Where we started a little over a year ago compared to where we are now as a business feels like a galaxy away. We have learned so much about making shirts and what types of things we can and can’t print on.
We’ve tried nearly everything. We started with simple pro stretch clear transfers, moved onto vinyl, then to self-weeding and finally made the plunge and purchased a direct to garment printer. We never thought we’d go back to transfers but have realized that it’s really important to remember everything we’ve learned along the way.
Our machine went down last week and we still had orders to fill. I guess I should take this opportunity to say that when you decide to buy a Direct To Garment printer, you better do your research and make sure you have excellent support. Our support is outstanding. If anyone is looking to buy, buy from Coldesi. I’d be more than happy to give you the direct number of a sales rep because they’ve gone above and beyond for us. We had excellent training and they’ve spent countless hours on the phone with us as we’ve learned every inch of our machine. Anyway, I digress. We had orders to fill and had to go back to the drawing board so to speak.
Having so many choices was what made it difficult. There are pros and cons to each type of transfer. Each type of transfer has different instructions and different temperatures. Some leave a noticeable hand, some leave none but limit you on colors. Some need to be mirrored, some are particularly sensitive to heat. Some need to be peeled immediately and some need to cool first. Some are printed on ink jet printers, some on laser. I’ll do my best to quickly and succinctly break them down. No matter what we’ve used, only one thing remains consistent. You need a heat press. Heatpress.com has a great video and explanation to help you choose your press to fulfill your needs. Personally, I like our digital press more. The digital one heats quicker and I don’t have to play a guessing game with its time and temperature gauge. The only problem is that it’s smaller than our other one.
JetPro for light shirts: This is the best transfer for light fabrics using an ink jet printer. It’s a hot peel paper which means you peel it seconds after you open the press. The heat is not as high as other transfers and will transfer quickly with medium pressure. Cut as close to the picture or wording as possible to eliminate unwanted hand and peel as quick as possible and test different pressures to help mask the hand. It works best on white fabric. The transfer is not invisible but is very slight. You can print full color but it may bleed or fade quicker than other transfers. hint:Don’t forget to mirror the image and print one to test before printing multiples in order to keep your waste and mistakes down to a minimum.
Alpha Gold or JetOpaque: These are usually the only papers for dark fabrics and ink jet printers. You have to press it at a higher temperature than most and peel the parchment paper after the fabric cools. So, you need a little more room because if you stack the shirts, they won’t cool very fast. You can use some pretty bright colors but there is a lot of cutting associated with this type of paper. It’s better to have solid shapes to keep cutting to a minimum. One of the main problems I came across was in the actual press process. You print these transfers normally and then peel the paper back off before you press. They are relatively thin at this point and are affected quickly by heat. When finished it’s clearly a vinyl. They are a little plastic feeling to the touch. hint: we placed a shirt on a piece of cardboard, positioned the transfer, covered with a piece of parchment. That made it easy to move the shirt and quickly close the press so the transfer did not curl. ***You can save a shirt if you mess up. Contact us for the details at email@example.com
Image Clip Self Weeding: These were by far our most favorite but also the most expensive transfers. You can print on almost any kind of fabric and it does NOT leave the plastic polymer behind. They print faster since you use a laser printer. These were the best looking transfers we used but they didn’t come without fault. Manufacturer quality control is the biggest problem here. Each lot is different and you may not get the same results every time. The image needs to be mirrored and if you forget, it’s a pretty costly mistake. It’s also a two process transfer which leaves more room for error. You print on one sheet, use the heat press to transfer it to another before you then increase the heat and transfer to fabric. You lose some of your color choices because the lighter colors don’t consistently transfer. The one other downfall is that you can’t print white.hint: print a full color chart on a transfer and go through the entire process to figure out where the colors begin to drop out.
Koncert T’s Self Weeding: These are just like the other self weeding transfers but only transfer white. You can’t really mix white and color with these kinds of transfers. This is also a two step process. One more problem is that I’ve never found these in any size larger than 8.5″x11″ and the image can really only be 8″x10″. Again, don’t forget to mirror the image. hint: if you use a bright blue or a even a color similar to the garment color, the white will pop better than if you print in black.
Direct To Garment: I think I’ve touched on this in most of my other posts so I will give the basics. The quality is the best of any of these. It’s better than screen printing because it’s a CMYK printer. There are no screens and you can use as many colors as you want without having to increase the price. Make sure you get one with a wims system to help the white ink from clotting. Your print area is larger than any transfer paper available. The downfalls are that you have to pretreat all dark fabrics and ink can be pretty expensive. The learning curve is steep and long. You can’t print on every kind of fabric.
For the most part, we love our DTG Printer but will use some of our previous processes on projects that call for a different look. Fabric and durability will play the biggest part in our decision. We hope this helps but please contact us if you have any questions or if you want to share your experience. We could always learn more.