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6 Tips and Tricks to Make Heat-Press Decorating on T-Shirts Easier at Home

6 Tips and Tricks to Make Heat-Press Decorating on T-Shirts Easier at Home - Threadsy

Nicole Rollender |

Heat-press decorating your own t-shirts at home can be a fun and creative way to express yourself – and to create t-shirts to sell online or at events. However, without the right tools and techniques, it can also be frustrating and time-consuming. We'll share some useful tips and tricks to make heat press decorating on t-shirts easier and more efficient. 

From creating a seamless heat press surface to choosing the right transfer materials, we'll explore different methods to help you achieve professional-looking results with minimal effort. Whether you're a beginner, a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a t-shirt shop owner offering a new product, these insider tips will help you create stunning t-shirts with ease.

7 Tips to Make Heat-Press Printing Way Easier

Check out our top six tips for heat pressing amazing t-shirt designs at home like a pro.

1. Create a “seamless” print surface.

If you’re pressing a shirt with seams, buttons or zippers, it’s key to make sure the garment is hanging off the heat press’s lower platen. That way, you’ve created a smooth heat press decorating surface, so you can apply your design with an even pressure. 

If you can’t do this, place a heat press decorating pad (or a pillow or a computer mousepad) under your design area to raise it above the obstruction, so you can achieve even pressure. If you can change out the platen to a different size, that’s another option to keep a seam, button or zipper out from under the press.

If you don’t take the time to do this step and then heat apply over one of these raised areas, your design might not fully lift from the transfer paper or completely adhere to your garment. Then, you’ve wasted time and supplies for a shirt you’ll probably need to toss out. 

2. Preheat your garments or accessories before applying your transfer.

Before you heat apply your transfers or vinyl designs, always preheat your garments or accessories. Doing so removes wrinkles and extra moisture, and provides a better surface for your design to adhere to for the long term through lots of washes and wears.

Once you’ve arranged your t-shirt heat press area on your press, shut your heat press for three to five seconds to remove any moisture or wrinkles from the fabric. Certain fabrics, like 100% cotton t-shirts, can hold moisture, so pre-pressing will help remove any moisture in the shirt before you apply your transfer. Removing moisture from your t-shirt will prevent moisture from getting trapped under your transfer. That results in a better application, and a longer life of washes, dries and wears. If you skip this step, you risk the transfer not adhering properly to your t-shirt.

Pro tip: If there’s moisture in your shirt, you might see a “cloud” of steam rise from the garment as the liquid disperses. Press the shirt for a few more seconds, if there seems to be excess moisture. You might see a rectangle shape from the top platen on the shirt, but that will disappear as the shirt dries.

3. Follow your transfer or vinyl application instructions to the letter.

A ready-made heat transfer or vinyl design will come with its own application instructions. That includes specific time, temperature and pressure settings you should follow so that the transfer applies correctly to your t-shirt and lasts through many washes and wears. We highly recommend reviewing those instructions and press settings before you start your job, so you’ll get professional results right out of the gate.

  • First, set your heat-press temperature according to your instructions. For example, it may be 350°F or 365°F. Give your press ample time to heat up before heat press decorating your first shirt.
  • Then, set your pressure. Most transfers will require medium to firm pressure. This is one setting you can experiment with, especially if you’re decorating garments of different thicknesses like t-shirts vs. sweatshirts.
  • Finally, set your time. Some heat presses have a timer and others don’t. We recommend investing in a press with a timer so you can set the machine for the time your transfer requires to adhere to your shirt. If your press doesn’t have a timer, you’ll need to set up a separate timer near your press area so you can apply the transfer for the correct amount of time.

4. Use the correct transfer paper for your shirt color.

Let’s say you’re printing your own transfers at home. If you’re planning to print on a white or light-colored shirt, you’ll want to use light transfer paper. For a navy, black or darker-color shirt, we recommend printing on a darker transfer paper. Printing your own transfers makes sense if you’re outputting a smaller number of shirts or producing them on demand as customers place orders. For larger volume orders or if you offer a lot of on-demand designs, it’s a smart idea to outsource your transfer production and then have enough on hand for when you need them.

5. Protect your transfer designs and heat press.

Using a heat-press cover sheet to protect the upper platen of your press will save you time in the long run. It’s easy to put a cover sheet over each design – instead of spending precious minutes cleaning off that upper platen between heat press decorating shirts.

6. Choose high-quality garments to decorate.

The best t-shirt materials for heat-press designs are cotton, polyester, spandex, lycra and nylon. These fabrics are strong enough to take the heat and pressure. Avoid thinner materials or synthetics, since some of these fabrics may melt from the press’s high heat. It’s always a good idea to check your t-shirt label for more guidance. We also recommend pre-washing your t-shirt, especially if it’s brand-new. 

If you’re looking for the perfect t-shirt to heat press, Threadsy offers a wide selection of wholesale men’s, women’s, and youth t-shirts. We have no minimum orders, but we do offer generous discounts for customers who purchase t-shirts in larger quantities. Our bulk discount program starts at $110, and the savings up to 15% automatically appear in your cart when you bundle your items. You’ll also enjoy free shipping on orders $50 or higher, with always-fast delivery!

7. Choose high-quality heat-transfer supplies for your designs.

We recommend working with a reputable vendor if you’re new to transfer designs. It makes a huge difference to your final design to get top-quality transfers, whether they’re stock or custom. If you’re starting out, you’re probably considering vinyl vs. screen-printed transfers. A good rule of thumb is to use vinyl if you’re producing five or fewer t-shirts. If you’re producing 10 or more t-shirts, screen-printed transfer designs might work better for you.

If you’re familiar with vinyl, you know that you’ll need a cutter. After you’ve finalized your design in your software, your cutter will “cut” the design out from your vinyl roll. Then, you remove the excess vinyl (also called weeding) to reveal your design. Then, you apply your vinyl to your t-shirt with your heat press. 

The other type of transfer we recommend are screen-printed transfers, which are among the most popular because they use actual screen printing inks. Instead of applying the ink directly to the t-shirt, the inks are on release transfer paper and they result in a design that’s just as durable as screen printing. 

Start Heat-Press Printing More Profitably Today

Yes, you can get professional-looking print results at home with the right techniques and tools. From preheating your garments to using cover sheets, be confident as you unleash your creativity and craft unique, stylish t-shirts. Our expert tips and tricks will guide you, whether you're a DIY newbie or pro. With a little practice and patience, you'll be creating stunning heat-transfer tees to wear or sell in no time!

Affordable Heat Press T-Shirts With No Order Minimums

Threadsy carries blank t-shirts at low prices from top brands you know and love for heat-transfer designs, including Gildan, Next Level, Bella + Canvas, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, American Apparel, Alternative Apparel, Champion, and many more! Enjoy the style and comfort of high-quality tees from your favorite brands, at affordable prices that are just right! Browse through our wide selection of blank tees and you’ll quickly find the perfect t-shirt for your shop or for any occasion:

  • Soft tees in thousands of colors and styles – shop classic crewnecks, v-necks, pocket t-shirts and more.
  • A variety of fabrics for your next project, whether it’s heat press decorating, sublimation, or bleach or tie dye. We carry tees in cotton, polyester, triblends and more.
  • Workout and performance t-shirts and tanks for your favorite sports and activities, perfect for men’s and women’s group events and sports leagues.
  • Tanks, short sleeves, long sleeves. We’ve got t-shirts for layering and showing off everyone’s personal style with those awesome screen-printed transfer designs!