How to Heat Press a T-Shirt

When deciding whether to use iron-on transfers or to heat press a T-shirt, it is always best to choose heat pressing. This method results in a high-quality product that lasts longer. You can use this method in your own home, but there are a few basics you should know before trying to heat press a T-shirt.

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors
  • Professional Heat Transfer Paper
  • Heat Press Machine
  • Teflon Sheet
  • Graphic Design Program
  • Teflon Pad
  • T-Shirt Blanks
  • Computer
  • Inkjet Printer

Wash the T-shirt blanks in cold water with a small amount of mild soap. Dry them on high heat, and store them away from moisture and heat.

Choose or create a graphic design for the T-shirts with a design program. Use the professional heat transfer paper to print on. Print with color ink on an inkjet printer. Store any extra images in a box in a cool, dry place.

Cut out the images being used. Trim as close to the edges of the image as possible. To make cutting out words more accurate and professional, use a background such as a rectangle with color. Cut around the shape instead of cutting out the words individually. This will be much easier and look better.

Set the press according to the instructions for the type of material, transfer paper and machine being used. This will require three settings--temperature, pressure and time--for each T-shirt.

Center an image on a T-shirt. Using an alignment tool such as a ruler makes this easy. Folding the T-shirt in half lengthwise can also help center the image. There are many different types of alignment tools. A T-square will work very well at centering an image exactly in the middle of the shirt. It is also useful when centering an object over the pocket of a T-shirt.

Place the image ink-side down on the T-shirt and place them on top of the Teflon pad in the press. Place a Teflon sheet on top of the T-shirt to keep the rubber in the machine from sticking to the shirt. The Teflon tools will also keep the machine from accumulating ink and dust, and Teflon is easy to wipe clean. Lock the press and follow the manufacturer timing instructions for each individual heat press.

Open the press after it unlocks. Read the directions on the package of transfer paper to determine whether to allow the shirt and image to cool or whether to remove the transfer paper while hot. Remove the transfer paper with the T-shirt still in the press. Lift the transfer paper away from the image slowly. Pull back on the transfer paper instead of up. Allow the T-shirt to cool and dry for 24 hours before packaging or washing.


  • Use a potholder to hold down the hot T-shirt material while lifting off the transfer paper.


  • Never leave a heat press on and unattended.