Customized Backpacks Using HTV

Customized Backpacks Using HTV main article image
Posted on May 18, 2021 by Desiree McClung

A few months ago, I wrote an article about unexpected uses for heat transfer vinyl and one of the projects that I showcased was a layered image on a canvas backpack. I would like to explore how to use heat transfer vinyl to customize a canvas backpack. We have 3 school-age children, and each has their own personality and style, so I love to get pick their brain when choosing vinyl colors, designs, or fonts to use on projects that I am making for them. Its so fun to create something special for the ones you love.

One of my sons is into astronomy, and he really loved the Aurora Borealis inspired backpack that he chose at the beginning of the school year. We decided to create a simple project with the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine that can be completed in less that 30 minutes. For this project, I used 2 layers of HTV, a metallic silver and a holographic purple. You can select any color or design that you would like.

First, I selected an image from Cricut Design Space. I knew that I wanted a space theme to go with his backpack style and I wanted to incorporate his name somewhere. I typed in “need my space” and I selected the first image, which I thought would be perfect for his backpack (and his pre-teen personality) and had a spot I could add his name right in the middle of the image. It was exactly what I was looking for! I added the image to my Design Space Canvas. I didn’t adjust the size since I felt that the image was a good size for the space that we were using on the front of his backpack but measure out where you want your image to be and select the size that works best for your space. Always measure the size of the space you are working with. You don’t want to waste time and money with an image that is too big or small for the space.

Since the image on Design Space already had 2 layers, I want to “ungroup” the two layers which will allow me to select one layer at a time and render them the colors that I wanted to use on my project, silver and purple. If you have an image that only has one layer, and you want to create a final image with many layers, what I like to do is duplicate the image and use the contour button to select the parts of the image that I want to change to another color. You can repeat this process for each of the layers of color that you want to add. I try not to have more than 3-4 layers of color on one HTV project. I tend to be very fussy if my HTV doesn’t line up just right on my project and the more layers I add, the more chance I have for something to not line up properly.

I am adding a name to my project, so I add a text box and type the name on my son into it.  I change the font to the font that I feel works best for this project. This is always the hardest decisions for me. I spend WAY too long picking out fonts! I have found that websites like are great for helping with quicker font selection.

For this project, I selected the font “Aloma Island” which can be found here: Aloma Island Font by dixietypeco · Creative Fabrica. I love the all-caps sans serif font, with easy-to-read letters for this project. Once the name was entered, I welded the words together and changed them to purple to match my project. I always weld my words once they are on my canvas since (most of the time) I use cursive fonts where the letters touch and I want them to be seamless. It is not necessary with this font, but I do it out of habit. I moved the name to where I wanted it to be placed inside of my space image, and I used the toggle to rotate the image to fit into the image where I wanted it to be.

Once the image was positioned properly, I selected the 2 layers of the image that were purple and I “attached” them so that when they print, they will layer exactly as they are in Design Space onto my project once they are cut. If you don’t attach the 2 purple images, when you go to cut your words, the name will be placed next to the image and not inside your image. This will cause you have to cut and paste later when you are assembling your project on the backpack. I always double check before I cut that I have attached the image correctly, so I don’t have to do more work later.

Since we are working with HTV on this project, it is important to make sure that mirror image is on when you cut and “iron-on” is selected on the machine. You will want your silver and purple vinyl face down on your mat when you cut.

Once cut, I weeded the excess vinyl out of my image and was left with this:

The image is now ready to be applied to my backpack project. I used a Cricut Easypress Mini on medium heat. Since I am applying this image to the front pouch of the backpack, I put the pouch into the corner of my easy press mat as much as I could to get pouch flat for my image. Since my image was small enough, this wasn’t too difficult. I pressed the silver layer first, on medium heat for 15 seconds. I let it cool for 10 seconds before I removed the backing. Check with your HTV supplier for whether it is a hot or cold peel, as this process varies by vendor.  Next, I lined up my purple layer so that the name, planet ring and stars aligned with the silver layer. I pressed again on medium heat for 15 seconds. I cooled and removed the backing, then gave it a final press with a Teflon sheet over the top for 15 seconds with a firm hand. Note that I made this project for another article, so the image below was from that article and not exact to the design I created above.

I think that this was a fun way to customize a backpack for my son. There are some other fun ways to customize backpacks too. You can add a repeating pattern all over the bag, add names or initials, sports teams or school logos, and so much more. You can use glitter, flock, or holographic vinyl for an extra special touch. The possibilities are endless!

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