Irons for heat transfers are a great way to start making t-shirts.
If you’re like me, the first heat transfer you applied was a pre-made iron-on transfer. Personally, I was given a single heat transfer as a Christmas present, and that was the first I knew of them.
I remember how exciting it was pressing that first heat transfer – so much fun! And many, many years later, here I am writing ‘everything you need to know’ about using irons for heat transfers’ – I can’t even remember who to thank for getting me started with that first transfer!
Iron on transfers are a great way to start designing and making your own t-shirts.
How To Apply Heat Transfer Vinyl With An Iron
This is an inkjet iron on transfer
Before I get into how to apply iron on, let me share with you the different types of iron on heat transfers, and tell you a little bit about them.
Iron On Vinyl (HTV)
Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is perhaps the most popular type of iron-on transfer. It can easily be pressed onto a t-shirt with an ordinary household iron, though a heat press machine is better if you are thinking of doing it more often.
Inkjet transfers are another type of t-shirt transfer you can make with your home printer and iron. This way you can print out your favorite photos, images and designs onto transfer paper, and then apply them to your t-shirts, tote bags, or whatever else!
Avery InkJet Iron-On transfer paper is one of the most popular transfer papers. It’s available for use on dark garments or light garments.
Rhinestone transfers are also able to be pressed with an iron – at least some of them can! These are awesome little suckers which will make your t-shirts glimmer and sparkle, and are especially cool for little girls’ clothing.
You can make your own Rhinestone transfers at home using the Brother Scan N Cut – features of this machine make it a good cutting machine for making Rhinestone transfers.
An iron is very small when compared to a heat press. It’s not going to take up much space. You can actually store it away somewhere when not in use! A heat press is difficult to store and and can be a bit unsightly.
You probably already have an iron in your home. You may not need to buy one especially for heat transfers.
Irons tend to heat up a lot quicker than a heat press. Setting up an iron does not take so long.
Irons are probably easier to use. There isn’t as much to learn (you already know how to use an iron), and there isn’t a lot to it. It’s a simple and easy process.
Irons are a lot cheaper than heat press machines.
Cons Of Using An Iron For Heat Transfer
The quality of an iron-on heat transfer is not equal to one that has been done correctly with a heat press machine. A heat press will cause the transfer to adhere stronger and harder than an iron will. Therefore, you are likely to get a longer lasting, better looking result with a heat press over an iron.
You cannot control the 3 ingredients of a great transfer as accurately with an iron. These are the time, temperature and pressure. A heat press allows you to set these parameters as you need, but using an iron takes a bit more work.
Irons have a small pressing area, which means doing transfers larger than the iron is more difficult. You need to apply pressure for the appropriate amount of time across the whole surface of the transfer, so it can mean doing it in stages.
It is easier to scorch or burn your garment with an iron – if you hold it down a bit too long you can end up with that unfortunate triangular burn mark in your t-shirt.
Irons with a whole bunch of holes in the base aren’t the best for transfers – these can mess with the pressure of the press. Some have large holes, so imagine that when you’re doing the transfer that area is not actually being pressed.
Saying you used an iron to do your transfer is nowhere near as cool as saying you used your heat press (agreed?).
Ultimately, irons were not designed to do heat transfers, but heat press machines were!
So you can see, there are plenty of pros and cons for each option. If you’re just starting out and haven’t even tried an iron-on transfer, give that a go first, and then consider buying a heat press. Another alternative is the Cricut EasyPress 2.
There are quite a few tips and tricks to getting the best iron-on transfer you can. Here are the ones we’ve discovered:
If you are using a steam iron, make sure the steam setting is off!
Set your temperature setting to between cotton and linen and test. If it does not seem to be transferring well, turn it up more towards cotton and test again. Usually cotton is the hottest setting on an iron.
Make sure the surface that you are pressing on is flat and hard. For example, don’t attempt to do it on a padded ironing board, but rather a wooden surface.
A large wooden chopping board is a great surface to press on, and it will protect your table (or other surface) from any damage at the same time.
Iron your garment before you press your transfer to remove any moisture and wrinkles.
Always use a Teflon sheet (or parchment paper) when pressing your transfer to protect both your garment and your iron.
A Teflon sheet will also make it easier to run your iron over the transfer – it is easier to glide across that than the transfer backing.
If you are new to HTV or other transfers, cut a couple of pieces of vinyl (or print a small image) to test on some scrap fabric. Try to familiarize yourself with the process before doing your first real job!
When you press down, apply even pressure upon the iron – this will be easier to do if you are standing above the project and can put some weight down upon it.
Here is an infographic showing how to apply HTV with an iron:
(You are more than welcome to use this infographic on your website, but please provide a dofollow link back to this page!)
What Are The Best Irons For Heat Transfers?
The trick to finding the best iron for heat transfers, is to find the flattest, weightiest iron with the fewest holes on the base.
You won’t be using the steam feature for the transfer processs, so if you’re seeking an iron only for transfers you won’t need to consider an iron with that feature. Irons without the steam feature are called ‘dry irons.’
With that in mind here are a few suggestions on Amazon:
Oster Heavyweight Classic Dry Iron
The Oster Heavyweight Classic Dry Iron is the best one if you are looking for an iron solely for heat transfers. This is a heavy iron (weighing 4 pounds) which is great because it means you don’t need to apply as much pressure yourself. A lightweight iron is no good for heat transfers.
This iron also does not have any holes or grooves in the base which means you’ll be getting the best pressure without missing any spots. And the final feature I’ll mention is that the heat plate has a comparatively large surface area, meaning you’ll cover more ground in less time!
Irons (and heat press machines) get grubby over time, even if you haven’t had an accident melting a heat transfer! They can get starchy from the fabric, or they tend to pick up other bits of grime from general use, and so it’s a good idea to give them a bit of a clean every once and awhile, and there are some great products you can use to do this well.
We recommend using an iron cleaner from your local store, or see these cleaning products for sale on Amazon:
Irons are a great way to start heat pressing transfers onto t-shirts. They can make awesome additions to your own wardrobe, or even fantastic gifts for friends and family. And if you really enjoy the process, you should definitely think about upgrading to a heat press.