Can You Put HTV on Polyester? 10 Tips for Printing HTV on Polyester

Table of Contents

If you’re wondering if you can print heat transfer vinyl on polyester, the answer is yes! But hold on! It’s not as easy as printing heat transfer vinyl (HTV) on cotton. If you have a client requesting activewear with vinyl print then you need to read this post.

Just a heads up, printing heat transfer vinyl on polyester needs extra care, longer press time, and less temperature. Read further to learn tips you should know before printing HTV on polyester. After you’ve read this post and practiced it a couple of times, you can print on any activewear you can.

can you put vinyl on polyester

Screenshot from YouTube: HOW TO IRON-ON POLYESTER! By Makers Gonna Learn

10 Tips You Should Know before Printing HTV on Polyester

Printing HTV on polyester is not the same as printing HTV on cotton. Honestly, you have to be more patient in printing HTV on polyester. It takes practice and testing the compatibility of the fabric and HTV. Here are 10 tips that’ll guide you in this printing project.

  1. Polyester Fabric Comes in Different Types

Polyester is a synthetic fabric known to be durable and inexpensive. What you should know is polyester comes in different types, most of which are heat-sensitive fabrics. Several pure and blended polyester fabrics include:

  • Acrylic
  • Acetate
  • Lyca / spandex / elastane
  • Microfiber
  • Nylon
  • Rayon / viscose
  • Poly blends

With all these different polyester types, can you print HTV on all of them? No. Polyester made of acrylic will melt at high temperatures. Also, nylon requires extra care when printing HTV on it. 

Always check the tag of the shirt or the product description of the shirt, on the type of polyester material used.

  1. Check if the Shirt Is a Heat Sensitive Item

After you’ve checked the type of material used on the shirt, it’s always better to be precautious and check if it’s made of heat-sensitive materials. If it’s heat-sensitive then you may have to think twice before pressing HTV on it.

If a shirt is marked as ‘sensitive to heat or heat-sensitive polyester’, then you should use an HTV that can be pressed at a lower temperature, preferably under 270 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, then it’s good to go for HTV printing.

If the shirt is not heat-sensitive, you can use heat transfer vinyl that can be pressed up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  1. Do Not Pre-wash the Shirt

When pressing HTV on polyester fabric, you want the material smooth and dry. That’s why you don’t need to pre-wash the shirt before heat printing.

However, this is not the case for all shirts. Once again revert back to the tag or product description. Check if the manufacturer has specifically instructed to pre-wash the garment before printing HTV on it, if it says that, then do so.

If otherwise, don’t bother to pre-wash it. Instead pre-pressing the fabric is needed, which will be discussed later on.

  1. Test Print on the Fabric

If it’s your first time printing on polyester, it’s always better to practice at first through test printing. You can either buy an extra polyester shirt or practice on a cut-out price of a garment.

Test print the combination of the polyester material and type of HTV you’re using. Also, during the test print, you’re trying the perfect combination of the time and heat press settings, which will be discussed further later on.

After the test print, try to wash the HTV-printed polyester. You want to check out if the material has discolored or the vinyl starts to peel off.

  1. Choose the Right Heat Transfer Vinyl

Other than checking the type of polyester material of the shirt, you have to choose the right kind of heat transfer vinyl as well. Most heat transfer vinyl comes with its recommended heat and time settings, but this is when you print on cotton.

It’s a different story for polyester shirts. Another piece of advice when choosing the right heat transfer vinyl is to avoid those ‘too good to be true prices’.

Not all, but chances are, cheap HTV wouldn’t last long on polyester. You should look for HTV that lasts long, and usually, those are the expensive heat transfer vinyl.

  1. Use Teflon Sheet When Pressing

When you heat press polyester, the fabric has the possibility to scorch or burn. So the best option is to use a cover sheet to cover the whole HTV decal and fabric when pressing in the heat press machine.

It is recommended to use a thin Teflon sheet as a heat transfer cover sheet, but parchment paper also works. If you saved up the heat transfer vinyl carrier sheet you used before, you can also use this as a cover sheet as well.

Only use a thin cover sheet, as thick cover sheets may affect the temperature when pressing. What’s important is, that it’s big enough to cover the entire garment.

Even though heat transfer vinyl has a carrier sheet over it, you will need a cover sheet to protect the fabric. So always use a cover sheet when printing HTV on polyester to avoid scorch marks.

  1. Always Use a Heat Press Machine, Not an Iron

If you press polyester with HTV, it’s recommended to use a heat press machine rather than a household iron. Why? If you use a regular household iron, you can only use light pressure.

