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Heat Transfer Printing: Everything You Need to Know

Heat transfer printing is super cool. thanks to it, you can virtually print anything you want on a wide selection of materials and objects.

There are countless ideas that can be made possible using heat transfer printing, and the heat transfer printing is growing rapidly with the increased interest of wanting to create custom designs.

If you’re still new into the world of heat transfer printing, we can help you get started. You just need the right tools and then you’ll learn everything else pretty quickly.

Choosing the Right Printer

Not all printers can be used for heat transfer printing. The printer must either come with a dye-sublimation toner or at least compatible with this type of toners. You can use a regular inkjet toner for heat transfer printing, but that won’t likely result in the best possible quality.

Depending on the objects you need to print on, you might need your printer to have special accessories, like a tray for CD and DVD printing.

You should also make sure that the printer’s size can accommodate the size of designs and products you’re going to work on. Printing on phone cases won’t likely require a large printer, but t-shirts and large posters will.

Other than that, you’ll have to consider the essential features of the printer, like print quality, print speed, monthly duty cycle, and versatility. If you’re still unsure, check out the best printers for heat transfer you can find on the market today.

Tools You Will Need for Heat Transfer Printing

  • PC 
  • Printer 
  • Ink
  • Heat Pads
  • Heat Tape
  • Substrates 
  • Heat Transfer Paper 
  • Vinyl Cutter
  • Heat Press
  • Heat Resistant Sheeting

Heat Transfer Printing Step by Step Guide

If you want to ensure that you nail your first heat transfer print, follow these steps:

1. Getting the right tools. Make sure that you’ve got all the essential tools you need within hands reach before starting to print. You can create a checklist for yourself with all the tools we’ve mentioned above.

2. Visualize your design on a computer. Use a graphics design software to create a design that looks as close to the final outcome as you want it to be. 

3. Print the design. Printing your design is as simple as pushing the print button in your graphic design software. Just make sure that you print it on thermal transfer paper.

4. Warm up the heat press. Before using the heat press, you need to make sure that it has reached the desired working temperature and settled at it. Printing at variable temperatures can ruin your design. The recommended temperature for most applications is anywhere from 177°C to 191°C.

5. Trim your design. As you wait for the heat press to warm up, you can start trimming your design using a vinyl cutter. Unless you print a borderless image, there will probably be lots of unused space on the paper.

6. Set the pressure of your heat press. The pressure mainly depends on the thickness of the fabric. Thicker fabrics require less pressure.

7. Set the time. The duration of application is influenced by the type of heat transfer. It can be as low as 14 seconds for inkjet transfer and up to 60 seconds for vinyl transfer.

8. Position the transfer and substrate correctly. Put your product on the heat plate with the transfer paper facing up. Make sure that the transfer paper is centered correctly. In some cases, like when using vinyl transfer, you’ll need to cover the transfer paper with a thin cloth to protect it.

9. Run the heat press. Close the press and push the start button. Wait for the timer to go off and you should have a transfer-printed product ready by now. Just make sure that you remove the film while the paper is still hot, but be careful not to burn yourself. You can use latex gloves just to be safe.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a good idea about heat transfer printing, you can start printing your designs. 

Heat transfer printing can be a great business, and almost anyone can get started with the right tools and the proper working steps. There are tons of ideas and lots of materials that you can print on; the possibilities are simply endless.