This is an article that I have posted on my website for quite some time. I hope you find it helpful.
Plastisol / Screen Printed Transfers
These are transfers that are screen printed by an outside transfer company or by yourself with the use of screen printing equipment
Durability – Very Good, often outlasts the life of the garment.
Look/Feel – Identical to screen printing
Ideal For – Higher quantities, where a repetition of one design is to be printed
Ease of use – Excellent, just order in transfers and then heat apply with a heat press for the specified time, temperature and pressure
Advantages – Allows the user to create a screen printed look and feel with just a heat press. Also will allow you to maintain a blank shirt inventory and apply transfers to size, style and color per order as opposed to the preprinted inventory that is associated with traditional screen printing.
Disadvantages – There is a turn time associated with your custom screen printed transfer order. And if you decide to offer stock images, like many beach/boardwalk shops, you can potentially have a large transfer inventory.
Overall Rating: A
Inkjet/Laser Transfer Paper
Paper that can be printed through a desktop inkjet printer or laser printer/copier, then heat applied to your garment.
Durability – Average to Above Average. For the money, this is one of the best options and is easy to maintain. Remember to wash the item in cold water, inside out for the first few washes.
Look/Feel – This varies with the brand of paper. Light color paper is traditionally a softer feel than opaque or dark color paper. Each has a bit of a plastic like feel to it, right off the bat. The “box effect” will surround your design with most papers unless you trim around your design with scissors or a vinyl cutter. We recommend only buying Heat Press Heroes transfer paper, which is designed for our presses to have the best quality.
Ideal For – Lower quantities and personalization, photo realistic prints where durability is not in high demand (ie. tourist destinations, mall kiosks, fairs, flea markets, family reunions, 1 time wear – promotional).
Ease of use – Average. When dealing with inks and transfer papers knowledge of color correction, dpi, drying time and proper application must be obtained.
Advantages – Quick, inexpensive photo quality prints can be created and transferred over to your garment in a matter of minutes.
Disadvantages – This process is not the most durable over the long term. Also in most cases the paper needs to be trimmed around with scissors or an optic eye cutter after being printed to eliminate having a box/window around your design.
Overall Rating – B+
Heat Transfer Vinyl
Vinyl material that can be reverse cut on a vinyl cutter, then weeded and heat applied to a garment.
Durability – Excellent, when properly applied the heat transfer vinyl will outlast the life of the garment without cracking, peeling, or fading.
Look/Feel – Ranges per material. Some materials offer a very soft finish that is matte or dull, while other materials are thick and glossy on the garment. Specialized materials such as flock have their own characteristics as well.
Ideal For – Lower quantities and personalization, used a lot for names and numbers on sports uniforms, some materials offer a real nice feel for use on fashionable apparel.
Ease of use – Good, the general process involves cutting, weeding and then heating. The most detailed portion of this process is weeding.
Advantages – Excellent durability and a professional look, a garment can be created very quickly and the process can prove to be profitable on as little as one unique garment. Can be heat applied virtually anywhere on the garment.
Disadvantages – No photo quality or color gradients can be achieved. Doing more than 3 layered colors can become labor intensive. Intricate detail can be labor intensive.
Overall Rating – A
Digital Print/Cut Media
Media that can be printed and cut out on a solvent based printer/cutter, and then weeded and heat applied to your garment.
Durability – Very Good, when properly applied some print/cut medias will outlast the life of the garment without cracking, peeling, or fading. The concern with this process is the ink. However, when printed with the right type of solvent-based inks the durability can last for a life cycle of a garment.
Look/Feel – Ranges per material. Some materials offer a very soft finish that is matte or dull, while other materials are thick and glossy on the garment. Specialized materials such as glitters have their own characteristics as well.
Ideal For – Lower quantities and personalization, used a lot for full color graphics, some materials can be applied to practically any type of fabric.
Ease of use – Average, the general process involves printing, cutting, masking, weeding and then heating. With proper training and the right equipment this process can be very easy to use.
Advantages – Very good durability and an extremely professional look, combines the durability of the heat transfer vinyl method with the photo-realism of a printer. This process can offer an excellent solution for dark colored garments or tough to do fabrics, as well as basic t-shirts.
Disadvantages – Cost of equipment and the learning curve (some machines do come with training).
Overall Rating – A+
A process that involves the printing of a design with special type of sublimation ink and then heat application to a “compatible” garment.
Durability – Excellent, this process will often outlast the garment.
Look/Feel – Excellent, the process involves the dyeing of fabric, so there is virtually no feel to the transferred image. Very high photo quality results and detail can be achieved.
Ideal For – Lower quantities and personalization, photo realistic prints where durability is in high demand. Yields very professional results.
Ease of use – Below Average, when dealing with inks, especially sublimation inks, knowledge of color correction, dpi, and proper application are critical. The very nature of the aftermarket inks being loaded into the recommended Epson printer can create problems with clogging if strict instruction isn’t followed.
Advantages – Highly detailed, photo quality prints can be created and transferred over to your garment in a matter of minutes. The feel and durability are second to none.
Disadvantages – Cost of inks. The process of sublimation is also restricted to application onto light colored garments. Another disadvantages is that these garments must be comprised of at least 65% polyester in content. Blanks can often be hard to find and/or expensive.
Overall Rating – B
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