With a heat press machine, you can close the machine with high pressure which can help with pressing the HTV on polyester. So if you plan on printing HTV on polyester fabrics, but don’t have a heat press machine, you may consider investing in one now. 

Heat presses are worth it, plus you can calibrate the temperature and time settings correctly with a heat press machine. Not something you can do with a regular household iron.

can you put vinyl on polyester

Screenshot from YouTube: HOW TO IRON-ON POLYESTER! By Makers Gonna Learn

  1. Pre-Press the Fabric

Just like with cotton shirts, you need to pre-press polyester fabrics too. What’s the purpose of pre-pressing the fabric? It’s to wick away moisture and smoothen the surface when heat pressing HTV into the garment. If you don’t pre-press the HTV decal may not adhere properly to the garment.

Is pre-pressing necessary? Yes pre-pressing any type of garment before printing HTV on it is always necessary. To pre-press or pre-heat, set the temperature settings at 270 degrees Fahrenheit using medium pressure (available for most heat presses) for 10 to 15 seconds.

  1. Correct Temperature, Pressure, and Time

Here comes another integral part, the right temperature, the correct pressure applied, and time settings. If you heat press polyester with HTV, decrease the temperature, apply high pressure and lengthen the pressing time.

Here are the recommended heat press temperature and time: 

  • Heat settings: Not exceeding 270 degrees Fahrenheit (or 132 degrees Celsius)
  • Press time settings: Upto 10 seconds


Can You Put HTV on Polyester

Camouflage HTV from TeckWrap Craft

When other crafters heat press polyester, they start with pressing for 10 seconds. Then they check if the HTV has adhered to the polyester. If it’s not sticking properly, they press it again for another 5 seconds.

You don’t want to press too long as this may lead to scorch marks on the fabric, which leads us to the next section. TeckWrap Craft has a heat press temperature guide, to summarize, here are the types of HTV than can be pressed at lower temperatures: 

  1. Always Follow the Ideal Temperature and Time

When working on HTV on polyester, you have to follow the ideal temperate and time, at all times. That’s what test printing in fabrics is for, not just for polyester, but for cotton shirts as well. If the temperature and time are not enough, the vinyl may not adhere.

On the other hand, if the temperature and time are too much, the fabric may scorch. Or the HTV may not adhere anymore because of too much heat. Overheating the HTV may also cause discoloration of the vinyl.

Is it better to print on cotton or polyester?

Which is the better fabric to print HTV on? Polyester or cotton? Both fabrics have their pros and cons. Which type of fabric you choose for your printing needs also depends on the project you intend to do. This may help you to decide whether to use polyester or cotton:

Pros of Polyester Shirts

  • Absorbs moisture and sweat
  • Best used in performance shirts (activewear, gym clothes)
  • Affordable compared to cotton shirts
  • Lightweight material
  • Wrinkle-resistant
  • Stretchy quality
  • Resistant to shrinking
  • Recommended for sublimation printing
  • Perfect for giveaway shirts or one-time use only shirts

Cons of Polyester Shirts

  • More challenging to print HTV on it
  • May scorch especially with high temperature
  • Holds on to odors
how to put vinyl on polyester

Screenshot from YouTube: HOW TO IRON-ON POLYESTER! By Makers Gonna Learn

Pros of Cotton Shirts

  • Soft, comfortable, breathable and non-clingy
  • Widely available or easy to purchase
  • Doesn’t absorb odors
  • Easier to print HTV on it
  • Has a good bond with the heat transfer vinyl design
  • Doesn’t scorch as much when using the heat press
  • Can withstand high heat

Cons of Cotton Shirts

  • Likely to stretch or sink
  • Not wrinkle-resistant

So whether you use cotton or polyester depends on your personal preference, the budget, or want your client wants if you have a business. For business owners, cheaper outsourcing of materials is always better, especially for mass production.

That’s why you can make money with polyester shirts. For instance, if you have a client who wants a family shirt, most likely they will request cotton t-shirts. If it’s for company giveaways and they’re on a budget, polyester shirts are preferred.

So this always depends on what the client wants, or what you want. Both fabrics have their pros and cons. By the way, since sublimation was mentioned above, we’ll tackle this for a little bit.

Since many crafters ask if you can print on HTV on sublimated shirts. This brings us to the next section.

Can you print HTV on sublimated shirts?

Sublimation is a different printing process, but you’ll be needing a heat press machine for this as well. With sublimation printing, you’ll need an inkjet printer with sublimation ink and sublimation paper. Sublimation paper is a type of transfer paper only used for sublimation ink.

Basically, you print and press. No cutting machine is needed! However, only polyester fabrics are compatible with sublimation printing. You can never sublimate on cotton shirts as they will fade over time.

