How To Make Heat Press Transfers For T-shirts

I often wondered how people were able to wear t-shirts bearing their names, their favorite actor or footballer's face. Those days, I didn't know what a heat press machine was actually.

When I asked, I was told that whatever I wanted could be designed and printed on my t-shirt using a heat press machine. Well, that got my attention and I began a research on how it is done.

To my greatest surprise, the process was not as hard as I envisaged it to be. In fact, I found out that anybody can do it with the right steps.

Using heat press to transfer your artwork on a t-shirt is very fast, easy and flexible. It is the modern way of customizing your t-shirt with any picture, logo, and design of your choice. Heat transfer gives your t-shirts a nice and neat look after printing and your designs will also last a long time.

You can even do this at home if you get a simple heat press machine. Fortunately, you don't need to worry about the price of the machine because there are simple and affordable types you can buy in the market.

What You Need To Get Started With Heat Transferring: 

In order to start your heat transfer printing, there are few things you need to acquire. Like I said, they are affordable and come in different types depending on your purpose.

1. Heat press machine

These comes in different sizes and with different prices. Also, some are unique for some kind of designs. So get the one that matches your need.

Also, check the temperature at the edges and the middle of the plate to be sure that the temperature is uniform. This is to make sure that the designs don't peel off due to inefficient transfer.

Like I said before, heat press machine is different in sizes and affordability. If you are starting out newly, go for the simple and cheaper ones. When the business starts growing, get the professional machines that have bigger platen for heat transfers on a large material.

These professional heat transfer machines also have unique features like temperature and time settings, pressure and bigger platen for bulk printing.

2. Inkjet printer

A printer is used to print out your designs, artwork or logo on the paper you will use for the heat transfer. There is a reason why I prefer the inkjet printer to Laser printers.

  • Inkjet printers will produce excellent heat transfer than laser printers.
  • Not all laser jet printers can produce good heat transfer designs.
  • Inkjet printers are more affordable compared to laser jet

Don’t forget to buy your Printer inks/t-shirt ink depending on your choice.

3. Carrier paper

This is the paper you will use for the heat transfer on the t-shirt. It usually has a film on one side where your design will be printed on. Be sure to buy the professional carrier grade type instead of the regular paper you see everywhere.

Remember, your choice of transfer paper will also affect your output. However, there are some things you need to check before you purchase a heat transfer paper.

  • Buy a transfer paper vinyl type that has a soft hand after transfer and after washing. It will have enough film to make your designs or images stick to your t-shirt. So you should avoid any paper that feels like a cardboard paper when you touch it.
  • If you want to print on a white t-shirt or any other light colored garment, the choice of the paper to buy will be the clear transfer paper.
  • On dark or deep colored t-shirts, buy an opaque transfer paper.

Believe me, you don't want to use opaque paper on white and clear paper on dark materials. That will certainly create confusion.

When you have gathered the above-mentioned items, you can start your first transfer by doing the following:

Preparing your paper

1. Choose the image/artwork

The first thing I think you should do is to choose the artwork or picture you want to print. This is if you are trying out for the first time. You can even start with your name or picture.

After now, this may not be necessary because your clients must have told you what to use unless they don't have anything in mind. Then both of you will search for what to use on the t-shirt.

2. Print it

If you have selected the image you are going to use, the next thing is to print it out on the transfer paper with your inkjet or laser jet printer. Don't forget to reverse the image with a program for image editing. Also, print on the film side of the paper like I explained above.

3. Trim the transfer paper

This is necessary in order to prevent the blank parts of the paper from being transferred on your t-shirt. Trim off those parts of the film that are not colored with the design. Anyway, this can happen if you bought already printed transfers.

4. Preparing your machine
  • Switch on the heat press machine
  • Open the press by lifting the handle
  • ​Shift the platen from the silicon pad
  • Select the temperature:

    The choice of the temperature for your transfer paper can be found in the paper manual. You can adjust the temperature by turning the thermostat knob clockwise to heat up and counter-clockwise to switch off when you reach the temperature level.
  • Set the pressure:

    The choice of pressure to set will be based on the thickness of your material. If it is thick, you will use less pressure and vice versa. Use the pressure knob in clockwise and counter clockwise for increasing and decreasing pressure
  • Adjust your timer:

    The time will be set based on the transfer paper you are using. Find out the time that will suit the paper you are using, use the minute and second button to control your time.

The Heat Transferring Process: 

Now you are ready to start:

  • Placing your T-shirt:

    Keep the t-shirt on the platen and face the side you want to print up.
  • Positioning the paper:

    The side of the transfer paper with the design or artwork should be positioned face-down on the t-shirt. It must be inside the area where the pressure will be.
  • If your machine does not have a silicon pad to protect the transfer, use a handkerchief or a light material and cover your t-shirt
  • When you have covered your t-shirt, close the press by pulling down the handle.
  • After this, press the start button of the machine. Do this also when the timer goes off so that the press will stop and the timer will automatically reset as well.
  • When you are through, remove the shirt and if the paper is a hot-peel, peel it off the shirt when it is still hot. If your paper is a cold-peel, wait for the paper to be cool before you peel it off.


With this all-encompassing guide, I believe you can start printing those unique artworks on a transfer paper and producing attractive customized t-shirts. Like I said, it is not difficult at all and with a little practice, you may even start and expand your own business.

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Alex John

This is Alex, I have been in tshirt business for the last eight years. This is my blog where I share my work and guidelines for fellows. Keep reading resources from here and I am open to any question.

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