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We order our transfers now and it's not cheap.

We do have some heat presses in our screen printing shop and we would love to put them to good use (they do names and numbers only now).

How do we start printing our own full color transfers that will last a long time, feel similar to screen printing?

Any advice, links, etc would be appreciated.
 

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Traditionally, Plastisol transfers are screen printed, but onto a paper or plastic film that is coated to release from the ink when pressed and peeled. You print the art mirrored and in reverse color order, so the white underbase last. The wet ink is covered with adhesive powder, then the transfers are run through a conveyor dryer to (partially, I think) cure the plastisol and melt the glue powder a bit.

Obviously more work than printing directly to garments, but can make sense if printed in bulk and then pressed as needed on the desired style/color/size garments over the course of time.

I guess there is a method of digitally printing Platisol transfers now. I do not know what equipment is used.

DTF is a similar idea. A DTG, or similar, printer is used to print mirrored and color-reversed art to a carrier film, and the wet ink is covered with adhesive powdered, and then cured.

In producing your own transfers, the question is why? As it would always be less costly of time and materials to print directly to the garment ... unless it is a scenario like I described above, where there will be an ongoing trickle of demand for the art on garments of various styles/colors/sizes over time.
 

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How do we start printing our own full color transfers that will last a long time, feel similar to screen printing?
Hot-split plastisol transfers are easy to do... so start with them. All you need is hot-split additive.
For full color, try DTF and see if you like it. I don't.
It gets complicated after that...
 

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Here are The List of 5 Best Printers for Heat Transfers:
  1. Epson Stylus C88+ Color Inkjet Printer
  2. Brother HL-L2320D Mono Laser Printer
  3. Epson WorkForce WF-7110 Inkjet Printer
  4. Okidata 62439301 C711wt Professional Printer
  5. HP Laserjet Pro M452dw Wireless Color Printer
These are all low end entry level printers. The Epson 7110 and the Oki C711 are discontinued.
 

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Best and most affordable do not generally go well together without knowing the producers goals and budget. There are several print technologies all with a wide range of pricing and features. DTG, DTF, sublimation, white toner, printed vinyl, ink jet... All have their pros and cons. The most affordable is never the best.
 

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There is no comparison to direct screen printing. However if you need to go full color even on slow moving items, still go with plastisol transfers. Several advantages are: If stored correctly, the inks, papers, adhesives and the finished transfer themselves have a long shelf life. I agree, using transfer companies on low runs is not really cost effective. So if you happen to have your own screen printing equipment here is a tip for you. On your manual press, take your screens that are traditionally shot, clean them, flip them over and print in reverse order from the backside/outside/platen side of the screen. You now have a multipurpose screen. This way if you have a large run of that design, you can set them up traditionally and run them direct screen print. Depending on your printer and the shape and size of your platens, you may have to get creative and build a jig, spacers or even cut a single purpose platen but it works. If plastisol transfers are done right they will last a while and have a similar feel to direct screen printed especially if you use a texturing sheet. DTG is junk. The startup cost alone is higher than buying a full shop of small based screen printing equipment. Then the maintenance, cost of inks, pretreating equipment and chemicals for darks and not to mention needing to run it everyday just to keep the heads from drying up. After all that they still don't last and look horrible after a few washings. Inkjet printed transfers are even worse. They have no clarity, no longevity and have no place in professional garment decoration applications.
 

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I had the same issue. We are primarily DTG but use screen print transfers for larger runs. Since we are not fans of Gamut inks, our DTG does not print polyester well. We specialize in full color short run orders, but can only do them well on 100% cotton. We were looking for an in house transfer solution that could do full color on polyester.

This was about 4 years ago before DTF was a thing.

At a trade show we were shown the wonders of full color laser transfers. We spent an obscene amount of money on a OKI Pro920WT.

What they didn't share at the show - and we should have asked - was the cost of consumables. To be able to print on darks you need special transfer paper that costs $250 for 50 sheets. Yep, $5 a sheet.

This wouldn't be horrible, except for the reject rate. For little apparent reason, about 1 in 3 sheets do not peel correctly. Creating the transfers is a difficult process with random results. Even when you get a good transfer made, it doesn't always apply well, ruining the garment.

Making transfers to go on light garments is somewhat easier and cheaper, but I could already do full color on most light color garments with DTG.

We still have a year of payments on this high tech paperweight.
 

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I might as well put my 2 cents in... I've been printing t's since 1975, owned my own shop with a partner for 30 years now, fully capable of 4 color process, simulated process, and the simple stuff as well, obviously. We have some customers, that a long time ago, had 8 color sim process images, and that was the only way to screen it. 8 screens to reshoot, setup on press, and breakdown and clean up after. But, 8 shirts a minute on the auto (10 color MHM). However, when they only need 36 shirts, and were shown some DTF samples, were fine with it. In fact, they were very happy with them. DTF was the answer. I have some other work where the resolution of a 50 - 65 line halftone would degrade tiny detail. Ink jet resolution of DTF gets the job done. Usually, these are short runs.
I also have a design we've done for a bank, total full color rainbow blend, made up of nothing but very fine lines, which would be heavily degraded with a screen printed halftones. Important, applying transfers is slow, compared to printing, so charge accordingly for your labor. It's a job by job assessment...

Steve
 

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I might as well put my 2 cents in... I've been printing t's since 1975, owned my own shop with a partner for 30 years now, fully capable of 4 color process, simulated process, and the simple stuff as well, obviously. We have some customers, that a long time ago, had 8 color sim process images, and that was the only way to screen it. 8 screens to reshoot, setup on press, and breakdown and clean up after. But, 8 shirts a minute on the auto (10 color MHM). However, when they only need 36 shirts, and were shown some DTF samples, were fine with it. In fact, they were very happy with them. DTF was the answer. I have some other work where the resolution of a 50 - 65 line halftone would degrade tiny detail. Ink jet resolution of DTF gets the job done. Usually, these are short runs.
I also have a design we've done for a bank, total full color rainbow blend, made up of nothing but very fine lines, which would be heavily degraded with a screen printed halftones. Important, applying transfers is slow, compared to printing, so charge accordingly for your labor. It's a job by job assessment...

Steve
Hi Steve,
What printer do you use for the DTF?
 
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