how to use heat press with vinyl

How to Use a Heat Press with Vinyl

Table of Contents

You can do so many things with it, and chances are you have some sitting in a drawer from long ago that you forgot about. But now you’re here, so let’s talk heat press vinyl.

What Is A Heat Transfer Vinyl?

Heat transfer vinyl, or HTV for short is a vinyl polymer material with which we can create designs and use heat from a heat press machine or even an iron to transfer or fix the design on a variety of materials. 

heat transfer vinyl

What Surfaces or Materials Can You Use HTV On

You can use HTV on polyester or cotton, or a mix of both, but not on certain synthetic fabrics like acrylic as it will melt on the material. You can also use HTV on a variety of other materials, like canvas, leather, mugs, linoleum, ceramic.

Here are some ways you can use HTV: 

Creating Signs 

Signs are made using several different materials, including wood, metal, and plastic. They are often used outside, so they must be durable enough to withstand the elements. 

Heat transfer vinyl is excellent at resisting fading and peeling because it is coated with a first layer of protective laminate and covered in layers of pigment that make the colors more vivid and resistant to scratches. 

creating signs with htv

The adhesive side backing of HTV allows you to easily attach your sign to any material that you want while making sure that it stays put in any weather condition. 

With its combination of durability, ease-of-use, and flexibility in design options, heat transfer vinyl is the perfect material for signs. 

Applying Vinyl Decals 

You can use heat transfer vinyl on many different surfaces. It is excellent for applying htv decals to almost any part of your vehicle or motorcycle that has a smooth surface, including your windows, doors, and body panels. You can also apply decals to helmets. 

applying decals with htv

Button making

You can create small and large buttons using heat transfer vinyl. You place the design over a button maker and iron it on. If you are making a lot of buttons, you can even use an automatic button machine that applies the material automatically. 

making buttons using htv


Heat transfer vinyl can be used to make patterns for embroidery. This can be done by cutting the designs out of paper, or you can use a particular embroidery computer program to create a compatible design with your machine. 

Fabric Transfer

Heat transfer vinyl can also transfer to fabrics. This is ideal for printing onto t-shirts because it doesn't require special screens, and it doesn't fade after washing as screen-printed shirts do. 

transferring htv to fabric

Poster Making

Heat transfer vinyl is also perfect for creating posters because it does not require special screens. This makes it easy to create large posters inexpensively.


Heat transfer vinyl works well for banners because it is easy to apply, and you do not need any specialized equipment like screens for using the heat transfer vinyl before printing onto it.

What Is A Heat Press Machine?

A heat press machine, also known as a press or a hot stamping machine, is a commercial-grade printing press that applies heat and even pressure to transfer images or text onto clothing. 

how to use a heat press on htv

T-shirts are one of the most common items to be heat pressed, but the machines can also print on hats, bags, and other textiles. 

The layer of ink is first laid down on special paper fed into the machine by the user. The heat press then evenly transfers the entire design onto a T-shirt or other item by pressing down with extreme force.

htv on cotton fabrics

How To Use A Heat Press?

  1. Preheat your machine to the recommended temperature 
  2. Cut your patch or heat transfer vinyl with a vinyl cutter.
  3. Place the patch on your shirt, making sure of even placement. 
  4. Set the timer and apply firm pressure to ensure maximum contact between the shirt and heat transfer vinyl.
  5. Once the timer has gone off, remove pressure from the top of the garment, but keep the garment in place. 
  6. Now you can gradually release pressure from underneath the equipment by loosening the clamps one at a time (starting with the side closest to you.) 

With experience, you will see that it is easy to have a very consistent application of pressure if you work with a system like this. 

If you have got a problem area on your garment top, chances are you are not getting complete contact with that area.

In this case, do not be afraid to re-tighten clamps or add more weight for extra pressing power. Most machines come with three adjustable levels of torso pressures so take advantage of them.

How to use a heat press with HTV?

We will review a straightforward way to use this equipment with heat transfer vinyl. You can use it for any clothing, whether t-shirts, hats, or any other type of garment. More advanced htv users use it on ceramic, leather, wood, and more!

This beginner’s guide is for those new to operating this equipment with heat transfer vinyl and having some trouble getting the hang of it.

TIP: Use a heat gun on garments with poor transfer properties. Heat guns transfer heat to materials that do not usually allow it to pass through them quickly. The material can still get hot enough to move the heat transfer vinyl design but will take longer than usual.

  • Lay your surface flat in front of the machine.
  • Cut out any excess vinyl. Vinyl cutting can be made using a vinyl cutter. 
  • Peel away the backing from the heat transfer vinyl (if it has a backing)
  • Apply heat transfer vinyl  on top of your surface
  • Press down firmly on the heat transfer vinyl with evenor medium  pressure until it adheres
  • Remove the heat transfer vinyl and inspect for air bubbles. If there are any bubbles, repeat step 5 
  • Once there are no more bubbles, cut off the excess material around the edges of the vinyl
  • Peel away remaining backing if applicable
  • Discard excess vinyl scraps

Why Use A Heat Press For Making T-shirts?

