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What is Heat Transfer T-shirt Printing?

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Heat Transfer Printing is a broad term for several T-shirt printing methods which make use of a heat transfer medium and high heat to get the job done.

Put simply, an image of the design artwork is printed on one side of the heat transfer medium, and subsequently, heat pressed onto the T-shirt with a Heat Transfer Machine.

There are several Heat transfer methods, and more information can be found here.

Properties of Heat Transfer Printing

· Suitable for orders with individual names and numbers (E.g. Sports jerseys)

· Economical even for prints with many colours

· Cost effective for small orders (fewer than 20 pieces)

· Can produce photo quality prints

· Able to print colour gradients

· Relatively quick turnaround time

· Not as durable as silkscreen prints

· Not suitable for large orders (above 20 pieces)

· Complex designs will require a border

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Heat Transfer

Lead Time: At Butter Prints, our typical lead-time for Heat Transfer Tshirt printing orders are 3-5 working days upon processing of your order.

What do I need to decide on before making my order:

· Type of Apparel (e.g. Cotton or Drifit Roundneck, Polo Tees, Bomber Jacket, Windbreakers etc.)

· Colour of Apparel

· Order size (order should be 20 pieces or less)

· Desired size of print (e.g. A4 or A3).

· Position of print (e.g. left chest, front, back, right sleeve etc.)

What do I need to provide:

· High resolution image of your customised design in .pdf or .Ai format

· T-shirt / Apparel Size Breakdown

· Delivery Address and Contact Details (if you require delivery)

Are Heat Transfer Prints Durable:

Heat Transfer T-shirt Prints can typically last for 50+ washes or more.

While they are less durable than some other prints such as silkscreen, DTG or embroidery, heat transfer prints are very suitable for cases where:

· highly individualised prints are needed, and

· the T-shirts do not need to be worn often

Some examples could include annual or bi-annual sporting events, or customised clothes for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary.

You can also extend the life of your prints by following these easy steps.


Heat Transfer Methods

Here at Butter Prints There are several Heat transfer methods. In this article we will split them up based on the heat transfer medium used. There are 2 main mediums used for T-shirt heat transfer:

· Inkjet Transfer Paper

· Vinyl Material (printable PU material)

Example of heat press digital transfer print (above).

Heat Press Digital Transfer Print

Makes use of an Inkjet Printer, and Digital transfer paper.

Able to print almost any design, and if the resolution of the artwork is very high, the printed Digital Print will have close to photo like quality.

First the desired design is printed on film side of heat transfer paper using an inkjet printer. Light heat transfer paper yields vibrant colours when used on white/light coloured fabric; dark heat transfer paper is used for dark coloured fabric, and it prevents the fabric colour from showing through the ink.

The printed design image is placed face down onto the fabric and a heat press machine is used to apply heat and pressure, thereby transferring the image onto the garment.

Example of vinyl heat transfer print (above).

Computer-Aided-Design Vinyl Heat Transfer (aka Vinyl Print)

Very suitable for personalised 1 colour prints, such as Individual name/text and number printing.

Unlike Digital Heat Transfer, colours of the print depends on the availability of the Vinyl material in that particular colour.

The print is done using transfer vinyl paper, which is made of Polyurethane (PU) or poly vinyl chloride (PVC) material. The vinyl paper has 2 sides, a matte and a glossy side. The matte side contains a heat sensitive adhesive, while the glossy side is a plastic carrier sheet.

The design is uploaded into a cutting machine software, and the design is cut out on the matte side of the heat transfer vinyl with the help of a computer guided cutting blade. Once done, excess vinyl material in and around the design is weeded out.

The design is placed matte side down on the fabric, and a heat press machine is used to apply heat and pressure to the design, melting the heat sensitive adhesive onto the fabric. The plastic carrier sheet is then removed, leaving the finished design on the garment.

For other printing methods, visit Silk-screen Printing.

For apparel choices, visit all Customizable Products.

Now that you are clear with our t-shirt printing methods, you may request for t-shirt printing quotation here.

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