T-Shirt Heat Press Equipment in Use

Using a t-shirt heat press machine in your business is an affordable and easily accessible way to create custom apparel.

Whether you’re thinking of adding a heat press to your existing business or starting your own custom apparel business, here’s an easy-to-follow guide on how to use your t-shirt heat press.

How To Use Your Heat Press

  1. Turn it on. Heat presses are often compatible with a standard house electrical socket. No need for an adapter or different outlet. When the t-shirt heat press arrives, just plug it in and turn it on.
  2. Set temperature. Adjust the thermostat setting to the temperature that is required by the process you’re using.
  3. Set the timer. Depending on your machine, the type of transfer, and the blank this can be anywhere from 45 seconds to 3 minutes. If you’re using a direct to garment printer this will change depending on ink and fabric.
  4. Open the press. Then, set your t-shirt down on the side you’re placing the design on facing up.
  5. Preheat or Pre-press your garment. This is sometimes an optional step. It’s used to remove any excess moisture or creases from the shirt. Some shirts come with a pre-treatment wash, and heating up the garment with the t-shirt heat press helps adhesion.
  6. Place transfer. Place the transfer on the shirt facing down. You can use a combination of t-squares, rulers, laser alignment tools or custom cut templates to make sure each design is placed correctly.
  7. Close press. Ensure the press locks firmly in place. Some models use air pressure to help close and open the t-shirt heat press. Your hands are free to do other things.
  8. Start timer. Your timer may start automatically 
  9. Open the press. Once the timer goes off, open the t-shirt heat press and peel the transfer paper from your shirt. Some heat presses will open automatically so you cannot “burn” the shirt.

T-Shirt Heat Press Tips And Tricks

  • Allow 24 hours for the t-shirt to dry before washing.
  • If the transfer paper does not come off easily, re-press for another 5-10 seconds.
  • To make sure the t-shirt is loaded straight on the machine, check that the tag is aligned with the back of the t-shirt heat press.
  • Always test print. You can often use a regular sheet of paper to test press your design. Or buy scrap fabrics from the store. Testing ensures that the colors print correctly and gives you a good idea of how the final product will look.
  • Practice with different blanks and transfers. You should be comfortable with your t-shirt heat press to ensure no mistakes once you start filling customer orders.

Introduction – Types of Heat Presses

Cap Heat Presses

6 Must Have Heat Press Accessories

Heat Press Accessory –  Perfect Print Pads

Heat Press Accessory – Teflon Pillows

Heat Pressing a DTG Printed Shirt

If you’re using a heat press to set your DTG (direct to garment) printed shirts, follow these steps:

  1. Place the DTG printed shirt face up on the heat press
  2. Lower the press to a hover
  3. Leave for 10-30 seconds, depending on the size of the image
  4. Open your t-shirt heat press
  5. Place a release sheet over the shirt
  6. Close the heat press onto the t-shirt. Use medium pressure
  7. Set the temperature to 340-345°
  8. Leave for 90 seconds on dark t-shirts, 45 seconds on lights (using the Triton Heat Press, Hotronix machine, or George Knight)

Tips for Using a Hotronix Heat Press or Triton Heat Press on DTG printed t-shirts:

  • Monitor the pressure carefully and check results. Don’t close the press too tight or too lightly.
  • Once you place the release paper on the shirt, don’t move it around – you can smudge the design.
  • You can use parchment paper. It is cheaper but doesn’t last as long as the release paper which you can use over 100 times.
  • Using a Teflon sheet will create a shiny coating over your design.
  • The paper should slide right of the shirt once done. If it doesn’t, close the press for another 5-10 seconds.

Using The Best T-Shirt Blanks (Plain T-Shirts)

Not all t-shirts are suitable for use in a heat press machine. If your unsure check with the blank supplier Sanmar does a good job) or the team at Colman & Company.

Nylon, spandex, cotton, polyester, and Lycra are all suitable for a heat press.   Although each fabric type can have unique heat and pressure settings.

PRO TIP: Professional heat presses draw a lot of power, so if your circuit breaker trips when you use it you should find a less used line or put in a dedicated one. 


Ton’s of Opportunity Awaiting

T-shirt heat presses are reasonably simple machines to use and are great additions to any custom apparel businesses. T-Shirt presses have tons of uses and applications:

  • Digital Heat FX – Custom Printed T-Shirt Heat Presses
  • DTG Printed Shirts – Direct to Garment Printers
  • Cut Vinyl Transfers – Using a Custom Cutter (Such as the Graphtec Cutters)
  • Spangle Decorative Transfers – Made with a Spangle Machine
  • Rhinestone Transfers – A Favorite with team moms & sports retailers

With a little bit of practice and following some best-use-practices, you can add to or start a successful custom apparel business creating t-shirts with a heat press machine.  Hopefully, these tips and techniques can give you an overview of what to expect.  The Opportunities for profits are out there!

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