10 Things Heat Printers Wished They Knew When They Started

Apparel decorating is a huge industry that more and more people are getting in on every single day.

Entrepreneurs are living out their dream of starting their own business. Owning a t-shirt business is fun and allows you to use your creative side within your business, too.

If you are new to heat printing or just about ready to get started, there are several tips here to hopefully get you started off on the right foot.

These tips and tricks are good things to know beforehand, so that you don’t have to figure them out as you go or after you’ve been in the business for a while.

This will help you learn from others’ mistakes and get you on the path to success quicker.


1. A Good Start Starts with a Good Heat Press

A heat press is the main piece of equipment you need to heat print, if not the only piece. Some choose to also get a cutter, which this advice also applies to the cutter as well.

That being said, you don’t want to skimp out with the piece of equipment you’ll be relying on most to make money in your business.

Because if it doesn’t work, you’re at a standstill and possibly a ruined reputation as a business with a bad order.

A cheap heat press is cheap for a reason. It uses inferior parts and is not reliable. It’s made by cutting corners. That’s how it is able to be produced for so cheap of a price. You get what you pay for.

This video goes into more detail on the differences in how presses are made.



A cheap heat press will have problems with applying all kinds of heat transfers.

A good heat press, on the other hand, will be able to apply all sorts of transfer types with no problems.

Get the best press that you can possibly get.

Keep in mind, that while it does cost more, you should be able to pay off your press with your first few orders. The better your press, the better you’ll be in the long run.

You’ll also want to start out with a larger size press, 16” x 20” platen or equivalent. On top of a large platen, a press with interchangeable platens, too, is even better.

A large press with interchangeable platens will allow you to do all types of jobs. Don’t back yourself into a corner right off the bat with a small size press.

You’ll find out soon enough that you should have bought a larger press or one with various platens when you can’t print the items you want to.

That can be pretty disappointing. There’s nothing worse than realizing you bought the wrong piece of equipment when you’re a few months in (if the cheap heat press you bought even lasts that long).

cheap heat press review on Amazon

real review on Amazon from a cheap heat press


So if you want to have a business that lasts, start off with the right equipment.


2. Follow the Instructions for the Transfer Type

Each heat transfer type will have its’ own set of application instructions on how to best apply it.

The transfer type determines the application instructions, not the apparel or fabric type that you are printing on.

Too many times we’ve seen heat printers trying to change the application instructions for a particular heat transfer based on the fabric they are applying it to.

It’s not the fabric type that determines the instructions. However, the fabric can determine which transfer type to use.

If you have a specific fabric, check to make sure which transfer type you need to use for that apparel.

[Download our free ebook: The Heat Printer’s Ultimate Guide to Fabric Types]

Each transfer will always use the instructions meant for that transfer type. So make sure that you are printing with a transfer that applies onto the apparel you are printing on.


3. Don’t Sell Yourself Short on Pricing

Pricing your finished custom apparel can be difficult.

But if you want to run a business, you need to price for profit. Don’t work for nothing, or it’s not a business at that point. It’s a hobby.

Most people start a business because they want to be an entrepreneur. Be their own boss. Set their own schedule.

But it can turn into working very long days, 7 days a week.

We recently posted on Facebook asking who was heat printing that upcoming weekend and this was a comment that was posted:


How true is that!? Good for you, Jon!

Setting the right prices is one way that can help you maintain a healthy business while managing your workload.

Pricing can help you achieve your entrepreneurial dream so that you aren’t working for nothing and driving your business into the ground.

In order to price for profit, you have to start by knowing your costs before you set your final price.

We see some customers trying to price their shirts first, and then struggling when they aren’t making a profit from their price.

Don’t work backwards. Know your costs first and set your pricing accordingly with your profit worked in.

[Related Content: 5 Retail Pricing Methods for Custom Apparel]


4. How to Save on Printing Costs

One way to make more profit is to lower your costs.

There are several ways to save on your printing costs when using screen printed transfers:

  • price breaks
  • gang sheets
  • color changes
  • Easy Prints
  • Custom Clip Art

Price Breaks
Pay attention to the quantity price breaks when ordering. When getting close to a quantity price break, it may actually be cheaper overall to go up to the next quantity break. So you’ll get a few extra transfers for less money.

Gang Sheets
The screen printed transfer sheet size is 11.25” x 14”. You can fit as many images as you can onto this sheet for the same price. This is called a gang sheet.

screen printed transfer gang sheet

When you have multiple images on the sheet, you can then divide the sheet cost by the number of images to get your ‘per image’ price, which will be cheaper.

