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How To: Hot Split Transfers

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This is a step-by-step guide for screen printing and heat pressing hot split transfers. Hot split transfers are printed onto an uncoated paper. This is important as the ink on the transfer will truly split in half. Half of the ink is going to end up on the fabric. Half will remain on the paper. Only a hot split transfer ink will allow for this process to happen consistently. These inks are made differently than standard direct printing ink.

If you want to print more than one-color hot split transfers, invest in a vacuum platen or a flatbed graphics press. This will allow you to line up the colors properly.

Hot split transfers are great for soft or distressed prints. Since half of the ink remains on the paper, you cannot expect the opacity of a hot peel or cold peel transfer. Also, hot split transfers are only recommended for cotton and poly/cotton fabric.

Shopping List

  • Hot split paper (regular copy paper will work but there are far better options for storage)
  • 381 Premium White and/or 380 Series colors
  • Thermolabels #4 (240ºF to 280ºF)

Screen Prep

Expose the screen with the art work reversed (mirror image). Remember, you are turning the transfer over to heat press so it needs to be backwards. Choose an 86 count monofilament screen. You cannot print, flash, print on transfer paper so ink deposit is critical. Also, thin ink deposits may not split evenly or wash well.

Prepare the Press

If you own a vacuum platen, connect the vacuum and find the spot to place the transfer paper. I usually use a thick tape to create a corner to place the paper into. This will make all of the transfers line up in the same place. It is much more important with multi-color transfers but that is a different class.

If you do not own a vacuum platen, simply spray mist adhesive lightly onto a clean platen. You need the paper to be flat so no fuzz should be on the platen. Your prints will suffer otherwise.

Prepare the Dryer

Place a Thermolabel #4 on a piece of transfer paper and send it down the dryer. 250ºF is the perfect temperature to gel the ink. You only want the ink dry to the touch, not cured to the paper. This is the most important step of the process. If you over-gel the ink, it will not split properly or adhere to the fabric. 240ºF to 260ºF is acceptable.


Flood the screen with plenty of ink and pull the squeegee once. Sometimes you can pull the squeegee a second time but be sure to keep consistent pressure. Also, if you print too thick, this will cause problems on the edge of the print and you will get a lot of buildup on the back of the screen.

Multi-Color Prints

It is highly recommended to preheat the transfer paper as it may shrink or curl a bit, causing registration issues. Get this out of the way first by sending all of the paper down the dryer before use.

A vacuum platen or flatbed graphics press is highly recommended for multi-color print. After each color you will send the paper down the dryer to gel. You need the ability to line up the paper exactly where it was with the previous print. Some people draw lines.  I use thick tape to create two corners. Other printers drill holes in the paper and use a peg system. Whatever it takes to keep the paper in the same spot with each print. Print in reverse order. Your underbase is printed last.

Heat Pressing Instructions

Hot split transfers should be pressed at 375ºF for 8 seconds, firm pressure. Firm pressure as measured with a Hotronix heat press is 7 or 8 on their gauge. Peel the paper immediately after pressing.

Extra Tips

Even pressure is critical. If you have a collar or a thick seam on the heat press platen when you press, this is where the pressure is being measured. The transfer needs to receive the firm pressure. Obviously, you can’t always avoid this. In these situations, use a heat press pillow. You can either tape it down to the platen or place it inside the t-shirt. Either way, it will allow for even pressure when seams or collars are unavoidable.

Author: Robb Mears

Director of Product Development with One Stroke Inks.

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