Heat presses are great tools to use to quickly and easily apply designs to apparel, accessories, mugs and other promotional items. As easy as the process is, there’s still a learning curve involved in applying heat transfers. Here are some of the most common heat transfer mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Misplaced, crooked or backward heat transfers

One of the most common — and frustrating — heat transfer mistakes is a misplaced transfer. That could mean that your image is crooked, off center, backward or upside down. It’s frustrating because you know this mistake comes down to avoidable human error. When generating transfers, the image needs to be mirrored so it prints the proper way. To avoid a crooked print, load your substrate properly. For a shirt, that means lining up the tag with the back of the shirt, and smoothing out the substrate. There are clear overlays with grids or laser grid systems that can help you to place your heat transfer in the proper spot and straight on your garment. Lower the heat press slowly and apply ample pressure to avoid shifting your substrate during the transfer.

2. Prints that peel or wash away

Your heat transfer should bond to your substrate so that when you peel away the overlay sheet, the transfer stays in place. A well-bonded transfer also should stay in place wash after wash. If your heat transfers are peeling away with the transfer paper or washing away, several things could be to blame. First, make sure your heat transfer is the right type for your substrate; not all heat transfers are suited to all materials. Second, pre-press your substrate to warm the substrate and evaporate any moisture that could interfere with adhesion. Finally, apply ample pressure while applying your graphic; printers often pay attention to the recommended temperature and time for applying a transfer but fail to apply enough pressure to bond the image.

3. Scorched substrates

A perfectly applied image is wasted if the substrate you’ve placed it on scorches, discolors or melts during the transfer process. In this case, the heat of your press is damaging the substrate. You either need to adjust the temperature of your press or reduce the amount of time your substrate is spending under the heat. If you can’t get the transfer to adhere without scorching your substrate, you likely need to choose a heat transfer that’s made for synthetic substrates that can’t take the heat required for a traditional heat transfer.

4. Dye migration

You lift the top of your heat press to find a perfectly applied transfer, but with one problem: The color of your substrate has migrated to the light-colored ink of your heat transfer. Dye migration occurs when the heat from your press turns the dye in a synthetic substrate into a gas, allowing it to permeate the ink of your image. Avoiding dye migration requires reducing the heat of your press during the transfer process; that might mean picking heat transfers that are intended for use with synthetic fabrics that are prone to dye migration.

Heat transfers are an easy and efficient way to apply graphics to a host of substrates. That doesn’t mean they are foolproof. Watch out for common mistakes when applying heat transfers. Always read manufacturer’s recommendations for your heat transfers, garments and your press, and always perform a test application before printing an entire batch of heat transfers. Following instructions and taking care to avoid common heat transfer mistakes can help you to avoid misprints that slow down production and cost your shop money.