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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.


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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.


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How To: Watercolor

Soft hand prints are often demanded by your customers. They saw a tee in the mall and insist a white print on a black poly/cotton should have no feel whatsoever. Perhaps they want a vintage or worn look right out of the box. Regardless, you are a plastisol screen printer and you know they really want that water-based feel. Thanks to some innovation on our part, plastisol can now feel just like water-based ink…and I’m not talking about those high solids water-based inks that feel like a regular plastisol ink. I am talking about a super-soft feel on ring spun, tri-blend, and other premium tees.

Vintage Watercolor

Although Watercolor is much more opaque than standard water-based inks, this is not a high opacity ink you can screen print on top of black fabric and expect vivid results. However, this will provide you with an outstanding vintage or worn look without creating special art work. It is an appearance many of my customers are requesting but they may not be crafty in CorelDraw or Photoshop.

Directions are simple, print through a fine screen mesh and don’t deposit too much ink.  Certainly do not print, flash, and print again. Watercolor is a wet-on-wet ink. There is never a need to flash these inks unless you are printing with them as your general purpose ink on a white base. Watercolor will simply not pick up on the back of the screen and cause a gummy mess. It is designed to “wick” into the fabric, keeping the ink off the next screen and providing that classy soft hand feel.

One important note: When screen printing Watercolor, this ink will only be as soft as the fabric being printed. If you select a cheap poly/cotton tee, expect a cheap feel. This is unavoidable. We push our Watercolor customers into ring spun, tri-blend, burnout, and other soft cotton tees. These premium products will provide a premium look and feel.

Vivid Watercolor

I know, you want that bold scarlet, orange, gold, or white print on a black fabric with virtually no feel. Watercolor can do this…but it comes with a price. Similar to water-based inks, you will need to print a discharge base. This will remove the dye from the fabric leaving a natural color. I really don’t like to recommend the use of a discharge base, or any discharge ink. There are nasty chemicals involved in the process. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be a necessary evil to achieve this look.

The Watercolor inks will easily cover this natural color with a fine screen mesh. Now you have a super-soft feel with a vivid, bold look. Your customers will be thrilled. You didn’t have to deal with the on-press nightmare of water-based inks. Everybody wins!

General Purpose Watercolor

Why wouldn’t you want to print with Watercolor as your general purpose ink? It can do everything Wilflex Genesis and Union Ultrasoft can do. However, Watercolor is softer, easier-to-print, and available in far more colors then either. Watercolor has the opacity and the ability to print wet-on-wet better than any ink I have ever tested. It is an impressive combination.


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ELT-S Series: Let me convince you.

One Stroke Inks is the innovator of true low temperature screen printing inks. First, we pioneered the ELT Series (ELT = extreme low temperature). This ink put an end to so many heat-related screen printing problems. However, this was only the beginning. We needed ELT-S Series.

What does the “S” stand for? The “S” is for stretch and softness. ELT needed an upgrade to handle compression tees, running pants, and singlets. We invented a special S-Additive to allow for these extreme screen printing situations and incorporated it into the already successful ELT Series formula. Obviously, we did not want to compromise bleed resistance or opacity by adding the S-Additive. We had to make some adjustments and improvements as we wanted this new ink to be an amazing improvement. ELT-S Series was born.

With the history out of the way, why should you be screen printing with ELT-S Series inks? The better question is why not? This ink will cure as low as 250ºF. This low cure temperature will prevent so many heat related screen printing problems. These problems include:

  1. Ghosting.
  2. Dye migration.
  3. Fabric discoloration.
  4. Scorching.
  5. Shrinking.
  6. Melting.

How about some other non-traditional benefits? Think about the incredible energy savings you will pocket by turning your conveyor dryers down so dramatically. In my opinion, the energy savings alone makes ELT and ELT-S our most environmentally friendly inks. Your production team won’t mind either. The amount of heat in your shop will be far less abrasive.

ELT-S Series inks don’t just cure at a lower temperature, they flash cure very quickly. Compared to most inks, the flash time will be about half as long. This provides another set of low temperature benefits in which most other plastisol inks cannot compare:

  1. Longer-lasting platen adhesive.
  2. Prevents shrinking which leads to poor color registration.
  3. Prevents dye migration.
  4. Prevents fabric discoloration so common with fluorescent tees.

We also wanted a plastisol ink to replace silicone ink as it is such a hassle to work with. For those not keeping score, here is a list of reasons you don’t want to screen print with silicone inks. Keep in mind all of these statements are found on the silicone ink technical data sheet or sell sheet.

  1. Silicone ink requires a catalyst.
  2. Silicone ink often requires a retardant to improve on-press life.
  3. Silicone ink has on-press life of up to 6 hours.
  4. Silicone ink is only recommended to add enough ink to the screen for 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Silicone ink is not available in a selection of colors, you must custom mix them.
  6. Silicone ink must be cleaned from the screen immediately as it will cure with time.
  7. Silicone ink is not recommended for automated equipment.
  8. Silicone ink is not recommended for “fuzzy” fabric.

