Like many students at the University of Oregon, Kevin Gregg can be found on campus in a black rain jacket. It’s what’s underneath that’s different.
Gregg has been putting his own designs on shirts and sweatshirts for the past six years. It’s an interest that has enabled him to create clothing for individuals and groups who want a quality product that they are unable to purchase at a store.
The process begins at his computer, where Gregg is able to put his computer skills to use. His program of choice is called GIMP, which anyone can download off the internet.
“It’s like Photoshop but not as cool,” Gregg said. “But it’s free and legal.”
The official website for GIMP, or the GNU Image Manipulation Program, says that it can function as a paint program, a photo retouching program, a processing system, an image renderer, and more. Although Gregg said that the program is not as high quality as Photoshop, he thinks it is comparable.
For one particular project, Gregg planned to put text on a tank top. He typed the words into GIMP, and they appeared against a grid background. He printed the words onto regular printer paper several times before getting the size right, and then printed them onto transfer paper.
“I’m way OCD,” Gregg said. “That’s why I like this process because everything has to line up exactly starting from figuring out the right size of the image to lining it up on a shirt.”
His attention to detail paid off, and Gregg printed his shirt design onto the transfer paper used in the machine. After meticulously cutting the words out, he set them aside and turned his attention to the heat press.
The heat press is a large, black metal device. Its scent is noticeable once it is heated up—it’s the smell of a hot iron or hair straightener. Gregg’s press is made by a company called Pro World, and he has owned it for about six years.
“I just liked the idea of being able to put whatever I wanted on a shirt, so I decide to master it,” Greg said. “It’s been pretty cool because now I make shirts for different people and can work this crazy machine.”
The heat press opens and closes using a long handle, which connects to a base where Gregg can set the temperature of the machine. There are three green lights and a power switch located on the base. There is a thermometer on the front of the press that resembles a compass.
“Typically, you heat up the device to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and that should be good to get your image on your shirt after 25 seconds,” Gregg said.
Before putting the transfer image on the shirt, Gregg placed the tank top on the hot metal press plate and clamped down the contraption.
“It smooths it out, kind of like an iron,” Gregg said.
Gregg then peeled off the transfer paper’s plastic backing, and placed the mirrored text onto the shirt.
“This is the hard part,” he said as he lined up the words on the tank top. “I use my fingers to make sure that it is even on both sides of the shirt and look at it from different angles.”
Once he was satisfied with the placement of the image, Gregg pushed down the large lever and the machine made a loud noise as it locked into place. A timer was automatically set, and the heat press made a loud buzzing noise when the 25 seconds were up. The sound frightened Gregg a bit, but he quickly continued the image transfer process.
He opened the press back up and promptly peeled the backing off the shirt.
“You have to get it off really fast if you want it to work,” he said. “And then you have to stretch it a bit because if you don’t, the washing machine will ruin it.”
Gregg pulled at the shirt and held it out in front of him.
“Looks good,” he said.
Gregg turned off the press, and sat down. The whole process took about 20 minutes, which Gregg said is typical.
“It’s a pretty simple thing to do, but it just requires some patience and making sure you aren’t antsy,” he said. “Even though the heat press is kind of dangerous, you just have to make sure you are taking all the precautions, and know how everything works.”