How to Heat Press a T-Shirt

A heat press machine is a special device, generally used to press images and designs onto numerous articles. A heat press machine works just like an iron, only that it delivers better heat and pressure consistency, hence offering higher quality outcomes. Heat press machines are mostly used for T-shirt transfers. So if you are into a T-shirt business then a heat press machine is a great idea.

In case you are new to the field of heat pressing, you may not know the right way to get the job done. Sometimes heat pressing can be very confusing for beginners. There are a lot of things that you must know and remember while heat pressing in order to get the right results. I have noted down a few simple steps that you can follow while heat pressing a T-shirt. If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to heat press garments like a pro.

Step 1: Get the Transfer Ready

Choose the Transfer

There are many different types of transfers that you can use for T-shirt heat press. you can either print the transfers on your own or purchase preprinted ones.  Given below are the most commonly used transfers that work well for T-shirt printing.

  • Inkjet transfers are translucent and work great on light-colored or white T-shirts. You can use an inkjet printer and special transfer paper to print your own. This type of transfers won’t work with laser printers.
  • Laser copier transfers are also translucent. You can create the transfer on a laser printer using the laser transfer paper.
  • Die cut vinyl lettering is a cool idea for sports apparels. You can layer the letters on top of each other to create different designs. Vinyl transfers are also good for quoted T-shirts.
  • Embroidered patches can also be used with heat presses. The back of the patches, however, must have a heat activated adhesive so that the embroidery can adhere to the garment.
  • Store-bought or supplier transfers come pre-printed. They are opaque and good for heavily colored T-shirts, including dark colors such as black, brown etc.

Print the Transfer

Select an image of your choice, and then use a picture editing software to reverse it. Use an inkjet printer to print the image out on the transfer paper.  The image must be always printed on the film side of the transfer paper.


  • If you are using vinyl to transfer letters, use a good cutter to cut out the work.
  • In case you have a laser printer, use only the transfer that has been labeled for laser printing.

 Cut off the Unwanted Parts

If you are using a pre-printed transfer, it’s necessary to trim away the blank part of the film as the film coating will also be printed on your garment if not removed.


  • While cutting, focus on the border lines, you can leave a few millimeters outline.
  • It’s not necessary to cut out inside the shapes in case of letters such as “O” or “D”.

Step 2: Assemble Your Machine

Open the Press and Set the Temperature

Lift the handle gently to open the heat press machine. Move the upper heat platen away from the lower platen. After opening the press, adjust the temperature of your machine by turning the temperature knob clockwise and wait for the press to heat up. As soon as the machine heats up, a light will flash on. Now when the required temperature is reached, turn back the knob anticlockwise until the light turns off.


  • To know what temperature you must set, read the instructions on your transfer paper and set the recommended temperature.
  • In most cases, a temperature between 350°F and 375°F is applicable.

Adjust the Pressure.

To increase the pressure, twist the knob of your machine clockwise and to decrease, twist it counterclockwise. Set the pressure according to the thickness of your garment. The thinner it’s, the more pressure you’ll need. Try to be gentle while you twist the knob, else that may cause damage to the machine. In maximum cases medium to high pressure is needed.

Set the Timer

Press the minute and second buttons to increase or decrease the time settings. To activate the timer, you’ll have to press the start button when you are all set to heat press. Based on the type of the transfers, given below is the list of the timings recommended.  However, if your transfer paper suggests a different time then go for it.

  • Inkjet transfer paper requires 14 to 18 seconds.
  • Laser printer transfer paper needs 18 to 25 seconds.
  • Sublimation transfer needs 25 to 30 seconds.
  • Embroidered patches require 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Die cut vinyl needs 45 to 60 seconds.

Step 3: Start the Process

Lay out the T-shirt

Place the T-shirt in such a way that the side you want the image to be printed on is facing upwards. If the transfer is translucent, it works best with white or solid-colored T-shirts. If the heat transfer is opaque and suitable for colored T-shirts then you can press on the colorful ones. Pre-heat the shirt to remove moisture.

Place the Transfer

Lay the transfer face-down on top of the T-shirt. Transfer paper must be placed inside the pressing area, including the heat pad and silicone pad.


  • In case you are pressing an embroidered patch, put it on the upper side and the adhesive side down.
  • If you are pressing vinyl transfer, set it shiny-side-up and matte-side down

Cover the Transfer

Most of the high-end heat press machines already have a protective silicone pad or Teflon coated sheet. If your unit doesn’t, or if you are pressing a heat transfer vinyl, a thin cloth must be used to cover over your T-shirt and transfer. The cloth will protect the transfer. A tea towel, a handkerchief, or thin piece of cotton cloth will work best for this.

Close the Machine and Start

Now pull the handle and shut down the press. Resetting of the pressure may be necessary in some cases, especially if you are heat pressing an embroidered patch.

The handle of the machine will possibly lock into place, depending on the particular unit you have. After the timer goes off, press the start button again, which will stop the heat press and reset the timer.

Remove and Peel off

Finally, after the heat press cycle is over, you can open the press, remove the T-Shirt and peel off the paper while it’s still hot. The image should now be transferred onto your T-shirt.

Print another Design

In case you wish to print another image or design on the back of the same T-shirt, you can follow the similar process, but insert a piece of cardboard between the T-shirt, and decrease the pressure so that it won’t reheat the earlier print.   Once you are done with the printing, you can wash your garment after 24 hours.


Hope the above guidelines will prove to be helpful for you. Above all, I would suggest you be careful while working on your heat press, especially if it’s a clamshell model. And, about heat pressing T-shirts, once you get familiar with it, you’ll be able to work with great speed and accuracy.


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