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Advances in heat-printing technology for sportswear.




HAVE YOU EVER wanted to print on high-end performancewear but didn’t want to ruin a pricey branded item? Advances in heat-print technology and heat transfers have changed the performancewear branding game. Here’s your opportunity to learn more about customization options and best practices for heat printing on performance fabrics.

In the ever-evolving world of sportswear, performance enhancement is not just about the athletes but also the gear they wear. Innovations in heat-printing technology have revolutionized the way we print custom sportswear, offering time efficiency, durability, stretchability, lightness, softness, creative logo placement, and special effects that traditional printing methods simply cannot match. Cutting-edge heat transfer products enable both fast and high-quality decorating that teams, organizations, and athletes around the world demand.

Here’s How Heat Transfer Technology is Helping High-Performance Sportswear Achieve New Heights

A precise accurate heat press is essential in heat printing on performance sportswear. It is worth the investment to buy a quality heat press from a reputable manufacturer.

When it comes to performancewear, the fabrics that immediately come to mind are synthetic. Think polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex, and Lycra®. That’s not mentioning the dozens of other trademarked fabric names from all the major manufacturers. No matter what the materials are called, they are all thinner and lighter than natural fabrics. They often boast moisture wicking, UV protection, and many other performance-enhancing capabilities.

This even includes performance-enhancing materials infused with minerals that can absorb the body’s energy and reflect it back to enhance endurance and strength. Some materials are designed to improve blood flow and oxygenation, providing athletes with a performance boost during training and competition. Can you heat print on these types of fabrics? With experience, yes. However, like all performance products, they’re usually expensive, meaning you can’t afford to take risks when decorating.

Here’s How Heat Transfer Technology is Helping High-Performance Sportswear Achieve New Heights

Stahls’ Transfer Express has a new online Team Builder feature that lets you create transfers for an entire roster of uniforms in minutes.


To heat print on today’s advanced performance fabrics, you need a heat press that is precise, accurate, and reliable. Modern models feature touch screen control and multi-functionality, allowing for precise control over temperature, pressure, time, and placement. Look for a heat press with interchangeable platens to easily print anywhere on a garment, including on legs, sleeves, and even shoes. Some presses offer automatic ope ning and digital readouts, enhancing efficiency and reducing operator fatigue. If you’re serious about heat printing performancewear, you need a serious commercial heat press with proven results. Expand your decorating potential by investing in quality equipment that will increase your ability to accept more orders across more markets.

Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is a cornerstone of custom sportswear decoration, including performancewear. High-quality HTV options are perfect for detailed designs on sportswear, offering excellent stretch and rebound properties that perform with the fabric. You also can create specialty effects, which are extremely difficult to achieve any other way. These include glitter, chrome shimmer, rainbow, holographic, 3-D puff, and more.

In the realm of printable HTV, full-color digital transfers are a great option to achieve custom, multicolor designs for decorating. They’re ideal for artwork with more than four colors, hi-def details, or special effects and gradients. You quickly can create high-end looks on virtually any fabric or hard-to-decorate item with just a heat press and the right printable HTV. Forget the limitations of screen printing or embroidery and delve into detailed digital logos. Some products are designed to prevent dye migration, maintaining vibrant colors even on sublimated fabrics, while others provide opacity and trendy matte finishes. There are HTV products that can be applied to tough-to-decorate materials such as Cordura®, leather, Lycra®/spandex blends, neoprene, and nylons.

Heat transfer materials are engineered for athletic use, known for their extreme durability, withstanding rigorous activities and frequent washings. Heat transfers are a great go-to for decorating athletic uniforms with confidence. Some materials even offer a soft, lightweight feel, enhancing comfort for performance apparel.

Innovative screen-printed and DTF transfers complement the range of heat-transfer materials. These fast-application heat transfers also are renowned for their durability, making them an ideal choice for sportswear. Transfers designed specifically for stretch fabrics also provide perfect adhesion and flexibility, crucial aspects for sportswear.

DTF transfers offer a full-color, soft, and lightweight finish that is perfect for complex logos and vibrant designs, including fine detail and gradients. These transfers not only remain vibrant but also maintain their quality and stretch over time, ensuring any sportswear stays high performing and visually appealing. Be sure to use a DTF transfer that also applies at a low temperature and fast application time to avoid challenges with heat-sensitive fabrics.

Here’s How Heat Transfer Technology is Helping High-Performance Sportswear Achieve New Heights

For athletes looking for the look of sewn twill, but without the heavy feel of embroidery, sublimated woven twill is another option.

Customization is key in athletic apparel, with options from custom names and numbers to team logos and graphics. These options allow for personalized jerseys and uniforms that compliment any athlete with a unique and professional look that lasts.

