The Basics of a heat press are relatively simple. But once you start working with your (new) heat press, you will soon find out there are many little details that can make the difference between a result and the best result possible. In this Help Center Article, we will point out all the little details, tips, and tricks that over 30 years of experience have thought us. Even the more experienced heat press operator may find there is some useful information to be found so read on and improve your transfer applications. In this article we assume you already have some experience with your heat press, but every now and then you run into some issues where you have a nagging feeling that the result could have been better. This is the article for you.
An important aspect of using a heat press that is very often neglected. Here are some important safety measures every heat press operator should have taken care of:
1. Power supply
A heat press has quite a large power intake which can cause problems with your circuit breakers if other electrical equipment is connected to the same circuit. Ideally, use a dedicated circuit for your heat press(es). Make sure the combined number of watts of the equipment you use on the same circuit is not more than the total capacity of the circuit. The maximum power consumption must be indicated on your heat press.
2. Extension cables
Preferably don’t use extension cables and plug in the heat press directly into wall socket. Using extension cables can lead to overheating wires or plugs and can even make your heat press does not work properly due to a too high resistance in the power intake. If you have no other choice but to use them, make sure to use cables that are certified for the power consumption of your heat press to ensure there is no overheating of the extension cable. The certification of the extension cable must be stated on the cable. If it’s not, don’t use it. Never use an extension cable on a reel as a partly wound extension cable can heat up enough to become a fire hazard.
3. Grounded outlet
Make sure to always use a grounded outlet, and if you have to use an extension cable (see above), make sure it is a grounded extension cable as well as a certified one. This ensures that if a shortcut should occur, the risk of getting an electric shock is considerably smaller.
Take good care of the power cable and make sure it is never able to make contact with the heat platen when the press is operated to prevent melting of the insolation and creating a shortcut.
Scorch marks on garments
This happens a lot especially with polyester garments; After applying the transfer, a square from the heat platen remains visible around the design on the garment, a scorch mark. This can be prevented by the following:
1. When using Heat transfer Vinyl (HTV) use one that can be applied at lower temperatures. For instance MagiCut 123Premium can be applied at 130°C. This makes a big difference compared to the 160°C of some other HTV’s out there.
2. Cover the transfer on the garment with a thin cotton cloth, e.g. an old T-shirt, cut open. The soft cloth instead of the Teflon coated surface of the heat platen is far less prone to scorch and smooth out the surface of the garment. Note that you have to press 2 to 3 seconds longer because the cloth is on top of the transfer and garment.
3. Don’t use more pressure than required. HTV does not need all the pressure some heat presses are capable of generating. Off course it does need some pressure, so be careful not to use too little pressure, but more is not always better. It does pay off to do a little test to find out if you can go lower in pressure and still retain the washability you want.
Prints next to Buttons and zippers
Prints next to zippers of buttons (e.g., on a Polo T-shirt) can be difficult. You don’t want the buttons or zipper in the heat press ass the metal ones can scratch and damage your heat platen and the plastic ones can melt. If your heat press has the option of an interchangeable lower platen, changing to a small lower platen helps you out to isolate the printing area and leave the buttons outside the press. But what if you do not have an interchangeable lower platen on your heat press? Well, you can use a TheMagicTouch application Support Kit. [LINK] The special rubber can be cut to size and used to put underneath the part you want to print on. The buttons or zipper next to it can be covered with the heat resistant cardboard that is included in the kit to protect both the buttons from the heat and the heat platen from scratches.
Preventing a Pressure shadow
When an area quite next to a collar or seam must be transferred onto, it may happen that the thicker collar takes all the pressure and the flatter area next to it, where your transfer has to go, gets hardly any pressure at all. This is often referred to as a pressure shadow. It can be solved the same way as mentioned above with buttons and zippers. With either an interchangeable lower platen, or an Application Support Kit from TheMagicTouch.
Teflon sheets are often used to protect the garment during the transfer process. However, did you know that in many cases this works counterproductive? So, when do you want to use Teflon and when not?
When you do want to use Teflon:
When using sublimation, it is important to stop the color pigments from entering the rubber mat on the lower platen and the heat platen by creating a Teflon barrier. Here Teflon is vital as release paper is too porous and the sublimation vapors can go through. So, with sublimation you have to use Teflon.
When you should not use Teflon:
Basically, in all other applications (HTV, TheMagicTouch transfer paper, DTF), Teflon is not the best choice to protect the garment for two reasons: Firstly, it has a very shiny and smooth surface which can contribute to scorch marks. Secondly, with the relatively lower temperatures and shorter pressing times of other applications when compared to sublimation, the Teflon acts as a heat shield and can make the bonding or transferring less ideal. In all applications other than sublimation, it is better to use release paper [LINK?] instead of Teflon.
Plain paper underneath the product
Some products that are very suitable for personalization with TheMagicTouch transfer paper like sheet metal or wood, can have relatively sharp edges. When pressure is applied this can cause damage to your rubber mat on the lower heat press platen. Especially if you need to print more than one piece. A simple piece of paper can prevent damage.
It also is useful when printing on products with an overprint. For instance, printing on Flipflops with TTC. Instead of making the transfer a hard to align exact fit, you can make the print slightly bigger and simply let the transfer overlap the product. With a sheet of plain paper underneath, you prevent the overlap from sticking and contaminating the lower platen.
Heat resistant tape
With many applications, it can be very annoying if the transfer moves a little bit when closing or opening the heat press. This goes especially for sublimation where the transfer does not stick to the product at all by itself and is very easily moved. This can cause frustrating, unwanted blurry effects and/or shadows. You can use heat resistant tape to overcome this. Just make sure you do not stick the tape on a spot where there is image on the reverse side of the transfer, as the shape of the tape might be visible in the transferred image on your product afterwards.
To keep your Heat press in the best condition, it is important to grease the moving parts at least every 6 months or more often if the press is used intensively. Always use special heat resistant grease. If you use normal grease, the heat will dry it out very quickly and it will become counterproductive as the dried grease works as a grinding paste and worsens the wear on your heat press instead of reducing it. We have special heat resistant grease in an applicator here: [LINK]CLICK) This necessity applies more for swing away heat presses then to Clam shell.
Always keep your press clean. Dust builds up can also induce more severe wear to the moving parts if it mixes with grease. Also, you want to keep your heat platen and lower platen clean as a clean press means a clean product. Don’t use any abrasive cleaning agents on the heat platen as this may affect the Teflon coating. Certainly, don’t use any sharp tools to scrape off anything after a pressing mistake. If you put on a heat resistant glove and us a thick rolled up cleaning cloth, most mishaps and dirt can be removed without any cleaning agent at all when the heat press is on. Just make sure to properly protect your hands with a good heat resistant glove obviously.
If the rubber mat on the lower platen is damaged or worn out after prolonged use of your heat press, you can replace it. For most heat presses these matts are available as a spare part. Use heat resistant adhesive to glue the mat in place.
Heat protective gloves
We already mentioned these for cleaning the heat press. They can also be very useful during the usage of the heat press. Especially with a clam shell heat press, where you always work with your hands just underneath the heat platen, a pair of gloves can prevent scorching’s to your hands.
With these tips, a lot of frustration and failed prints can be avoided. Don’t forget to check out our other articles in the help center and if you think we have left out a good tip, don’t hesitate to contact us we love to hear from you.