Do you have an awesome idea for a t-shirt design, but don’t know how to get started creating your wearable art? Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a hobby designer, t-shirt printing can give you unlimited options for creativity.
One method you can use is called heat transfer printing. Different from screen printing, the heat transfer method provides some unique possibilities that can really bring your design to life.
Want to find out more? Read on!
Heat transfer designs, as the name implies, are created by applying a heat-activated material to a substrate. These materials have a temperature sensitive adhesive on the back that adhere to the garment of your choice through a heat press.
Designers use vectoring software to create a scale-able image. Much like the process of vinyl sign-making, the design is printed out on a vinyl cutter and then trimmed of excess material. This design is then placed against a t-shirt or other garment of your choice, and heated under pressure with a specialized heat press machine.
Another method of heat transfer is called sublimation. When the heat-activated material is pressed, it evaporates from a solid to a gas without entering a liquid state. The garment fibers, open from being exposed to heat, permanently absorb the gaseous dye.
Screen printing, also known as silk screening, utilizes a system where inks are applied to a screen on top of a garment. These screens are entirely blocked off on the negative spaces, leaving voids only where the ink needs to be applied. Special screen printing inks are then squeegeed through the film of the screen, depositing layers of colors in the empty areas on top of the shirt.
Heat transfer, on the other hand, deals with the positive areas of an image. A design is cut out of a solid piece of transfer material, then the negative space is trimmed (“weeded”) away leaving only positive space to be heat-set onto a substrate.
Sublimation prints are the marriage between screen printing and traditional heat transfers. A sublimated print is screen printed onto a special film, instead of directly on a garment. The film is then heat-pressed onto your shirt.
Though they can produce similar results and may even be designed with the same computer programs, certain effects can only be made through heat transfer. If you’re looking for very fine details, metallic foil, or reflective print, these must be achieved through heat transfer.
While you can certainly make your own heat transfer shirts at home with a few basic supplies and an iron, a professional-quality garment takes some specialized equipment. Some tools of the trade are:
Ready to try your hand at t-shirt design? Heat transfer printing is a fun and economical way to go. Whether you want to create t-shirt advertising for your business or start your own clothing brand, the only limit is your imagination.
If you’ve got a great design idea but want to leave the printing to the professionals, we can help. Contact us at Gulfside Heat Transfers today!
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