What Heat Transfer Should I Use?
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Hey friends! Dave here with Transfer Express, and today we’re covering the question we get asked a lot: what transfer type should I use?
So today we’re going to break down the differences of our top heat transfer types and when you should use them, then we’ll run through a couple different real-world scenarios with some different artwork so you can not only have your project look the best, but you’ll be maximizing your expenses and boosting your profit margins!
Sounds pretty good, right? Let’s get to it!
At Transfer Express, we have 16 different heat transfer types, pretty much broken down into two categories, screen printed and full color. As you can guess, screen printed transfers are just that, screen printed! Produced exactly how you would typically screen print a t-shirt, however, we print the inks onto a carrier sheet and send them to you to heat apply!
Before we dive in too deep here, I do want to mention if you are ever confused about what transfer is right for your project, click over to our Transfer Selector Tool. Essentially, we’ll ask you a few questions about your project, like what fabric you’ll be printing on, how many colors are in your artwork and some other details, then, bam - in a couple clicks, we’ll have the perfect transfer recommendation for your project.
While there are NINE different screen printed transfers, for the most part, they’re different effects - like Glitter, Glow-in-the-Dark, pearlescent Pearl Prints™, Foil, Puff inks or even Reflective. Screen printed transfers are spot color prints, which means for each additional color in your design, the price will increase. But go check your closet, I’d bet the vast majority of printed graphic tees you have in your closet are 1 to 2 color prints.
Now, the three main players in the screen printed transfer category are Goof Proof®, Elasti Prints® and Hot Split Retro. They’re available by the sheet, as standard size 11.25 x 14” or jumbo sized 12.5 x 17.5”.
Goof Proof is your go-to, and has been for hundreds of thousands of customers over the past 30 years. It’s still our best-selling heat transfer type because it looks, feels, washes and wears just like a traditional plastisol screen print on a t-shirt. With minimum quantities starting at just 6, it’s accessible for small orders and very economical with huge price breaks at high quantities. It’s super simple to apply and just like the name says, it’s pretty hard to goof it up. It applies in as few as 4 seconds, making even those huge orders quick and simple to print.
Elasti Prints is next up - a durable, athletic formula built for 100% polyester performance wear. It’s got great stretch and elasticity and a low temperature application so you can avoid scorching your t-shirts.
Next is Hot Split Retro - essentially, Hot Split is our Goof Proof inks without the adhesive powder. This leaves you with a plastisol print that kind of melts into the fibers of the t-shirt, leaving you with a super soft-to-the-touch print. Hot split used to be incredibly popular for fashion-forward prints, but since the improved Goof Proof formula rolled out, both are incredibly soft and flexible on the shirt. We compared them head-to-head here in this video, and other than Hot Split being slightly less opaque on dark colored garments, they felt almost identical. With an increased dwell time, Hot Split applies for twice as long as Goof Proof, so there are some tradeoffs for just a little bit softer print.
Of course, if your artwork has more than 1-3 colors in it, you’ll probably want to switch over to our full color transfers. Our full color transfers offer the capabilities to print photorealistic images, colorful designs, fine detail and gradients.
First up to mention is the UltraColor® line. UltraColor transfers all apply to cotton, polyester and cotton/poly blends. There are three different UltraColor transfers, all of which have their own specific uses.
UltraColor Max is perfect for low quantities. At just 6 cents per square inch, UltraColor Max is priced at a flat rate which makes pricing simple and easy, and it’s available in any quantity as a single image or gang sheet all the way up to 22 x 22”. This Direct To Film transfer does require print ready art, so any art fixes and proofing is rolled into an additional $22 service.
UltraColor Soft is available in 11.5 x 18” sheets with a minimum quantity of 6 sheets, making it perfect for 4+ color or full color projects with artwork too complex for screen printing. It’s great for high quantity orders over 18 sheets with steep price breaks and features a smooth, soft matte finish- truly unique for full color transfers.