When it comes to professional sports like hockey, baseball, football, and even basketball, teams want the look of sewn twill, but no player wants the heavy feel of embroidery. Sublimated woven twill is another option. Today’s products give teams the professional look of full-color logos and a woven twill feel without sewing or the layering of colors. It can be printed, cut, and heat pressed to create high-end looks quickly and easily.

Here’s How Heat Transfer Technology is Helping High-Performance Sportswear Achieve New Heights

CAD-CUT® Premium Plus Stretch is an HTV product for high-stretch fabrics, which much of today’s popular performance apparel is made of.


When decorating jerseys, uniforms and activewear, some issues can arise.

  • Adhesion: Synthetic fabrics require heat-press adhesive specially designed to adhere to these fabrics. Not all heat transfer vinyl or heat transfers are designed to stay on specialty types of fabrics.
  • Heat Press Marks: High heat and high pressure can leave imprint marks on synthetic fabrics. You can avoid marks by using the proper heat press, heat-press accessories, and transfers.
  • Scorching: Heat transfer vinyl applied at high temperature risks scorching or melting performance fabrics.

The good news is there are solutions for decorating performance apparel with confidence and quality results. It’s important to follow a few best practices.

  • Follow the Instructions:
Always follow the application instructions for heat transfer vinyl or heat transfers. These instructions are specific to your materials and don’t change based on what substrate you’re applying to. If your apparel is unique, change the transfer or heat transfer vinyl type, not the application instructions.
  • Cool Down Your Heat Press: It’s a misconception that if some heat is good, more is better. Hot-melt adhesive is designed to adhere under specific conditions, so using too much heat will make the adhesive burn off without properly applying. When dealing with fabrics that can scorch, always use the lowest recommended temperature for the material you’re decorating.
  • Read the Care Label: A jersey or other activewear’s care label will tell you the garment’s fiber content along with percentages of each type of fiber. Use the highest percentage fiber to choose the right heat transfer vinyl for the job. For example, if your shirt’s care label lists the fiber content as 30% polyester/20% rayon/50% spandex, choose your heat-transfer material based on the spandex fiber.
  • Use the Right Tools:
A variety of accessories and tools are available to help reduce and eliminate the risk of scorching. These include a variety of heat press platens in different sizes to put heat only where you need it, including the Hotronix® Heat Press Power Platen™, which has a heated lower platen with built-in heat printing pillow that applies heat from below. This reduces heat on the face of heat-sensitive fabrics.
  • Recommended Materials:
Look for HTV, transfers, and adhesives that work on today’s heat-sensitive fabrics.
Here’s How Heat Transfer Technology is Helping High-Performance Sportswear Achieve New Heights

CAD-PRINTZ® Perma-TWILL® offers a permanent adhesive logo without any need for sewing and the ability to create full-color designs for performancewear.


Use a silicone upper platen cover for your heat press when applying to performancewear. A silicone cover attaches to the upper platen of the heat press and helps reduce scorch marks and indentation on heat-sensitive materials like polyester, neoprene, and spandex. The silicone upper platen cover alters the heat delivered to the application, so it’s recommended that you test the transfer and garment for wash durability after application. As a general rule, add approximately 10-20 seconds to the suggested application settings to achieve success.

You also should look for a heat press with a heated lower platen option. A heated lower platen heats the underside of a garment on the press, so less heat is required on the outer facing fabric. Heat applied from underneath melts the adhesive from below, reducing the risk of scorching performancewear fabrics. This is especially important when applying thick transfers such as dimensional emblems and patches.

Dye migration, or bleeding, occurs when the ink used to dye the fibers of a polyester garment are reheated to temperatures above 280°. At this temperature, the inks are reactivated and released from the fibers. When that happens, the dyes will come through heat transfer vinyl and cause discoloration, like a faint red (or pink) number on a red jersey. Check the label to determine the polyester content in the performance fabric you’re applying to and determine whether you have a low-bleed polyester or a high-bleed polyester. Always test your application before completing a job.

Performancewear is here to stay. Decorated performancewear is an opportunity for your business to create premium looks with premium prices (and premium profits). Use a heat press to decorate performance wear with confidence, generate more sales in your existing market, and tapping into more of your decoration potential.




Let’s Talk About It

Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Screen Printing Industry

LET’S TALK About It: Part 3 discusses how four screen printers have employed people with disabilities, why you should consider doing the same, the resources that are available, and more. Watch the live webinar, held August 16, moderated by Adrienne Palmer, editor-in-chief, Screen Printing magazine, with panelists Ali Banholzer, Amber Massey, Ryan Moor, and Jed Seifert. The multi-part series is hosted exclusively by ROQ.US and U.N.I.T.E Together. Let’s Talk About It: Part 1 focused on Black, female screen printers and can be watched here; Part 2 focused on the LGBTQ+ community and can be watched here.

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