How to Heat Press a T Shirt

Heat pressing is a way to add your own artwork to a clothing item or personal accessory. A printed design, image or text is applied to a shirt, tote bag or other fabric item using even, consistent heat and pressure from a heat press. Follow these steps to heat press a T-shirt.

1. Choose the image or design the artwork you want to press onto the T-shirt. Ideas include a personal digital photograph, an abstract artistic design or a slogan.

  • Use graphic design software to create or edit your T-shirt’s artwork as necessary. Horizontally flip the image or artwork using the software to reverse it.

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2. Print the reversed image or artwork onto heat transfer paper. Avery is one company that sells this kind of paper. Heat transfer paper should have a clear or opaque film on one side of it.

  • Transfer paper with a clear film on it is used for white or light gray (ash gray) fabrics. Opaque transfer paper is for fabrics in other colors.
  • Load the heat transfer paper into your printer so the artwork or image prints onto the film side of the paper.

3. Cut out any parts of the transfer paper you do not want to press onto the T-shirt. Because your art’s ink needs the paper’s film to stay on the T-shirt, any unwanted paper you leave will have its film transferred onto the shirt.

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4. Lay the mirrored artwork or image face down over your chosen T-shirt.

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5. Place the artwork and T-shirt in between the plates of a heat press. Apply heat and medium to high pressure from the press to transfer the artwork or image onto the T-shirt.

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6. Finished.

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  • You can also use an iron as a heat source to transfer artwork onto a T-shirt or other fabric item. An iron will not be able to apply the same, consistent level of heat and pressure as a heat press, however.
  • Use professional-quality heat transfer paper to get transfers that are more durable and of better quality, especially if you are heat pressing T-shirts for a living.
  • An inkjet printer is best for printing heat press artwork because a laser printer’s ink on a T-shirt or other washable item may not withstand being laundered.
  • It may be difficult to transfer artwork that is not square or rectangular in shape onto a T-shirt. You can add a colored box around your design in your graphic design program before printing it onto transfer paper and cutting it out for pressing.


  • Do not under any circumstances print a transfer page from a printer different from that it is designed for. Using inkjet transfer paper in a laser printer will permanently damage the heating elements and motors of the printer.
  • Heat transferred artwork will always have some degree of stiffness to it due to the transfer paper’s film. If you try to eliminate stiffness by reducing the amount of film on the pressed object, colors can come out dull and the design could be washed off.

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