8 Heat Printing Tips and Tricks from 8 Heat Printers
Whether you are new to heat printing or a seasoned veteran, there are always new things to learn about heat printing.
Learn how to heat print faster. Learn how to save costs when printing apparel. Improve your productivity and that improves your bottom line.
For example, if you can save 10 seconds on each piece on a 500 piece order, that’s almost an hour and a half.
We wanted to gather the top tips and tricks for heat printing, so we asked some of the heat printers around Transfer Express and Stahls’ to give away their best tricks while heat printing.
These tricks will work if you use screen printed transfers, full color transfers, or heat transfer vinyl with your heat press.
You probably recognize some of these names from our webinars, videos, trade shows, and articles. These heat printers have been pressing for years and have tons of knowledge to share.
Here’s what they had to say.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? As in, before you even start pressing, and are creating your artwork for your transfers.
“Save labor time by setting up a gang sheet for easy cutting. I like to use a .5” gutter in between each image. Use a paper guillotine to cut more paper at once.” – Stefanie Gravens, Transfer Express
Setting up a gang sheet can be an art in itself. Depending on how many sheets you are ordering, you may have different methods for setting it up.
For example, if you have a low quantity, you can probably cram as much as you can onto the sheet because there aren’t that many sheets you will have to cut apart.
However, as the quantity increases, the more cutting you will be doing which takes time. To help reduce labor time, increase the space between images for faster cutting.
When possible, align your images for straight cuts across the sheet that you can use a paper guillotine cutter which is faster than scissors, especially when you can put multiple sheets on the cutter at the same time.
The next trick also has to do with setting up your artwork, but this time, to make sure it looks its best.
“Depending on the ink colors I am using and the shirt color, I make sure I have the correct color placement within the artwork for light and dark colors. Sometimes, to make a piece of clip art look more natural, you actually have to invert the dark and light colors within the piece of art. To do this in Easy View, it may require you to ungroup the art and add an outline in the effects panel to achieve the best look. ” – Heather Roberts, Transfer Express
Sometimes when a piece of art doesn’t have the right dark/light color placement, you may look at it wondering what is off about it. It just doesn’t look right.
Many people actually don’t realize or see the inversion until you put the two side-by-side. But once you train your eye to see it, it will come more natural and you will catch it easier when you are designing.
Having the correct color placement will help make your design stronger.
[Related Content: 6 Tips for Better T-Shirt Artwork]
Alright, now that we have the artwork and transfers ready to go, our next tricks have to do with getting your workspace set up at your heat printing station.
“Nothing kills productivity like down time. In heat printing one of the best things you can do is organize your workspace and your job before starting. Create a table or shelf for blank garments, a table or shelf for ready to applied transfers and an area for completed garments. As a best practice have all of your designs trimmed and ready to apply before you press the first shirt and have alignment helpers like lasers, a T-square or cardboard templates ready to go. This will allow you to maximize the time at the press. When the machine isn’t locked down its not making you money, so consider all of the ways to reduce the time that the heat press is in the open position.” – Josh Ellsworth, Stahls’
Great advice. Get set up and ready before starting so there is no down time with starting and stopping. Once you are set up, you can focus on pressing much more clearly and you get really get moving.
One of the 7 “Wastes of Manufacturing” is motion. Make sure you set up your workspace so that you aren’t moving around as much. Each extra step you take or extra arm movements are a “waste”. It takes time and extra energy.
Keep your workspace tight and tidy so that you aren’t moving things around between each press.
Have your tables or shelves in a position that you can easily have them within reaching distance.
[Related Content: Being the Most Productive You Can Be in Your T-Shirt Business]
This next trick also has to do with getting set up ahead of time and being prepared before starting, specifically with names and numbers.
This is a great tip especially if you have lots of shirts that need names/numbers.
“When adding names and numbers to apparel, sort shirts by size then preassemble names/numbers so you can go right down the list.” – Sue Wilcosky, Transfer Express
I love it. This is something you don’t always think about. You may be thinking that it’s good enough that you have your names in a pile and numbers in a pile.
But if you don’t have them all “assembled” together and ready to go with each specific name and number together, there’s still too much fumbling around with each pile every single press to get the right combination of numbers.
Every time you flip through the pile looking for the correct name or number, you’ve touched the transfers way too many times. This goes back to one of the 7 “wastes of manufacturing” as we talked about above.
