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The Under 6 Stigma: This Ain't Yo Mama's Iron On

What do you when someone wants to order a job for 12 pieces? What if they want a job for less than 6 shirts? Do you write the order and get it done? Charge them an arm and a leg for screen set up or maybe you up sell them to your minimum? What if they come back for one more? Heat applied graphics are the ideal way for you to do these jobs!

Graffiti.jpg
(This t-shirt shows the possibilities with heat applied graphics. The design, a three color graffiti logo was completed with just a heat press and a vinyl cutter. Image courtesy of CADCUTdirect.com)

Awhile back we ran a contest to come up with a tag line for a website we developed – Pimpashirt.com. The site launched blog posts and videos weekly teaching about customizing apparel with a heat press. After many entries and much consideration one tag line jumped out and told the story – it read: “This ain’t yo mama’s iron on!” Maybe not spoken in the most eloquent terms, but it certainly delivers the point, heat applied graphics have come a long way since the days of old.

What used to be iron on’s that cracked, peeled and faded is now a super set of technologies headlined with heat applied films, screen printed transfers, sublimation, solvent print/cut transfers, pigment ink printed papers, toner printed papers, flocking and rhinestones.

I won’t go into all of the detail about each technology (you can read about them on the forum), but it’s important to recognize that each presents unique opportunities for your business. Therefore evaluate independently but do take notice of a booming market that is customization via Heat Applied Graphics.

In the spirit of the title let’s countdown the top 6 reasons to dismiss the legacy stigma associated with heat applied graphics -

6 – Heat Applied Graphics offer the ability to customize almost any fabric and construction. While different types of heat applied graphics have different compatibilities the generality is that you are dealing with adhesives that melt under heat and bond to your fabric of choice. It’s simple – pick a transfer process that features an adhesive compatible with your fabric also pick a heat press that can accommodate the final construction of your item – that’s it: “Smash it on”. People are heat pressing t-shirts, nylon jackets, stretch performance wear, shoes, camping chairs, tents, backpacks, can koozies, gloves, lamp shades and more. Get creative and spend time researching the versatility and options. No other technology is as versatile as this.

5 - If you’re just starting, heat applied graphics offers a low point of investment and can be run out of your basement, garage, spare bedroom, living room or whatever you prefer. Consider a quality heat press for under $1000, sometimes much less – and the ability to strike up relationships with transfer suppliers that will send you ready to apply transfers for your garments. Simply put, it’s easy, clean, space saving yet professional. Note: A heat press must measure time, temperature and pressure accurately otherwise you will ruin garments and compromise durability. Please consult forum posts for recommendations on quality brands of heat presses.

4 – If you embroider, heat applied graphics is a nice fit. No need to spend time digitizing, hooping etc. for every job. Why monogram that golf towel when you can apply a flock transfer? Why sew out a 6 color full back design when you can order or print a full color digital transfer? No – heat applied graphics is not a technology that replaces embroidery at all; however embroiderers are finding success with their customers by having an alternative available.

3 – New businesses typically don’t launch with more than 6 employees, definitely not more than 12 or 24. If you are in the US market you may have noticed that the unemployment rate has been pretty high. Many of these folks will launch a small business. If you want to sell shirts to these small businesses and their employees you can complete them with heat applied graphics more cost effectively than screen printing. I know, I know you’re a screen printer and don’t want to mess around with the small stuff. But when that company becomes a fortune 500 brand wouldn’t you have liked to cement the relationship from the start? Please don’t send them down the street – that’s a gamble most shops can’t afford to take.

2 – You can do cool stuff. Heat applied graphics technologies allow for a lot of creative freedom and special effects. Foils, glitters, neon, puff, flock, glow in the dark, rhinestones, sequins, distressed looks, wrap around prints, over the should prints etc. are all within reach and achievable in most cases by a novice.

1 – Everyone wants just one. Personalization is the trend…kind of cliché to say that but it’s true. Kids and adults alike want a garment or item that is unique to them. Heat applied graphics allow you to do one at a time. Many businesses have mastered this skill and do what we call “mass customization” to the tune of millions of dollars per year. Whether sports uniforms, t-shirts or any other item, there are plenty of opportunities and all you need is a heat press to do one piece orders.

That’s it, 6 reasons to get into to heat applied graphics - remember:

“This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Iron On!”

Now join in the discussion and post your opinions below!
Josh Ellsworth is General Manager of one of T-ShirtForums Preferred Vendors, Stahls’ CADCUTdirect.com, and a regular contributor to t-shirtforums.com with expertise in heat applied graphics. Through his work he has visited some of the largest apparel decorators in the US and in OZ. To read more of Josh’s articles or to watch him on video visit JoshEllsworth.com
 

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I'm really glad I got this article in the newsletter today! This has given my something to think about in my endeavors to balance exclusivity with my quest for Total T-Shirt World Domination. I always see those stands in malls offering custom t-shirts, but it always seemed extremely cheesy. But now, I'm doing my research to see how I can sprinkle some of that cheese on my pizza. Do you know of any suppliers in the Detroit area that I could possibly work with?
 

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OK. I've been looking at adding heat transfer to my line. Question is: with so many companies offering heat transfer equipment, each saying theirs is the one I need, how do I choose which supplier to go with? Don't want to re-invent the wheel to get a good press at at decent investment. I have already discovered that this is a good thing...just want to make sure I can hit the ground at least walking at a fast pace when I commit.
 

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Question is: with so many companies offering heat transfer equipment, each saying theirs is the one I need, how do I choose which supplier to go with?
Most of the suppliers all sell the same top name brands (Hix, Hotronix, Graphtec, Roland, Geo-Knight, etc), so which vendor you choose sometimes comes down to which one you feel offers the better support, which one is closest, or maybe which one has an easy to use website or a special offer.

The Preferred Vendors list is a good place to start:
T-Shirt Forums Special Offers from T-Shirt Forums Preferred Vendors

Several of the companies listed there have special offers for T-ShirtForums members. You can also view the vendors in directory form here.

You can read some great articles that explain how to choose a good heat press here:

http://www.t-shirtforums.com/t-shirt-crossover-diary-heat-press-newbie/t9682.html

http://www.t-shirtforums.com/t-shirt-articles/t27945.html
 
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