Custom Heat Transfers vs Heat Transfer Vinyl

Custom Heat Transfers Vs Heat Transfer Vinyl Films (i.e. The CAD-Cutting Process)


Not all heat transfers are the same. Before investing in the equipment and labor required to apply heat transfers, it is best to know the differences between the two methods.


Custom Heat Transfer Method

Using this method, the Custom Heat Transfer manufacturer prints your artwork on a ready-to-apply substrate for application to a garment or other item. To get started, artwork files are provided to the manufacturer, who prints the artwork onto either a paper or film substrate. The ready-to-apply transfers are then shipped to the customer. No additional work is necessary to prepare the transfer. The artwork can be as simple as 1/Color, or as complex as 4/C Process Digital. The number of colors used in the design will not affect the transfer’s application. To apply the transfer onto a garment using a heat press machine, simply place the garment on the machine’s platen, place the transfer on the garment, engage the heat press, and remove the substrate. The application of the transfer is now complete. Because of the speed and ease of use, Custom Heat Transfers are ideally suited for multiple colors and medium to large quantities.
Easy as 1-2-3. Place the garment and transfer on the lower platen. Engage the heat press. Remove the substrate.
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Heat Transfer Vinyl Films Method (CAD-Cutting/Computer Aided Design)

The CAD-Cutting process, also known as Heat Transfer with Vinyl Films, uses rolls of vinyl material and requires a vinyl cutter, often referred to as a plotter, to cut the design’s image. CAD is the abbreviation for Computer Aided Drafting, and as the name implies, to ensure the cutting is precise, a computer is used to control the process. After cutting the design’s image, the excess vinyl film must be removed. This is known as weeding or picking. For example, the small pieces of material within the letters “A” or “B” or “O”, known as cavities, must be removed or the transfer will not look correct once applied. Once the weeding has been completed the transfer is ready to be applied using a heat press machine. Place the garment on the machine’s lower platen, place the transfer on the garment, place a cover sheet over the transfer, engage the heat press, remove the cover sheet, and remove the substrate. With some vinyl film materials, once the transfer has been applied and the substrate removed, it may be necessary to place the cover sheet over the transfer and engage the heat press machine a 2nd time to insure the transfer is fully applied. The above steps are for a 1/C design. If the design is 2/C or more, the above process is repeated for each color. Heat Transfer Vinyl Film is best suited for 1-3 colors and smaller quantities. As quantities increase, the time and labor required make it a much less attractive option.


Cad-Cuttting process uses vinyl rolls that require a vinyl cutter. Weeding out excess vinyl film. Requires a cover sheet over the transfer.

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When it comes to heat transfers, no one wants to be confronted by multiple steps to produce and apply the transfers. When multiple steps are added to the process, it requires valuable labor resources, reduces efficiencies, increases the risk of making an error, and ultimately slows down the speed to market.

When considering Custom Heat Transfers or Heat Transfer Vinyl Film methods, the first question to consider is “What is the quantity?” If only a handful of transfers need to be produced, even with the extra time and labor required for weeding, Heat Transfer Vinyl Film will probably be the best option. But as quantities increase, then the next question is “How long will it take me to cut and weed the Vinyl Film, and is it worth it?” Custom Heat Transfers will provide the fastest application method and deliver repeatable quality from one application to the next.

Companies promoting CAD-Cutting Vinyl Film provide tips to speed up the weeding process because they recognize the labor required with this product can be excessive. This method, with all its nuances and extra production steps, is not efficient and not the ideal way to apply heat transfers to apparel. It may work in a low volume business where clients need a handful of transfers, but for medium to larger quantities, it is inefficient and requires excessive labor.

When viewing Vinyl Film and all that this type of heat transfer entails, it is not difficult to imagine how this process completely impedes fast track, direct to market effectiveness when customer demand is for multiple colors and/or medium to large volume printing. Using Custom Heat Transfers with the fewest application steps possible is the ideal choice for the embellishment of textiles.