Heat transfer – the big five

This month, stepping forward from Amaya Sales UK’s team of experts, is Adam Wyles, head of digital transfer technology. In this article he explores the different types of transfers and tips to getting it right.

Despite what you think, not all transfer printing is the same and one solution does not do it all. Here I am going to outline for you what I call the big five and what type of job they work with. Then I will run through five key tips to getting your transfer printing right.

Dye sublimation

Dye sublimation can only be used on polyester fabric or polyester coated products, and whatever you print on it needs to be white or light in colour. Durability is good and it produces bright vivid colours, great for photographic images, used mainly in the personalised photo gift sector.

Vinyl cut

Vinyl cut is best for one or two colour vector designs like text, logos or sport shirt name and number. You can source different variants of the product for different fabrics, many colours including special effects are available, and durability is good with a 40 to 60°C wash on light or dark fabric. More than two colours are time consuming as everything needs to be manually weeded.

Print and cut

Print and cut is like vinyl cut except the vinyl starts white and can be printed in full colour, then the same machine cuts around the edge creating a badge type effect. Works with all fabric types and colours and has good durability, 40 to 60°C wash. Used mainly for sports and workwear. The only downside is your logo needs to be as solid as possible as there is still a manual weeding process.

CMYK laser transfer

CMYK laser transfer papers have been around since day one. Great for short to medium run white and pale fabrics, mainly used for promotional one-off garments. The durability is ok, but not recommended for workwear. Some papers will let you heat press to hard substrates, but they will also need to be white.

CMYK+white laser transfer

CMYK+white laser transfer papers is really the most versatile solution out there. The white toner allows the transfer to print onto any type or colour of fabric, hard substrates too, with no weeding so you don’t need to simplify your artwork. Creating badge type logos, intricate, vintage, and small detail is super easy and quick to produce. Durability is good with a 40°C wash, so some avoid it for workwear.

It maybe that having all the above technology is not feasible for your business or the timing is just not right. In this instance, there are a few transfer suppliers that can produce custom transfers for you. Granted this will cost a little more per piece, but it means you can still offer the service without having purchased the hardware. However, if you are investing in a new transfer system here are my five tips to getting it right.

  • The right solution – make sure you know what you need. Identify the type of jobs you are looking to fulfil and be sure that you are buying the most versatile system for your business. Dye sublimation may be the cheapest option, but you can’t do standard t shirts as they are not polyester, and you can’t print on darks. Investing that bit more will give you transfer production into the future.
  • The right supplier – having researched what you need, now spend a bit of time selecting where you are going to buy it from. You will need support and help when you first get your new equipment, and you want to choose a supplier than will provide this for you and inspire and enthuse you too.
  • The right heat press – this is a big one – you can choose the best heat transfer solution out there, but it can all go wrong if you cut corners and buy a cheaper heat press. Wasted product, time, and effort, with sub-standard work going out of the door is a recipe for failure. Your heat transfer solution supplier should advise you on this, and don’t feel they are just trying to sell you the more expensive press. Certainly, white toner transfers do require an even and consistent pressure to work effectively, and this isn’t available from a basic clam press.
  • The right consumables – my advice is don’t work with third party and cheaper consumables for your equipment. You may be saving £20 on an ink cartridge but the actual cost saving per garment may only be 5p. A lot of non-genuine ink products out there are inferior to the consumables made by the manufacturer of your equipment, and aside of the quality of the ink/ toner, you will null the warranty on your printer, and possibly lose the support of your supplier. Just not worth the saving.
  • And finally, the right training – once your decision has been made and you take delivery of your new heat transfer solution, whichever one you have purchased, invest the time to understand the process, follow the instructions, test the product, and get it right. Your selected supplier should offer step by step support to help with this, whether in person or remotely. Use this, ask lots of questions, and get yourself and your team well versed in how to achieve the best results. The time invested at the beginning will be worth it.

Best of luck, I hope this helps.

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