How Does Heat Press Machine Work?

Heat press machines are great and they do an incredible job when it comes to customizing clothes by printing fanciful designs and writings. If you want to have graffiti, numbers, pictures, drawings, diagrams, and other content printed on clothes, this is the ideal machine to go for.

Even if you don’t know what the machine is, you have seen or wear clothes that are printed with the aforementioned items. T-shirts, hoods, jeans, and sports jerseys are some of the best examples of clothes that are printed with heat press machines.

How Does Heat Press Machine Work

What you need to know about heat press machines?

A heat press machine applies heat transfers to clothes and other stuff using heat, pressure, and time. These three factors are paramount. Primarily, these machines are used for printing T-shirts because they are the most common garments that often require customized printing.

Apart from printing clothes, heat press machines also print glass, wood, and metal. These machines have two plates that are known as platens. The top platen gets heated up, hence its name, heat platen. When the machine is heated up, the heat platen heats up to the set temperature.

Time: Heat press machine operation time

The manufacturer of these machines integrates them with LCD displays that you use to set the temperature and time. There are expensive machines that provide you with the option to set the pressure digitally. T-shirts have a time range of between 0-16 minutes. However, most of them require just 10-20 seconds to be successfully printed.

Temperature: Which Temp. required for your cloth

Most printing machines have a temperature range that ranges between 0-500 degrees F. This is a high and flexible range that accommodates the temperatures that different heat transfers require. There is no transfer that can withstand any temperature that is above 500 degrees F because they would melt or burn.

Also read: How to Shrink Polyester & The Best Way And Heat Press Temperature Chart & The Ultimate Guide

Pressure: What pressure your cloth need

Pressure is set by turning a knob on most machines. You find this knob either on the control box’s knob, or at the back. However, the ones that are set digitally do not have it. It is the hardness, or the lightness that determines the pressure that is applied.

The set-up of heat press machine

Continue by opening the heat press by lifting the front handle of the machine. With a clamshell machine, the upper platen moves upwards, while a swing-away machine, the upper platen swings out to the side.

Place the T-shirt accordingly and the side that is to be printed on should face upwards. Close the lid for some seconds for the material to warm up. This helps to remove the creases and moisture that gives the garment a better press.

Open the lid and lay the vinyl design facing down on the garment. Then close down the handle and ensure that it is securely locked into place.

How does the heat press machine work?

The machine uses pressure and heat to transfer a graphic or a design to another surface, especially in the fashion, clothing and textile industries.

As aforementioned earlier, the heat press machines integrate an Aluminium heating platen that presses against a special transfer paper that has special inks. The ink design on the transfer paper is printed on the garment or other items.

The heat platen is heated up to the required temperature before pressing it against the transfer paper that has the special ink design, picture, writings, etc., for some seconds (mostly 0-15 seconds). Consequently, the pressed ink is embedded (printed) in the layers of the garment, hence forming the design in the clothes.

You may like read another post: How To Make A Shirt Look Vintage And How to Remove Screen Printing From a Shirt

What determines the pressure that you should apply?  

The pressure that is applied on the garment depends on the thickness of the material, not to mention the HTV type that you are using. On cheaper machines, you turn the pressure knob clockwise to increase the temperature.

Professional machines which are also expensive, have a handy pressure gauge that has a 1-9 range. The pressure is divided from 1-3 (light), 4-6 (medium), and 7-9 (heavy). It is tricky to set pressure correctly. You would rather do a test-run to analyse the pressure.  


This is a stepwise explanation of how a heat press machine works. It is challenging to newbies, but enjoyable when you get used to it. Printing clothes, mugs, caps and other stuff is possible with a heat press machine. 

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