How to Use a Transfer Heat Press

by Chantel AliseUpdated September 26, 2017

Heat press transfers are used to put designs on clothing including shirts, jeans, handbags, hats and belts. Some presses can even apply decals to ceramic items including plates, wooden plaques, certain types of paper and many other items. The higher temperatures of these machines, along with the amount of pressure they apply, ensure that embedded designs are properly melded into the transfer object.

Determine the temperature at which the decal should be applied and make certain the heat press used can accommodate it. Also make certain the temperature and pressure provided by the machine are sufficient to adhere the decal to the transfer item.

Prepare the press for operation. Ensure the power cord is connected properly and that all necessary switches are turned on and set as outlined in equipment instructions.

Set the press thermostat to the proper temperature for the decal and the item onto which it's being transferred. In most instances, there will be a light that will remain on until the machine is heated to the set temperature. When the light goes off, the machine is ready.

Open the press to move the top heating element pad away from the bottom transfer pad. Follow the instructions given for the specific heat press being used.

Lay the transfer item onto the press within the guidelines provided on the press transfer pad. If necessary, refer to the machine’s instructions to ensure proper item placement.

Position the decal on top of the transfer item, face down, in the position allotted for the design. Make sure the decal remains inside the press guidelines so that it will heat evenly and adhere properly to the transfer item.

Close the heat press, clamping down the heating element pad over the top of the transfer item on the transfer pad. Lock the press into place in the closed position.

Adjust heat press pressure for the type of item on which the decal is being placed. Thin clothing items may require less pressure than thicker items such as computer mouse pads.

Set the heat press timer for the amount of time needed to complete the transfer successfully. If uncertain about the amount of time required, refer to the instructions provided with the decal as well as the temperature recommendations for the transfer item itself.

Let the press remain closed until the timer goes off. Immediately open the press slowly, being careful to keep the decal and transfer item from sticking to the heat element pad. It should remain in place on the transfer rubber pad.

Remove the decal paper according to the instructions provided. Some decals are to be removed while still hot; others must cool before they're removed.

Items you will need

  • Transfer item

  • Decal


Heating time for decals will vary, depending on the type of decal. Simple computer-generated decals generally take between 10 and 25 seconds. Some professionally-done decals may require a minute or longer.


Make sure the heat press remains turned off and in an open position when it's not being used unless otherwise instructed by the machine’s manufacturer. Make sure the heating pad is properly aligned with the transfer pad. If misalignment is suspected, correct the problem before making further transfers. Remain with the heat press whenever it's activated. Use only decals and transfer items acceptable for the type of heating press being used. Stay away from anything that is expressly prohibited. Don't place a decal face-side-up toward the heating pad. Though many heat presses can be cleaned, it's also possible that such actions could permanently damage the heating element. Immediately turn off and disconnect any heat press that heats beyond the temperature set for the transfer.

About the Author

A business and education specialist for 30 years, Chantel Alise also owned a management and marketing training company. She has written newsletters and training manuals as well as business articles for Enid News and Eagle's Business Journal. She is principle writer for Beauty Biz. Alsie attended Thomas Nelson Community College (Virginia) and Phillips University (Oklahoma).

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