The Heat Press Pre-Press: Is It Important?

For those of you new to the scene, let me quickly explain what the heat press pre-press is all about – don’t hold your breath – it is very simple.

Pre-pressing is when you heat press your garment (or other substrate) on its own, before pressing with a transfer.

The heat press pre-press sometimes feels like an unnecessary time waste – but is it?

It does add at least another half minute to each new t-shirt you press. It does take a very real amount of time that you do begin to question after a while. Do you have to pre-press? Is it absolutely necessary?

 

heat press pre-press is it important to do?

 

Do I Have To Pre-Press My T-Shirts Before Heat Pressing?

 

Here are some reasons which we will expand upon below as to why it is almost an absolute must to pre-press your garments before applying a transfer to them:

Pre-pressing:

  1. Removes moisture
  2. Removes wrinkles
  3. Prepares the fabric for a better print
  4. Helps the transfer to settle
  5. Makes for a smoother peel of the transfer backing
  6. Helps the print to adhere properly

 

1. Pre-Pressing Removes Moisture

 

Perhaps the primary reason for pre-pressing your garments is to remove the moisture – in fact, many of the other reasons follow out from this.

Removing moisture from your t-shirts (or other substrates) is so important to do. You can think of it as priming wooden boards for painting, or having a dress rehearsal before a show. Pre-pressing prepares your surface for the transfer.

It doesn’t really matter if you are doing a plastisol, inkjet, sublimation or vinyl transfer. All are greatly benefited and helped by doing a pre-press. It is important.

If it’s t-shirts that you are pressing, they are likely produced overseas (unless they’re from American Apparel or LA Apparel and have traveled for 2-3 months from Bangladesh or the Philippines). Coming from Tropical areas and having been sea-borne, they can have a high moisture content.

This does have a very real effect on how your transfers apply to the surface of your t-shirt. Too much moisture and it’s likely your print or transfer will not last long through the wash or through general wear and tear.

Pre-pressing for at least 5 seconds (longer if you are in an area of higher humidity like SoCal), until the steam ceases (but before you scorch your garment), will ensure a longer life for your product.

It can seem like a pain in the neck, but carry on none-the-less. You will likely regret it if you do not.

 

2. The Heat Press Pre-Press Removes Wrinkles

 

This is somewhat obvious, but sometimes the obvious is good to state.

Pre-pressing your garment will help remove wrinkles. When you are pressing a transfer, it is beyond important that you have a flat and equal surface. It is important for maintaining an even pressure and of course you do not want to have a transfer all munted up because it’s pressed over a wrinkle!

Pre-press to ensure you have a perfect flat surface. You owe it to your transfer.

 

3. Pre-Pressing Prepares The Fabric For A Better Print

 

When you pre-press, your garment is better prepared to receive the transfer – whatever type it might be.

As mentioned before, it is tantamount to priming a board for paint. It is the necessary precursor to pressing – one which, of course, we all wish we could skip!

The dryer a substrate, the better the dyes, vinyl, plastisol, etc, will adhere to the surface, and the longer it will stay on through wearing.

 

4. Pre-Pressing Helps The Transfer To Settle

 

Imagine trying to write with a felt pen upon a wet page. Are your strokes likely to settle well upon the page?

No, they are unlikely to settle well!

This is similar to what can happen if you try to apply a transfer, especially an inkjet or sublimation transfer, to a moisture ridden t-shirt.

In extreme cases people experience dyes running or the edges of transfers lifting. If you’re experiencing this the first thing to ask yourself might be, ‘did I pre-press my garment?’

 

5. Pre-Pressing Makes For A Smoother Peel Of The Transfer Backing

 

Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) for example, comes away from its backing when heat is applied, which is why when weeding HTV it’s helpful to warm it up a bit on your heat press.

Again, pre-pressing is simply a case of priming the surface. When your surface is primed all things are easier.

The backing tape, especially for hot-peel transfers, will come away much smoother if the transfer is able to adhere without moisture, and if the transfer has been allowed much more suitable conditions to apply.

 

6. Pre-Pressing Helps The Transfer To Adhere Properly

 

At this point I might be repeating myself, but if you’re still reading, perhaps you still need convincing?

Pre-pressing will help your transfer to adhere. A moisture free and wrinkle free surface allows the transfer, vinyl or dye to bind and become one with your substrate.

I don’t know a whole lot about physics, but suffice it to say, pre-pressing helps your transfer to apply properly.

 

How Long Should I Pre-Press For?

 

heat press pre-press picture of timers and steam

 

Each transfer manufacturer or transfer paper provider will likely have their own specifications for how long you should pre-press before applying their product. However, a good rule of thumb is to pre-press for at least 5 seconds. Some people in some places will need to press for up to 20 seconds.

The time you pre-press depends a bit on the humidity levels of your area – as alluded to above. If you are in an area of high humidity, like Florida or California then you will probably need to press longer.

Press until you no longer see any steam rising up from your garment – though if this takes longer than 15-20 seconds you may need to put your garments in a dryer first. Pre-pressing longer than 15-20 seconds will run the risk of scorching your garment.

Another idea is to keep a dehumidifier running in your shop or store room. This will help draw the moisture out of your blank/plain garments before they even make it to your heat press machine.

 

Pre-Pressing Wood For Heat Transfer

 

Texprint-r have transfer paper suitable for pressing on wood.

When pressing wood, as with garments, it is essential that it is dry – perhaps even more so. The key is ink penetration into the wood. This is more likely when the wood is nice and dry. Of course, wood does hold moisture well. It is difficult to dry it out.

Tips for drying out wood:

  • Leave wooden items in the sun – though watch out for warping in extreme temperatures
  • Let new wood age for at least a year before putting to use
  • Leave wooden items for transfer in an area with a dehumidifier
  • Pre-press wooden items before transfer

 

Conclusion

 

Not pre-pressing your projects before heat transfer can cause your work to lift, shift or run. It may mean the transfer will not last so long in the wear and wash cycle of life. It means an inferior product for yourself, your friends, family, customers and clients.

First check your manufacturer’s specifications – this applies to the transfer and substrate. Follow their advice. Beyond this, refer to the advice here and test and try as you work.

To conclude, you really ought to pre-press to ensure an awesome result – it does make a difference!

 

Thank you for reading this article. Are you interested in How To Heat Press?

Here are some further posts to help you achieve a top result:

 

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