DIY Heat Press

Written by aubrey kerr
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DIY Heat Press
Use a regular ironing board to create a DIY heat press. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

A heat press is used to apply heat and pressure to set a heat transfer design onto fabric. Designs on heat transfer sheets create a permanent bond when you use a heat press. If you do a lot of heat transfer printing, like printing lots of T-shirts, you probably want to invest a few hundred dollars in a clamshell heat press. But for occasional T-shirts or small print jobs, you can make your own DIY heat press with common household items.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Fabric
  • Design printed on heat transfer sheet
  • Ironing board
  • Griddle
  • Towel
  • Cardboard, cut larger than design
  • Heavy books
  • Timer (optional)

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  1. 1

    Ensure your griddle's handles are wide enough apart to straddle the width of the ironing board. If they aren't, you'll need to find a larger griddle.

  2. 2

    Fold a towel on the ironing board. This will provide padding under your T-shirt or other fabric and helps ensure solid contact between the fabric and surface of the griddle.

  3. 3

    Place the T-shirt or fabric over the towel. Slide the cardboard under the fabric where the design will be placed. This adds support under the fabric.

  4. 4

    Place your heat transfer design exactly where you want it. Once heat is applied the design will be set permanently so ensure it's properly aligned.

  5. 5

    Flip the griddle upside down and carefully lower it down over the transfer sheet.

  6. 6

    Place two or more heavy books on top of the griddle to apply even pressure. The extra pressure helps set the design.

  7. 7

    Monitor your project to keep track of the amount of time specified by the heat transfer manufacturer. Do not leave the griddle unattended for any reason. Set a timer or count off the seconds needed to set your design.

  8. 8

    Remove the books and griddle to view your newly printed fabric.

Tips and warnings

  • Small items can be pressed in a panini grill or any clamshell-style griller with flat cooking surfaces. You're not going to be able to wad an adult sized T-shirt in between the hot surfaces, but if you're printing a monogram or a small design onto towels or small fabric items, place the fabric and transfer sheet inside and close the press.
  • Never leave your project unattended, and don't leave the griddle plugged in when you're not using it. Be careful not to burn your fingers as you work. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the amount of time needed to set your transfer sheet; leaving it under the press for too long is a fire hazard.

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