The substrates are the base materials that the images or designs from the heat-applied materials will be printed onto to decorate them; these include t-shirts, bags, caps, plaques, awards and a host of others that can withstand the heat of the transfer.
Heat transfer printing is one of the most affordable printing methods for fabrics, and it can be completed with heat transfer equipment. The heat-applied materials come with adhesive on one side, which can only be activated by heat. When you apply heat via your heat transfer equipment to the heat-applied material, it activates the adhesive which helps it to stick to the item (substrate) you want to decorate.
The application of sublimation heat transfer printing is more pronounced in the garment decoration industry. However, this easy and cost-effective printing method provides the opportunity to customize or decorate a wide range of items such as: T-shirts, Bags, Fanwear, Jessy or team uniforms, Caps, Awards, etc. Since this printing method requires heat, it can only work on items that can withstand the heat of transfer. Most t-shirt materials can withstand the heat from this printing method. However, it can damage some synthetic bags or materials, so you must ensure that the material you want to decorate is resistant to heat before you apply this method of printing. Heat transfer printing also provides the opportunity for clubs, schools, fashion, and craft enthusiasts, as well as corporate organizations and small businesses.
Apart from the suitability and application of this method of printing in the garment and textile decorating industry, it is also suitable for printing on acrylics and physically hard objects like plates and coffee mugs.
Factors Affecting the Quality of Heat Printed Items
Heat printed images are water-resistant, heat resistant, and durable. However, as interesting as that may sound, achieving quality output through heat transfer method of printing is largely dependent on three factors; time, temperature and pressure.
Time – this is the duration in seconds the heat must be applied to the substrate.
Temperature – this is the ideal/optimum degree of heat at which the design/pattern will be perfectly imprinted on the substrate.
Pressure – this is the rate of force needed to be exerted when applying the heat on the substrate.
These factors are very germane as each sublimation heat transfer printing material has its unique heat printing requirements and guidelines; hence, to save the garments from been burnt, making recourse to the guidelines is strongly advised. Some substrate requires special pre-treatment to achieve the best result. For instance, wool fabrics generally undergo a process of chlorination before printing, but most other textile materials require no special pre-treatment before heat printing.
However, it is recommended that you pre-wash and ensure the item you want to print on is clean before you proceed. That is because some textile materials will pull after heat printing as a result of the shrinkage around the printed area when they are washed for the first time. You don’t have to worry about pre-washing if you are printing on other items such as a bag, because it will have no problem with shrinkage.
Basic Steps to Do Heat Printing
Starting a printing business from your abode? I strongly believe you wouldn’t want to get it wrong. So, here are the basic steps you need to follow to be on the right pedestal.
- Equipment and Materials
Opting for dye heat transfer printing requires a machine uniquely designed for that purpose. Hence, the use of heat press is highly recommended. It allows you to print large volumes with an easy transfer process and retrieval of item after the transfer is completed. Unlike the use of printer and hot iron, heat transfer printing through heat press guarantees high-quality as well as colorful prints of realistic photo images.
Transfer Materials: For start-ups, you can choose to get a smooth transfer material that comes in glossy, matte, and sometimes glittering nature. Another one is a flocked heat transfer with soft and fuzzy finish to the print. The transfer materials to be used should be the one that will allow you to print out your designs and customize it to your satisfaction because different fabric tones attract different transfer materials.
- Creating Your Design
There are numerous computer software packages for creating designs, but it is advisable to use the one you are most convenient with. These are usually free, but some do require a special printer of the same brand.
You can create your design on a paper before turning to the computer software in order to make it easier for you. You also have the option of scanning the design into the program to be printed onto the transfer materials. Having completed the design, the printing of the transfer material is the next step, and this could be done with a standard printer or special printers for some special transfer materials.
- Cutting Your Transfer
Even while operating from home, professionalism is essential. So having printed the transfer, you need to cut the design with the aid of ‘cutting mat’ to avoid margin error, and this must be preceded by securing the transfer material.
A craft knife can be used to cut away the excesses on the transfer material. An alternative to craft knife is the use of scissors, but the snag is that it might not perfectly get rid of the excess as opposed to the craft knife.
- Pressing the Transfer Material
An iron or heat press can be used to press onto the transfer to the substrate. Let’s take a look at the processes involved in using either of the options.
Iron: To generate heat, plug your iron into the wall socket and turn the knob on the iron to the maximum level of hotness. Placing the hot iron directly on the transfer could cause damage to the transfer material and truncate the transfer process. Therefore, get a towel and place it in between the hot iron and the transfer material, then put your hot iron on the transfer material for the duration of time as stated on the transfer material box.
Having fulfilled the timing, remove the hot iron and allow the transfer to cool off before gently peeling the back of the material as doing otherwise could as well cause damage to the transfer.
Heat Press: To effectively use a heat press, it is necessary to plug your heat press machine into the wall socket and set the temperature to a level as stated on the transfer material box. Then determine the thickness of the substrate and adjust the pressure of the machine to its suitability.
Do not be in haste to place the item in the machine but ensure you set the timer based on the transfer materials you want to use as also stated on the transfer material box. Having done this, you can then place the item in the heat press and close it. The beauty of the automatic heat press is that upon completion of the dye heat transfer printing process, the machine opens automatically. After heat pressing the design, allow it to cool off and gently peel off the paper backing. Allow the print to lock for about 24 hours before you can wash the fabric.
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