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Transfer Paper Options for Heat Pressing Tote Bags?

9568 Views 7 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  LEO
Hello All!

I have been reading these forums voraciously the past week or two in search of some help - but I can't find any posts that relate to my exact situation. So. I figured I'd start a new thread and see what happened.

My wife and I have a small business decorating mouse pads and coasters. We have a heat press and are very familiar with sublimation and direct heat transfer processes onto these two products.

Recently, our largest customer requested a line of tote bags featuring our artwork - and I've been tasked with figuring out the best way to make that happen.

Our customer operates what's known as a "Sell-First" style website. Wherein they list our products, take orders, then send us a finalized PO. Because of this - we never know exactly how many of each design will sell until their "sale" is over.

We need to be able to output and heat press different designs and different quantities all the time.

For mouse pads and coasters - a sublimation system is ideal.

We purchased some totes made for sublimation but the quality was terrible.

After conferring with our customer - we've settled on a 100% cotton - canvas tote.

My question is: What is the best method for heat pressing full color designs onto white (light) cotton canvas totes?

I'm familiar with using an inkjet system and JPSS - but the polymer window doesn't make that a viable option. Beyond that - our orders would be too large to cut designs out with scissors.

Additionally I've priced out plastisol transfers - but the cost would make them prohibitive.

The system I'm leaning towards is an Okidata laser printer and Image Clip weedless paper.

Has anyone ever used that combination of printer and paper together on a tote bag?

I've talked to Al over at Automatic Transfer Inc. about his sublimation toners. Would that be a better bet for putting full color designs onto white canvas cotton tote bags?

We're desperate to get this going - because this is our biggest customer and their business represents a huge part of our income. We also want the finished product to look completely professional and in line with our other offerings.

Thanks in advance for any and all help. It is much appreciated!
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Will you be printing ALL OVER or it will be like a 8" X 10" 4CP transfer?
I recently did a very very small job for an artist in CA, only 30 tote bags, but it was like a face of a dear, with gradients and light colors, on a NATURAL COLOR BAG, and she was blown away!

I simply printed on my regular Epson Color printer and cut it by hand!!....(I recently bought a GCC cutter after doing that job). See the attached picture


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Can you describe what types of graphic you will be printing on the tote bags. Are they photographs? Does the graphics have a lot of drop shadows or gradients?
I created these tote bags using FOREVER transfer paper and an OKI pro920WT white toner laser printer. The guy from Joto is asking you about photos, drop shadows and gradients because those are things that cannot be accomplished with their one step paper for lights. Additionally, I think you will be happier with the results if you use a two step paper for darks for a couple of reasons. The first being that any and all no weed papers for light substrates are transparent. Because you are using natural colored bags, the color of the bag may show through the transfer and dull out your transfer. If you use a paper made for darks, you will not be limited to light colored bags. Secondly, I find the slightly thicker polymer used in dark transfer papers better for textured surfaces such as canvas. You don't have to worry as much about hand in your case and the durability will be higher.


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Yes a two step no trim paper would work best. However having said that, if you use a two step laser dark paper, the cost jumps significantly. You mentioned that plastisol transfers would be expensive so I am guessing the cost per print needs to be below a certain level?

It is cheaper if you find a laser light paper that does the job as generally laser dark papers are almost double the price of laser lights.

However if you are doing light and dark colored bags, it may be easier to use two step dark paper to simplify the process. And then charge the same price for light and dark bags.

Also please note that the photo posted by the above user is printed with a white toner printer which is generally more expensive than your average laser printer. If you use the same paper as the poster above, this would require a significant initial investment on the white toner printer for an unknown order amount.

I do not knew if you have solved you problem with printing on cotton bags. But take a look at this sample. That is what we have been ask as knew how as additional income for some handicapped group community.
Just curious what do you think about this option and obtained result and quality

These people looked very happy when they heard that the do not need a to buy some expensive heat press at all.
Just suitable Epson printer + Refillable cartridges+ Some reliable sublimation ink + TT transfer paper + Developer in powder + ordinary house iron + heat gun


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Have you considered using screen printed plastisol heat transfers? There a several heat transfer companies that print different types of transfers that can be used to decorate canvas, polyester & non-woven totes
Speaking from 45+ years of industry/transfer decorating experience. Good Luck and Keep On Pressing!
One other suggestion. Before finalizing the decoration method...
wash and dry the tote you select... BEFORE offering it for sale.
Many of the 100% cotton totes which appear appealing due to price..
S H R I N K to postage stamp size after drying.
Poly totes don't but do cost more... but no need to scissor the print and the color is permanent.
Don't give up on finding a better quality poly tote than what you first found.
The durability and quality of the end product may be worth it.
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