How can decorators properly center a heat transfer?

Positioning heat transfers is one of the most popular topics among heat printers. When decorators first get started with heat printing, everyone asks the same question: How do I make sure my heat transfer is centered?

Here’s a step-by-step process on how to easily ensure a heat transfer comes out centered on a T-shirt.

1. Position the T-shirt on the heat press.

  • Start by laying the T-shirt on the lower platen of the heat press. Use your eyes to position the T-shirt so that equal amounts of fabric lie on each side of the heat press, including at the top by the collar, as well as the bottom and sides. Use parts of the shirt as a guide, like its collar, seams, and tag, but keep in mind the tag might not be at the center of the shirt.

2. Determine the center of the design on the transfer paper or carrier.

  • Visually find the vertical center of the design with your eyes. Some decorators use a ruler and mark the center of the artwork on the transfer paper.
  • An easy go-to method is to fold the transfer in half and lightly make a crease to mark the center at the top and bottom.

3. Align the transfer onto the shirt.

  • Using the guides in the above steps, position the transfer. Use the armpit seams as a horizontal guide. Most times, full-size designs need to be 3-4″ down from the crew neck collar. A ruler or even your hand can be used to measure. Hold your hand horizontally and use three to four fingers to measure down from the neckline to the top of the design.

Using an alignment tool such as a ruler, T-square, or another alignment accessory might result in a more accurate position for the transfer design. They are helpful, especially for beginners. However, they will also add to labor and production time which can eat into profits. When decorating larger quantities especially, many heat printers use their readily-available tools, such as their hands and eyes for quick guides.

One thing to keep in mind when centering the heat transfer is that not all T-shirts are created equal and neither are the people wearing them. This means imperfect sew jobs and asymmetrical torsos are a reality. If positioning and centering keep you up at night, rest assured, a slightly off-centered shirt is not as noticeable as you think.

—Transfer Express

Stefanie Gravens

Stefanie is the social media coordinator/marketing assistant for Stahls' Transfer Express. She joined the company in February 2007 as the marketing assistant/trade show coordinator. After almost nine years, she transitioned into her current position in December 2015. She's responsible for overseeing the company's social media plan, objectives, and content for the B2B company. For more information on Transfer Express, visit 

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