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How To: Low Temperature Transfers

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Low temperature transfers are becoming more important as delicate fabrics invade the apparel decoration industry. If you have not experienced any heat-related damage by heat pressing fabrics such as 100% polyester or fluorescent tees, you will. It is unavoidable at the high temperatures required for hot split, hot peel, and cold peel transfers. Luckily, we have developed a method of transfer printing which only requires a 10 second press at 280ºF. This will prevent most heat-related damage. This will also provide better bleed resistance for use on polyester fabrics.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. Cold peel transfer paper. We offer the T-105 paper for the job.
  2. ELT Zip Transfer Powder. There is a “fashion” and “performance” version of this powder. A good rule to follow is apply performance powder for bad bleeders and fashion powder for everything else.
  3. Any plastisol ink. Select the ink depending on the fabric. Polyester fabric will require a polyester ink.
  4. Multi-color tranfers will require a vacuum platen. Otherwise, you can make this work on your standard press and platens.
  5. Conveyor dryer.
  6. Thermolabels.
  7. Heat press.

Step 1:  Art work and screens

Your art work should be set up to be “mirror image” as you are screen printing transfers now. It will be backwards until you turn the paper over and heat press it to the fabric. For most ink transfers, we highly recommend 86 count screen mesh. 110 is also very effective. For all other screen mesh counts, you will need to test and see if you can achieve effective coverage, bleed resistance, and release from the paper. Expose the screen with the art work as you always do.

Step 2:  Printing

If you are printing one color art, simply register your screen so the print is near the middle of the transfer paper. Many transfer printers will gang up designs so every pull of the squeegee is actually printing multiple transfers. This will lead to less pulls of the squeegee and less paper use, saving time and money.

One item to forget about is the flash cure unit. It is not required, expected, or even recommended to print, flash, print ink onto transfer paper. Flash curing ink onto paper is a time consuming, paper curling process. This is another reason for the coarse mesh count. Without the ability of flash curing and printing a second layer, ink deposit is critical. If opacity matters, ink deposit matters.

Once you have given the print a flood stroke and a couple of pulls of the squeegee, you are ready to powder the transfer. This must be completed while the print is wet so the powder will adhere to the ink deposit. Everybody has their own method for powdering the print. Some decorators simply pour powder out of a small cup over the print and then they shake off all the excess powder. This is pretty quick and efficient. Others have a small bin and they gently lay the paper face down into the powder. Again, they will have to blow, or tap all of the excess powder off the print and paper.

Important note: Any excess powder left on the paper where it does not belong will leave a clear/white stain on the fabric. This is hard to remove so you want to take great care in preventing the powder from sticking to the paper. One way to help this is to send the transfer paper through the dryer prior to printing. This will remove moisture which tends to be a problem.

Step 3:  Dryer Temperature

Low temperature transfers are just that…transfers that can be heat pressed at a low temperature. However, the ink must be fully cured to the transfer paper with the low temperature adhesive powder applied for this process to work properly. Most plastisol inks are fully cured at 320ºF. This means you must cure the ink to the paper at this 320ºF temperature. We recommend the use of a #5 Thermolabel to ensure 320ºF was met.

Step 4:  Heat Pressing Instructions

Preheat the fabric with a short 2 to 3 second press to remove excess moisture and smooth out any wrinkles. The heat press should be set to 280ºF for 10 seconds, medium pressure. The transfer should be peeled once it has fully cooled down as the paper will not release the ink until then.

Author: Robb Mears

Director of Product Development with One Stroke Inks.

2 thoughts on “How To: Low Temperature Transfers

  1. What about a multi color print?

    Absolutely love these blogs!!!
    Thanks Robb!!!

    • A multi-color print can be accomplished with no problem. It is easiest to print each color, send it down the dryer without powder, and then print the final color as a full underbase with the powder applied.

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