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Discussion Starter #1
Could anyone give me their opinions about heat transfer plastisols v. traditional screen printing? Is the quality as good? Are there any compromises? Drawbacks? Right now as I'm looking into this i cannot understand how I hadn't heard about it before now. I'm really excited, but trying to be cautious.
 

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Our customers that come to us with screen printed shirts usually switch to us because our prints are better and we use the transfers even though they are more expensive. Keep in mind a good screen printer can beat you up and down against transfers but there are screen printers out there that really don't do a good job.

What we often see from our customers that come to us is screen printers that either don't use underbase or didn't use the right color or just did a bad job. We have seen a distressed look when the customer didn't want it, a white print on red baseball jerseys that turned pink before they even wore them and sloppy printing where the images were muddy or the lettering not crisp.

On the other hand when we started out we sourced screen printing to a local shop and the results were great. He did have a 14 color auto, but he and his wife operated the entire thing.
 
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Plastisol transfers are a workaround method for people with limited equipment, space, or budget... or a combination of these.

Let's say you have an eBay shop, working from home, and you only have a $5,000 budget.
Now let's say you want to sell 50 designs with 5 color options, and sizes S to 2XL. That's 5 colors and 5 sizes per color.

1. Direct screen print option:
To stock just 2 shirts per color and size, you need to print 2,500 shirts.
That's a lot of shirts and will need a lot of space.
You'll be out of budget, because you'll have to pay for all the shirts and printing costs upfront.
You would end up with unsold colors and sizes, limiting your budget and storage space for the next batch.

2. Plastisol transfers option:
Let's say you print 10 copies per design... That's 500 sheets in total and will fit in a single box.
The startup cost would be around half your budget.
You can then order the color and size of shirts you need on demand, press them and post them.
You can also order more copies of the transfers when needed, and keep going.

Plastisol transfer (positives):
  • Easy to start (as described above).
  • They feel like plastisol, because they are plastisol.
  • Digital print + plastisol options available, producing high resolution, high detail prints without much additional effort.

Plastisol transfer (negatives):
  • They don't last as long as traditional screen printing.
  • Experienced people can tell they are transfers.
  • Not as soft as other screen-printing methods.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Here are numerous related posts: Search results for query: plastisol transfers vs screen...

Tell us how you operate now and we can provide some specific advice. Screenprint yourself or use an outside printer? How much inventory do you usually carry? Do you have storage space issues?, etc.
Right now I farm everything out to a local screen print shop. It's not a model that will work long term. From the time I reach out to the time I get my shirts back can be anywhere from 3-4 weeks. I don't have the room for a screen print set up, so I am looking at heat pressing transfers. I can store product in my storage unit.
 

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Our customers that come to us with screen printed shirts usually switch to us because our prints are better and we use the transfers even though they are more expensive. Keep in mind a good screen printer can beat you up and down against transfers but there are screen printers out there that really don't do a good job.

What we often see from our customers that come to us is screen printers that either don't use underbase or didn't use the right color or just did a bad job. We have seen a distressed look when the customer didn't want it, a white print on red baseball jerseys that turned pink before they even wore them and sloppy printing where the images were muddy or the lettering not crisp.

On the other hand when we started out we sourced screen printing to a local shop and the results were great. He did have a 14 color auto, but he and his wife operated the entire thing.
You mention that the quality is better with screen printing - does that mean you feel that the heat transfers are a poor product? How well do they hold up to washing?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Plastisol transfers are a workaround method for people with limited equipment, space, or budget... or a combination of these.

Let's say you have an eBay shop, working from home, and you only have a $5,000 budget.
Now let's say you want to sell 50 designs with 5 color options, and sizes S to 2XL. That's 5 colors and 5 sizes per color.

1. Direct screen print option:
To stock just 2 shirts per color and size, you need to print 2,500 shirts.
That's a lot of shirts and will need a lot of space.
You'll be out of budget, because you'll have to pay for all the shirts and printing costs upfront.
You would end up with unsold colors and sizes, limiting your budget and storage space for the next batch.

2. Plastisol transfers option:
Let's say you print 10 copies per design... That's 500 sheets in total and will fit in a single box.
The startup cost would be around half your budget.
You can then order the color and size of shirts you need on demand, press them and post them.
You can also order more copies of the transfers when needed, and keep going.

Plastisol transfer (positives):
  • Easy to start (as described above).
  • They feel like plastisol, because they are plastisol.
  • Digital print + plastisol options available, producing high resolution, high detail prints without much additional effort.

Plastisol transfer (negatives):
  • They don't last as long as traditional screen printing.
  • Experienced people can tell they are transfers.
  • Not as soft as other screen-printing methods.
What does "They don't last as long as traditional screen printing" mean? I'm assuming the image doesn't peel off, correct? So does it completely fade, or how does the image "not last?"
 

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You got lots of good info, and a little variety of opinion, in response to your question. I more or less agree with all of it ;-) so I won't rehash the finer points. Don't let Perfection stand in the way of Good Enough For What It's For--or, more importantly, in the way of getting stuff done.

Pick one of your designs and have a batch of transfers made for it. Waste a few shirts learning how to get them pressed correctly. Then wash them 30 times, along with a screen printed shirt of the same design. Then see what you think.

