Hot Fix Transfer Film is currently a very popular item.  You’ll find rhinestones already set in heart shapes, angel wings and many more designs at craft stores.  You just bring them home, remove the backing and iron the design onto your favorite shirt, jeans, or any item that can withstand the heat of an iron.

rhinestone reverse butterfly

Much in demand by crafters and designers alike, blank hot fix transfer film, available in both separate sheets and on rolls, is a convenient tool to use when creating your own designs with hot fix rhinestones.  It works much the same way as the premade items but it’s up to you to place the stones on the film.  With your stones on the sticky surface, you can take the entire design to the ironing board without them moving, and adhere them to fabric in one step.  You'll generally find the best prices for the film on eBay.

1 - Hot Fix Transfer Iron-On Film

To create rhinestone designs on transfer film, first find a design you like.  Maybe it’s something you’ve seen online or maybe it’s your own creation.  Rhinestone designs for sale online offer great inspiration if you’re undecided.  But if you are starting from scratch and have knowledge of Photoshop or a similar program, instead of drawing designs using lines, use circles that are the same size as your stones to create a more accurate template to follow. 

circle letters

Cut a square of transfer film to accommodate the size of your design allowing generous margins on all sides.  Mark the vertical center of your design and place the transfer square over it.  Mark the center of the film to match.

Work on a hard flat surface.  Separate the backing from the transfer film.  Lay the film sticky side up over the design matching the centerlines.  Tape down the edges of the film with painters tape.  Scotch tape will be more difficult to remove later. 

Use tweezers or a PickMeUp tool  to place rhinestones adhesive-side up over the design. 

pickmeup tool(65054)

Use the sticky end of the tool to lift the rhinestone and the flat edge tool to help dislodge the stone and press it to the film.  If your design is made of circles, start from the center and work to the outside edges.  With line drawings, you will need to follow the outline first and then fill in. 

When all the stones are in place, take the finished work to the ironing board.  Press a light crease down the center of your fabric if the design needs to be centered.  Match it to the centerline on your film and smooth in place.  Position a hard piece of cardboard under the single layer of fabric where the design appears. Cover the surface with a light protective cloth and press down on the iron to release the adhesive of the hot fix rhinestones.  When the project has cooled, carefully peel off the film.  For added insurance, iron the back side of the fabric too.

Elvis shirt


2 - Affixing Hot Fix Rhinestones With A Rhinestone Applicator Tool

Pickmeup Tool

 Not all applications will allow you to use an iron.  Sometimes the prohibiting factor will be the surface and sometimes it will simply be a matter of not being able to fit an iron into odd spaces.  Tiny irons are available at craft stores for tight spaces but when an iron just won’t work, a rhinestone applicator is the right tool to have. 

Shop around.  Rhinestone setters can vary in price.

Stones can be attached to hot fix transfer film as described above then attached to the surface by touching the tool to each individual stone.  If you do not have transfer film, you will need to mark the surface with your design, freehand.  The best way to do this is to draw with dots rather than complete lines.  Other options include:

•  Making a stencil out of your design using lines that are as wide as your rhinestones.  For example, if you are creating words, make the stroke of each letter wide enough so that the stones will line up into that space when the letters are cut out.

stones in stencil

•  Printing your design on paper, use it as a template by poking holes through the paper and making dots in each hole with a pen or marker.  Following your markings, you can then set each individual stone with the heated applicator.  

Rhinestone applicators come with a variety of tips to fit different size stones.  Use the tool to pick up the rhinestone, then set it on the design and hold it in place while the heat melts the hot fix adhesive.

3 - Glue On Rhinestones

Before hot fix stones and transfer film, glue was the method for applying rhinestones.  Although somewhat more labor intensive than using transfer film, it’s still a good option for certain applications.

As with the Rhinestone Applicator Tool, you will first need to create your design on your surface.  The Pickmeup Tool is especially valuable if you’re applying glue to the bottom of rhinestones.  The tool allows you to hold the stone while you put glue on the bottom side.  To work with glue, fill a small container with jewelry glue like Aleene’s “Jewel-It”.  This glue dries clear and is machine washable.  Rub the tip of a pencil in the glue and touch it to the bottom of the rhinestone to transfer the glue.  Use only a small amount of glue for each stone or it will spread outside the gem boundaries when you press it in place.

4 - Silhouette SD Rhinestone Software

The Silhouette SD digital stencil cutter is not an affordable option for everyone.  But if you’re curious, here’s how it works with rhinestones.  To create your own rhinestone designs you must upgrade from the standard Silhouette software.  You can then choose pre-made designs from the Silhouette library or you can create your own.  Draw your design on screen and the machine will convert the lines to circles that match the size of the stones you want to use. 

butterfly on screen

Resize your design and the software will automaticallly recalculate the number of stones needed and even show you that number at the bottom of the page.  If you’re working with a variety of stone colors, you can also choose to designate colors for the circles so you can see how the finished design will look.

The rhinestone stencil is cut onto a special paper with backing. 

special paper and backing

With a tool provided by Silhouette, you brush the stones into the holes.  The depth of the holes help hold the stones in position.  Not every single stone will brush into place but the majority will, making placement of the stones in a big design much easier than handling each and every one.  Transfer film is then pressed to the stones and lifted from the backing, ready to be ironed onto your fabric.

This system makes fast work of blinging any project.  You'll find prices on the Silhouette Stencil Cutter and Rhinestone kit at the Silhouette America website.

See Other Craft And Sewing Ideas

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Darice 2704-01 Rhinestone Setter Hot-Fix Applicator Wand
Amazon Price: $6.01 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 1, 2016)
Rhinestone setters come with a variety of convenient size tips to fit different size stones.
Silhouette Pick Me Up Tool
Amazon Price: $6.99 $2.99 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 1, 2016)
This tool sticks to the rhinestone yet easily releases it when necessary. Perfect for individual stone applications.