Heat Transfer Press Application | Top 10 Tips
We are often asked by people for advice on heat press application. Based on this, we’ve put together these top ten tips to help anyone heat press more accurately and efficiently, improving both the quality of the bond and the finished garment:
Table of Contents:
TIP 1: Pre-Press Your Garment Before You Apply Your Design
This is a fundamental tip that a lot of people aren’t aware of. Before heat pressing your transfer onto the garment, press the fabric for a few seconds by lowering the platen on the heat transfer press which will remove any excess moisture or wrinkles from the garment, and ensure that moisture and shrinkage aren’t an issue. The amount of time required would vary depending on the garment, but for 100% cotton t-shirt would tend to be around 5-10 seconds, and poly-cotton polo shirts and hoodies would be 10-15 seconds.
Pre-pressing first means that you’ll have stabilised the fabric which should now be pre-shrunk, smooth and moisture-free fabric to apply your heat transfer to and a better finished product for your customer.
TIP 2: Ensure Even and Accurate Pressure On Your Heat Transfer Press
The correct pressure you need in your heat press would be dependent on the specific heat transfer – When the lower platen is locked into place, a low-pressure this would require minimum effort, and is easily achievable with one hand. For medium-pressure, a certain amount of resistance would be felt, although you should still be able to lock it down with one hand. For high-pressure, most operators would still be able to lock off the press with one hand, but more downward pressure would be required – Under no circumstances would you have to use both hands and excessive force the press to lock off, as this would be beyond the definition of firm pressure and would likely result in damage to the heat press and the heat transfer.
It’s also worth remembering to check the pressure when pressing different items prior to application, such as printing t-shirts and then hooded sweatshirts.
TIP 3: Ensure Even and Accurate Temperature On Your Heat Press
Ensuring that your heat press is running at the correct temperature is a must for any business that wants to ensure a high-quality finish to their printed garments. An infrared thermometer heat gun could be used to check that your heat press gives a true temperature and that there are no cold spots on your heat press platen.
TIP 4: Use A Reliable, Branded Heat Press Machine Rather Than A Cheap Heat Press
There are many low-cost heat transfer presses available on the UK market which could be tempting to buy when you are initially setting up your business to save on costs. However, we strongly advise caution when buying a cheap, unbranded heat press as they tend to be less reliable and unsuitable as the crucial equipment at the centre of a garment printing business.
To complicate matters, many European heat transfer press manufacturers now have the majority of their components produced in China before being assembled in Europe. By using phrases such as “European designed” or “UK Built”, they avoid highlighting that country of manufacture is actually China. To ensure that you get a high-quality, reliable heat press which will stand the test of time, you should first contact the company before purchasing a press. Make sure that they offer a comprehensive warranty and can supply any replacement components that you may require in the future.
Opting for an established brand, such as Hotronix, the world’s leading manufacturer of heat presses which are proudly built in the USA, ensures that this crucial element for any business supplying printed garments, is as reliable as possible.
Most Heat Transfer Vinyls and custom heat transfers are manufactured for use with commercial heat presses which are able to maintain a consistent temperature and even pressure which are both something that the Cricut EasyPress struggles to provide due to it being aimed at the hobby market and is rarely used for retail/commercial use. Based on this, if you’re looking to supply the finished goods for retail sale we’d strongly recommend looking at purchasing a commercial heat press to ensure that the heat transfer is properly bonded to the intended fabric. If so, our UK Heat Press Machine guide and Cricut EasyPress vs Stahls Heat Press UK guide are worth reading to gain a better understanding of the differences.
TIP 5: Closely Follow The Application Instructions Provided For Your Heat Transfer
You should ALWAYS heat apply your heat transfer at the temperature, time and pressure given in the application instructions from your supplier. Every transfer type has their own best application instructions which will have been thoroughly tested by your supplier so that you are advised the recommended and optimal heat transfer press instructions to use to apply the designs. However, due to the wide range of fabrics now available, the precise settings may vary, and thorough testing is recommended to obtain the best bond to the fabric.
Further to the above, if the instructions mention cold-peeling the backer once the transfer has been fused, we’d always recommend removing the garment from the heat press and allowing it to completely cool (usually around 30-40 seconds) before removing the backer. Providing you have sufficient workspace, you can always position, pre-fuse and apply the transfer to the next garment whilst you’re waiting for it to cool.
TIP 6: Use Heat Press Accessories For Trickier Garments Or Application Areas
We recommend using a either a non-stick pillow or a small, interchangeable lower heat platen when applying onto the breast of a polo shirt, to ensure that the area to be printed is flat in order to achieve even pressure when applying.
For the rear of polo shirts, if the shirt is large enough, we recommend “threading” the garment around the lower platen to ensure that the buttons on the front do not affect the pressure – A Hotronix Table-Top Caddie is a great add-on for making this as easy as possible. Alternatively, you can also use either a non-stick pillow or a small, interchangeable lower heat platen.
Heat press platen protectors can also aid “threadability” and they are a non-stick fitted cover that fits snugly over the upper and lower platens (similar to an ironing board cover) of any heat press and are specifically designed to reduce wear and tear on the silicon mat on the lower platen and prevents excess inks, dyes and adhesives from penetrating into the silicon, in addition to making it easier to slide garments on and off the lower platen. They are very easy to clean and are essential to prolonging the life of the heat press bed.
TIP 7: Ensure That The Heat Transfer Is Straight On The Garment
A simple tip is to fold the garment in half along the centre of the garment and apply a small amount of pressure for 1-2 seconds. This will put a small crease in the garment to show you were the centre of the garment is, which will greatly increase the likelihood of a straight application.
We also recommend the Hotronix Laser Alignment Tool which has four lasers which can be set to any area of any heat press to ensure that the heat transfer is applied in the same precise area every time – Details of this can be found under the Accessories area of our website.
TIP 8: Reduce Scorching On Heat-Sensitive Polyester And Synthetic Fabrics
Today’s garments are more complicated than ever before, with stretchable, synthetic and heat-sensitive fabrics becoming more commonly used. The Hotronix® Heat Press Power Platen™ is specifically designed to generate heat from the bottom heat press platen, allowing for a reduced temperature in the top platen which reduces the appearance of visible scorch marks on delicate and heat-sensitive polyester or synthetic fabrics, and reduce the risk of dye migration. Its innovative design increases the quality of the finished garment and significantly speeds production time.
The Power Platens are interchangeable base platens that can be individually operated with a separate controller and can be heated up to a maximum of 160°C. Thanks to the built-in heat printing pillow under the heat-resistant protective cover, it conforms to any substrate which enables you to press across difficult areas, such as buttons and seams. They are available in 4 sizes, each controlled by one interchangeable Hotronix Heat Press Power Platen Controller (sold separately).
TIP 9: Stop Your Heat Transfer Lifting When You Raise The Upper Platen
With a Heat Transfer design, paper separation can occur when static builds up on the upper platen of the heat press, which can result in the paper/mylar carrier lifting when the upper platen is raised – By covering the design with a non-stick cover sheet or release paper, this will alleviate the problem.
TIP 10: Re-Fuse HTV If The Edges Are Lifting
In addition, for an HTV-based design, if the mylar carrier (the semi-clear backer) has been peeled from a design slightly too hot, or if there wasn’t quite enough pressure used during application, the edges of a design may not be completely bonded to the fabric – By covering the design with a Grip-Flex Application Pad and re-applying with your heat transfer press for 3-5 seconds that will significantly increase the adhesion.
For more heat pressing information please feel free to check out our full range of heat transfer help guides.