A Printer’s Guide to Heat Press Printing

  • Jul 12, 2019

Heat press printing is one of the most common types of printing in the business. The printing makes use of a transfer material to convert a design onto a substrate. It is a step-by-step process which is divided into different stages. If you are a novice in this form of printing, we will help you understand the intricacies of this process in this guide.


History of Heat Press Printing

Heat press printing was first used in 1750s to print designs on ceramics. Earlier, this printing method was used only in the England and it later got popularity in other parts of the European region.

However, it was a different technique at that time and people would use a roller or a metal plate to imprint a design on a ceramic material. It was a laborious job at that time and would take hours to complete.

The modern heat press printing is invented by American company SATO in the 1940s. The company also developed the first thermal transfer printer in 1974. Today, printers use different types of heat presses to create fantastic designs on different materials including ceramics, plastics and different types of garment fabrics.

Let’s now discuss the heat press printing process:


The Process


1. Creating the Artwork

As with any other printing method, the first step to heat press printing is the creation of the design. The graphic elements and colors in the artwork will depend on the type of technique you are going to use to print a design. Generally, people use CAD-cut vinyl technique to print on a substrate which requires simple vector graphic elements that can be easily processed by a CAD application.

No matter if you are producing custom patches or printing a one-liner, you need to set your artwork in 300 DPI to produce a crispy design. Shadows and gradients are a big “NO” for a heat press printing. Remember to save your work in AI, PDF or EPS formats.

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2. Printing the Artwork on Transfer Paper

After you have created the artwork, the next step is to print it on the transfer paper. However, you should use a high-quality material to print the artwork so that the design doesn’t lose its quality and last longer. To make sure that your printing goes just right, you should buy 5-10 transfer papers and run test prints on them. Once you get a perfect print, you can weed it and then you can then go to the next step which is heat pressing.


3. Heat Pressing the Substrate

This is the most important step of all. At this stage, you will imprint the weeded-out design on the substrate. So let’s say if you are printing custom made patches on a t-shirt, you will be pressing the paper against the t-shirt and press it using the optimum printing settings. The printing settings will depend on the type of fabric and the color of garment. However, you need to do it with utmost precision as any lapse at this stage will botch the entire job.

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Firstly, you need to give a pre-press to the t-shirt to remove any wrinkles. To ensure that the pressing goes just right, you should read the directions given on manual of the heat press machine. Let the t-shirt cool off after the heat pressing is over.

And that’s it. That was a step-by-step process for printing a substrate using the heat press printing method. Now, we will look at some of the significant pros and cons of using heat press printing method:




Simple and Hassle-Free

Heat press printing is a significantly easier and simpler process as compared to other available printing options. Unlike other printing methods, such as screen printing and DTG, a heat press printing method can be executed simply by setting up a workstation and heat press machine. 

And you are good to go! There is no need to prepare a screen. There is no need to change the ink every now and then. And there is no need to cure the ink of substrate after printing.


Good for Creating Different Design Effects

The good thing about heat press printing is that it uses a transfer paper to print a design on a substrate. Since a transfer paper comes in different shapes, sizes, and colors, you can produce practically any design effects on a substrate.

Whether you want to create a design in raised pattern or want to produce a glitter effect in multiple colors, heat press printing allows you to apply it on any substrate like a breeze.


Perfect for Complex Designs

Heat press printing is the ultimate solution for printing intricate designs on a substrate. Since you are first printing a design on a transfer paper, you have the freedom to print the finer details in a design which you can easily transfer on a substrate. This feature makes it an ideal printing method for creating complex designs on an object or garment.


Economical for Production of Small Runs

Since heat press printing doesn’t require printing facility and space, the setup cost is much cheaper than other printing methods. Besides, the production time is much lower than screen printing and DTG which makes it a more viable printing method for time-sensitive projects with small quantities of items.




Not Suitable for Certain Fabrics

Heat press printing is not applicable for all types of fabrics since it involves the role of heating to print a design. Therefore, it is not suitable for all kinds of fabrics. Since heat press printing uses vinyl paper to transfer a design on a garment, it works best on the polyester and other synthetic fabrics that easily stick with the vinyl without getting scorched or burnt.


Not Meant for Large Consignments

Heat press printing is not the right printing solution for larger projects that involve printing on dozens of t-shirts. Heat press printing entails weeding and cutting of each design from vinyl paper onto a substrate. Since the weeding and cutting requires precision and you need to spend enough time on each print, it is not the ideal printing method for larger runs.

Heat press printing is an excellent printing method for producing complex designs on different substrates with various graphic effects. Hope, this guide provides you an insightful knowledge of heat press printing and answers your many questions regarding this type of printing.






  • Category: Printing
  • Tags: custom patches custom made patches