How to Heat Press a T-shirt – A step-by-Step Process

If you want to put your favorite player’s name and number at the back of your jersey or you are a design enthusiast, heat transfer stands out as a modern, effortless, and flexible method of printing your artwork onto T-shirts. If you want to know How To Heat Press a T-shirt then you can read our guidelines. Through this step-by-step process, you can get the idea about printing your own t-shirts at home with a simple machine and can start your own t-shirt printing business.

Designing clothes have evolved and it has become a great alternative to classic screen printing. Heat transfer gives your shirt or any garment a neat and nice look. You can be sure of getting that awesome design printed on your shirt exactly the way it looks on the screen.

Heat transfer is a very good method of designing and printing T-shirts for small entrepreneurs because it’s easy and affordable; it is also a great way to custom design T-shirts. With heat press transfer, you don’t have to worry about quantity because, as opposed to screen printing, customers don’t have to order in large quantities. Whether you order one copy or a thousand, heat transfer is still very affordable.

The concept of heat transfer is very simple; all you need is a heat press machine, an inkjet printer with regular printer inks or T-shirt inks. The paper used for heat presses in T-shirt printing is called carrier paper.

This carrier paper has a film on it. The unprinted part of this sheet has to be trimmed using a vinyl cutting machine before printing, and the transfer paper is then placed on the shirt and heated in a heat press with medium to high pressure.

As a startup T-shirt entrepreneur, you need to know your business needs and some basic knowledge on using heat presses and other hardware that you need to use. Below are some pointers that can help you in planning your startup heat press business.

The Quality of Your Machine

You need to buy an effective, reliable, and high-quality heat press machine. A good way to know the quality of your machine is to check the temperature at the middle and edges of the plate. To get the temperature reading across several points on your plate, you can use an infrared heat gun.

You need to have a heat press element that covers the whole heat to plate to have an even temperature all throughout the platen to ensure the design transfer is uniform and perfect. An even heating will also prevent any inefficient design transfer or design peeling.

Needless to say, heat press machines are not created equal. They range from very basic machines to professional ones that are used for processing bulk orders. The simple heat press machines are good and affordable for home use. For entrepreneurs, professional heat printing machines are a good fit because they have a bigger platen which enables them to transfer on larger fabrics.

The professional heat press also has sophisticated features like pressure, temperature and time settings. This is the ideal heat press machine for T-shirt entrepreneurs who are planning to offer orders by thousands in the future.

Iron vs. Heat Press

It doesn’t matter what paper you use or how good your ironing is, a heat press machine will always produce better quality prints.

Anyone who wants to do some personal t-shirt printing can use an iron but, if you’re thinking of doing bulk orders or expanding to do heat pressing different garments, or doing sublimation printing, then a heat press machine is the answer.

As an entrepreneur, using the pressing iron for heat transfer is not an option; you have to get a good heat printing machine and heat transfer vinyl.

Inkjet Printers vs. Laser Printers

Instead of using some laser printers, we suggest that entrepreneurs use a color laser printer for various reasons.

First, an excellent inkjet printer costs less than a laser jet printer. Second, refilling your inkjet printer is stress-free. Third, inkjet printers are the ideal printers for producing good heat transfers, not all laser printers can do the job.

Heat Transfer Paper

Professional Grade paper vs. “Store Bought” Paper

There is a big difference between regular paper and professional-grade carrier paper. The regular paper, which is available at office supply or departmental stores, is specifically designed for the low-end home iron.

Do not start your professional heat transfer printing business with a “store-bought” heat transfer paper. This will not produce quality and long-lasting prints. The professional-grade paper is actually cheaper and better, why buy a regular “store-bought” heat transfer paper?

Hard hand vs. Soft hand

These terms refer to how a transfer feels before and after washing. A soft hand can be felt but is not acceptable. A hard hand, however, is very stiff and can be acceptable.

Consider using a heat transfer paper that has a relatively soft hand after transfer and is even softer after washing. You certainly don’t want a transfer paper that gives a cardboard feel, you want a quality soft hand paper that will have enough film to make the image stick to the garment. You will always be able to feel it, however, but it will have a nice and soft feel.

Opaque Transfer Paper Vs Clear Transfer Paper

The choice of transfer papers depends on the color of the fabrics. The clear transfer paper is used for white and other light-colored materials, while the opaque transfer paper is used for deep-colored and dark fabrics.

