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Heat Transfers - Sublimation - Pigmented

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BASICS - What Are Transfers?

Without going into the fancy technical terms for transfers, let me explain a bit more about heat transfers.

A heat transfer is when a logo, design or other kind of artwork is "copied" and then printed onto a sheet of heat transfer paper. When it's printed on the paper, it is printed in reverse (backwards or mirrored) so when you heat press the transfer to a garment, it comes out the correct way.

There are 3 kinds of heat transfers that are most commonly used today. The first is
plastisol ink heat transfers. This transfer is screenprinted using plastisol inks and is applied to most garments (t-shirts, caps, aprons, towels, etc...).

When you're using plastisol heat transfers, you can specify hot peel or a cold peel transfer. As far as costs are concerned, if they're one or two ink colors, it's affordable, but when you get to full color transfers, then the costs go up. Each piece of artwork must be color separated and screens made for each ink color. This could run into hundreds of dollars .

A Hot Peel transfer is when you heat press the transfer to a garment, as soon as you open the heat press, you peel off the transfer immediately. This leaves a nice 'hand' on the fabric and there is little ink left on the transfer paper. Most hot peel transfers are designed for white and light colored fabrics.

A Cold Peel transfer is made using a different type of plastisol ink. When you heat press the transfer, after you open the heat press, you rub the transfer with a chalkboard erasor to make sure the entire transfer has adhered to the fabric and then you let it cool. After the transfer has cooled, you peel the transfer off the garment. The "hand" is usually heavy and there is no ink left on the transfer paper. Cold peel transfers can be applied to white, light and dark colored garments. By using cold peel transfers, the chance of the fabric bleeding is reduced. A prime example of bleeding would be a white ink transfer heat pressed onto a red t-shirt. The red dye would bleed through and the white lettering would turn pink.

The second kind of heat transfer used today are Sublimation Ink heat transfers. These types of transfers are made with a special ink, printed onto paper designed specifically for sublimation ink transfers. When printed, the ink colors are very dull. When you close your heat press to the transfer, the heat and pressure from the heat press turn the inks into a vapor (gas) and that vapor is forced into the fibers of the shirt or the coating on the hard items (mugs, tiles, etc...). When the heat press is opened, you simply remove the transfer from the item and the item is done.

Once applied to an item, the imprinted area has no "hand". As the heat and pressure from the heat press force the ink vapors into the fabric, there is no ink or paper residue left on the item. Once the item has been imprinted, it won't come off and you can't feel the design on the fabric or surface.

What makes sublimation ink heat transfers so popular is the ease in printing them. Sub transfers can be printed by letterpress, offset, litho, mimeograph, copier and inkjet printers. Unlike plastisol heat transfers, sublimation ink transfers can be applied to cloth (t-shirts, jackets, aprons, sweatshirts, caps, etc...) metal for plaques and signs, ceramic mugs, ceramic tiles, glass tiles, wood, plastic and more. Using sublimation transfers, you can print 25 transfers and place them on 25 different products!

The third kind of heat transfer used today are the OEM/Pigmented heat transfers that are printed on inkjet printers.

OEM means
Original Equipment Manufacturers and the preferred printers are the Epson family of printers. Please see the Printers Section for more about the Epson Printers.
The preferred Epson inks are their new Durabrite inks which are a pigmented ink. Pigmented inks are more fade resistant and do not run when washed.

Pigmented heat transfers are printed using pigmented inks and, like the Durabrite inks, are fade resistant and colors do not run when washed. Be warned that not all pigmented inks carry this same quality.

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