As excited as many screen printers were about silicone ink when they first found out about it, these facts inevitably sent them searching for an easier alternative. This is where ELT-S Series comes in. Here is a list of reasons ELT-S Series is a better choice when compared to silicone ink:

  1. Soft/stretchy feel.
  2. Impressive opacity on dark fabric.
  3. Excellent bleed resistance on polyester.
  4. Universal ink. ELT-S will screen print on virtually any fabric.
  5. No catalyst required unless you are screen printing waterproof nylon or waterproof polyester.
  6. It’s plastisol. ELT-S Series can be left in the screen like any other plastisol ink.
  7. Huge color selection with custom color matching available.

Now that I have compared ELT-S to silicone ink, explained the benefits of a quick flash and a low cure temperature, let me tell you why you are really going to make the change. The fact is, you are tired of worrying about expensive fabric. Whether it is a name brand polyester hoodie or an inexpensive neon yellow tee, you don’t want to order one or two more pieces for a screen printing snafu. You don’t want to set that job up again tomorrow for these few replacements. You really don’t want to replace hundreds or even thousands of $65.00 uniforms due to dye migration that did not exist when they left your shop. All of these problems cost you far too much money to keep using high temperature, often ineffective inks. This is a better way. ELT-S gives you the ability to sleep at night. Nobody knows how the next shirt is going to react to your ink or dryer. ELT-S will always give you the best chance at success. I won’t sit here and tell you there will never be a problem with ELT-S in your shop. However, I will tell you there is not an ink on the planet that can do what this ink can do.


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Do your customers make you look bad?

Polyester printing can make you look bad even if you are taking all of the necessary steps to prevent dye migration. Why? Because your customers are often not following the washing and drying instructions printed on the inside of the shirt. Even if you print with one of the most bleed resistant inks by One Stroke Inks, ignoring this little tag can cause your bright white print to change into a dirty white, pink, or even green print. Screen printers need to do their best to educate their customers on the reasons the tag was sewn or printed in the garment in the first place.

The fabric is not going to self destruct. It will, however, be much more likely to have dye migration problems once it has been washed in hot water and dried too hot. This makes you look bad, even though it is not your fault. It can also make us look bad as our ink may not be holding up as well as advertised. Quite simply, we all need the same thing. We need the end user of these polyester shirts, uniforms, bags, etc. to fully understand the WHY behind the tag in the fabric. I would prefer a neon sign over the box of printed polyester t-shirts that glows brightly with the text “Tumble Dry Low”. “Hang Dry” would be sufficient for most of the lightweight polyester as it dries in just minutes anyway.

I know this is not an easy thing as you do not get to speak with every parent on every team to warn them about our industry and the nuances involved with polyester printing. However, the more you drive this into your customers ears, the more likely they will stop the problem before it starts. We will always keep innovating the polyester inks. We simply need you to help educate as many of your customers as you can. In the end, it will lead to higher quality prints and better longevity.

Nylon Printing


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Screen print nylon without nylon catalyst.

With the 222 Series from One Stroke Inks, you can screen print untreated 100% nylon without the use of a nylon catalyst. Untreated nylon is nylon without any sort of waterproof or water resistant coating. The 222 Series is unique for more than just its great adhesion, it also tells you when it is cured. The print will be glossy once it is fully cured. If the print comes off the conveyor belt and is not glossy, it is simply not fully cured and you should send it back through your dryer at a higher temperature.

Heat Pressing Polyester


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Heat press damaging polyester shirts.

You must be very careful when heat pressing 100% polyester tees and uniforms. If the press is too hot or the pressure too high, you are likely to leave glossy areas on the fabric. You may also experience indented lines on the shirt where the edges of the transfer paper or heat press material meet the fabric. The best option to avoid all of this is to use kraft paper as a cover sheet and limit the time and temperature as much as possible. Heat press material such as Siser Easyweed is applied at a lower temperature than most. Also, new cold peel ink transfers can often press at much lower temperatures.

Reclaiming Powder


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Mixing instructions for reclaiming powder.

The OSI Reclaiming Powder is the most economical emulsion reclaiming chemical per gallon once mixed.  For the standard solution, mix 2 ounces of reclaiming powder with 1 gallon of water.  If you would like a stronger solution, try mixing 1 pound of the powder with 5 gallons of water.  This is great for tough-to-remove emulsion.

Ink Drying in the Screen


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Ink is drying in the screen.

When ink is drying in the screen during a production run, it is most likely caused by the platens heating up excessively. This is a tricky problem as you may be underbasing with white ink or even two screens of white ink. A cool down station may be necessary cool the print and stop the ink from heating up in the screen. If you want to continue with a very fast production, you can try the Production Series inks by One Stroke Inks. These inks will flash and lose their tack in half the time of normal plastisol ink. This keeps the platens cooler and allows production to keep moving. Production Series can help you on cotton, poly/cotton, nylon, and polyester. If you do not want to change inks, test the flash and get it to the quickest possible flash time that you can without the ink remaining wet or tacky. If the ink drying problem is not related to production and you are simply leaving ink in the screen overnight, simply clean the screens at the end of the day. Most inks will clog the mesh when left for this long. Also, you open your screens up to the risk of excessive hazing problems.