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After I setup my cutter and did the first test cut, I figured I might as well jump right into the practical application stuff: making a custom t-shirt!

INTRO

Since the setup process was outlined for me step by step in the instruction booklet, I was confident that cutting t-shirt vinyl would be just as easy :)

LOADING THE VINYL INTO THE CUTTER

I pulled out some Orange (my favorite color) Neon vinyl from the Spectra Sample Pack that Imprintables sent me with my heat press/cutter package.


MY FIRST PROBLEM

I was getting ready to load it into the cutter, when I realized I didn't have any "step by step" instructions to follow for loading the vinyl (which side is up?), length of the blade extension (how far should the blade be out of the blade holder), blade force (will the same settings from my test sheet work for this t-shirt vinyl?).

I was spoiled by the step by step :) But I wasn't foiled.

I searched the forums for some tips, checked out the Imprintables website and found some tips for the applying the vinyl to the shirt, and then broke down and contacted Josh for help.

MY NEWBIE QUESTIONS ANSWERED :)

Q: Which side of the vinyl should be facing UP when I load it in the cutter?

A: Load the vinyl with the dull/matte side facing up. Press with the matte site facing down. Don't forget to mirror your image in your graphics program.

Q: How much should the blade be extended (and how much force) for the new vinyl?

A: The same extension can be used, but you may need to adjust the force for the different types of vinyl. It's good practice to go through the test cut procedure (press the test button on the Roland cutter) each time you switch different types of vinyl or even different colors.

Q: Is there a place where I can read all the cutting instructions for the different types of vinyl (detailed loading instructions, which blade to use with which types of material, etc)

A: Nope. You sort of get the hang of it pretty quick.

(I'll probably record that info here for future reference. I like having something I can refer back to in case my memory fails. This was probably explained in the free training offered by Imprintables, but I didn't take it, so most people probably already know this stuff. It would be nice to be included with all vinyl shipments along with the pressing instructions though).

BTW: The neon vinyl (and other thicker vinyl like supersuede/flock) require a 60 degree blade. The cutter came with a 45 degree blade, so if I wanted to start with the neon vinyl, I'd have to do a blade switch.

Needless to say, I decided to start with a vinyl I could cut with the 45 degree blade I already installed. I was feeling adventurous, but not THAT adventurous :)

Out with the orange neon vinyl, in with the glittery blue megatallic .


It only took one test cut to see that the depth and pressure were already perfect for the new vinyl. No adjustments needed...woo hoo!

CREATING THE DESIGN

Warning! Warning! I am not a graphic design. I repeat, I am not a graphic designer. I don't play one on TV, I'm not even going to try to pretend.

But still...I wanted to at least create a shirt I would actually wear. No need to waste vinyl.

So I headed over to a place with a lot of great royalty free vector graphics: Stock Photography: Search Royalty Free Images & Photos | iStockphoto.com

I browsed around looking for clean, but slightly complex shield/crest type graphic that I could type some text on. After looking at a few thumbnails, I decided on this graphic called "Panel 5c"


I clicked on the "Download" link and was taken to the page where you get to choose what type of "license" you'd like to buy. The graphics there are "royalty free", not "free free" :)
Note: Since this was for a promotional item/personal project, I was able to purchase the "standard license" for 5 credits (about $5). If this was for an actual run of t-shirts that I was going to sell, I would have needed to purchase an Extended License for 50 credits (50 bucks), which covers a t-shirt run of up to 2000 shirts.
I downloaded the vector file (this file was a .ai file, but most are in 3 different vector formats, including .eps).

I opened the file in coreldraw x3 and mucked around with it, trying to
figure out what word to type on it. I was thinking "fancy", since the glitter looked fancy, but I probably wouldn't wear a t-shirt with the word fancy on it. Then I found a few synonyms for the word fancy, and I liked "swanky", but it sounded a bit too fancy of a word for fancy. I ended up with "vinyl" for a couple of reasons:
  • As a sort of "captain obvious" badge proclaiming that the design was made with vinyl :)
  • As a little double entendre - a nod to old school vinyl records
So I picked a nice font and plunked down my text to come up with:



CUTTING THE DESIGN

After I had it all nice and perfect, I clicked on the handy dandy CutStudio button that showed up on coreldrawX3 after I installed the upgrade from Roland:



That button sent the graphic to CutStudio where it was cut ready. I drew a box around it because that's what they did in the test cut instructions and it seemed to make the graphic easier to weed. I also think I saw Josh do it on his vinyl transfer video tutorial (I had several browser tabs open while I was doing my first press):




From there I just clicked on the "Cutting" button in CutStudio which sent the design to the cutter.

After some speedy slick slicing, the Roland cutter gave me this:



If you put your face REAL close to the monitor, you can see my design cut out of the vinyl. A bit closer. There you go.

