How to transfer Iron On Vinyl on to Clothing using a Heat Press

Perhaps you’ve been experimenting with heat transfer vinyl (HTV) for a little while using your standard household iron and are looking to upgrade? Or perhaps you’ve been using an EasyPress and aren’t sure if heat press would suit your needs better? Either way, if you’re new to the world of heat presses, they can seem a little daunting. Particularly if, like mine, you get little in the way of instructions to help you!

Whatever your motivations, this blog post will run through an introduction to the functionality of heat presses, some pros and cons, and demonstrate the basics of how you’d go about applying HTV to a jumper with a heat press.

What is a heat press?

A heat press works similar to an iron in that it has a metal plate which becomes hot. They are primarily used to transfer vinyl designs onto items such as clothing. Where it differs from an iron is that a heat press is comprised of two plates which clamp together and press the item between them. It is the combination of the heat and clamping pressure which allow the graphic to transfer to the object.

Open heat press

What’s the difference between a Heat Press and an EasyPress?

EasyPress is the brand name for the range of Cricut’s heat transfer devices. There are a number of different models on the market. The most recent are the EasyPress 2 which are available in a range of sizes from the 1.92" x 3.25" to the 12" x 10". EasyPresses are similar to an iron in that they are a handheld device with an underneath plate which heats. The main selling points of an EasyPress over a standard household iron are that they have a larger plate size to enable you to cover your hole project in a single press and that the plate heats evenly across the whole surface. Like an iron, the EasyPress is placed on top of your item and vinyl and then pressure is applied by the user from above. For more information about the specifics of EasyPresses I’d recommend Cricut’s website.

A heat press, on the other hand, does not require pressure to be applied by the user. The top of the two plates heats to your desired temperature and a handle is used to sandwich the item between the two plates. This is a great selling point if, like me, you generally find that your pressure application isn’t even when using an iron. The drawback with a heat press is that it’s a lot less, as in not at all, mobile. If you like to be flexible in where you craft, a heat press is probably not the device for you.

A heat press machine

What to look for in a Heat Press?

Heat Presses can vary quite significantly in price point, functionality, style and capability. Some models offer attachments, for example a curved plated which allows you to apply vinyl to mugs. Others may have all digital or all manual functionality. Some may hinge upwards, known as clam presses, while others may have a top plate which swings to the side, known as swing or swing away presses.

My heat press is a fairly basic model. I purchased it from a company on eBay and it cost me around £130. It is a clam heat press 38cm x 38cm, an ideal size for clothing items including t-shirts and jumpers. It has a small knob in the centre of the top plate which you turn to reduce or increase the pressure and a digital display on the top which denotes the plate’s current temperature and, when the closed, the duration of the press. Using the buttons adjacent to the display, the temperature and duration of the press can be increased or decreased as desired.

How do you use a Heat Press?

Using a heat press is quite straight forward but can be a little daunting when you’re starting out. Similar to an EasyPress and an iron, you set the temperature and the time of your press. Unlike these models, you’ll also need to set your desired pressure. Too much pressure and you could damage your item, too little and you won’t get the result you desire.

This post will give you an outline of how heat presses work, however, always check the specifics for your model as there may be differences.

The Process

Cut and weed your heat transfer vinyl (HTV) design as you usually would, for advice see this previous post: An Introduction to Heat Transfer Vinyl.

Cutting a heat press design

Once you are ready to apply your design, lay your garment over your lower HTV plate, ensuring that the item is central. For t-shirts and jumpers, I usually place the very top of the neck cuff over the far edge of the press so that the design will sit neatly beneath. You’ll notice that your base layer of your press comprises a metal base plate, a foam pad and a top rubber mat layer. These should all remain on your plate when you use your heat press.

The different layers of the heat press

Turn on your heat press and set the desired pressure, temperature and press time. The optimum temperature and length of each press will depend on the material you are using and the item you are pressing on to. For t-shirts and jumpers I generally use 150 degrees celsius for 15 seconds. To be sure you are using the correct settings check the advice on your heat press and for the vinyl you are using. If you are unsure you can also reference Cricut’s handy Heat Guide which provides a rough idea of temperatures for different items.

Tip: If in doubt I’d suggest using a lower temperature and pressing for several shorter stints rather than applying too much heat and potentially burning your vinyl or garment.

Setting the heat press time and pressure

When your heat press reaches the set temperature it will beep. Place a teflon sheet (I use these) over your vinyl and garment to protect it from the full heat of the overlying plate. Alternatively you could also use an old cotton sheet or pillow case.

Protecting your design with a teflon sheet

Pull down the handle to close the press. The machine will then begin to count down, in this case 15 seconds. Once your 15 seconds is complete, release the handle and carefully remove the teflon sheet.

Applying the heat press presure

Allow your item to cool before peeling away the clear plastic transfer sheet. Once you’ve removed the carrier sheet, replace the telfon protective cover sheet and press your item again for 15 seconds. Allow it to cool and you have your finished piece. If you are working with multiple layers simply follow these steps for each additional layer.

Finished jumper design

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