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If you are planning to create custom designs and print them on fabrics, then you can check out heat transfer printing. It can offer a lot of benefits and it is widely available nowadays. Heat transfer printing is one of the printing options that we offer here at Spandex Warehouse. Since there are plenty of t-shirt printing options, you may have a hard time choosing which one is best or which one will work best on your chosen fabric. 

What is Heat Transfer Printing?

Heat transfer printing is also known as heat printing, thermal printing, thermal transfer printing, or thermal wax transfer. It is the process of using heat to transfer any design onto a piece of fabric or object. It uses heat-applied materials and prints them on objects called substrates where the designs or images will be transferred during the process. You can print your chosen design on different fabrics, shirts, bags, caps, plaques, etc. 

Since heat transfer printing is more economical compared to other printing methods, it is one of the most popular methods that use heat transfer equipment such as iron or heat press. The heat-applied materials have an adhesive on the other side, which can then be activated when exposed to the heat transfer equipment. This will allow the material to attach to the substrate you have chosen to decorate. 

The heat transfer machine works by allowing you to transfer an image or design in wax to a fabric or clothing. You can use pre-painted images on a wax sheet, or create images by layering wax dye onto the fabric or object. 

Heat transfer printing is frequently used in the printing industry because it offers a lot of benefits such as long-lasting, heat-resistant, water-resistant, adherent designs, and the images printed using the method are of high quality with bright and vivid colors.

What Are the Advantages of Using Heat Transfer Printing? 

  • Economical – If you need to print out a few shirts, using heat press technology is the more cost-effective option for you. You can even purchase a heat press machine, as it is fairly inexpensive. If your business gets a lot of orders, you can easily get the return of investment, and start turning a profit.
  • User-friendly – The heat press machine is easy to use. Even individuals who have no experience in printing can easily learn how to use it. The heat press machine will not take a huge space in your shop. You can use it to print out different designs on fabric or clothing. You can even produce wraparound prints.
  • Easy to maintain – Another advantage of using a heat transfer machine is that it is not messy and easy to maintain compared to other printing methods such as screen printing. If you use screen printing, you will be required to use different dyes and solvents, which are prone to ink spills and whatnot. If you use a heat t-shirt printing machine, you can set yourself up in a small studio with the machine and bring your designs from a different place.
  • Great quality – Heat transfer machines can print shirts quickly without compromising the quality of the print. The machine can print different designs and images with varying colors, so you can create different designs using programs like CorelDraw and Photoshop, and you can get great image quality.

What Are the Materials Used in Heat Transfer Printing?

A specific type of printer is used for heat transfer printing; it uses special ink. The ink ribbons are wax-based and when you need to print out an image, the ink ribbon will be pressed against the object or fabric. The heat transfer machine will press on the opposite side until the ink is transferred from the ribbon and it will create your desired image on the fabric or object.

How Does Heat Transfer Printing Work?

You will need an image or design. If you will be creating a design to print, you must make sure that you will be using the correct format so you can achieve the best quality print results. Make sure to use artworks with 300dpi, then convert the text to outlines. It is best if you will use vector-based files. You can use Adobe Illustrator to create your designs. Once your design is ready, you can begin the heat transfer printing process. 

The design you have chosen will be printed on a special transfer paper. This paper is capable of imprinting vivid designs and images. The fabric that you will choose to print onto must be loaded in the heat press. Then, the machine will stretch the fabric to allow the ink to stick on it easily. 

You will put the transfer paper that has the design on the part of the fabric where you want it to be printed and attached strongly in place. Then, the heat press machine will keep the transfer paper and fabric together until the ink melts and successfully transfer the image to the fabric. 

Wait for at least 15 seconds, and then you can release the fabric from the heat press and allow it to cool down. After a few seconds have passed and it has cooled down, the transfer paper will be removed from the fabric, and you can now see the beautiful design with vivid colors firmly secured on it. 

When to Use Heat Transfer Printing

Heat transfer can be used if you want to produce great quality prints on fabrics and other objects. You can use realistic photographic images when using the heat transfer machine. Heat transfer is the preferred method to use when the image will be constantly exposed to different elements so that the design will not quickly fade or become easily damaged. 

Heat transfer is commonly used with objects such as mugs, plaque, awards as the wax design will not easily be washed away when rinsed with water. It can also be used for printing names and numbers for sports kits like jerseys and uniforms. 

What Are the Factors That Can Affect the Quality of Heat Transfer Printed Items?

Heat printed designs and images are long-lasting and water and heat resistant so they don’t easily fade away. If you want to achieve high-quality output by using heat transfer printing, you must consider three important factors: pressure, temperature, and time. 

  • Pressure – This is the amount of force needed to be utilized when putting heat on the substrate. 
  • Temperature – This is the ideal level of heat temperature that will be required to properly imprint the design or image on the substrate. 
  • Time – This is the length of time in seconds needed to correctly apply the design to the substrate. 

The factors above are relevant as the heat transfer material may have different heat printing rules and requirements, to prevent the fabrics from becoming ruined, following the strict guidelines are strongly recommended. 

Most substrates used for heat transfer printing may also require pre-treatment to achieve the best results. For example, if you will be using wool fabric, it will need to undergo chlorination before using it for heat transfer printing. You should always pre-wash the fabric so you are sure that it is clean before you start the process. Most fabrics can shrink around the printed image when washed for the first time. However, if you will be printing on bags, you do not have to pre-wash it as it does not shrink after washing.

What Type of Fabric Works Best With Heat Transfer Printing?

Cotton is the most commonly used fabric for heat transfer printing. Because of its flexibility, you can use it for different applications and varying temperatures when applying designs through the heat press. Ring-spun cotton is a popular choice because it has fewer stray fibers and impurities compared to other cotton product variations in the market. It is made of a tight weave and smooth surface, making it easy to print on and it helps increase the grip and durability of the ink. 

If you will be using fabric made from synthetic materials such as polyester, you will need to decrease the time and lower the temperature to avoid burning the fabric. So be careful when using a high-heat transfer. Most fabrics are made of a combination of cotton and polyester and can have slight variance depending on the manufacturer of the product. These types of fabrics are comfortable like cotton and durable like polyester. 

Tri-blend shirts are extremely soft compared to other fabrics. It usually consists of 50% polyester, 25% ringspun cotton, and 25% rayon. The combination of the three fabrics makes the shirt comfortable, durable, and soft. But you must be very careful when printing on it as the rayon in the fabric can easily burn when exposed to high temperatures. You can use low-temperature materials and a heated lower printer to prevent the fabric to have any scorch marks during the printing process. 

If you need fabrics for heat transfer printing, Spandex Warehouse is worth checking out. You can check out this link if you want to order fabrics for printing. You can request a quote for any type of fabric that you will need by clicking this link. If you are interested to order fabrics for heat transfer printing you can fill up this purchase order form. If you have any inquiries or questions regarding our products please fill up this contact form

We are based in Los Angeles, California; we have been in the fabric industry for more than 15 years. We carry different types of fabrics, so if you need a specific type of fabric, please let us know. You can contact us by calling 213-629-7416, or write us an email at [email protected] Our showroom is available for clients but please schedule an appointment first with us before visiting. It is located at 776 Gladys Ave, Los Angeles, California 90021. Let us know how we can help you find the best fabric that will suit your needs!