So if you’re in the business of printing activewear or polyester shirts, HTV printing plus sublimation printing can go a long way. Why do we tackle this topic?

Since we’re talking about polyester shirts (which is the only garment used for sublimation printing), there’s a possibility that you’ll receive requests for printing heat transfer vinyl on sublimated fabric or full sublimated shirts. Oh yes, it does happen!

So the question is, can you print HTV on sublimated shirts? Yes, you may! However, you need to be careful when heat pressing vinyl to sublimated fabrics.

The pattern from the sublimated shirt may leak into the HTV. Some HTVs may be unsuitable to block sublimation migration or dye migration.

How to avoid scorch press marks on polyester?

If you tried working on polyester t-shirts before, you may have encountered scorch or burn marks. That’s why in one of the tips mentioned above, it is recommended to place a thin cover sheet above the shirt and vinyl decal to avoid heat press marks.

The heat press marks appear as a shiny outline on the edges of the vinyl decal design. What does a scorch mark look like? It’s the yellowish to brownish burn mark, much like the burn marks caused by regular household irons.

This is caused by the heat plate melting when it comes in contact with synthetic fibers such as polyester. That’s why a cover sheet like a thin Teflon sheet is needed to avoid scorch marks. Also, when using a heat press, it’s always important to follow the recommended temperature for polyester.

Once again, do not exceed 270 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, it helps to warm peel the HTV decal. What does it mean? Remove the carrier sheet of the HTV while it’s still warm, not hot. If the HTV decal stays for a longer period on the polyester, this may cause burn marks too.

Can you fix scorch marks on polyester?

Yes, you can fix scorch marks on polyester. Take note, only scorch marks can be fixed, not melted portions. Once polyester has melted, it cannot be fixed.

In case you’ve encountered scorch marks while printing HTV on a polyester shirt, fix it right away so you can save the project.

To fix the discoloration on polyester and prevent permanent discoloration on a polyester t-shirt, follow these steps:

  • Immerse the polyester t-shirt in cold water immediately. This step will stop the polyester fabrics from burning.
  • Spread a generous amount of laundry detergent all over the scorch marks. You can also use color-safe bleach.
  • Scrub the scorch mark using a brush or washcloth. During this step, you may notice the burn marks are starting to come off. Continue scrubbing until the scorch marks totally come off.

As for melted parts on the polyester, unfortunately, you can’t do anything to fix it. In short, the whole project is ruined. That’s why one of the tips mentioned earlier is to always test print.

Once you’ve determined the right combination of heat, time and HTV used, take note of it, and follow it for your future polyester printing projects.

Can you heat press spandex and polyester blend?

Yoga leggings and Dri-fit shirts are mostly spandex and polyester blend. In this printing industry, these types of products sell fast as fitness centers start to venture into selling their exclusive gym wear.

So the question is, can you heat press spandex and polyester blend? The answer is yes! However, this too might be quite challenging as compared to printing HTV on 100% polyester.

But just like 100% polyester, the poly-spandex blend is prone to scorching or stretching. That’s why you should use low temperature as you would on 100% polyester. You can start with 250 degrees Fahrenheit and do not exceed 270.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you press HTV on polyester?

To print HTV on polyester, follow the same process as you would when printing on a cotton t-shirt. Unlike cotton, you should use a slightly lower temperature, not exceeding 270 degrees Fahrenheit.

What temperature do you press HTV on polyester?

The recommended heat press temperature for HTV on polyester must not exceed 270 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not use high temperatures on polyester as this may cause burn marks or discoloration.

Can you heat press 100 percent polyester?

Yes, you can heat press on 100% polyester. Lower temperatures and longer press time is recommended when you heat press polyester with HTV. The higher temperature on the heat press machine may cause the fabric to scorch.

What is the best HTV for polyester?

The best HTV for polyester is from TeckWrap Craft’s HTV collection. Thin and stretchable HTV is best recommended for polyester garments. The PU Heat Transfer Vinyl from TeckWrap Craft is best for athletic wear, especially for poly-spandex blends.


how to put vinyl on polyester

TeckWrap Craft’s Neon PU Heat Transfer Vinyl

Final Thoughts

So the next time you print heat transfer vinyl on polyester, you’ll know the dos and don’ts. Just remember: lower temperatures, longer press time, use a cover, and always test print. As long as you follow the tips mentioned above, and you’ve determined the right combination, you’re good to go.

You can now accept printing projects for gym wear, activewear, waterproof jackets, tents, and many more! In the world of arts and crafts, you must be resilient in the printing products you offer. You can start with this! Enjoy printing!

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