When it comes to making t-shirts, this machine is the most popular method. It's easy to use and inexpensive, probably the easiest way to get started with custom apparel. 

T-shirt  machines utilize a heating element that heats up when activated by an electric switch. 

using a heat press for making shirts

The press itself is a metal stamping tool that includes an upper platen and a die (a metal frame that holds the design.) 

These machines  are used for imprinting designs onto fabrics such as cotton, hemp, rayon, flax, polyester, and blends like 50/50 cotton/polyester.

5 reasons tochoose a high quality heat press for your t-shirt business: 

1. It is durable

This  technology has been around for more than 25 years. Regular maintenance will extend the machine’s usability.

2. It is affordable

These machines  are cheap enough to purchase for individuals and businesses who want to create their own T-Shirts and promotional merchandise.

3. High-quality results

They also provide high-quality results because they can print on both sides of the fabric at once, a useful feature when printing on garments with large logos or images.

4. Heat Presses Are Convenient To Use

These machine allow users to make higher quality shirts quickly with very few steps involved. By simply placing the shirt on the press, applying an image to it, and turning on the machine, there is no longer any need to hand iron any shirts. 

5. Better than screen printing machine

Screen printing machines are not always apt for every application because they can damage some fabrics or plastics with heat and pressure. 

Heat Press Correct Settings for Standard Heat Transfer Vinyl

use the right heat press setting to use htv

Setting time

Setting the time is pretty straightforward. Most machines will have a digital time display you can adjust by pressing up or down arrow keys or buttons. 

If yours has more of a traditional dial, you will need to set the time by turning the dial to what you want to see on the screen.

Modern machines now come with an automatic shut-off function so that the machine will turn off after a certain amount of time. 

You can identify the timer's part by looking for the numbers next to the minutes and seconds. The timer always appears on the right side between two arrows that point up and down.

Heat Setting Temperature

The two most common methods for setting the temperature-time pressure are Celsius or Fahrenheit. If you want to put it in Fahrenheit, turn the dial clockwise until the arrow next to the letter "F" is directly under the one-minute mark on the clock.

If you want to set it in Celsius, turn the dial clockwise until the arrow next to the number "3" is directly under the one-minute marker on the clock.

Heat Press Time And Temperature Guide

The quality and clarity of the transfer paper depends on time, pressure, and temperature. For the graphics to be transferred successfully, the values of these factors ( i.e. correct temperature) must be set to the value required by the fabric used.

Light-colored fabrics are better for low temperatures, and darker ones are better for high temperatures.

Polyester or Sublimated Fabric

Heat transfer fabric is a type of fabric that requires very little heat to be smooth or flat. The material is a polyester and cotton blend that is easy to cut, sew, and press. 

When it comes time to press the vinyl designs onto your garment, typically a dress shirt, a few factors need to be taken into consideration before applying the heat. 

First, it is essential to use the correct amount pressure for your fabric. The right temperature for the material is 270°F, and 10 seconds should be enough time. You can then peel off the transfer paper after about 10 minutes or once cool..

Heat Vinyl

Heat transfer vinyl is the most accessible, cheapest item to start with when looking for a heat press. Set a heat press machine from 130(266) to 140(284).  Press it only for 8-12 seconds at medium pressure and cool peel after about 10 minutes.

Materials To Use For A Heat Press

The materials you need to use a heat press are minimal. The most significant investment is going to be the  machine. 

However, if you already have one or can borrow one, all you need are some shirts and ink, which will set you back a few bucks. 

using a heat press machine

Other than that, here is a list of everything else you'll need: 

  • Heat press 
  • Heating source (electricity) 
  • Press cloth (optional) 
  • Shirt(s) (preferably test sample shirts in the same material as your store-bought shirts)
  • Ink 
  • Rag or paper towels 
  • Ironing board
  • Teflon sheet to keep vinyl from sticking to the heat press.

Learn about different stocks of vinyl for your heat press Takeaway

Vinyl is one of the most popular materials for heat transfer printing. It is durable, flexible, and has a wide range of color options. 

Taking care of your vinyl will help ensure that it lasts as long as possible and looks its best when you use it. Here are some tips for storing and caring for vinyl after you buy it:

Store it in its original packaging

Most vinyl rolls come packaged in a cardboard sleeve or box. When possible, keep your vinyl in the packaging that it came in. 

By keeping it stored in its original packaging, you will be protecting the print from damage. This is especially important if you plan on using your vinyl to print shirts that will need to withstand being washed multiple times.

If this is not possible, store your roll in a separate container or bag to prevent direct contact with other cardboard rolls or other surface.

