What Is Heat the Press Machine? How to Use a Heat Press?

Planning to go into t-shirt printing?

Maybe you’re considering to print t-shirts using the heat transfer method. If that is so, one of the most important items you have got to get is the heat press machine.

As a beginner, you might find the heat press machine quite baffling. Maybe you don’t know what it is, or how to use it. That is just about to change. With this post, I will help you learn what the heat press is all about and show you how it works.

What Is the Heat Press Machine?

A heat press is a machine designed to print a text or image design on a material. It employs pressure and heat for a certain interval to transfer the design to the material.

Most heat presses are meant for applying designs to garments. However, there are heat presses out there meant for printing designs on plates, mugs, caps, plastic bags, and other materials.

There are two most common heat press versions today – the manual and automatic. But, there’s a new entrant in the market – the semi-automatic version, which allows an automatic, electromagnetic opening with a manual closing process.

The digital advancement in newer heat presses gives you lots of control over the time, temperature, and pressure settings. In most cases, the heat press will use a hot, flat platen to apply pressure and heat to the material being printed.

There are different heat press styles, with the most common ones being the:

  • Clamshell design – where the upper platen opens like a clamshell.
  • Swing-away – the upper platen normally swipes away from the lower platen.
  • Draw – the lower platen pulls out like a drawer in your direction.

Most of the available heat press machines employ an aluminum upper platen with a heating element to provide the required heat. You normally have to load the material you’re printing onto the lower platen. The material is then carried underneath the heating element, which applies some pressure and heat to print the design.

You normally print the design on the sublimating paper with some sublimating ink. The paper lets the ink to transfer to the garment, thus transferring the design. With the sublimating method, you have a chance to get effective patterns and effects.

Now, let’s see how you can use a heat press.

How to Use a Heat Press Machine

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Choose a transfer

There are numerous transfers that can be printed on a garment. You can either purchase a pre-printed transfer paper or print one at home. Also, you can utilize an iron-on appliqué. The most common transfers for heat presses include:

  • Inkjet – translucent transfers that work best on light-colored garments.
  • Laser copier transfers –translucent too.
  • Suppliers transfers – opaque and well suited for dark and colored garments
  • Heat transfer vinyl– lay them on top of one another to come up with different designs
  • Embroidered appliqués

2. Print the transfer

Select an image and reverse it with a photo editor like photoshop. Print out the image on the transfer paper’s film side with an ink jet printer.

Are you using a store-bought or supplier transfer?

If so, trim it down. As you might notice, once you print the transfer, some parts will not be colored. You need to get rid of these blank parts so they’re not transferred to the garment.

When trimming the transfer, you should be focusing on the main shape. The interiors of shapes like D and O don’t really need any trimming. Also, it’s okay to leave a little border around shapes.

3. Open the heat press

Now is the time to set up the machine for the job. The instructions I’m just about to deliver here should work for most heat press models.

Open the heat press by lifting its handle. Then, pull the heating platen away from the silicon pad. Let the heat press remain open as it heats up in the next step.

4. Set the temperature

Check your transfer paper. There should be some directions on the temperature levels you need to apply. On the heat press, turn the thermostat knob in the clockwise direction and wait for the press to heat up. You will see a light.

As soon as the press reaches the right temperature, turn the knob anti-clockwise till the light you saw goes off. Most transfer papers need a temperature level of between 350 and 375 °F.

5. Set the pressure

As with the temperature setting, the pressure knob can be turned clockwise or anti-clockwise to increase or reduce the pressure.

The pressure you should apply is relative to your project’s thickness. A thicker project will require a higher pressure while a thinner one will need lower pressure.

Don’t turn the knob too far, otherwise the swivel arm will come off. Mostly, medium to high pressure is applicable.

6. Set the timer

Press and hold the minutes and seconds buttons to increase or decrease the time. Once you hit the start button, the timer starts. Your transfer might indicate a certain time; use that. If it doesn’t, here is a timing guide for different transfer papers:

  • Ink-Jet transfer – 13 to 18 secs
  • Die cut vinyl – 45 secs to 1 minute
  • Laser copier – 17 to 25 secs
  • Embroidered appliqués – 19 to 30 secs
  • Sublimation – 24 to 30 secs

7. Place your t-shirt on the plate

It’s now time to print your garment. When placing the garment on the plate, ensure the side that faces up is the one you want to print on.

8. Set the transfer paper on the garment

When doing this, make sure it’s face-down. Also, ensure it’s in the pressing area in the heat pad and silicon pad zone. Are you using an embroidered appliqué? If so, let the embroidered side face up and the adhesive side face down.

Using a heat transfer vinyl? The shiny side ought to face up, while the matte side should face down.

9. Cover the transfer

Does your machine have a silicon pad? If so, the transfer doesn’t need covering.

But, if it doesn’t have that protective pad, or if you’re using heat transfer vinyl or an appliqué, you’ll need to place a thin piece of cloth on the garment and transfer.

Such a piece of cloth goes a long way in offering the transfer the protection it needs against the heat.

10. Start pressing

Pull the handle down to close the heat press.

Hit the start button. The timer will start. Once the time you set is depleted, hit the start button once more to stop the heat press.

Next, open the heat press and remove your garment. With most fabrics, you’ll need to peel the transfer off while it’s still hot.

Now, your design should be printed on the garment. That’s of course if you went through the process properly.

Final Thoughts

Want to press a different design on the back of the garment? First, insert a cardboard piece in the garment.

Set a lower pressure by adjusting the plate height and press the garment. Doing that ensures that you don’t reheat the front image.

Using the heat press is that easy. Did you find this guide helpful? Why not share it with your friends?

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