Heat Transfer Printing
1. What is Heat Transfer Printing?
Heat Transfer Printing, also known as Iron-on Heat Transfer and Digital Heat Transfer Printing, is done by using a heat transfer medium such as heat transfer paper or a vinyl-rubber type material. An image of the artwork is printed on the film side of the heat transfer medium. The image is then heat pressed onto t-shirts and apparel using a special Heat Transfer Printing Machine. The end product will have your customized design transferred on your choice of t-shirt or apparel.
2. Heat Transfer Mediums
There are two common heat transfer mediums – digital heat transfer or vinyl heat transfer. For digital heat transfer, the design is printed in reverse on heat transfer paper using a special ink. This ink allows the design to be transferred to the end product using the heat from the Heat Transfer Printing Machine.
For vinyl heat transfer, the design is printed on a vinyl material. These pieces of vinyl are cut out according to the design and heat pressed using the Heat Transfer Printing Machine onto the end product.
Heat Transfer Printing is a popular choice for customers looking to do class tee printing or cap printing due to easy customization. It has the ability to print colourful designs at a lower cost for smaller quantities, and on many different types of fabrics and materials.
3. Advantages and Disadvantages of Heat Transfer Printing
Advantages of Heat Transfer Printing
- Heat Transfer can be used on 100% cotton tees, mixed fabrics as well as dry fit tees.
- This printing method can be processed quickly for small quantities, saving on your time and money.
- This printing method allows for individual customisation with different names on each t shirt or hoodie.
- Heat Transfer is the most economical for orders in small quantities.
- This printing method allows multiple colour designs to be printed at no extra cost.
Disadvantages of Heat Transfer Printing
- It can fade away with time if used and washed too frequently.
- Cannot be used on a few materials, like thin fabrics that burn easily.
- Heat Transfer yields poor quality results when transferred using home irons. Hence, commercial heat press with commercial quality heat transfer paper should be used to ensure durability.
- Heat Transfer Printing may not be suitable for certain types of large designs because of the vinyl sticker layer over the tee.
At The Noteway, we use industrial grade media and equipment imported from Europe to ensure the highest quality of heat transfer printing possible. In addition to this, we offer completely free professional designing services if you choose to print with us!
4. The Heat Transfer Printing Process
Important Factors to Take Note
There are three main factors to watch out for when doing heat transfer printing.
- The time needed to transfer the design. Heat Transfer Printing requires a lot of heat for the design to adhere properly after wash, however using too much heat may also burn your t-shirt or apparel. There is usually a recommended amount of time stated for the heat transfer paper used.
- The pressure needs to be controlled for the design to remain on the t-shirt or apparel properly.
- The temperature The recommended temperature is usually stated on the heat transfer printing paper. This is usually between 177’C and 191’C.
You may like to practice using the Heat Transfer Printing Machine on some old pieces of cloth or t-shirts first. At least a burnt hole in these old fabrics will not cause a hole in your pocket!
The Printing Process
a) Print your design on a heat transfer medium, as stated in part (2) above. Remember to cut out any designs if necessary so that only the design is transferred to the t-shirt or apparel, and not the whole medium.
b) Ensure the correct pressure and temperature are set on the Heat Transfer Printing Machine. Also set the time if your machine allows you to do so.
Watch this short video to see how the transfer process is done:
c) Position your t-shirt or apparel on the platen. It should be laid flat and stretched out with no wrinkles. Make sure that it is straight – we don’t want crooked designs on our apparel!
d) If you wish, press the t-shirt or apparel for a few seconds (without the heat transfer medium) to remove moisture.
e) Place the heat transfer medium on the apparel. If your heat transfer medium does not have a protective layer, place a thin fabric like a handkerchief on top of it.
f) Press the top layer of the machine down and start the machine. This step “presses” the design onto the apparel. Wait for the stipulated amount of time for the design to transfer.
g) When it is time, lift the top layer and peel off the heat transfer medium.
h) Congratulations! Your design is printed on the apparel using Heat Transfer Printing.
Repeat these steps for multiple designs. If you want to print on both sides, remember to place a protective layer inside the apparel or arrange it so only one side is on the platen. This prevents double-pressing on the first side.
5. Heat Transfer Printing at Home
It is possible to do Heat Transfer Printing at home. However Heat Transfer, when done using a home iron, will be inferior in quality compared to using a commercial Heat Transfer Printing Machine. As mentioned above, there are also several factors to watch out for, like the temperature, time and pressure needed when heat pressing a design.
Some people do prefer the heat transfer design to be sticking out on the surface of the tee, rather than the design being imprinted within the fabric of the tees.
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7. Heat Transfer Printing or Silk Screen Printing?
Heat Transfer Printing is more cost-effective when your design has multiple colours. Silk screen printing is expensive when printing multiple colours as a different moulds has to be used for each colour. Because individual moulds are not needed, Heat Transfer Printing allows for the customization of names and numbers. This is how different jersey numbers or names on class tees are printed!
When printing small quantities especially for 1-5 pieces, it is best to use Heat Transfer Printing. However, it is more cost effective to use Silk Screen Printing for large quantities of a single colour as the same mould can be reused.