Color Change
If you are doing the same design on multiple colors of apparel and your customer wants the ink colors to change with the different apparel colors, then you can order a “color change”. This allows you to get the price at the total quantity price break for a small color change charge. Overall, you will save money by doing this.

ink color change

Easy Prints®
We have tons of artwork that you can use to create a custom design. There are pre-made layouts and clip art, called Easy Prints, that you can just customize to make your own. When you use our artwork to create a design, it is $25 less per order than if you supply your own artwork.

Custom Clip Art
If you have a custom piece of art, such as a school or team mascot, that you will be using over and over, it is cheaper to get it made into your own “Custom Clip Art”. After paying the charge for this, you can use it every time as Easy Prints pricing instead of pricing for your own artwork. You can also add your Custom Clip Art into any Easy Prints layout to create awesome designs with your own logo.


5. You Don’t Need to Be an Artist to Have Great Artwork

As we mentioned above, you have thousands of pre-made layouts and clip art available to you to use to create your own designs. This artwork collection is called Easy Prints.

Anyone can use these professionally designed layouts to create an awesome design for your t-shirts, hoodies, tote bags, etc.

You don’t have to have any artwork skills or know any complicated design programs. Easy View®, our free online designer, allows you to become an artist, even when you can’t draw a stick figure on paper.

Use Easy View to customize all of the Easy Prints layouts and clip art. There are over 180 fonts to choose from, over 5,000 layouts, and 10,000 clip art.


easy view online designer


This great artwork is free for all Transfer Express customers to use for your next design.

If you haven’t already, sign up now to start trying it out!


6. Test Print Before Starting Your Job

Each transfer order comes with an extra transfer for you to use for testing purposes before you start your entire run.

This is especially beneficial if you are using a type of fabric that you have never used before, or a transfer type that you have never used.

Another reason that you want to test beforehand is that heat presses are all made differently. As we mentioned in the first point above, some cheaper presses will not have as much success with transfers.

If you don’t have a Hotronix® heat press, you may need to increase the temperature of your press another 10 degrees.

In order to check to make sure your press is functioning properly, use the test transfer and an extra shirt to make sure it applies correctly.

Even if it worked last time, heat presses need calibrated from time to time and parts can occasionally go bad. So just because it worked yesterday, test it again today before you assume it is still working properly.

Customers with cheap presses tend to find out the hard way that their cheap presses don’t last too long before going bad.


cheap heat press review on Amazon

real review on Amazon from cheap heat press


If you are brand new to heat printing, practice with sample transfers and scrap fabrics. You can order a free sample pack of transfers to get familiar and comfortable with how heat printing and your heat press works.


7. Measure Twice, Design Once

Before you even order your transfers, you’ll definitely want to know what you are printing on to see if there are any restrictions for your design size.

Measure your print area for any obstructions to know exactly what size you need to order.

Hoodie pockets, left chest pockets, buttons, collars, seams, etc. are all things to consider when making your design.

For example, if your print area is limited to 9 inches wide, don’t order your transfers at 11 inches wide.

It seems like common sense, but many people forget to measure before ordering, and realize that the transfers are too big when they go to apply them.


8. Know the Product Artwork Specifications for the Type of Transfer

When you are creating artwork, you’ll need to take into consideration the transfer type that you will be using.

Different transfer types have different artwork specifications, such as the minimum line thickness for printing areas and minimum show-through thickness for non-printing areas.

How to test line thickness for custom screen printed transfers

Make sure your line thickness meets the minimum requirements for the ink formula you choose.

This will ensure that your transfer design looks great after it is applied and the artwork is still visually legible and clear.

You can view our artwork specifications here:


9. Give Yourself Extra Time to Complete the Project

We know that many times your customers are ordering at the last minute, but try to give yourself plenty of time to complete orders without rushing.

When you are working on orders at the last minute, you are more prone to making mistakes.

Mistakes will happen anyway, so with a little extra time, you’ll be able to fix any mistakes that do happen.

Our turnaround times are super-fast, which help give you maximum time to press your apparel.

When quoting your customers, take our turnaround times into consideration and work in your own time as well. Give yourself extra time.

On most orders, you can finish ahead of schedule and let your customers know they are done early. This will add an unexpected delight for your customers.

On the occasion when something does go wrong, you most likely will still be able to deliver on time and your customer won’t know the difference.


10. Use Your Resources for Help

As a heat printer, you have a lot of resources to help you out when you need it.

Take advantage of the education available and learn something new every day.

It will only benefit you and your business.

Whether it’s blog content or videos, commit to one a day, or a few a week. Learning the ropes of heat printing will help make you an expert.

[Related Content: Starting a T-Shirt Business: How to Become an Expert]

Join groups on social media to get in on the conversations of the heat printing community. There is a wealth of knowledge from all of the combined years of heat printers on these pages.

When you have a question or are in a bind, you can always contact our customer service. Our friendly staff is ready to take your email or phone call to help you.

We are here to help you grow your business.



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