Click to play our newest game, yahtzee!


How to Use a Heat Press to Apply Artwork to Canvas

Personalize designs on T-shirts and other items with the use of a heat press.
Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

A heat press can be used to add custom artwork and designs to many types of fabrics and canvas. It is commonly used to print artwork on T-shirts, caps, handbags and various other items. The machine itself is comprised of a flat plate that applies heat and pressure to canvas and fabrics. There are various types of heat presses, including models that can transfer designs onto wooden plates and paper; however, the process in each case is fairly similar. You can easily learn to use a heat press and apply artwork onto multiple pieces of canvas.

Things You'll Need:

  • Scissors
  • Inkjet Transfer Paper
  • Photo-Editing Software
  • Inkjet Printer

Creating a Decal

Obtain inkjet decal transfer paper to print the decal on. This is a special type of paper with a glossy side that is used for heat presses and iron transfers to canvas and other fabrics. Look online for suppliers or ask at your local craft store.

Choose an image to print on the decal paper. This can be any image with a high resolution or a customized design created in an image-editing software. Add text to the image if desired with the tools in your image-editing software.

Set the resolution of the image to 300 pixels per inch or higher in the image-editing software.

Print a test copy of the decal to ensure that it is what you want. Make final adjustments in the photo-editing software you are using for the decal image.

Adjust your printer settings as necessary. Read the label on the decal paper to determine the settings as they will vary by manufacturer.

Insert the paper in the printer as specified by the manufacturer. Although the instructions may vary by manufacturer, the backing on the paper generally has some indication to help you distinguish which side of the paper is the printable side.

Print the image on the decal paper. Allow the decal to dry for 5 to 10 minutes.

Use scissors to cut around the decal. Leave a 1/4 to 1/2 inch border around the design.

Applying the Decal

Plug in the heat press and turn it on to allow the heat press to warm up before using. Ensure that the top of the heat press is closed. Adjust the temperature settings of the heat press to the correct level. Determine the appropriate temperature level by consulting the owner’s manual.

Open the top of the heat press. Lay the canvas on the heat press so the canvas is face up.

Position the decal face down on the canvas in the position desired. Close the top of the heat press. Secure the canvas and decal in position by fastening the lock on the press.

Set the timer and pressure settings for the heat press. Pressure and timer settings will vary according to the heat press, so consult the owner’s manual to determine appropriate settings.

Unlock and turn off the heat press when the timer rings. Open the top of the press and remove the canvas from the surface of the heat press.

Position the canvas on a flat surface and allow it to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Pull off the decal paper carefully from the canvas to expose the artwork on the canvas.


The types of decal paper that can be used includes inkjet, color copier/laser transfers or plastisol heat transfers. If you are printing your own decal, it is more suitable to use an inkjet transfer paper.

Our Passtimes