Heat Press is a great process to use for jobs that only have a few pieces. Your artwork is designed in a specialty format called vector (Raster images like jpeg are made up of a box with thousands of pixels of color inside. Vector images are made up of each shape in your design. Think more cartoon like and less photo real.). A roll of heat press vinyl is loaded onto a machine called a plotter. The vector artwork is then “cut” by the plotter. The excess material is removed in a process called weeding. Your design is then pressed onto the shirt using a heat press which provides both high temperature and pressure. Each color in your design must me applied separately. Innovative heat press materials like glitter, foil, holographic, and flock have really punched up the design options available. As weeding can be very time intensive, heat press designs are not recommended for large jobs.
Sublimation is a process that can be used on a number of clothing and non-clothing products. In sublimation your design is printed on a desktop printer with special inks and paper. The printed design is then placed on the item being sublimated and pressed in a heat press at high temperatures. Most items press at 400 degrees for 45 seconds. The heat turns the ink into a gas and the gas “dyes” the item. Because of the crazy chemistry involved, this process works certain plastics, metals, and polyester rich fabrics.