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Heat transfer for white on dark shirts with very thin lines

4261 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  emet214
I've been selling shirts online using 3rd party fulfillment (printful, scalable press) for a couple of years now and want to bring my t-shirt printing in house. No experience with t-shirt printing, I've been reading around here a bit and am still trying to figure out how to get started.

Print on demand is big for me because I have a lot (hundreds) of designs and my sales are pretty well spread out across them, so I don't think screen printing is a practical option - I would spend more time making screens than using them. At this point I'm thinking that weedless heat transfer is the way to go - also considering DTG, but it looks like DTG printers are not only expensive but take a lot to maintain. As far as I can tell, heat transfer is less expensive to get started, less to maintain and also less time consuming since there is no need to pre-treat the shirts.

My designs are all based on old technical drawings, so they are single color (black or white) and mostly consist of thin lines - I attached a picture of one of my shirts to illustrate. I've watched several videos of people doing heat transfers but they are all focused on printing larger, more solid designs. It seems like weeding my designs would be a big problem even with a vinyl cutter, because after weeding the remaining material would be a bunch of spaghetti thin lines.

Aside from the weeding, my other big issue is being able to print white on dark shirts. I've looked into OKI printers and obviously those would work, but they are pretty pricey too. I'm tempted to just order a basic black & white laser printer and some Ghost white ink and take it from there. Anybody have any experience going that route?

Can anybody recommend a video/discussion/tutorial that would discuss doing heat transfer or other methods with minimal designs like mine? Any recommendation on printers or transfer papers? Should I be considering some other printing method?

Any advice is appreciated!


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Go to YOU TUBE. Look up FOREVER PAPERS. There are a variety of these transfer papers for use for printing onto various substrates.

Using a LOW TEMPERATURE inexpensive laser black and white printer ( HP is usually too hot and melts the papers) and Forever Flex-Soft (no cut) transfer paper, you print on reverse side of selected colored (or white) sheet and press together with supplied 2nd sheet, than transfer the color(or white ) or metal foil (silver) to your shirt by heat press.
Bingo. No weed no cutting. It is a 2 step system.

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And there's Koncert T's paper from Yolo, you laser your design in black, two prt paper , and it presses white.
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I do agree that your designs are too intricate for vinyl. I'm not familiar enough with other print methods to have any advice there. But we do a ton of vinyl shirts and I wouldn't want to have to do many if any technical drawings.
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Thanks emet214 and Dekzion, both of those options look very promising! After watching a couple of videos it looks like you peel off the Forever Paper transfers just after pressing, where the Koncert T's have a cooldown time. Is that correct?

Is there an ideal temperature range I should be looking for when I go printer shopping, or is lower better in general?

jeannekay, I figured that was the case but it's good to get some confirmation :) one more thing I can scratch off the list!
Are you in USA? If not - where are you?
Pressure, heat and dwell time are critical for Forever Flex soft no cut.
1.Med pressure for press from A to B papers- Hot peel on platen slowly.
2. Heavy pressures for B to substrate. Cold peel rolling carefully.
All papers come with instructions. Lots more You Tube search for these papers will give you more info.

Lower priced laser printers full color - about $150 with scanner should do the trick. You are looking for low temperate fusers within the scanners. Ask your merchants (Office Depot etc) and look at the product details. Call the rep. in your country of Canon, Ricoh etc. ask them the heat output.
Also look here:-

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I've tried (just about) every paper on the market the past few years. The only one that I've personally found that will do a good job of transferring thin line prints in white to a dark shirt (or any kind of very thin line) is the Forever Dark Low-Temp.

I know that they're not cheap but if you're serious about getting into the shirt printing/design process in any sizable way .... the best way to go would be the Oki 920WT (or one of the other OKI white toner printers). I tried the "convert a standard printer to print white" thing and gave up on it. It pretty quickly becomes a PITA and the aggravation involved quickly overcomes the dollars saved.

(As someone who spent a lot of years in the financial services industry, I can tell you that the fastest way to either go broke or to give up as a result of frustration is to skimp on initial equipment quality. If someone is serious about (and committed to it), spending the extra dollars to do it right the first time is always the way to go.)
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i would see if you can get the koncert t's dialed in first

minimal outlay to start (those white oki's are $9k up here for 11x17, which it looks like your designs may need)
plus you don't need anything but a monochrome printer for the koncert t's, which will save you even more
and if you ever wanted you could do inversions of your design on imageclip for lights and have black designs on white/light tee's

there may be a used laser printer in your area you could test the papers with (i think canon, ricoh, older samsungs, or lexmark)
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Thanks for all the feedback! Sounds like it would be good for me to start with a cheapo printer and experiment with the Koncert T's first, at least enough to get a feel for the process. I should be able to get ahold of a cheap used laser printer pretty easily. Maybe try Ghost ink with Forever Papers a too.

paradigmprint I get what you mean about getting turned off from printing in general if I get bad results with a cheap printer. Hopefully I can avoid that pitfall, since I know there are better options to build up to :D if nothing else I'll have a better appreciation for the OKI printers if my first attempts don't work out.

emet214 I'm located in the U.S. Thanks for the youtube link! Not sure what kind of printer I'll end up with but that gave me a better idea of what kind of configuration tweaks will be needed.
The best is always the best - unless one doesn't need the best!
If you buy a laser B/W printer - it will do the job .... $100
If you buy a laser color printer - it will do the job ... and then some ...$130
If you buy a laser color printer with scanner - it will do the job ..Plus-plus-plus. Scanners are needed, not every art piece is digital until you get it into the computer ... $150
So for $50 bucks more you can print in color onto transfer paper for light ( Neenah or Paropy papers) or Forever light or hard surface etc. And others as mentioned by other posts as well as others from different merchants.
Price. .... An extra dollar on transfer paper is really not critical either. From your posted illustrations, it appears the designs are about 3inches square. Four to six designs on a single sheet 8.5x11 can be ganged up and cut apart after printing. Then you apply them each separately to the required places.
Add table mats, mouse pads, denim rough edge patches to be sewn onto jeans. With hard surface papers you can make wall plaques or coasters even skate boards. When you are rich and famous then you can buy yourself an Oki white printer.
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