Heat transfers are killer to have in many scenarios. Many printers use them for neck tags, live printing events, names on jerseys, etc. While you can purchase transfers from a company, you can also make them yourself. Don’t know how? Well, keep reading this handy guide and you’ll be printing your own plastisol heat transfers in no time.
WHAT YOU NEED
To create your own plastisol heat transfers, you need the following items:
- Transfer paper
- Transfer adhesion powder
- Plastisol ink
- Conveyor dryer
- Heat press
All these supplies and equipment can be purchased from your local screen print supplier.
The screen printing ink you use for plastisol heat transfers matters. Standard-cure plastisol inks typically need to reach 320°F to achieve full cure. Low-cure plastisol inks need to reach ~260°F to be fully cured. Using a low-cure ink when printing heat transfers makes the job so much easier because the ink gels faster, decreases the likelihood of the transfer paper rippling, and speeds up the process. Using heat transfers makes a job more efficient. Why not make it even more effective by using low-cure ink?
THE PRINTING PROCESS
Before printing on the paper, run it through the conveyor dryer. The transfer paper must be dry so it doesn’t mess with the ink and since paper absorbs moisture from the air, running it through the dryer will evaporate the moisture. Just don’t run the dryer too hot, otherwise, the paper may ripple (having a flat surface is a must).
Alright once the paper is ready to go, it’s time to sling some ink. Let’s talk about squeegee pressure. It’s always important but it’s especially important when it comes to heat transfers. If you push too hard, the ink will seep outside the stencil. Push too light and not enough ink will get through. You need to find the sweet spot where the ink clears the screen while maintaining a clean print. Plus, the ink deposit cannot be too tall because when it’s cured via the heat press, the press will squash the print, making it a mess. So, play around with the mesh count, emulsion thickness, and squeegee pressure until you find the best strategy.
INK TIP: Since FN-INK is a bright, opaque ink, it doesn’t need as many passes as a more translucent ink would achieve a vivid print (which is extremely helpful when printing heat transfers).
APPLYING ADHESION POWDER
Grab a plastic container of some sort and fill it with a decent amount of adhesion powder. Put the printed transfer paper into the box and dust the ink with the powder several times. Once the print is covered, pick up and flick the paper to remove any excess powder. When you’re done, put any remaining powder back into its original container to preserve it.
GEL THE INK
The print will be cured when it’s time to heat press it onto a garment. Right now, you want to gel the ink. Gelling the ink makes it dry to the touch, but not cured (it needs to adhere to the shirt somehow). The rad fact about FN-INK is that since it’s a low-cure plastisol ink, you don’t need to run the temperatures as high as you would for standard-cure plastisol ink. Set the dryer to 200°F, run the transfer through, and you’re good to go.
APPLYING THE TRANSFER TO A SHIRT
The type of transfer paper, adhesion powder, and heat press will determine the most optimal settings on the heat press. A good starting point is setting the heat press to 350°F with a four or five pressure.
Set the heat transfer on the shirt and press it for 10 seconds. If you’re using a hot transfer peel, remove the paper right after heat-pressing the print. If it’s a cool transfer peel, wait for the heat transfer to completely cool down before removing it. And voila, you have successfully created your own heat transfer.
Plastisol heat transfers are clutch for live events, neck tags, small and consistent orders, and more. Printing your plastisol heat transfers is a nice touch to maintain your desired high-quality and handmade features. Now that you know how to do it, it’s time to bring your art to life.