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Heat Press Transfers | A How to Guide for T-Shirts

When I first started out, I had no clue what a heat press was. I wanted to make money selling t-shirts, but I had no idea how to make it a reality. So I did a lot of research and experimentation. Turns out that making heat press transfers for t-shirts is easy and profitable. 

You see, I make tons of designs all the time. I’ve been using graphic design programs for a long time and I decided that I wanted to make some additional cash on the side. That’s when I found heat press.

When I was younger my mother used to iron pictures onto my shirts to make them cooler than every other shirts. This was a great way for me to have a cool shirt that nobody else had. Once I got older I wanted to do this as a business, I really needed to understand the process. 

With heat press transfers you will be able to transfer your own artwork to a t-shirt quickly. If you are not good at creating your own designs then there are places online that you can purchase designs. You will be able to get up and running fast. 

The process is not hard, but it does take some time getting used to it. In this guide I will show you how to create the heat press transfers, the equipment that is needed, and how to sell the t-shirts. 

Heat Transfer Equipment Needed for Heat Press Transfers

To start any business these days you need the right tools. The costs are not astronomical for these tools and there are a variety of retailers that sell them. 

Heat Press Machine

This is basically a two plate iron. It is what is used to transfer the image to the shirt. It gets very hot so be careful. A lot of times they are referred to as clamshells. 

There are a variety of heat presses on the market. These can be found new or used. Since the cost of a new heat press is reasonable, consider purchasing a new one. This can run anywhere from $200 - $500. Here’s a helpful guide to help you buy a heat press

Inkjet Printer

An inkjet printer is a printer that prints designs using very small jets of ink. This is needed to print out the designs for the shirts. It is possible to use a laser printer, but it is not recommended. The main reason is price. An inkjet printer is much less expensive than a laser jet printer. Plus, it prints better on the shirt. 

One of the considerations in choosing an inkjet printer is the ink. Running a heat press business requires a screen printer to purchase ink constantly. This is an additional cost that must be figured into a heat press  business. 

When considering which printer to purchase there are many options. The printers can be bought new or used, however this decision can become tricky. So if a new printer is bought it typically comes with a warranty. This is good because inkjet printers are notorious for breaking down. The problem with a new printer is that when it goes out of warranty and it breaks down the cost of parts can be an issue. An older printer may not work very well when purchased and it will need to be repaired. That is fine because by the time a printer becomes older parts will be readily available. However, if the manufacturer discontinues the ink cartridges it could be in trouble. 

Inkjet printers are so reasonably priced. It is possible to buy a new one each year. A profit can still be made easily. 

Carrier Paper

This is what the designs will be printed on. It is also called transfer paper. There is film on one side of the paper. That is where the design will be printed. Find a quality carrier paper to print the designs on. DON’T USE CHEAP CARRIER PAPER! 

Carrier paper can be transparent or opaque. Use the transparent paper when printing on a white shirt. When printing on a black shirt use opaque transfer paper. 

Graphics Program

To create designs a graphic design software is needed. A software program such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or Corel Draw will work. If there is no access to these any of these programs a free solution is the program Gimp. It will take some time to get up to speed on all of these programs. 

The Heat Press Transfer Process

Select the Artwork for the Heat Press Transfer

To begin the process decide what to print. Use a word or phrase done in some fancy font or an image. Get the artwork ready on the computer. 

Reverse the Image

Before printing the image out on carrier paper reverse the image. If this step is not done, the shirt will be reversed when complete. Using Illustrator or Photoshop to reverse the image is easy. 

Print the Heat Transfer Image

Print the image on the film side of the carrier paper. This is the side that will come into contact with the shirt.  

Prepare the Heat Press Machine

First and foremost read the instructions that came with the heat press. Pay attention to the safety guidelines. Be careful not to get burned.. 

Begin by turning on the machine. Then open the press. Shift the platen from the silicon pad. Finally, select the temperature.

To determine the proper temperature refer to the instructions that come with the carrier paper. 


To determine the proper pressure  evaluate the thickness of the material to be printed upon. Thick materials require less pressure. Thin materials require more pressure. Increase and decrease the pressure until the perfect setting is achieved.

Timing Is Everything

The type of paper determines the length of time that will be used. Set the timer according to the instructions that your paper provides. 

Proceed with the Heat Transfer

When all of the preparations are completed the print is ready to begin. Here’s where the magic happens.

Place the t-shirt on the heat press platen and place the garment with the side up that is to be printed. Then place the artwork onto the shirt . Ensure that the artwork is face down. The paper must be inside the area that will be pressed. The pressure must be right on the print. Sometimes the printer comes with a pad made out of silicon. If it does then place that pad on top of the image. If there isn’t a silicon pad then use some light material to place on top of the design. 

Once ready, close the press. Pull the handle downward to close the press. Press the start button. Wait until the timer goes off. Remove the garment from the heat press.

The carrier paper will either be hot peel or cold peel. Which means that if the shirt is still hot then the peel will  need to be pulled off while it is hot. If it is a cold peel, wait until the shirt has cooled off before pulling the peel off. 

Once the peel is pulled off the shirt is complete. That’s it. 

The Final Word on Heat Press Transfers

When looking for an easy way to start a t-shirt business this is about as easy as it gets. It has a generally low startup cost and can be run by practically anyone. After getting the hang of it, churning shirts out is a breeze. Slap a price tag on it and sell it as soon as possible. Get that money. 

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