How To Use Heat Press For T-Shirts | Printing T-Shirts

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Do you love wearing t-shirts with quirky quotes and designs? Then why not make a few on your own! 

Imagine getting your favorite Marvel characters printed on a t-shirt along with famous movie quotes. We would totally dig that! And with a heat press, you can get it done all by yourself – it no longer needs to be a distant dream. However, if you have no prior experience with using a heat press, the chances are that the process might seem daunting to you. 

But all you have to do is to get yourself a fine quality heat transfer printer, the right materials, heat transfer paper, and few other types of equipment. What next! Simply print the design on the t-shirt using the heat press and transfer paper. 

Please note that you should know the advantages and disadvantages of heat transfer printing before starting to do it. This will prevent you from wasting high quality heat transfer papers on unsuccessful printing attempts. In this guide, we will take you step-by-step through the processes involved in printing the perfect t-shirt that you’ve been dreaming about. 

Without any further delay, let’s dive right in with how to use heat press for t-shirts! 

What Is A Heat Press Machine?

Before we go into how to make a heat press machine work, let’s first take a look at what they are. These machines are useful when it comes to heat transfer vinyl, screen printed transfers, and many other types of transfers that can be done on not just a t-shirt but also on bags, hoodies, and so on. 

Heat presses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and you can purchase one that suits your requirements the best. These devices require a specific combination of time setting, temperature, and pressure settings to function. In the upcoming section, we will take a closer look at how printing is done. 

How To Use Heat Press For T-Shirts

How to use heat press for t-shirts

1. Choosing The Right Heat Press Machine

When starting a new t-shirt venture, the first and foremost step to printing good designs is to ensure that you get your hands on a quality heat press. A t-shirt heat press is pretty different from traditional screen printing. However, you can combine screen-printed transfers with a heat press to get a similar result. 

When you are buying a heat press for business purposes, we recommend that you investigate all options properly. Some may opt for a small heat press as that would allow them better maneuverability. At the same time, others may choose a large heat press that would enable them to print big designs on the entire surface. 

Also, not everyone wishes to stick to using a heat press only on t-shirts. If you like to keep the options open, it is best that you go for a multi-purpose heat printing device. 

All said, the most important distinction remains between a home machine and a professional heat press. The first variant is suitable for t-shirt printing for personal purposes. It can also be used when you are just starting off with your business and the workload is not too much. 

On the other hand, you use a heat press of a professional variant when you plan to engage in mass production and take the business to new heights. These options are more suitable for professional work and offer more temperature and pressure settings. 

2. Selecting The Right Materials

While using a heat press, you need to keep in mind that not all materials are suitable for the purpose. So, before you start the work, it is essential to check what kind of material you are working on. You will come across many fabrics that cannot handle high temperatures and would easily melt under high heat. 

So, we strongly suggest that you avoid synthetics and thin materials when heat pressing t-shirts. From our research, we gathered that options like spandex, lycra, polyester, and cotton are some of the most suitable materials for the job. These fabrics are quite robust and are well suited to function as heat transfer materials. Even on high heat settings, it’s unlikely that there will be any damage to your t-shirt. 

Pro tip: If you are working on a brand new t-shirt that hasn’t been used before, it is best to give it a wash first. But after the wash, there will most likely be wrinkles that might affect the printing quality. So, make sure you deal with this issue before the final printing. 

3. Opting For The Right Design

What good is a heat press unless you are equipped with the right designs to print? Designing what to print on the t-shirts is one of the most fun parts of the process. For your own t-shirt business, you need to be armed with new and original designs from time to time. 

You can make use of softwares like CorelDraw or Adobe Photoshop to visually represent your ideas. 

4. Printing With Transfer Paper

Now, we move to one of the most crucial parts of using a heat press: printing. And for this, it is vital that you understand how the transfer paper functions for printing. Heat transfer paper is a sheet that comes with added wax and pigment on which your initial design is printed. Once that is done, the transfer paper is placed over the fabric under the heat press. 

Mostly, you will engage with different kinds of transfers, which will be determined by the color of the material and the type of printer you use. Listed down below are some of the most common types of transfers: 

A. Laser Printer Transfer

Different types of transfer papers are needed for different printers. The use of the papers is quite specific and cannot be used for printers that they are not made for. So, when you are using a laser printer, make sure that you purchase the right paper to get the printing job done perfectly. 

An inkjet printer transfer paper scores better than laser printer papers when it comes to performance. 

B. Inkjet Transfers

To get the best results when working with inkjet printers, ensure that you get your hand on the right set of paper. 

One thing to keep in mind when using inkjet printers is that it is incapable of printing white. So, if your design has white elements in it, avoid this option. If you still decide to use a heat press with an inkjet printer, all the white portions in your design will take the base color of the t-shirt. 

A smart way to deal with this problem is to choose off-white instead of pure white, as the printer can handle off-white well. Or, you can choose a white t-shirt instead. 

C. Sublimation Transfers

This involves quite a high-tech mechanism where the ink is converted into a gaseous state and slowly made to penetrate the fabric to dye it permanently. The only limitation to this process is that it can only work on polyester materials and is not suitable to be used on other fabrics. 

Keep in mind that this printer only functions well with sublimation printers and special inks. So, no doubt it is a costly alternative. Unless you are planning to sell the t-shirts for a high price, you might not be able to counter this cost-intensive mechanism. 

D. Ready-Made 

If you do not want to go through the entire hassle of using transfer papers, get pre-printed images that you can directly put into a heat press. When engaging in this process, you would not have to do any printing yourself. 

Fun tip: You can make use of your heat press to attach fancy embroidered designs that come with heat-sensitive glue on the back. 

