How to Make Heat Press Transfers on T-Shirts, Mugs & Hats

Picture this. You just started your printing business and a client places an order for printed promotional products that he needs ASAP. No need to tear your hair out in stress.

All you need to know is how to make heat press transfers on different products to get everything done on time.

How to Make Heat Press Transfers - In My Craft Room

The heat transfer method has become increasingly popular with printing businesses and even individual printers who use it as a source of steady income. It’s not only best for small orders, but also ideal for bulk ones and on-site printing.

Just find out what your customer wants in terms of design and you can print it out for them.

In other words, you don’t need to hire a printing company to make heat press transfers if you don’t have the budget for it. You can just do it yourself whether you want to print on t-shirts, mugs, hats, etc.

Here is a simple guide that can help:

How to Make Heat Press Transfers On...

T-Shirts in 4 Easy Steps

Step 1 - Search and Edit the Image

The first thing that you need to do is to look for a picture that you would like to transfer on the garment.

You can do this in three ways – look for it on online (make sure you have full rights to download the image you choose first), create it yourself or just scan it from your computer.

Plus, make sure that images that show dark colors show up better on fabric compared to those that have a lighter hue.

Additionally, also keep in mind that if you are using a home printer, it will not be able to print the color white since it will assume the paper you are using is white as well.

In other words, the color of the fabric will appear on the white part of the image and not the color itself. If the image is very light on color, it may come out looking discolored and distorted once it has been transferred.

In short, go for images that have dense and dark colors.

Once you find a suitable image, use an image editing software to resize it, change its colors, add special effects and make some amendments till it looks right.


The size of the image will depend on the size of the shirts you are printing on.

Step 2 - Mirror the Image

Ever looked at words on paper in a mirror? The letters look flipped, right?

If the transfer image has words and numbers, you need to flip the image or mirror it so that they can be transferred backward.

All you need to do to do that is to use the image software you have to mirror reverse it using the appropriate options.

Step 3 - Get Transfer Paper

As a newbie, you may not be aware of this but you will need different transfer paper or sheets for different colors.

Some work better for dark colors and some work best with lighter colored fabrics.

The paper that is used for darker shirts lays down a white background under the image that is to be printed which prevents the colors from washing out the design.

Those that are made for lighter colors are transparent which allows all parts of the image that are white in color to appear after the image is heat pressed in the garment.

Step 4 - Print the Image

Now you have to print the image you chose and edited on the appropriate transfer paper. Test it first by printing it out on regular paper to ensure that the colors come out as you expect them to.

It will also let you determine if the printer will be able to produce the entire image or cut off some parts.

Use a heat transfer printer such as the PowerPress HPM to transfer the image on the shirt using transfer paper.

You will need to make pressure, time and temperature adjustments and then press down when the appropriate heat level is reached.

Make sure that you print on the marked side of the transfer paper.

Mugs and Cups - You Guessed It, 4 Simple Steps

Step 1 - Choose the Image and Clean the Mug

The image selection for this is similar to the one that is employed on images that have to be printed on shirts. You can also create a graphic and then have it printed out.

Just like in the image you use for shirts, make sure that the image is mirrored before getting it printed out.

To get the best results, make sure that the mug is free of dust and debris. The dye may not be able to penetrate properly and you may end up with some blank spots in the design.

Step 2 - Tape, Trim and Wrap

Before the image can be printed on the cup you choose, make sure that you trim it first so that it can fit on the print zone.

A good rule of thumb is to leave 1/8th to 3/16th inches from the border and about 1/4th or 3/8th of an inch from the top.

Also, make sure that the transfer paper is wrinkle-free so that the dye or ink you use doesn’t leave nasty streaks on the cup.

To make the paper seal itself to the cup, you can make it wet so it adheres to the surface better. This will ensure a better image transfer with no distorted edges.

Once that is done, use heat resistant tape to secure it to the surface and wrap it in a Teflon coat.

You may use wraps to seal the cup but this option is not recommended for commercial orders. That’s because the wrapping can take 20 minutes in the heat press.

Step 3 - Apply Heat and Pressure

Set the temperature of the heat press to about 300°F and press for about 5 minutes using heavy pressure but this may vary depending on the design and quality of the cup.

You will need a special mug heat transfer machine to do this such as the Yescom Automatic Mug Heat Press.

Step 3 - Peel and Cool

Once the heat press has done its job, place the cup in water immediately and peel off the transfer paper.

The cup will be quite hot during this time but you cannot air cool it. The ink will continue to sublimate otherwise which can lead to blurry edges.

Once the cup has cooled down in the water, let it air dry.

How to Make Heat Press Transfers on Hats - Pay Attention! 5 Steps This Time...

Step 1 - Gather the Necessary Equipment

Hats can be a bit tricky to print on but not impossible. To print on a hit using the heat transfer method you will need Teflon, rubber bands, oven mitts, heat transfer vinyl, and a cotton hat.

Cotton is the best material since it has a tight weave that prevents the ink from being absorbed.

Step 2 - Choose and Prepare a Design

You can choose different designs for each part of the hat. For example, you can have words on the front and logos at the sides or on the bill.

Just make sure that designs are sized correctly on the heat transfer vinyl or HTV. This is a special vinyl that can be used on certain materials.

Step 3 - Prepare the Heat Press

To print on a cap or hat, you can either use a multipurpose heat press or one that is designed specifically for hats such as Happybuy Cap Press.

You need a thicker machine so that the seams can be covered and remember to use special heat tape to keep everything in its proper place.

Step 4 - Place the Design

Cut out the designs you want to transfer and place it on the part of the hat you want to print on while using a seam to center it.

Secure the design with heat resistant tape to stick it in place and then use the oven mitt or any thick fabric to press down so that you don’t burn yourself.

Since the machine can’t be closed, you have to press down on the design on the hot hard plate to make the design adhere to the fabric.

Step 5 - Start the Transfer

Once you have completed the above mentioned steps, you need to start the transfer. All you need to do is hold the hat on the upper plate of the heat press machine for 5 or 7 minutes.

If the size of the design is big, repeat the procedure on each side so that it comes out well.

Start from the middle of the design so that the image can be centered and doesn’t shift while you work.

Once that’s done, allow the hat to cool down for a couple of minutes.

Whatever you do, don’t rush to peel off the flocked vinyl. You may rip the design apart otherwise since it will still be malleable and not set properly.

Once the design has cooled down, peel the sheet slowly. If a part did not stick right to the hat, re-apply the sheet and use the heat press again on that part.

If you peel slowly, you can stick the sheet back on way more easily.

Wrapping It Up...

You can print one thing at a time but if you want to open a printing business, you should consider printing on all three i.e. shirts, hats and mugs. You can get more customers that way and especially those who need promotional products in bulk.

Start off small by doing shirts first and then expand your business by adding a mug and hat printing press to your equipment.

Plus, hire and train a team to do everything for you and you will have time to expand your business. Since the heat transfer method is not that difficult to master, this shouldn’t take as much time.

Manage your business right and pretty soon you will have a thriving printing business by just using the heat transfer method!