Wrapping your vinyl properly will prevent creases during storage and ensure that the print looks as good as possible when you use it again. 


Cold Peel And Hot Peel Transfer

Remember that there are hot peel and cold peel vinyls and you should make sure of which of this is applicable to the one you are using. In the case of hot peel vinyls, the carrier sheet is removed while hot.

In cold peel vinyls, you have to wait till the vinyl cools down before peeling off the carrier sheet. In the case of Teckwrap craft, it is a cold peel vinyl.

heat transfer vinyls

Pre-Press Before You Heat Press

Before you heat press, you will have to run through your design with a pre-press machine. These machines come in many different sizes and shapes. However, each works the same way. 

T-shirts are placed between two rollers that have squeegee-type devices attached to them. These rollers apply pressure to your shirt by moving back and forth while applying ink to the material. 

The next step is to heat press the shirts. This process involves placing your shirt on the machine, which presses the design onto your shirt. 

For those of you who are new to this process, it can be pretty overwhelming and even a little confusing at first. But if you follow these steps strictly, you will be able to create beautiful work in no time at all.

Importance of this procedure

  1. This will help you avoid those pesky bubbles and remove any moisture for better adhesion
  2. It will make your job easier and your final project perfect
  3. Removing wrinkles, smoothing fabric
  4. Eliminates the need to press
  5. Save time, money, and effort 

How Long?

A good rule of thumb is  3 to 5 seconds, but some people in some places might need to press for 15+ seconds.

The time you need depends on the humidity levels in your area. If you are in a humid area, you will want to press the fabric for longer. 

The higher the humidity, the longer you should press your garment. It is essential to take care of this step before any dyeing or printing process because it eliminates wrinkles and other imperfections.

Pressing your garment can take a lot of steam – up to 20 seconds, but you must make sure the process is done correctly, or else you risk scorching or ruining your garment. 

If you do not see any more steam rising from your garments, it is time to let go and hang them to dry.

How do I know when it's done?

The fabric will feel stiffer, and you wll be able to see pressing marks on the vinyl. But if you're still not sure, peel off a piece and check the bottom. If there is residue, keep pressing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you heat press directly on vinyl?

Vinyl's heat transfers have a padded surface that withstand heat from a heat press or EasyPress iron. The pad is made up of clear vinyl, adhesive vinyl, and flux, making it compatible with most paper types.

Which items can be heat-pressed?

Heat-pressed items can include anything from apparel to phone cases to tote bags. 

Heat presses are fused with heat and pressure for various projects, including business cards, stickers, mugs, buttons, vinyl lettering, tote bags, and much more.

What type of vinyl does the heat press work with?

The heat pressing machine can work with the entire vinyl of all types, including reflective, self-adhesive, and even clear vinyl.

How do I clean my heat press?

You can clean your machine by using a cloth, dishwashing liquid, and warm water. Clean the whole machine with soap, rinse it off, squeegee out the cold water, and allow it to dry before you use it again.

Why is my vinyl sticking to my heat press?

If your vinyl is sticking to your heat-press, it is likely because the surface of the vinyl is too smooth. This can be fixed by using a Teflon sheet on top of the design.

What temperature do you press vinyl?

To get the best quality vinyl output, you will need a higher temperature than polyester.  Set a heat press machine from 130(266) to 140(284).

How are HTV designs cut for different projects?

A cutting machine is used to cut final design images (sgv, jpg, or png formats) to be used in the final product.

Popular vinyl cutters include Cricut or Silhouette Cameo with specific cut settings to aide user to cut their designs the correct way.  Silhouette Cameo uses the Silhouette Studio design software to help the user apply the correct cut settings and check if the project is aligned correctly.  The basic design software is free but can be upgraded at an extra cost.

A vinyl cutter or cutting machine is a good investment should you wish to bring your HTV projects to the next level The cut settings are more precise than merely using a pair of scissors, result in seamless cut file outputs. 

Related post: Iron on Vinyl: Which Side Faces Down


A heat press is not a complicated machine to use, but it can be confusing at first. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with the machine before using it to know how to operate the presses properly. Each machine comes with a beginner’s guide or booklet on how to get started.

This article will help you get accustomed to your new heat-press and give you all the information you need to get started without any problems. 

Take a look at these steps, and discover an easier way to make vinyl decals for personal or commercial use.

Video Tutorial Using TeckwrapCraft HTV


Feb 20, 2023

Hello, I’m new to cricut , n want to buy a vector heat press to make t-shirts n mugs with vinyl heat transfer. When using a press like the swing out ones, do I need to use any special paper or Teflon ? That’s where I’m abit confused.. please help, ty

Feb 18, 2022
Lisa Settles

I’m new at the cricut machine. I got a heat press with it. Your article on heat presses is the best. I haven’t been able to go anywhere else to learn how to use a product.

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