Your inkjet printed transfers Vs Pre-printed transfers

The type of transfer paper will depend on a different use, needs, and specific purposes.

Many pre-printed transfers are screen printed on a special type of paper. These are very common and you can get them online. When you do heat transfers on a shirt, the ink becomes soft and sticky. The ink then sticks to the shirt and then the paper can be removed easily.

Many inkjet printed transfers involve custom designs, images, and colors. This customization involves low startup costs and a quick turnaround time.

These are the noted advantages of inkjet-printed transfers thus a number of screen-printing services also offer inkjet printed transfers.

The key to succeeding in a t-shirt printing business is to know how the process of inkjet heat transfers.

The ink, by itself, will not stick to the fabric. It requires a special film in printing the design that needs to be printed on the shirt. This film covers the paper sheet and any unprinted area should be trimmed to avoid any misprints on the shirt.

A rectangular or square print is easy to trim, the challenge is trimming any irregular-shaped design.

Inkjet-printed transfers may not be the choice for some, but thousands of shirts are sold daily using this process.

How To Heat Press a T-shirt – A step by step Guideline

Using the Heat Press Machine

Whether you are using basic or sophisticated heat transfer machines, heat press machines basically function and operate the same way. Here’s a step-by-step instruction on how to use a heat press machine:

  1. Turn on the machine by pressing the on/off switch
  2. Turn the thermostat knob to the right until you can see the red heating light.
  3. Turn the knob back to the left until the heating light turns off when the thermometer indicates the desired temperature for your transfer, The red heating light will turn on and off at intervals to regulate your desired temperature.
  4. Set the heating time by pressing your digital timer if your machine has one. Press stop to reset when you hear the alarm.
  5. Open the press by lifting the handle
  6. Lay the transfer onto the spot you want the design to appear on the paper.
  7. Close the machine against your fabric and the transfer and lock it firmly.
  8. Set the timer based on the instructions you see on your transfer paper.
  9. Lift the handle to open the machine.
  10. Peel the transfer paper off the face of your shirt. You should read the instructions to know whether it is a “hot peel” or “cold peel” paper.
  11. Wait for at least 24 hours before washing.

You can also check our detailed guide about using a heat press machine

Tips While Using a Heat Press

Don’t be afraid of applying heat. It takes a lot of heat to get the design transferred to your material evenly and properly. Low heat supply will cause the design not to stick to your T-Shirt.

Make sure you stretch the T-shirts before putting them on your heat press machine, this should be done to avoid the print from cracking. This is all about your DIY t-shirt printing at home process. There are lots of DIY t-shirts printing methods and we have discussed only one method here. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you leave a shirt on a heat press?

Here are the instructions for using a DTG (direct to garment) method of t-shirt printing:

  • Place the DTG printed shirt face up on the heat press.
  • Lower the press to a hover.
  • Leave for 10-30 seconds, depending on the size of the image.
  • Open your t-shirt heat press.
  • Place a release sheet over the shirt.
  • Close the heat press onto the t-shirt. Use medium pressure.
  • Set the temperature to 340-345°.
  • Leave for 90 seconds on dark t-shirts, 45 seconds on lights.

Why does my heat press leave a square on my shirt?

What is happening is your fabric is “scorching”. The sheen that is created is telling you that the temperature you’re using is too hot for the fabric. Some Polyester is temperature sensitive and therefore if using a heat transfer that applies at a high temp, you’ll start to melt the fibers. Most likely, this result is permanent or may fade slightly. However, the fibers of the fabric have been altered.

Why is my black sublimation turning green?

  • If the black has a greenish tint to it, it hasn’t sublimated long enough and needs more time
  • If the black has a brownish tint to it, it has sublimated for too long and has lost color, and needs less time
  • If the edges look kind of splotchy or have a runny look to them, it means the pressure wasn’t enough and needs more
  • If the entire box has a cloudy look or hazy areas, you need to back off the pressure

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you have learned at least a thing or two about how to heat press a t-shirt while reading our article. If you’ve got any other questions regarding the use and operation of heat presses, feel free to browse through some of the other articles on our website.

With that said, we would also like to welcome you to the comment section. Please share your thoughts and opinions regarding this article and the subject matter that it addresses.


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