In the end it does not matter at all if one is marginally better or worse than the other, as your customer isn't going to buy both and replicate your science experiment. What matters is whether either (or both!) give acceptable results.

And finally, whether directly screen printed or as screen printed transfers, mistakes can be made. Either product can be incorrectly cured, which will lessen the durability. Either can be sloppily printed. Those issues can be remedied by finding a better provider, so don't do a large buy from any vendor before getting some samples and doing the wash test.

As to the heritage of Plastisol transfers ... these were the Get Rich With T-Shirts mania before DTG was invented, so nothing new. Many (most, all?) of the big novelty Tee sites used them. The guy from Road Kill was a member on here years ago; he was using Plastisol transfers. I personally have bought shirts from Snorg, and they seemed to be using Plastisol transfers, as least at that time.

Here is a post from the Road Kill guy from 2008:

"Get plasitsol designs from Untitled Document or DOWLING GRAPHICS Heat Transfers - heat transfers you can do small runs and have AWESOME quality"

Obviously that recommendation is not current, so take with a salt lick. I shared just to show that Plastisol transfers were the go-to solution for the novelty shirt biz.

Enjoy
 

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I'm yet to see a plastisol transfer last as long as properly cured direct plastisol.

Plastisol Transfers:
The image bellow is and example of a soft hand plastisol transfer, after one year of use.
Is this acceptable? I don't think so.
One thing worth mentioning, is that white is the least durable color to use on a transfer.
If you look carefully, the green is holding up a bit better, and less opaque inks will do even better.
plastisol-transfer1.png Photo Credit: (source).

Direct plastisol:
This is what you can expect a properly cured plastisol to look on a black shirt 10 years later and after around 80 to 100 washes.
Notice how the white is cracking but it's not flaking like a transfer would do.
As I said above the white is the weak link.
plastisol-direct.png


Not all plastisol transfers are the same:
Problems are usually more evident in white and some opaque inks.
This is because the increased ammount of pigment makes the ink more brittle

Example 1
Photo Credit: (source).
This transfer adhesion issues, but notice how the black does transfer better than the white.
Example 2
Photo Credit: (source).
This is again an adhesion issue. Probably due to over-flashing the transfer.
Example 3
Photo Credit: (source).
Plastisol transfer after 20 washes.
Probably a good transfer but overcurred. Direct plastisol will also crack if over-curred.
plastisol-transfer2.jpg plastisol-transfer3.jpg plastisol-transfer5.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'm yet to see a plastisol transfer last as long as properly cured direct plastisol.

Plastisol Transfers:
The image bellow is and example of a soft hand plastisol transfer, after one year of use.
Is this acceptable? I don't think so.
One thing worth mentioning, is that white is the least durable color to use on a transfer.
If you look carefully, the green is holding up a bit better, and less opaque inks will do even better.
View attachment 271823 Photo Credit: (source).

Direct plastisol:
This is what you can expect a properly cured plastisol to look on a black shirt 10 years later and after around 80 to 100 washes.
Notice how the white is cracking but it's not flaking like a transfer would do.
As I said above the white is the weak link.
View attachment 271834


Not all plastisol transfers are the same:
Problems are usually more evident in white and some opaque inks.
This is because the increased ammount of pigment makes the ink more brittle

Example 1
Photo Credit: (source).
This transfer adhesion issues, but notice how the black does transfer better than the white.
Example 2
Photo Credit: (source).
This is again an adhesion issue. Probably due to over-flashing the transfer.
Example 3
Photo Credit: (source).
Plastisol transfer after 20 washes.
Probably a good transfer but overcurred. Direct plastisol will also crack if over-curred.
View attachment 271824 View attachment 271825 View attachment 271827
Thank you for including pictures. Who are you getting your transfers from? What machinery were you using to press them?
 

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Who are you getting your transfers from? What machinery were you using to press them?
I screen-print my own transfers and I use them to make hats, patches, labels etc.
It's just so much easier to print 300 hat transfers on 10 gang sheets, instead of screen-printing 300 hats directly.
Also the hats will not stretch and will not get washed much either... So transfers are the perfect option.
T-shirts are a different story as demonstrated above.

Don't be discouraged by my own extreme views by the way.
I have the same views for white ink DTG prints, but a lot of people find them acceptable.
Some want to claim their DTG prints will last for over 100 washes.
It's just not true, especially if you don't follow the wash instructions (cold water, inside out).
Direct plastisol on the other hand, does not care if you wash it at 60°C and print side out every time.
The shirt fabric will disintegrate before the ink does.

What machinery were you using to press them?
All you need for plasstisol transfers is a heat press.
Cold peel plastisol transfers are tolerant, so ant heat press will do.
 

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You mention that the quality is better with screen printing - does that mean you feel that the heat transfers are a poor product? How well do they hold up to washing?
I am saying good screen printing is better than transfers but finding a good screen printer is hard to do. In the end the profit margins are about the same using a screen printer or transfers it is just who is doing the work, you or someone else. My point was we pick up customers because they screen printers they use are not very good, mostly because the customer wants something cheap and that is what they get. Once they are not happy with their order, they come to us and we give them a better product at a higher price.

Most of our customers aggressively wash their shirts, so naturally the print will fail over time. We issue washing instructions with each order but they really don't comply. Just leads to reorders.
 
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