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Heat Transfer Printing

Heat transfer printing involves layering sheets of transfer material on top of a garment and heat pressing them to permanently apply custom graphics.

Designs are printed onto the heat transfer paper using a solvent ink, which allows the design to be transferred from paper to garment.

This no mess method works on different materials and fabrics and requires minimum maintenance.

There are three types of heat transfer printing, each with different benefits, which I have clarified below:

Dye-Simulation Printing

This is one of the most popular methods of heat transfer printing.

The thing that sets this method apart from the rest is that it works with a dye-based ink that turns into a gas when heated.

Heat, pressure and time cause these inks to go from a solid, to a gas, then back to solid. The gas joins to the polyester of the garment and becomes a part of the fabric instead of simply a layer on top.

Neither screen-printing or DTG printing can create an all over printing effect the way dye-simulation can.

All-over print t-shirts allow designers to creatively express themselves by creating truly unique t-shirts.

Pros of dye-simulation printing

  • Ink becomes part of the t-shirt which makes the print last longer.
  • Is breathable and soft to the touch.
  • Durability: Prints will not fade, crack, peel or deteriorate.

Cons of dye-simulation printing

  • Folds and creases, in areas under the sleeves for example, will remain undyed.
  • Only works on polyblend t-shirts. The more polyester in the garment, the more vibrant the colours will be.
  • Dye-simulation printing can be expensive.

Plastisol Transfer Printing

This second method of heat transfer printing is similar to screen printing except the artwork is ink jet printed onto plastisol transfer paper, which is then heat pressed onto the shirt.

This custom printing method allows us t-shirt entrepreneurs to outsource part of our business if we desire by sending your designs to companies who will then print them the high-quality plastisol paper. Once you receive them you can apply the designs to the t-shirts yourself with a heat press.

Pros of plastisol transfer printing

  • Similar quality to screen-printing.
  • Several designs can fit on a single sheet of transfer paper, which you can cut out and print separately.
  • No mess.
  • Good for testing designs. Once a design starts to sell, you can move to using screen printing.
  • Great for full colour as well as few colour jobs.
  • Allows for a variety of design placement on the shirt.

Cons of plastisol transfer printing

  • If transfers are made incorrectly, they will crack and wash out quickly.
  • Suppliers may ask for a minimum amount to be printed.
  • It may take a few trial runs to learn the right amount of pressure and temperature needed for this technique. I recommend asking for multiple prints so you are able to practice. Your supplier may be able to send you instructions, otherwise you can contact them for advice.
  • Large quantity runs are expensive and time consuming.

CAD-Cut Heat Transfer Vinyl Printing

This heat transferring method is most commonly used for printing numbers, names and logos onto sports t-shirts or jerseys.

This is done by using a machine to cut out designs and letters on pieces of vinyl which is then heat pressed onto the garment.

This is great for printing between one and three colours and for smaller quantities, for example a football teams order.

Pros of CAD-Cut vinyl printing

  • Great for small orders.
  • Decent lifespan.
  • Vinyl can easily be applied anywhere on the shirt.
  • Can be applied to all kinds of fabrics.

Cons of CAD-Cut vinyl printing

  • Takes a long time to cut the vinyl.
  • Pantone colours cannot be matched with vinyl printing.