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How To: ELT Zip Transfers

Previously I wrote about low temperature transfers. Low temperature transfers are becoming more important as delicate fabrics invade the apparel decoration industry. However, the biggest downside of low temperature transfers is the fact they must be printed on cold peel transfer paper and then peeled cold. Additionally, we have many customers decorating some very difficult polyester fabrics and sublimated polyester fabrics which require maximum bleed resistance.

Enter the ELT Zip Transfers! We developed this as a true solution to stopping dye migration and protecting the fabric from heat-related damage. Also, even though these transfers are screen printed on cold peel paper, we have formulated the ELT Zip Transfer inks to peel hot, immediately after transferred. Zip!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. Cold peel transfer paper. We offer the T-105 paper for the job. Important note: Other hot peel papers may work with the ELT Zip Transfer inks and process. You must test to be sure. T-105 will always work.
  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. ELT Zip Transfer ink. This ink is required. Other plastisol inks will not peel off the T-105 paper while hot. Also, the opacity and bleed resistance is outstanding!
  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:  Screen 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. ELT Zip Transfer inks are fully cured at 320ºF. This means you must fully 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 hot. Typically this means you should lift the press, wait a second or two, and then peel the transfer while it is still hot. However, if you do allow it to cool down, the ELT Zip Transfers will also peel cold without any problems.


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How To: Low Temperature Transfers

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.


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How To: Hot Peel Transfers

This is a step-by-step guide for screen printing and heat pressing hot peel transfers. If you currently screen print directly to the fabric, you can easily print one-color transfers without investing in a lot of equipment or supplies. If you plan on screen printing transfers regularly or diving into two or three color transfers, I recommend buying a vacuum platen or a flatbed graphics press.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing hot peel with hot split transfers. This is a very different process. Hot split transfers use an uncoated paper and very specific hot split ink. Hot peel transfers use a coated paper and the majority of the ink will transfer to the fabric. This is better for opacity and bleed resistance. Also, hot peel transfers are great for athletics.

Shopping List

  • Hot peel paper (we recommend Perfect Print by Midwest Lettering)
  • Transfer powder (not necessary but recommended)
  • Hot peel ink (discussed below)
  • Thermolabels #4 (240ºF to 280ºF)

Ink Selection

This is where it gets touchy. Many inks are capable of hot peeling…off the right paper. The easiest thing to do is to purchase our 380 or 388 Series inks for use as a hot peel ink. These inks should perform on all hot peel paper. However, if you have time to test, consider some of our universal inks such as Bravo Flex or Smart Series as they perform wonders on many different styles of hot peel paper. This will be great on 100% polyester applications.

Keep to one ink series. Different inks may gel quicker/slower than others. Sticking with one ink series will make the gelling process much simpler.

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 applied by a heat press will typically not wash well. 110 count monofilament screen mesh is acceptable when you need better detail.

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 and do not use adhesive powder, the print is likely not going to adhere to the fabric. 240ºF to 260ºF is acceptable.

Printing

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. If you are using transfer powder, the underbase must cover the entire art work. The transfer powder will only stick to the wet ink.

Powder and Gel

You don’t have to use transfer powder. I think you should…but you don’t have to.  Transfer powder has many great features:

  • Dummy-proofs the process. With powder, a cold peel transfer is likely to wash well regardless of your gel temperature.
  • Prevents dye migration.
  • Depending on the powder (there are many different types), you may increase the stretch of the print.
  • Far more durable with the powder.

Apply the powder to the wet ink. This can be done many ways. Pour it on, sprinkle, lay the print in a bed of powder, or pull the print through a pile of powder. Whatever works for you works for me. However, make sure you “tap it off”. All of the transfer powder needs to come off the paper where there is no ink. Otherwise, it will transfer to the fabric and leave a hard-to-remove stain. Tap it on a table, flick the paper, or blow it off with canned air.

Now you can send it down the dryer to be gelled.

Heat Pressing Instructions

Hot peel 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. Wait 1 or 2 seconds before peeling the transfer, especially if you applied transfer powder. You don’t want to peel before the glue has cooled off just a bit.

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.


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How To: Cold Peel Transfers

This is a step-by-step guide for screen printing and heat pressing cold peel transfers. If you currently screen print directly to the fabric, you can easily print one-color transfers without investing in a lot of equipment or supplies. If you plan on screen printing transfers regularly or diving into two or three color transfers, I recommend buying a vacuum platen or a flatbed graphics press.

There are many benefits to screen printing transfers. Consider the cost of one athletic uniform. If you are printing direct on the uniform and you make a mistake, this will eliminate a lot of the profits for that order. If you make a mistake on transfer paper, it may have cost you a dime. This is far less frightening.

Shopping List

  • T-105 cold peel paper (or similar)
  • Transfer powder (not necessary but recommended)
  • Any plastisol ink (choose ink for the fabric)
  • 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 applied by a heat press will typically not wash well. 110 count monofilament screen mesh is acceptable when you need better detail.

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 and do not use adhesive powder, the print is likely not going to adhere to the fabric. 240ºF to 260ºF is acceptable.

Printing

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. If you are using transfer powder, the underbase must cover the entire art work. The transfer powder will only stick to the wet ink.

Powder and Gel

You don’t have to use transfer powder. I think you should…but you don’t have to. Transfer powder has many great features:

  • Dummy-proofs the process. With powder, a cold peel transfer is likely to wash well regardless of your gel temperature.
  • Prevents dye migration.
  • Depending on the powder (there are many different types), you may increase the stretch of the print.
  • Far more durable with the powder.

Apply the powder to the wet ink. This can be done many ways. Pour it on, sprinkle, lay the print in a bed of powder, or pull the print through a pile of powder. Whatever works for you works for me. However, make sure you “tap it off”. All of the transfer powder needs to come off the paper where there is no ink. Otherwise, it will transfer to the fabric and leave a hard-to-remove stain. Tap it on a table, flick the paper, or blow it off with canned air.

Now you can send it down the dryer to be gelled.

Heat Pressing Instructions

Cold peel 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. Wait to peel the paper until the transfer is cool to the touch.

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.


Leave a comment

How To: Hot Split Transfers

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.

Printing

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.