Digital Heat Transfers Versatility On Demand

Digital Heat Transfers – Versatility On Demand

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In today’s fast paced print-on-demand world, the need for quick turn, high quality full color heat transfers is very high. The digital transfer was designed for this. Using digital heat transfers to integrate images or graphics to a garment is one of the most versatile methods of branding apparel. To be versatile in our industry is key. You never know what fad might come back in style or when a new art concept becomes popular. When using digital transfers, the possibilities are endless. Photo reproduction, double exposure and faux embroidery are just a few design concepts that are perfect for using a digital heat transfer.

Most digital transfers are printed using Four Color Process (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). Some digital printers and presses have the capability of adding one or two spot colors as well.

Digital heat transfers can be applied to a wide variety for materials. Cotton, cotton blends, polyester, nylon, nylon blends and pretty much any substrate you can apply a heat transfer to, you can apply a digital transfer as well.

For example, PPE wear is here to stay for a while, whether we like it or not. Digital transfers are perfect for branding reusable/washable face masks. No matter if the order is 12 pieces or 120,000 pieces, one of the digital products discussed below, will not only fulfill your needs but could probably save you some money and increase your profits in the long run.

Another way of increasing your profits and reducing costs is to gang up images on a sheet. This is done quite a bit with screen printed transfers. Let’s say that the order you are working on is for 50 tee shirts with a 12 x 12 inch full front center chest. Take the image for the front and shrink it down to 2.5 x 2.5 inches. Now incorporate the smaller graphic in to the production run. Once complete, you now have a smaller transfer you can sell for face masks, Caps or maybe even another location on the garment.

Fall is just around the corner and in most places, cold weather is inevitable. When the cold comes, there is no shortage of new and fresh outerwear attire to be decorated. What better way to brand outerwear then a transfer that is versatile in all aspects? Jackets, gloves, headwear and scarves are good examples of items to embellish with digital heat transfers. Just make sure to use the best suited digital transfer for the job.

5 Examples of Digital Heat Transfers:

Inkjet Digital Transfer: This media is a cheap and easy way to decorate a garment. These heat transfers are great for the one-off shirt and the DIY crafter. This process is as easy as printing your design on the transfer paper and then applying it onto a garment with a heat press. You will find that these transfer papers are made specifically for light or dark garments. The paper for lights is designed for white or light color shirts that don’t need as much opacity and the paper for darks is designed for darker color shirts that needs a more opaque look to the graphic once applied to the garment. Although this product is easy to produce, it is not the most durable transfer on the market. The transfer will crack if stretched and when washed, the image can fade.

Self Weeding/White Toner Digital Transfer: This type of heat transfer is designed for small production runs. Self weeding digital heat transfers are perfect when you want to implement unlimited colors and graphics that also have small line weights in the art. Once you have your artwork ready to go, print the image on the desired media. You don’t necessarily need to use the white toner option. This function is designed for darker garments but can still be used for light garments. This product consists of a two part system. The paper/films for this product will come in sheet form. Fuse sheet A (color print with or without white toner backer sheet) with sheet B (Polymer/Adhesive sheet) using your heat press, peel and you have your transfer ready to apply to your garment.

HTV Digital Transfer: Digital Heat Transfer Vinyl is one of the most well known media for digital heat transfers. This product is used for small production runs. It is fairly easy to produce a digitally printed vinyl heat transfer. Of course there is always a learning curve with technology that is new to you. You will need a digital printer and a cutter or a unit that prints and cuts. This media can come in sheet or roll form. Simply prepare your graphic and cut lines and send to the printer/cutter. Once finished, weed, apply carrier sheet and apply transfer to your substrate.

Digitally Printed Sublimated Transfer:Sublimation is a widely used application in the textile imaging market. A sublimation heat transfer has to be applied to a light colored 100% polyester garment, a light colored garment with high polyester content or a light colored polyester coated substrate. You can achieve a high definition graphic with this process. This transfer works well for short or long production runs. It can be applied in piece goods or onto a finished garment.
Digitally printing a sublimation heat transfer starts with the paper. Use a paper made for sublimation transfers. This paper can come in sheet of roll form. Use digital sublimation inks with your printer. There is no weeding with this product. Sublimation transfers work by heating up the ink, which will then turn in to a gas and transfer to the desired substrate by the time the heat press application is complete. One of the benefits of sublimation is that the graphic will take on the hand feel of the garment.

Hybrid Screen Printed Digital Transfer: Digital hybrid heat transfers are one of the newest technologies around for digital transfers and are quickly gaining popularity, such as Insta Graphic Systems’ Infinity heat transfer. These transfers have high definition/detail, they are very durable, they have great stretch and a soft hand feel. Hybrid heat transfers are digitally printed and then backed with a white under base (White Backer).

Hybrid Digital transfers are perfect for short or long production runs. They are also great for small runs with ample colors because there is not much set up on press and all of the colors and detail are printed in the digital print. This product is even better for long runs with multiple colors. For example: If you run an 8 color direct screen print or an 8 color screen printed heat transfer, you will need 8 screens, one screen for each color. Only one to three screens will be needed for a digital hybrid transfer using the same art.

It has been said that the Idea for the digital hybrid heat transfer was inspired from offset litho transfers. The litho transfer was a method or printing that was very popular in the 70’s & 80’s and then started fizzling out in the 90’s. Offset litho heat transfers use the same concept as the digital hybrid heat transfer. The main difference is a digital press is used for the color print on a digital transfer, while the offset litho press is used for the color print of the offset litho transfer.

Adding digital heat transfers to your arsenal is a smart decision. As an entry point, I would start with the Inkjet transfer and then once you have that dialed in, move on to the weed less/white toner transfer or the HTV digital cad cut transfer.

You may ask how do I choose what type of digital transfer to use? It all comes down to what you and your customers are looking for in a transfer. Knowing what a customer’s expectations are will direct you towards the best suited transfer for the job. To some it might be price, for others it is a durable transfer that will outlast the garment. The more information you have on what your customer wants, the easier it is to decide on which digital transfer to use for their garments.

When it comes to applying digital heat transfers with a heat press, anyone of the transfers listed in this article will fuse with ease as long as you follow the manufacturer’s recommended application instructions. Always use a qualified heat press when applying any heat transfers. It is extremely important to have consistent temperature, time and pressure.

Some of these digital transfers can be more difficult to produce, especially if your customers expect the best resolution and durability from your product. Keep in mind that purchasing equipment and materials to produce digital transfers can get very expensive. When dialing in a new product, quite a bit of time goes in to research and development. There is a learning curve when it comes to testing and setting protocols. It can be tedious as well, so let someone else do it for you (or “so consider outsourcing the production”). This is a perfect opportunity to contact your favorite heat transfer manufacturer. Many heat transfer manufacturers, such as Insta Graphic Systems have digital transfer choices available. Some will even offer to test which digital transfer best suits your hard-to-print substrate. They will help guide you to make the best choice for you and your customers.

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