The Process Behind How Heat Transfer Paper Works

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Heat transfer paper is a relatively new addition to the world of clothing design, but thanks to its low start-up costs, it has become an extremely popular design method, particularly with amateur or at-home clothing designers. Even if you’ve used heat transfer paper to decorate T-shirts, sweatshirts or pants before, however, you likely don’t know how the ink actually gets transferred from the paper to your fabric of choice. In reality, the process behind heat transfer design is simpler than you might think.

First, your design is printed onto the heat transfer paper using an inkjet or laser printer. Once this is done, you use a vinyl cutter to trim away any white space from the edges of your design. When the design is ready, the next step is to choose the right fabric to receive the design. The good news is that most types of heat transfer paper will work with either cotton or polyester fabrics. This is in contrast to another popular choice for garment design, sublimation paper, which works only with polyester fabrics.

Before the actual heat transfer can begin, you’ll need to warm up your heating press (in some cases, a regular home iron can be used with heat transfer paper, but a proper heating press will give you superior results.) The purpose of the heating press is to apply heat and pressure to the paper, which is designed to transfer ink to a fabric beneath it under these conditions. Once the heating press is warmed up, the transfer paper is placed face-up on top of wherever on the garment you want your design to be located.

It is also necessary to set the correct level of pressure before pressing the design; thicker fabrics will need less pressure and vice versa, but your heating press will usually be set to medium or high pressure. How long you press your design onto the garment can also vary, but the general rule of thumb for inkjet transfer paper is about fourteen to eighteen seconds. Once the heating press is pressed down, heat and pressure will cause the ink to be transferred from the transfer paper to the garment beneath it. When the process is complete, you simply peel away the paper and your design is left behind on the garment.

Overall, heat transfer paper is a simple process, requiring only heat and pressure to get your printed design from the paper to your garment of choice. It’s so simple, in fact, that it can usually be used to design clothing in your home home. You may need to acquire a heat press and the paper itself, but in most cases, the printer you already have at home will be sufficient for heat transfer design.