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I'm looking for a comparative analysis of quality between normal screen printing with plastisol inks and heat transfers with plastisol inks. My business is essentially print on demand so in theory it would seem highly beneficial for me to be able to pull designs from stock as orders come in rather than wasting time on setting up and breaking down all day to fill single orders.

I've gotten conflicting information from various sources and I have also seen a huge variation in quality as well. It seems to me that the adhesive on a heat transfer creates a barrier between the shirt and the ink and the end result is essentially a slab of rubber on your chest when the design covers a large area because the ink is not allowed to breathe. In doing some research I have been told that there have been great strides made in this particular industry and that a number of superior substrates, adhesives and ink additives have come to market in the past couple of years that make most heat transfer designs virtually indistinguishable from screen printing directly to the garment. Right now my most reliable source of information leads me to believe that the best application for heat transfers would only be good on designs with minimal line work/text fonts, and at most one or two spot colors.

Any opinions?
 

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There is no adhesive on a plastisol transfer. The ink is applied and melted directly on the shirt, then the paper is removed.

You'll have the same slab of rubber whether you do direct screen print or transfer.

Order samples and see for yourself: http://www.t-shirtforums.com/t-shirt-crossover-diary-heat-press-newbie/t13454.html

Done correctly, you will not be able to tell a plastisol transfer from a direct print.

Tons of posts here about transfers and quality. Browse Heat Press/Transfers section or use search at the top of this page.
 

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Ideally, how much ink should be lefty on the paper? Should it always be faint looking? I have some that seem to transfer well, but still seem to have a lot of ink left on the transfer paper afterwards.
 

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Screen printing and screen printed transfers are basically the same. As in both processes, the ink type, the design, numbers of colors, etc. all play a role in the 'feel' of the design. The longevity and washability are similar.
 

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Ideally, how much ink should be lefty on the paper? Should it always be faint looking? I have some that seem to transfer well, but still seem to have a lot of ink left on the transfer paper afterwards.
It depends on the type of transfer. A hot-split will leave the most on the paper. Cold peel should leave the least. Hot peel somewhere in between.
 

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^^ This is exactly the sort of thing that confounds me. The samples I've seen so far are definitely inferior to screen printing straight to garment. If the coverage is greater than slim line work or font, it feels like a decal. However the thread that was linked shows a sample where the texture of the shirt can still be seen just like normal screen printing. I guess I'm just going to have to start ordering samples and testing stuff out on my own.
 

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I'm so sorry for my elitism and suggesting a print that feels like a decal or giant slab of rubber, doesn't allow the shirt to breathe, makes you sweat in the sun and irritates your skin is somehow inferior to one that feels more natural to the fabric. My point is that I'm being told by some people that if done right there won't be a difference between printing directly to the garment and using heat transfers. I have yet to see an example of it in real life but a couple of the pictures in the review thread look promising.
 

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I'm so sorry for my elitism and suggesting a print that feels like a decal or giant slab of rubber, doesn't allow the shirt to breathe, makes you sweat in the sun and irritates your skin is somehow inferior to one that feels more natural to the fabric. My point is that I'm being told by some people that if done right there won't be a difference between printing directly to the garment and using heat transfers. I have yet to see an example of it in real life but a couple of the pictures in the review thread look promising.
Very true. Plastisol is rubber on thop of the fabric unlike waterbase inks that penetrates the fabric and makes the colth breathable.

Here's a Waterbase vs Plastisol Water test.

[MEDIA]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyT2Cwm-6n8[/MEDIA]

:)
 

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I'm so sorry for my elitism and suggesting ...
Yes, sarcasm is great for getting you what you want. I was trying to help you and answer your questions. Clearly my advice was wasted since you know it all, and by that I mean you know jack ****.
 

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First off, each company that makes custom plastisol transfers; uses their own formula of plastisol ink. TransferFreedom and another company (can't remember who) has a thick and rubbery feeling transfer, with a white underbase, and they both use hot-peel. It really feels unprofessional.

DowlingGraphics on the other-hand uses a hot-split transfer, which leaves half of the ink on the paper. However, they don't use a white underbase (you can request a white underbase if necessary, however the transfer shows up very opaque). On Top of that, their ink is extremely soft, no-papery/rubbery feel. Feels much like a waterbased transfer. Ive sampled several transfers from them.
 

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^^ This is exactly the sort of thing that confounds me. The samples I've seen so far are definitely inferior to screen printing straight to garment. If the coverage is greater than slim line work or font, it feels like a decal. However the thread that was linked shows a sample where the texture of the shirt can still be seen just like normal screen printing. I guess I'm just going to have to start ordering samples and testing stuff out on my own.
You're right, you are going to have to order some samples and see for yourself. I have order transfers from 2 companies, and my results are:

1. F&M Expressions - Ordered fashion formula, got the athletic formula by mistake. (thicker hand) Turns out the athletic ones pressed better than the fashion, but they were thick and plasticy, even after a few washes. The edges where 2 colors meet also separated while peeling. Have to peel carefully.

2. Transfer Express - Botched the order and sent the wrong formula as well.. (I ordered hot split) More expensive than F&M, but wow, nice transfers, soft hand. Only those in the know would be able to tell the difference between these and an actual screen print..

The point is, each transfer company has their own transfer formulas and end results. You can take the experiences of others, but ultimately you have to find out for yourself which transfers are best for your needs..
 

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I highly recommend you get samples from DowlingGraphics. Inorder to get samples, you have to order their catalog, which includes samples. Costs $10 tho. It also includes their price lists, sizes, etc.
 

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Giving Dowling a shot as well as first-edition...Both of these have incredible quality on there hot peel transfers and you will not be able to tell the difference from a screened product. I know because i do a lot of both and these two companies feel is the closest to actual screen print in my opinion. There are a few companies that I have not tried, but I think you can't go wrong with these 2. Good Luck!!
 

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Yes, sarcasm is great for getting you what you want. I was trying to help you and answer your questions. Clearly my advice was wasted since you know it all, and by that I mean you know jack ****.
Relax man. Everyone here has been helpful. I have in fact gotten the information I needed from this thread. What I know, or more importantly what you think I know is irrelevant but thanks anyway for parsing words and generally getting upset for no reason. Every good thread has at least one source of entertainment I suppose.

Much thanks to everyone else for all the constructive feedback.
 
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