I know I’m definitely guilty of that at times.
Plus, you don’t want to add the wrong number with the wrong name or the wrong size.
Laying them all out in order will definitely improve your productivity.
After your workspace is set up, now it’s time for some tricks during the pressing process.
The first trick has to do with the ever-scary art of making sure your transfers are aligned properly!
“When loading a shirt onto the press, make sure that not only your tag is aligned in the center at the top, but also make sure that the bottom part of the shirt is also centered onto the platen by quickly checking the amount of fabric on each side to make sure it is pretty even.” – Mike Romano, Transfer Express
It doesn’t matter how many tools you use to make sure your transfer is centered on the platen. If your shirt itself is not straight on the press to begin with, your transfer won’t be either.
And just because your shirt tag is centered on the press doesn’t necessarily mean that the bottom of the shirt is also centered. Believe me, I’ve done it!
By checking both ends of the shirt, it will prevent your shirt from being cock-eyed on the platen, especially with larger sizes.
At this point, you can then use your tools, if you wish, to make sure your transfer goes on straight.
Now that your shirt is on the platen nice and straight, we must also think about what else might prevent us from getting a good print.
“I think the part of heat printing that is easily the most forgotten about and overlooked is pressure. Time and temperature are easy, after all. Those are settings on your press. But pressure you have to actively adjust, which easily makes it out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I think that people forget that the pocket on a hoodie IS an obstacle. The seams and handles on that tote bag ARE an obstacle. And there’s a 50/50 chance that they could mess up your ideal application. This is why you need something firm nearby to raise the surface. Always firm – never soft. The ideal material is a Print Perfect Pad, or a mouse pad in a pinch.” – Andy Curtiss, Transfer Express
The key here is to raise your print area above print obstructions. Having Print Perfect Pads in multiple sizes available will definitely be a big help.
Andy mentioned a mouse pad. This is a great option when you need a unique shape or size for that one odd job you are printing. Have a stock of them on hand that you can cut one apart when needed to fit in that awkward spot. You can get these for about $1 each.
Our next tips and tricks have to do with product selection.
“Right off hand, I would say I normally recommend our lower temp transfers so they can be applied to any fabric and there are no worries. (Elasti Prints®, AquaTru®, UltraColor™) – Kristen Jancigar, Transfer Express
This is a great trick when you will be applying the same design to multiple apparel items. That way, you won’t be purchasing separate orders for different transfer types to go on different fabrics. Instead, order one transfer type in a larger quantity for all the apparel and get that lower print cost.
When doing this, make sure you get a transfer that can go on all of your fabrics that you are printing on.
For example, if a customer wants a performance wear t-shirt that is 100% polyester, a cotton hoodie, and leggings that contain spandex, AquaTru will cover all of those fabric types with no problem.
Another tip for product selection is to venture out.
“My favorite heat printing tip is ‘don’t be afraid to mix it up’.
Many of Stahls’ heat transfers are compatible with each other and can be layered or paired together to really make designs stand out! My tip for successful application with mixing media is being sure to follow the application instructions for the material with the highest temperature and longest time.
For example – if I’m pairing CAD-CUT UltraWeed and Glitter Flake, I would apply both products at the time, temperature, and pressure recommended for Glitter Flake since it applies at a higher temperature and for longer dwell time.
Most of Stahls’ products go amazing together – get creative! 😃” – Jenna Sackett, Stahls’
This is a great trick when applying multiple transfer types on the same shirt. Always know the instructions for each transfer type and if they can be applied together, that will definitely save you some time.
If they need to be applied separately, then make sure you plan ahead on which order to apply each transfer type.
There you have it. Some great tips and tricks from heat printers who have been pressing for years.
These tricks will help you from start to finish – from planning your transfer sheet and design, selecting the best product, setting up your workspace, to applying your heat applied transfer to your apparel using your heat press.
What do you think? Do you have any top tricks that you would like to share that really help you speed up the heat printing process or help you save money? Share them in the comments below!
Other posts that can also help you while heat printing:
[Related Content: How to Heat Press a T-Shirt (Step-by-Step Guide)]
[Related Content: The Beginner’s Guide to Heat Printing]
[Related Content: Start Your T-Shirt Business with the Best Heat Press]
[Related Content: 10 Things Heat Printers Wished They Knew When They Started]