Creating heat transfers using the screen-printing press: A complete guide

Angie Renner
Published by 
Angie Renner
Last updated: 
February 3, 2024

Mhmm…Sounds impossible?

It might sound so, but it’s pretty easier than you thought…

Making your heat transfers with a screen printing press is a simple approach to quickly apply your artworks to as many different garments as possible. It will present you with a print appearance that you’re familiar with- but with cost savings and increased flexibility.

And if you don’t have a clue how to do this, don’t worry. You’re in the right spot. In the next few moments, we’ll be discussing with you everything you need to know to get started.

Let’s go:

Step-by-Step Guide on Making Heat Transfers Using Screen Printing Press:

Which Materials Do You Need?

If you have the screen printing materials at hand, you’re halfway done. You’ll need the additional materials mentioned below to prepare yourself for this process:

  • Heat transfer paper/film
  • Plastisol powder adhesive: this particular material enables your design to stick better to the canvas you select. If you’re working on multi-color designs, consider adding the powder to the topmost layer for final curing if you don’t plan to use the adhesive per every ink layer.
  • Plastisol ink: this is simply a PVC suspension in a plasticizer which causes the mixture to liquefy when heated. The ink is not water soluble.

The most straightforward technique for making a heat transfer design involves using a screen print frame, plastisol powder adhesive, plastisol ink, and a dryer. Like the conventional screen printing, your design will be transferred onto an emulsion-treated frame with the aid of UV light.

From there, it’s then transferred to the heat transfer film using the plastisol ink (and a squeegee).

The main variation between producing a heat transfer film and the traditional screen printing is that the picture is screen imprinted in mirror mode. Otherwise, the final design will be a reflected image of the original when you're done with the process.

To apply the heat transfer to your garment, you follow the three simple steps outlined below:

1. Lay the t-shirt (or any other clothing) to be screen printed on your heat press.

2. Put the design you intend to transfer with the ink-side down on the t-shirt and press down the machine.

3. Hold up for around 6-15 seconds and then open your press; peel the release paperback (if utilizing a hot-split or hot-peel).

The entire procedure takes just a few seconds and the final product looks and feels just like a screen-printed product!

NOTE: The flexibility of the film utilized makes it perfect for imprinting on the baseball caps.

Good news! The screen printed design you put on a release paper can last for up to two years. This allows you to quickly and conveniently store some designs that you might need to use in the future.

On the off chance that you have a screen printing business, this implies easier inventory. That is, storing the release paper is way much easier than ink, frames and other crucial screen printing materials on hand.

Tips For Preparing Your Screen printed Design For Heat Transfer

When making the design to be printed on a heat transfer, make sure you follow these rules:

  1. 1. The artwork must be screen imprinted on the film in the mirror mode; this is not quite the same as conventional direct-to-garment printing.
  2. If working with multiple colors, keep in mind that in most cases, the original layer you apply will be the closer view of your piece.

    Let’s discuss this a bit further…

    When the multiple color design is finally pressed onto the t-shirt, the top layer on the film will become the bottom layer of your design. Note that this does not affect single color designs.

    When tackling a bit complex designs, however, ensure your colors are correctly set up.
  3. Fine details, as well as huge areas of colors, might fail to translate well to your heat transfer.

    Not all the designs work well with heat transfer. When examining a design for heat transfer, therefore, keep in mind that any fine lines or large areas of color might fail to translate well.

    Fine lines tend to break amid the peeling process, and the larger areas might bear varied thicknesses which make the cure and transfer process difficult.
4. Keep off layering (or trapping) all your colors.

Be sure to keep your ink thickness as much even as possible. When you screen print for a heat transfer, ti would be great if your ink will cure evenly. If you do layering/trapping the colors, it would mean different ink thicknesses, and this will make it hard for the design to cure evenly.

5. Take into account paper shrinkage.

Yes, be prepared for possible paper reduction! The heat from your curing is capable of causing the transfer paper you are using to shrink by up to a quarter inch for every run through the dryer.

Luckily, you can avoid this by making allowances for shrinkage when printing our design on the paper. Avoid filling up your paper with your design since the edges might end warped/unusable.

While still on it, choose a paper that’s stable and durable if you don’t want all your efforts to go to the gutter when it comes to printing on the garment.

Final Verdict

If you are looking for a straightforward and fast way of applying your designs to a broad range of garments, you need to consider creating your heat transfers with screen printing.

Besides, this is cost saving procedure that comes with a string of benefits to all those who one garments printing business out there. The image imprinted using this process can last in the release paper for up to 3 years which makes it easy for you to keep all the designs that you want to re-use in future.

All the materials needed are readily available and cheap.

With our expert guide and additional tips above, you can start making your own heat transfers using a screen printing press today!