The New UltraColor Pro transfers are very similar to UltraColor Soft, as the latest evolution of the UltraColor technology but, trade off a little bit of that soft, smooth matte finish for a fast and easy hot peel - perfect for jobs where printing efficiency is required.
UltraColor Stretch is specifically designed for printing on synthetic fabrics like spandex, Lycra and woven nylon. It leads the industry in stretch and rebound ability, thanks to it’s water-based ink formula. Stretch is slightly more expensive than Soft, Pro and Max but can also be coupled with a dye blocker for printing on sublimated apparel without dye migration.
To round out the full color transfers, we have the CAD-PRINTZ® line, which is essentially full color printed vinyl. They are only orderable as single images, no gang sheeting here.
You can order all of these transfers with your own artwork or with artwork designed online in the free Easy View® online designer.
In Easy View, you also have the ability to gang sheet your artwork, or essentially fit as much artwork on the sheet that fits! Grouping, resizing and arranging artwork is super simple and quick, and all online in a browser-based program.
Ok, now that we’ve covered the differences between each transfer type and what you’ll use them for, let’s run through a few different scenarios that can help point you in the right direction.
Let’s say we’ll be printing this image, Layout QRN-206, we need 36 total, and it’ll just be printing in white ink on a 100% cotton shirt. Which transfer type do you think will be the best pick?
If you guessed Goof Proof, you’re right. For a single color image like this, we can fit 2 on a standard sized sheet with some room to spare, so we only have to order 18 sheets. That prices out at $3.87 per sheet, or just $1.94 per print.
As a curveball on this same scenario, let’s say the quantity is the same, white inks, but instead of cotton, we’ll be printing on some heat-sensitive 100% polyester blank shirts? Yup, Elasti Prints is going to be your best bet. Because of the heat sensitive polyester, we can avoid scorching our apparel by going with a much lower temperature application with the 290 degree settings.
Ok, so now say we need this same artwork for just 7 shirts? We can do the Goof Proof, but if we don’t have other artwork to fill our gang sheet with, we may be spending too much on this project. For 6 sheets, the minimum order for Goof Proof, we’re looking at a minimum order of $57. But, If we switch over to our UltraColor Max transfers, we can protect our profit margins and produce these for $3.96 per image (11”w), for a total print cost of $27.72 - so you can see where the UltraColor Max at low quantities can really help your profit on those lower quantity orders, regardless of the colors in the design.
Let’s shift gears and look at some artwork with more than a couple colors in it, some gradients or even photorealistic images. Of course we’ll be using one of the full color transfer options, but which one is going to be the lowest cost so we can profit the most?!
Well, what fabric are we printing on, what size is the artwork going to be and how many do we need? So for cotton, in 12 quantity, at 11” wide, we’re just at $28.80 total, or $2.40 per image with CltraColor Max.
Now say if we needed 100 total here, that would be $240 with our UltraColor Max, switching over to UltraColor Soft, we can produce these same graphics with 4 images per sheet, so we only need 25 sheets instead of 100, dropping our sheet price to $8.03, or, $2.01 per image - saving us $40 that can be profit instead.
Of course, when you’re pricing with UltraColor Max, it is priced per square inch, so just a 9” round logo of this cactus image, would increase the price to $4.86 per image, which would be less expensive per image with Max until we hit just 48 quantity, because we can still fit two per sheet of UltraColor Soft.
I hope this little video helped you with some better knowledge of the heat transfers available at Transfer Express and help you select the perfect transfer for your next project. Of course, you can check out the Transfer Selector Tool, or log in to Easy View online designer to run through some of those pricing scenarios with your artwork yourself!
Want to apply, touch and feel the quality of each of the transfer types yourself? You can request a free sample kit here, or if you’re new to Transfer Express, just create an account and we’ll send you samples to get started with for free!
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Until next time, I'm Dave, happy pressing!