Heat Printing


The most prevalent type of heat transfer product in the decorated apparel industry consists of an image imprinted onto a substrate (various types of paper) by means of screen printing, inkjet, or lithography. The heat transfer is then placed on a garment or textile surface and through the application of heat and pressure, the image, itself, is transferred to the textile surface.



Heat-Transfer Press

A heat-transfer press is a device that has top and bottom metal platens, the top of which is electrically healed, and is engineered to hold the platens firmly in place together above and below the fabric for a prescribed number of seconds, the time for which is determined by the type of ink employed and the type of garment being imaged. Rhinestone transfers work a little differently, but the principles of how rhinestone or nailhead graphics are transferred onto a garment are essentially the same as with heat transfers with inked graphics.

Professionally Manufactured heat transfers

By using professionally manufactured heat transfers and transferring images onto a garment using a superior quality heat-transfer press, a decorated apparel creation done with heat printing technology is absolutely indistinguishable from one decorated on a screen printing press. Heat transfers also can be made through sublimation printing, a process involving special inks on specially manufactured paper that can be made by inkjet or laser printers and on specially designed photocopiers.



The resulting heat transfer can then be applied to a textile surface using a heat press. Sublimation printing can also be transferred onto ceramics, glassware, wood, and metal. Cylindrical objects, such as coffee mugs, can be decorated on a specially-engineered cylindrical heat press that wraps around the surface to be decorated and uses a combination of heat and pressure to cause the image to transfer on to a specially coated mug. It’s the coating on the mug that is actually heat printed.

Start-Up Cost

Heat printing is the most affordable technology for start-up apparel decorating entrepreneurs, where an investment of between $1,000 and $3,000 for a commercial-quality heat transfer press, start-up supplies, and accessories, are all that’s needed to get into business as an apparel decorator.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!