Re: how to center transfers-simple pro speed tricks
For heat presses regardless of size.
Img 1, see the light:
Converted my overhead lights from fluorescent to daylight LED from Home Depot. Nearly 40% brighter using 50% less power. Small lights used on the side of press (16x16 auto) are from Ikea. LED that are more than bright enough and can be moved and positioned at will. They light up your print area like a dream without having the press cast any shadows. They are not used much anymore since building my own laser alignment for about $80, see img 4.
Img 2, Do NOT trust tags or center line creases!!
These are rarely in the true center. I made a simple jig to check the center. As shown in the image the tag is off by nearly .25". If after checking the tag or crease and you find one or both are correct, great move on to placing your transfer. In my opinion I center around and align from the neck/collar and don't worry as much about being in the middle of the body of the shirt except on small, medium and women's styles where it will be more noticeable. For those you can quickly eyeball the sides or measure if needed. The reasoning being that the majority of prints are going to be in close proximity to the neck/collar.
If you have a smaller size press and no lasers you can either align on or off press. I prefer on press so that once aligned and checked and rechecked you can press quickly and not worry about the transfer shifting when moving the garment. For aligning transfers on a press without lasers I use a (7 in. Johnny Square Professional Aluminum) speed triangle (img5) that has an edge that will hook to the bottom of the platen, giving you a vertical place to run a t-square off of. ($8 home depot) Both easily slide around to provide accurate alignment of your art once it is placed on the garment. This will work with any shape or size platen except round. Regardless of the print location, you should always figure out and know exactly where the print is going before going to press, even writing down the measurements of the location if you have to. The shirt does not have to be perfectly centered on the press, but it does need to be aligned to the platen one way or another by eye or by measuring to ensure proper print placement.
This is how I do it now: find the center of the shirt, then slide the shirt with the jig to the center line laser line. In img 1 that is how i place the shirt on the platen, collar away 100% of shirt on platen. Align to platen, place art to lines, slide shirt up holding transfer until collar is off platen, then press. Platen has a teflon cover so moving the shirt around is easy. Having the entire shirt top on the platen makes the alignment to the platen much faster and easier. I don't do this for every garment type, but for tees it makes the most sense to me.
We done gone laser.
Building a laser system is relatively easy if you are able to solder, shrink wrap and assemble. Though not with out some challenges, I was able to over come them. The microphone goose neck was the biggest pain because it moves too easily and is not stable once attached to the mounting box (ceiling fan install box). To fix that I took a 4" lag bolt and taped it to the lowest part and it won't move when printing at all providing stiffness right where you need it. The end that attached to the box has large fine threads and finding a nut that would fit was not happening. So I ground the end a little shorter and force threaded a course nut. Left a little gap and filled it with plumbers epoxy which hardens to steel like properties. Probably would get a simple threaded microphone clip and just use the nut out of it next time. The goose neck should probably be made from conduit since it has enough stiffness and can be easily bent and threaded. The lasers came with all hardware shown and were simple to bolt to the box which already had the right size holes in it. Started with 3 to ensure this would all work, then ordered 2 more to have 4 mounted and one spare. They each came with a dot, line and cross lens for $10.95 off ebay. Powered by a 4 usb touch hub off amazon and connected with regular usb cables. Fun to build, makes measuring things nearly obsolete and speeds up the printing process. When you have hundreds of shirts to do in a short time period is when you will truly appreciate having an laser alignment system.
Just what I have learned in the last 36 years of printing custom shirts sold in 4 online stores shipped worldwide. Printing is generally easy once you have things set up and a system in place. Dealing with customers, their art, and unrealistic time constraints will always be the biggest challenge. I say don't let any job or customer get you down, just charge more.
I'm sure there will be questions, PM me for an answer.