When printing t-shirts with transfer papers, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. To begin with, always double-check before putting your fabric into the heat press to see if you are printing on the right side. Many might think that it is an obvious thing to check, but this often gets overlooked. 

To ensure that there is no fault in the final print, make sure that you print a draft on a piece of paper before making the final print on the fabric. There is no point wasting valuable transfer paper on trails. 

Another thing that you should take note of, especially when using inkjet printers, is that the transfer paper is held in place with a film. This film covers the entire transfer paper and has a slightly whitish tint to it. While heat pressing the design, there’s a good chance that the film will also get transferred to the fabric and leave behind fine traces around the print. 

To avoid this problem, first trim the film around the design as closely as you can manage. Whether you are using an inkjet or laser printer, always ensure that you use the right transfer page to get the best results. 

Preparing the heat press machine

5. Preparing The Heat Press Machine

A. Setting Temperature On The Heat Press

Before you start using a heat press, it is crucial that you learn how to make it function properly, which includes setting it to the desired temperature and correct pressure. You will also find a timer on this device. Always make sure that the press is open when you are adjusting the settings. 

After you turn the heat press on, set it to the required temperature. For this, you will have to turn the thermostat knob clockwise until you reach the desired temperature setting. On some devices, you will find arrow buttons instead, which will help you adjust the temperature as needed. 

Once that’s done, you will find that the heading light is activated. Don’t get worried if you see the light turning on and off, as that is pretty normal, indicating that the heat is getting constantly adjusted. When the light gets switched off, you will know that the required temperature has been reached and you can dial back the temperature knob. 

There is no “right” temperature when using a heat press. You need to read the label on the transfer paper properly to understand what temperature will be suitable for it. Mostly, a suitable temperature mark ranges between 350 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if it seems a bit too high, there’s nothing to worry about. For the design to stick properly to the fabric, a high temperature is necessary. 

B. Setting Pressure On The Heat Press

Once you are done setting the temperature properly, set the pressure on the heat press correctly. Keep turning the pressure knob clockwise until you reach the desired setting. 

If you are confused about how to decide the correct pressure for printing, worry not. When working on thicker fabrics, you would need to use high pressure. On the other hand, for thinner fabrics, less pressure would work better. For best results, we suggest that you always stick to keeping an even pressure, nothing too high or low. 

You can keep experimenting till you reach the pressure level which is suitable for the job. We have noticed that on certain heat presses, it gets pretty challenging to lock down the handle on low-pressure settings. 

6. Placing The Garment In The Heat Press

For the successful application of the transfer paper, it is crucial that you place the fabric correctly in the heat press. If there’s any fold on the material, the chances are that the print will not come out properly. You can either wash the clothes and iron them before putting them in the heat press or simply preheat the garment for 10 seconds to do away with creases. 

To remove creases, these are the two best options. Also, when placing the garment in a heat press, it is a good practice to stretch it properly and make sure that it stays in place. This way, even if the print does shrink after you are done, it is less likely to develop unwanted cracks. 

And ensure that the transfer paper is facing down on the fabric. On the other hand, when working with embroidered designs, it is best that you place the adhesive side down on the garment. 

To provide proper protection to the fabric, you can consider putting a thin cotton cloth over your transfer paper as protection. This way, the fabric will be better protected from the high heat released by the press. 

In case your heat press already comes with a protective silicone pad, you can do away with this step. 

7. Transferring The Design

After you have successfully placed the garment and the transfer paper in the press, it is time for you to bring the handle down. Make sure that the handle is properly locked, so there’s no need for you to physically stop the top plate from opening. 

Once you are sure that everything is secured in place, you’ll need to set the timer according to the capacity of the transfer paper being used. The time generally ranges from 10 seconds to a minute. After the set time is over, you will need to open the press and take out the garment. We recommend that you remove the transfer paper while it is hot so that it peels off easily. 

If everything goes correctly, you will have the final design set on your t-shirt. You can then continue the process for as many t-shirts as you like. 

Pro Tip: If you are printing both sides of the t-shirt, always use a cardboard layer when printing the second layer. Also, make sure to not overheat, as that might damage the design you made on the first side. 

8. Taking Proper Care Of The Print

In order to make the print last for a long time, it is essential that you let the t-shirt rest at least for a day after printing. Only consider washing it after 24 hours have passed. And when washing, turn it inside out to ensure that there is no harm caused to the design because of the friction. 

We strongly recommend that you air-dry it instead of tumble drying. 

Where To Buy A Heat Press

If you are just starting out, we recommend not investing a lot of money experimenting. There are hundreds of options that you will find on the internet. Go through their features and note the kind of reviews customers have left for the products. 

For beginners, there are handy t-shirt heat press kits and packages available. Not only are they practical, but are also quite cost-effective. It is always a good idea to buy an item that enjoys positive reviews from the consumers. 

When conducting your research, you will see that not all heat presses are made alike, and some are of better quality than the others. Always go for a device that delivers good performance and is also reliable. 

How to use heat press for t-shirts

How To Use Heat Press For T-Shirts Final Words

With that, it’s a wrap! 

If you are ruminating on the idea of starting a t-shirt business, we suggest that you begin the process by first purchasing a heat press. As soon as you have one, go ahead and start using it to print your unique designs. 

There are certainly more steps to make the business successful; however, getting yourself a heat press is definitely a start. Most heat presses use the same principles to function. So, once you have mastered how to print a t-shirt, you can slowly progress to designing bags, hats, mugs, and whatnot. 

If you liked reading this guide, we suggest that you keep a watch on this space for more exciting reads. Until next time, happy designing!