How to Heat Press Polyester

by Anthony Clark

Once you start using a heat press to customize your things, there is no coming back. You will keep searching for new ways to use it and different things to design. At some point, you may even start entertaining the possibility of launching your own small crafts business.

The idea is not so bad. In fact, it is brilliant due to many reasons. For one, your target audience is vast. Everyone from grannies to young children loves to have a hint of personalization in their things. Secondly, you have a unique edge. You can create and re-create designs without any worry of your competitors stealing them because then you can sue them for copyrights. And besides, who turns down an opportunity to earn some good money while doing something they love?


Crafting is an art and a skill but it does require a lot of research and knowledge. It is important not to rush projects especially when it is something ordered by a client. Things that may seem simple can end you up in a big mess. Such as using heat press on polyester. The cheap and comfortable nature of polyester has given it much popularity in recent years. People prefer to use polyester shirts or bags to add interesting designs to them. But how much do you actually know about heat pressing polyester?

Is it safe to heat press polyester? Will using a heat press on polyester damage it? Will the design stick perfectly to the material? Will the heat press stop working if used on polyester? There is a long list of questions. Curious about the answers? Read this article till the end to find out. And remember, don't rush. You will find solutions to all of your problems if you stay focused on what you are about to read next. This article is giving away all the information for free, so what's stopping you?

Let's address these questions one by one!


VIVOHOME Upgraded 5 in 1 Combo Multifunctional Swing Away Clamshell Printing Sublimation Heat Press Transfer Machine for T-Shirt Hat Cap Mug Plate 15 x 12 Inch Red
VIVOHOME Upgraded 5 in 1 Combo Multifunctional Swing Away Clamshell Printing Sublimation Heat Press Transfer Machine for T-Shirt Hat Cap Mug Plate 15 x 12 Inch Red

Polyester is a material with low thermal tolerance. This makes the process a bit trickier than it is for most of the materials. You might need some time and a few failed attempts at it to get a grip on the entire thing. But no rule says you can't use a heat press on polyester.

Although there are a few dos and don'ts when it comes to heat pressing polyester. But if you do your research and remember everything that's necessary, then nothing stands in the way of you creating unique designs on your plain polyester shirts.


There are some things that people do even though they know it's not good or safe. For instance, straightening your hair. You know it's damaging for the hair but you still do it all the while taking good care of your hair. Using a heat press on polyester is a similar scenario.

It's like walking on a thin line. Just as hairstylists recommend you to apply heat to your hair to a certain degree only, experts in this field suggest using heat till only a specific temperature.

Now this will raise another question, what temperature should you use? Let's find out!


Typically, the temperature that you should use while heat pressing polyester is supposed to be between 270 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Want an honest suggestion? Start with 270 degrees. Stick to the safe side. If you feel 270 degrees is not warm enough, you can gradually turn up the heat. But directly starting with 300 degrees? Not a wise move!


As mentioned above, polyester is sensitive to higher temperatures. If you use a heat press on it with a temperature above 300 degrees, many things could happen. Those multiple outcomes are mentioned as follows:

1. Melting

Have you ever tried ironing a plastic bag as a kid? If not, then you are born smart, I'll give you that. Those who have done this know how heat melts the shopping bag and sticks to the iron. Not an easy mess to clean.

Since polyester is majorly composed of plastic, exposing it to high temperatures of heat could lead to melting.

2. Scorching

This situation occurs when the polyester is completely burnt after heat pressing at a high temperature. It can completely ruin the material.

3. Glossing

This is when a shiny patch forms over the area that received too much heat from the heat press. It's irreversible too.

4. Crinkling

This is similar to when you accidentally press your clothes with a very hot iron. Even if you remove it instantly, it sometimes still leaves close crinkles in the area that came in touch with the iron.

Want to avoid these situations? Your best bet is to not increase the temperature by more than 300 degrees and don't heat press your material for way too long. Heat transferring on polyester requires less time than other materials so keep that in mind!

Okay so, now that you know heat pressing on polyester is safe and totally doable, what's next? The dos and don'ts, the tips and tricks, and some hacks that will save you time, money, effort, and of course from ruining your projects.


  • Always do a Sample Test

It doesn't matter how many times you have done it. Whenever you are starting a new batch, you need to do a sample test first. Unlike materials such as cotton, polyester varies from batch to batch.

Therefore, some things that worked for your previous batch may not work for this one. You will have to figure it out on your own. For instance, in the last batch, the temperature of 285 degrees Fahrenheit worked wonders, but for the new one, you might have to lower it to 270 degrees.

  • Invest in a Heat Transfer Cover

Do you know what a heat transfer cover is? It's a life-changing tool. If you put it over the material that needs to be heat pressed, it will serve as a protective layer. The cover will prevent too much heat directly reaching the material from the plates.

If you have never heat pressed polyester before, you should definitely give this a try to avoid messing up. Need an alternative? Use a parchment paper instead. It will serve the same purpose and cost you less!

  • Always Read the Tag First

As it has already been said, every polyester material is different. Therefore, it comes with different guidelines too. Read the tag every time to check for instructions. A few types of polyester is also not heat press friendly. So make sure to spot that before it's too late!

  • Have a Plan B

Polyester is so sensitive, there is never a guarantee that heat pressing it is going to turn out perfect. Expensive losses sting the most. So play the safe game and start with something that didn't cost you a lot of money. And also keep an alternative of that material with you.

This way if it gets ruined, you will save yourself the time of running to the market to buy the same material again!

  • Press for a Longer Time

Heat transfer vinyl needs to reach a certain optimum temperature to activate its stickiness. Since you are already working on a low temperature, keep pressing it for a longer duration.

Not too long, though. It will take you several attempts to finally determine the time needed, but you will soon be an expert in it!

  • Don't Use an Iron

While irons are a perfect alternative to heat press machines, it is not recommended for polyesters. Using an iron to transfer the design from a heat transfer vinyl is tricky itself in terms of pressure and duration. You don't need to get into that.

There are already so many things you need to take care of when heat pressing polyester. Don't get yourself in the hassle of using an iron or you will certainly mess something up.

  • Don't Lose Your Patience

Thinking of turning the temperature all the way up because the vinyl is not sticking well? Please don't do that. Be patient and let the heat press do its work for a while longer. Overheating the polyester can cause irreversible damage, can you fix that? But a vinyl that is not sticking? That you can fix. Patience is a virtue. Rushing the process will only make it more complicated!

So today, you have learned that using a heat press on polyester is not impossible at all. As a matter of fact, it is a great way to transform plain, old, and common T-shirts of yours into something more unique and cooler.

For now, it might look like too much to take in. But people do this all the time. Don't let it get on your nerves. Don't give up on a few failed attempts. Just give yourself time and you will eventually get a hold of it!

About Anthony Clark

Anthony Clark always had a passion for digital drawing and printing ever since he was young. He would wander around his parents' house in Phoenix, Arizona drawing various things with his older digital tablet. Be it just a memory collection or a portrayal of anything: objects, parents, school, events, etc. He received his BA in Graphic Design at San Jose State University - the heart of Silicon Valley. Now Mr. Clark is excited to present his experience coupled with some colorful dips to help shape the future of printing.

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