How to Win the Temperature War with your Heat Press

Making a t-shirt from a heat transfer is like baking a cake. The “recipe” is an odd combination of art and science. In the case of our t-shirt, the three main ingredients are time, temperature and pressure. All three are important, but we find that when people are having issues with their transfers applying properly, more often than not, it’s the temperature portion of the equation giving them grief.

Put your Press to the Test

Particularly if you have a brand other than Hotronix®, it’s definitely worthwhile to do a heat press test and find out if your press is temping out where it should be. Our recommendation is to do this on a quarterly basis.

Much like your oven at home, it isn’t surprising to find your press is 10 degrees off. In fact, when someone calls to tell us they are having issues with their transfers applying well, the first question we typically ask is about the type of press being used.

Heat your Lower Platen Before Starting a Job

When your press has sat idle for a bit (or after you turn it on), lock down your press for about 30 seconds before starting your job. This is a great practice anytime you’ve either walked away from your press for a bit or are running a large job.

A well heated lower platen helps with a better application. Oppositely, a cold lower platen may give you problems during application.

Make Sure You’re Using the Right Kind of Press

When you’re just starting out, it’s really, really tempting to cheap out. We’ve all done it. Here’s the problem. Cheap presses typically have heating elements that are made in an “X” shape and better presses use an “S” shape. The diamond pattern left in an “X” heat press leaves cold spots across the transfer. You want your presses’ coils to look like this picture.

heat press heating coil

In addition to the coils, something else could be lurking under the surface of a cheap heat press, and that’s a thin platen.

heat press platen thickness

As you can see by this picture, a ¾” platen provides a thickness that will retain and distribute heat well. Using our baking analogy, it’s the difference between baking your cookies on a thin, dollar store cookie sheet versus a cookie sheet with a solid thickness to it. The reasoning works exactly the same in heat presses.

You also want to check that the upper and lower platen are meeting each other squarely and there are no pinch points. Not only will they cause transfers to not go on properly, but it could lead to scorching on performance-type fabrics.

If you think you can use a better heat press, check out a blog we did on signs you may need to upgrade.

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