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How to Print T-Shirts with Heat Transfers

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Heat pressing screen print transfers is easy when you have a quality heat press and quality transfers.  It is a good idea to practice printing with transfers and old apparel products that you no longer wear to get the hang of the process.  Realize each product and color will take the heat and pressure from the heat press differently. Cotton and Cotton/Poly blend shirts typically print with no problems, whereas 100% polyester, moisture-wicking garments can be a bit more difficult.  Some colors, like shades of red, will drastically change color after being pressed, but the color will typically return to its original state within 10 minutes. Knowing what to expect when printing onto different garments is half the battle when it comes to pressing transfers.


Before loading the first garment onto the platen, make sure your press is set at the correct time, temperature, and pressure.  It is also a good idea to press the bottom platen one to two times for 30 seconds at a time to help warm up the press prior to printing. 


When printing t-shirts and most other products, we suggest to always thread the garments onto the bottom platen whenever possible so you that get the flattest and best possible printing surface.  Heat press pillows are a great tool to use when you cannot thread the product onto the bottom platen. Heat press pillows help elevate the print area to be the summit of the garment, ensuring the entire transfer receives even pressure and heat.  They are sometimes necessary for printing youth shirts and adult sweatshirts, and should always be used when printing sleeves and pant legs to ensure they are pressed with even pressure. 


Before pressing the transfer onto the garment, we must remove any moisture and wrinkles that might affect the print.  To do this, simply press the garment without the transfer for 3-5 seconds. Make sure the garment is square on the bottom platen, which will help with aligning the transfer.  


Once the shirt has been prepped, you are ready to place the transfer on the garment, and again you will want to make sure it is square.  Typically, this may be done by eyeballing the transfer and the neck and sides of the shirt, but we also have alignment tools which can help with making sure everything is straight on the shirt.  For normal collared t-shirts you should start front chest prints about 3 inches below the bottom of the collar, and 1 or 2 inches below the point of a v-neck or tank top collar.  


Once you are happy with the transfer’s location on the garment, you are ready to press the two together.  Simply pull the handle towards you until it locks into place. Our most common transfer, the opaque hot peel, should be pressed at 375 degrees with medium-to-heavy pressure (7-8) for eight to ten seconds.  Once the press has counted down, and the timer goes off, you need to lift the top platen by pushing the lever away from you. Then, remove the transfer paper immediately, starting in a corner and peeling in a smooth and continuous motion. 


Printing onto the back of a shirt is almost exactly the same as printing the front, but the location of the print should be at least 2-3 inches lower so it starts at around the shoulder blades.  If the design is printed too high on the back of a shirt, then it will not look right when it is being worn by the customer. For orders that require both names and numbers on the back of a shirt, be sure to leave at least two inches between the name and numbers.  Custom names and numbers should be printed at the same location, right around the shoulder blades. 


After printing for just a couple of hours, you will feel like a pro.  Soon enough you will see that printing transfers is almost like printing money!  If you have any other questions, then please visit our FAQ page, send us an email (support@PrintPhase.com), or give us a call. 

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