Heat Pressing Something That Can’t Be Pressed

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I’m always trying something new and looking for ways to think outside the box. I’m always asking, “Can that be heat pressed?” Usually, the only way to find out is by doing it – you don’t know until you try. And when I do, I make a video.

A lot of times, it’s not the question of the material or the design, but the shape of the item – a ball or pair of shoes, for instance. Obviously, something three-dimensional isn’t going to press very well or allow for the locking mechanism of a press. Good ole fashion muscle works best.

Let’s use a ball as an example. I’ve applied heat transfer vinyl to footballs and baseballs. A baseball is obviously smaller with a smooth surface and a football is bigger, oblong, and textured. I did both with the same technique – by hand, rolling the ball with the design against the heat platen.

The differences come from the type of material being heat pressed, but the temperature remains at the standard 305°. I had to press the design onto the football longer, maybe five-ten seconds, to make sure the vinyl took the form of the football’s texture. For the baseball, I had to use more heat transfer tape on the vinyl to make sure it was held in place because it was more curved. I applied the baseball to the press for about five seconds.

The tape makes securing the vinyl super convenient and is specifically made for heat presses. It will not melt or leave residue or dye. Any film left over can just be rubbed off with your fingers or thumb.

The trick is not getting burned.

Make sure the heat press is securely positioned on the table or stand. You have to put a considerable amount of pressure upward to the platen as you press and roll the ball with the design to make the vinyl secure. It also requires a little more time because of going over the same spots repeatedly, since the vinyl isn’t getting the recommended pressure it would if the press were locked down.

In the warehouse and with my family, we’ve played with the baseballs and footballs I’ve heat pressed to see how well the heat transfer vinyl holds up, for my own curiosity. Your customers most likely will not be playing with these items in practice or games. They’re great for displaying.

So, maybe you don’t have a lot of sports customers and you’re wondering how this can help your business. Knowing you can manually heat press vinyl on an item just by varying the time you apply the temperature opens up a world of possibilities for your business.

Consider the opportunities to make or offer unique items for Save-the-Dates, baby showers, anniversary gifts, different activities, awards, and unique apparel options. Sign vinyl isn’t able to have the same durability as heat transfer, on some items.

Try sticking sign vinyl to a football, it doesn’t like to adhere because of the leather and texture. If you have a lot of equestrian customers, you can heat transfer vinyl onto saddles, girths, halters, belts and boots for great awards or personalized items without worrying if pressing it will ruin the product.

At TRW, we’ve done this same technique on shoes and the inside of hat-bills. It can surely be done with luggage, purses,  steering wheel covers, pet products, and much more.

If you have a few sports organization accounts and the end of the season is coming, this is a great idea to market to that group for end-of-the-year awards and recognitions besides a trophy or ribbon. For a three-placement design like I did in the How to make a Custom Home Run Baseball with a Heat Press and Siser Heat Transfer Vinyl video, you can easily charge $25 for just the application. If you’re supplying the balls by buying wholesale, just add that mark-up in the TRW Design Wizard Advance Pricing Calculator. 

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try something new. Don’t lose a sale or potential customer by saying, “I can’t do that,” before trying it out. And if you’re not sure you can try it, ask me. I’m always willing to find out, “Can that be heat pressed?”

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About Author

"It's awesome!" Matt Vassallo is the owner and CEO of The Rhinestone World, building the company from an entrepreneurial vinyl and rhinestone decal business he and his wife started in their home. As a teacher, Matt understands and appreciates what it means to empower others by providing knowledge and education to succeed in this industry. And if you haven't noticed, he's kind of a sports buff.

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