heat press to stick to faux leather correct?


    • CutFiles4U says:

      That’s questionable. Possibly. Steam may allow the vinyl to hold up, but I’m not sure the 2 surfaces would bond. It might work for a temporary use, but HTV definitely is recommended for fabric application. Let me know if you try it.


    • CutFiles4U says:

      I’m glad you found it helpful. You’re welcome. Teflon paper is place between your shirt or similar and the heat press platen. It helps prevent scorching, press marks, and debris transfer to your shirt or what you’re pressing, so it helps protect your items.


  2. Penny says:

    Hi, I bought some vinyl stickers which I have applied to some material storage cubes. They are not staying stuck very well. Will it work if I iron them? If not, any other ideas for getting them to stick properly? Thank you!


    • CutFiles4U says:

      No. Unfortunately, that may ruin your iron and make a terrible mess. You need HTV (heat transfer vinyl) and a great iron or heat press to apply them. The adhesive vinyl is meant for smooth surfaces like plastic and glass. Surfaces like fabric, towels, upholstery, shirts, hats, and such need HTV.


  3. Amanda Granger says:

    Thank you so much for this information, it was very informative, I am somewhat new to the Vinyl world and trying to figure it all out!


  4. Alecia Pray says:

    Hello, this seems like a stupid question put am having trouble finding the answer before I spend the money 😊. I understand the difference in the vinyl. But I see you can by hear transfer adhesive….why would one want that of all HTV already has the adhesive on the back. I am probably missing something…😁 thank you for your help. Very new but loving it!


    • CutFiles4U says:

      HTV is not sticky until heat is applied to it. Then it sort of melts onto the fabric when enough heat and pressure are applied. The regular adhesive vinyls don’t stick well enough for long-term application on clothing and blankets and will come off with wear and movement. Heat transfer adhesive would be used if you wanted to make fabric stick to a shirt or blanket. You press the adhesive onto the fabric, cut it, and then heat press it to your item. Did that answer your question?


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