How to Properly Size and Center an HTV Shirt

Custom Shirts Come in many Shapes and Sizes

Making custom shirts with heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is lots of fun.  It is a great way to express your personality and style.  But like anything we do, there are always challenges.  And getting the right size of the design and then placing the design in the correct spot can be an issue.  I have made lots of shirts, and I have learned these few tricks on how to properly size and center an HTV shirt that I would like to share.

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size and center pin

The First Part of the Solution - Picking the Right Size

There are numerous ways to figure out what size of the design you should put on a shirt.  There are lots of charts around which show sizes of shirts and design sizes – to the right is one that I use as a starting point. 

Although this is a good indication of what sizes to use, I find that it does not always help my needs.  I need to see things in real life.  Every craft I do is unique to me, so I like to know how it will turn out the perfect size is required.

I use this as a starting point for my design size.

properly size and center a HTV shirt

The Second Part of the Solution - Check the Design Size

In all of my shirt-making mishaps, I found that I needed to see the size of the design laid out on the shirt. I am a visual person.  Viewing the mock-up on the computer screen is not enough for me.   And I do not want to waste good material testing out different sizes.  

So with the use of some scrap card stock, I made measuring squares to visually see the size of my design on my shirts. 

This has tremendously improved my ability to size the design on shirts and produce a much better final shirt.

What you need:

  1. Cutting tools – I used my Cricut Explore Air 2, but you can use scissors or a knife and a straight edge.
  2. Card Stock – or plain paper.  I used scrap card stock that I had.
  3. Pen/Marker – either for the Cricut or to write by hand.
essential - scissors

Making the sizing cards

For the purpose of this tutorial, I am doing everything with my Cricut Explore Air 2.  But the concept is the same for any other method.

  1. In Design Space (DS), create 10 squares.  Size each one from 1-10 (1×1, 2×2, …10×10)
  2. In DS, draw up the numbers 1-10 in a font that has the written style.  I used Elizabeth from DS.
  3. Place the numbers in the center of your squares.
  4. Attach each square and number (individually, not all at once).
  5. Click make it.
  6. Insert your pen into the Cricut and put the paper onto the mat.
  7. I only had 8.5″x 11″ card stock.  For the 9″x 9″ and 10″x 10″, I just taped two pieces of paper together before placing them on the mat to get the sizes that I needed.
size a HTV shirt
size cards for a HTV shirt

I use these sizing cards often. Mainly for getting the perfect size design on shirts.  I  also use them when making posters or anything I need a visual on for sizing.

You will notice it is a 9″ square, but if you compare this to the chart above, it suggests the 10″ size for a large shirt. It is not a big difference. I find it makes a big difference with the final project.

properly size a HTV shirt

The Final Part of the Solution - Center the Design Correctly

Once the size of the shirt is figured out, you need to center the design.  You can buy an expensive gadget from Amazon, or you can do it yourself.  And since you are here at my site, we are going to do it ourselves!

What you need:

  1. HTV – one or more colors
  2. Shirt (S, M, L, XL…)
  3. Design pre-cut and weeded.
  4. Ruler
  5. Iron or a Heat-Press
  6. Transfer tape

Prepare the Design for Placement

Combine all of the pieces/layers of your design together so that they form the final design.

If the design has gaps, use transfer tape to hold it together.

Fold the design in half lightly, and pinch the top and bottom only. This will leave a crease in the transfer paper/HTV Vinyl carrier sheet. I have placed red circles around my fold marks on the picture to the right. Do not fold the whole design. This will bend your vinyl and make alignment difficult.


properly size and center a HTV shirt

Prepare the Shirt

Your design should already be weeded and ready to go.

Iron the shirt so that it is wrinkle-free.  

The shirts I buy are pre-shrunk, so they do not require a wash before applying vinyl, but it is good practice to pre-wash all your shirts just in case.

Fold the shirt in half.

Place ruler down the bend of the shirt. The shirt size you are using will dictate how far down the design should start. Reference the chart above to make sure you get the correct starting spot. In my case, I am using a Medium Shirt, so I am placing the design about 2.5″ below the collar.

fold center of HTV shirt

Applying the Design

Align the folds of the design against the fold of the shirt.  Do not align it against the edge of the ruler.

Stick the transfer paper/carrier sheet onto the shirt.  I use my hand as I find the carrier sheet is strong enough to hold.  

Remove the ruler and open the shirt and stick the rest of the design to the shirt.  

Your design is now centered.

If you only have a single layer, your design is ready to press.

If you have multiple layers, as I do, you will need to peel away the top layers slowly to leave the bottom portions of the design on the shirt.  Once you have done a quick iron and peel off the carrier sheet, you can apply the other layers. As you have already found the center of the shirt, you do not need to re-find. You simply apply the design over the existing design.


And That's it! You're Done!

properly size and center a HTV shirt

Final Thoughts

That is it! You are done! Now you know how to properly size and center an HTV shirt without buying any expensive gadgets!

At first, it took me a while to get the hang of it, but now that I understand it and use it consistently, it is simple and works flawlessly.

Was this Tutorial Helpful?

Did you find this tutorial on how to properly size and center an HTV shirt helpful?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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