WEEDING THE DESIGN

I removed my vinyl piece from the cutter and removed the rectangle from around the design:


Then I got to know the "joy of weeding" :) I probably should have tried a simpler graphic my first time out...but hey, what fun is that!

To be honest, the weeding wasn't that bad. It was actually a bit relaxing.

It took me about 10 minutes to get to this:


Flip it around, and you can see the sparklies:


(sorry for the bad photo there)

Then I turned on my heat press to use it for the first time. The LED screen was pretty self explanatory, but I pulled out the manual to make sure I was setting the temperature and time properly according to the tech sheet.

MY SECOND PROBLEM

Right about then, the power in my office blew out!

The lights dimmed a bit when I started the preheating of the heat press, but I figured that was just because the heat press used a lot of electricity.

I kept plugging along, trying to line up the t-shirt on the press while it was heating up (I probably should have done this BEFORE I turned the press on). As I was looking back on my computer to see what happened next in Josh's video, everything went out. Poof.

Off to the garage, fixed the breaker, back in the office. Turned on the press again, set the temp and time and I was back in business. The press started heating up:



I did my best to line up the vinyl transfer on the t-shirt (should I have trimmed more of the clear vinyl backing off?)



THE T-SHIRT

Before the holidays last year I bought some fashion blank samples from Article 1.

If you haven't tried Article1 blanks, and you're looking for a super soft "fashion" blank t-shirt (similar to AmericanApparel, AlternativeApparel, Continental Clothing), you should check them out.

I bought a few different styles from them. I'm not sure if their regular basic style tee (111A) is made from different cotton than their eurofit tee (111B) that I used for my first vinyl t-shirt, but this euro fit t-shirt is VERY soft.

The basic shirt was soft as well, but I think this euro fit shirt is either equally as soft or almost as soft as the Alternative Apparel shirts (used in the t-shirtforums shirts from last year). The neckline is more structured (not tight, just more structured than the Alternative Apparel) and it's a bit heavier weight than Alternative's AA05 t-shirt that I love.

HEAT PRESSING THE SHIRT

So according to the instructions for the Megatallic Glitter Vinyl, I was supposed to prepress the blank t-shirt by itself for 4 seconds at 302 degrees Fahrenheit. This is to get rid of the moisture in the t-shirt and to iron out the wrinkles. Then I was supposed to apply the vinyl with the heat press for a period of 10-15 seconds at medium pressure.

I did that, and then I watched Josh's video again to see what he did to minimize my mistakes (I think he was using Megatallic in his video). He said that the megatallic required a press (dwell) time of 10-15 seconds at 305 degrees. I decided to go for the extra 3 degrees and do it at 305.

After I prepressed for 4 seconds, the shirt still seemed like it had moisture, so I prepressed it again for another 8 seconds. Then I prepressed it again for another 8 seconds for good measure :)

Then I lined up my transfer:



And pressed it down for 12 seconds. I waited a bit to let the transfer cool since it's supposed to be a "cold peel" transfer. Then I peeled of the clear backing to reveal my finished product:



Here's a closeup:



Ahh, what the heck, you've followed along this far...here's another that shows the glitter a bit better :)



MY THIRD PROBLEM: TOO MUCH PRESSURE?



At first I thought I scorched the t-shirt by my many pre-presses. As you can see by the above photo, there is a distinct 16 x 20 rectangle on my nice garment. Luckily it wasn't a burn (it went away after I washed the shirt).

I probably should have read this post with pressure adjustment tips from Don and Josh: http://www.t-shirtforums.com/heat-press-heat-transfers/t4942.html

I think pressure is probably the thing I'll have the hardest time with. But I'm sure I'll figure it out. If I was smart like Jose, I could add a pressure gauge to my press :) (I still think they should come with them standard).

But all rectangles aside, I think it turned out to be a pretty nice first t-shirt!


VINYL TRANSFER WASH TEST

Why stop at just the application? We've come too far to stop now. Might as well read on to see how the wash test turned out...

First Impressions
So far I really like working with the Roland cutter. There's something about the LCD screen, USB connection and software use that appeals to the geek in me. Geek technology + making shirts turns out to be a fun combo :)

Oh yeah, the wash test photos. It was worth the wait (I was actually stalling until my card reader started working again).

See, no rectangle. This is after one wash, I think in the cold cycle and dried on medium high heat (I think the Permanent Press setting on the dryer):



Here's a closeup of the washed design. Whaddaya think?


Thanks for hanging in there. Any questions, feedback, answers?
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

so did you remember to cut it backwards the first time? lol

Q: How much should the blade be extended (and how much force) for the new vinyl?
I dont remember who at imprintables told me this, but as a guide, to have the blade out equal to the thickness of a credit card.

Looks good Rodney!
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

Rodney, Looks great and perfect timing!! We are ready to take our next step and purchase a vinyl cutter. If you don't mind me asking, how long did it take for you to receive your order? Also, I remember reading a thread that mentioned a vinyl cutter was a little different from most vinyl cutters because it provided the capability of also cutting images that could be heatpressed. Unfortunately, I did not bookmark the page (50 lashes with a wet noodle for me ;-) If you or anyone has any idea what I may be referring to, I would greatly appreciate the assistance.

Happy Saturday

Cass
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

a thread that mentioned a vinyl cutter was a little different from most vinyl cutters because it provided the capability of also cutting images that could be heat pressed.
All vinyl cutters cut images that can be heat pressed. You just have to use vinyl for apparel, like spectra from Imprintable Wear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

Robin said:
I dont remember who at imprintables told me this, but as a guide, to have the blade out equal to the thickness of a credit card.
Thanks Robin, that helps! I kept looking at that little picture and the little blade thinking "is THAT 1mm, or is THAT 1mm?"

Badalou said:
wow Rodney. I am so impressed.. nice going.
Wow, thanks Lou. I appreciate that :) Means a lot coming from the heat press movie star! Seriously.

ChrisCass said:
Rodney, Looks great and perfect timing!! We are ready to take our next step and purchase a vinyl cutter. If you don't mind me asking, how long did it take for you to receive your order?
Let's see, from the time it was ordered till the time it got to my door was about 3-4 days. I live on the other side of the country than Imprintables, so I thought that was pretty good.

motoskingraphix said:
Well done Rodney. What do you think of the shirt after the wash?
Looks good. I was actually wasn't expecting much because of the glitter, but it turned out nice. Definitely retail worth (except for my crappy design). Actually, I'll probably have to wash it a few more times to make that call, but the first wash test was promising.
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

chrisscass said:
Also, I remember reading a thread that mentioned a vinyl cutter was a little different from most vinyl cutters because it provided the capability of also cutting images that could be heatpressed. Unfortunately, I did not bookmark the page (50 lashes with a wet noodle for me ;-) If you or anyone has any idea what I may be referring to, I would greatly appreciate the assistance
I think you might be talking the optical eye of the Roland Cutter.

Because of the optical eye, I think you can print out designs on other paper (like full color opaque transfers) and have the optical eye trim around the design. At least that's what I've read. I haven't tried it yet. If that's what you were referring to, I think Josh made a video about it here:
http://www.t-shirtforums.com/t-shirt-articles/t10209.html
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

We are actually sitting in the living room today weeding a t-shirt order and watching a movie at the same time. I will post a pic after we get a shirt done. You are gonna love this weed Rodney...letters very small!!!!!
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

Thank you for the response Rodney. .Hey I have an idea!! Maybe if you are feeling adventurous in the near future, you can give it a try, post the results in a thread and let us see how that works as well........ (Big smile)

Seriously though, I am sure that you realize that you are helping a lot of aspiring designers like us when you share your experiences. It really does help us all and we really appreaciate it!!

Thanks again!!
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

The exact reason why we're switching to DTG! :eek:
I hear ya on that one...each weed is about twenty minutes...should have ordered transfers for this job.

Hard to see in the photo but some of the logo fine lettering is less than a quarter inch tall.
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

Rodney the shirt looks great
I bought a Roland in December but haven't got to try it out yet. We were in Vegas for the PPAI show, so we are hoping to get it going this week.
I will probably have lots of questions.
Thanks to everyone on the board for the great info
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

Rodney I think you did a great job on that shirt. It looks good. Now in the future, I think you and Lou should team up for a video.
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

I hear ya on that one...each weed is about twenty minutes...should have ordered transfers for this job.

Hard to see in the photo but some of the logo fine lettering is less than a quarter inch tall.
Wouch! Do you get many orders for that kind of work? How many did you have to do?
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

Wouch! Do you get many orders for that kind of work? How many did you have to do?
I get many car club type shirt orders. In the tuner car market and events those logos are called roll calls. roll calls are generally all the products endorsed or utilized in the show cars we market with. I usually dont get shirt orders with that much information but you can see vinyl does a great job with verbage. These folks found me at Autorama Houston in November. I think they are going to love the gear. The front will have a 4.5 inch left breast logo design. The total order was 14 t-shirts and 10 hoodies with a different design. As with any order I expect at least another order after the gear gets delivered....the Oh man I want one factor.
 

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Re: Making my first custom t-shirt with cut vinyl, a viny cutter and a heat press

Maybe if you are feeling adventurous in the near future, you can give it a try, post the results in a thread and let us see how that works as well........ (Big smile)
I plan to try out and document as many of the processes as I can :)

David said:
I hear ya on that one...each weed is about twenty minutes...should have ordered transfers for this job.

Hard to see in the photo but some of the logo fine lettering is less than a quarter inch tall.
Man, that looks both relaxing and scary :)

The total order was 14 t-shirts and 10 hoodies with a different design.
Were all the back designs the same?
 
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