Screenprint transfers are a great way to expand your business and increase profits. This article will cover the process of how to make screenprint transfers, step-by-step.
- Screen Print Transfer Process
- Make Plastisol Transfer Paper for heat transfers
- Printing Two Color Plastisol Heat Transfer Sheets
We’ll start with what you need:
- transfer paper,
- a heat press machine (or clothes dryer),
- inkjet printer, and an iron.
What is a Screen Print Transfer?
Screenprint transfers are screen-printed images that are printed in reverse on transfer paper, placed face down against a shirt, heated up, and peeled off to show the beautiful design.
Screenprint transfers are easy enough that they’re perfect for beginners with any level of experience in design software such as Illustrator, Photoshop, and GIMP.
To make your own designs for shirts or other apparel items, you’ll need to have some experience with designing software such as Illustrator Photoshop, or Gimp because we’re not going over those steps here. We will cover how to print out designs onto t-shirt material (which is what most people use), but be aware that different materials require different methods of applying heat before transferring them onto clothing.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED To Screen Print With Plastisol Heat Transfer Paper
- Transfer Paper (also called “plastisol” transfer paper) – You can find this at any craft store, and it’s usually near the inkjet printer ribbon.
- Heat Press Machine or Clothes Dryer – You can find these at any craft store as well, but you may need to order a dryer online depending on what type of business you’re starting out with.
- Inkjet Printer – Again, this is commonly found in most stores and are affordable for beginners.
- Iron – This isn’t required if you have either a heat press machine or clothes dryer available.
Screen Print Transfer Process
Start designing your own prints on transfer paper (or “plastisol” transfer paper). These can be made in any program like Photoshop or Illustrator.
Print out the designs onto t-shirt material using an inkjet printer with transfer paper and set them aside.
Plug in a heat press machine (or clothes dryer) and turn it up all the way so that when you put your transfers down they will quickly stick to the shirt without coming off again right away while pressing them against the fabric inside of a screen printing frame, ironing board cover, or some other surface for transferring images quickly.
Place your screenprinted image face down onto clothing or other fabric and press down for about 20-30 seconds – have patience if this is your first time doing this! You can peel off now once everything is totally cool and dry.
Repeat this same process for as many shirts or pieces of fabric that you want to customize with heat transfers!
The amount of time it takes to make screenprint transfer designs is about 30 minutes, but the results will be worth all your work. You’ll have a lot more creativity available when making shirt designs than if you were limited by the use of just one printer ink color which most people are used to seeing in stores nowadays. Now imagine what could happen after adding multiple colors into your design using screens – get creative and find out!
Heat transfers can have a shelf life. The shelf life is directly tied to how “dry” or “gelled” the ink is. Over time, some of the oils and liquids in the transfer can be soaked up by the transfer paper. This will look like an oil stain or halo around the transfer. When you notice this on your transfer, it is no longer usable.
What do you need to make plastisol transfer paper for heat transfers on t-shirts?
1) screen mesh (vinyl, nylon, polyester) – you can get this at any fabric store. It usually comes in 40 or 50 denier. If you are using silkscreen mesh or anything thinner than the recommended 40-50 denier you will have gaps in the letters because of how thin it is and your ink will not stay in place. I personally like to use an 80/20 blend that has a little bit of stretch in it. This allows the fabric to move with the shirt while still allowing good contact between your press and your garment when making Heat Transfers (HT). 90/10 is another option but it doesn’t have the stretch in it that I like.
2) Heat Resistant Parchment Paper
3) your choice of mesh count (40-50 denier recommended for silk, 80-120 recommended for all other fabrics)
4) a heat press capable of at least 305°F/152°C
5) a printer and computer connected to the same network as your heat press
6) a small piece of glass or tile larger than your transfer paper. This will be used to feed the transfer into the heat press without touching it with your hands. The glass can also be cut down into smaller pieces if you need different size transfers. A full 8.5x11in page is too big to handle easily in a shirt so I recommend cutting it down to about 5x7in before making your transfers.
7) a squeegee and rubber brayer if you have one available. If you don’t, whatever you use to apply pressure to your shirts will work. I just prefer a brayer because it’s made for this purpose and it has a smooth roller that doesn’t catch the transfer paper as some other things may do.
8) A piece of cardboard or anything stiff similar in size from which you will cut out your letters/graphics/images you would like on your shirt(s)
9) a measuring tape, pencil, straight edge, or something else that is straight and can be used as a guide while drawing your graphics on the transfer paper (I don’t recommend using soapstone because it rubs off easily and you will need to re-measure and re-trace your graphic)
10) anything else you would like to draw on. If it can be scanned, copied, or printed out from a computer then there’s a good chance you can use it as a transfer (some examples: pictures of family members, photos of pets, logos, drawings done in pencil, pen, or marker; basically anything that is black and white and has high contrast between light/dark colors works best).
1) Cut your screen mesh down into the size and shape that you want (i.e. 5x7in for an 8.5x11in page-sized sheet or cut smaller if needed). You have 1 piece per transfer so you can’t use 2 or more pieces of mesh on the same transfer. Make sure that your cut is clean and straight along the edges to ensure the best results when printing/transferring.
2) Place your screen mesh over whatever you are going to be transferring onto (t-shirt, mouse pad, sign). I recommend doing this before anything else because it can be a pain in the butt to get everything lined up if you do it last minute. I like to use wax paper as a buffer between my image/graphic and my garment so that ink does not bleed into my shirt and ruin it. This step can also be done at any time before actually making transfers with your ink.
3) Once you have decided on an image/graphic to use for your transfer, make sure that it is the right size. Do not scale your image to fit your shirt because it will end up looking like garbage (unless you’re trying to make a raglan transfer where scaling works well, but that’s outside the scope of this article). Make sure that all lines are clean and crisp; blurred or fuzzy lines will result in poor quality transfers.
4) Scan/copy your image into the computer so that it can be printed on the printer connected to the network with your heat press. I recommend using black ink for this step unless you want color on your garment. Once you have an accurate printout of your image/graphic, turn off any sort of color tweak options in whatever program you used to scan/copy your image. If you want white on your shirt, use white ink for this step.
5) To ensure that you have an accurate printout of the image/graphics being transferred, mirror the image/graphic so that it will read correctly on the transfer paper. This can be done by opening your file in a program like Photoshop Elements, changing the horizontal axis to 0°, then flipping it vertically or copy and pasting it into another document and flipping that horizontally. Make sure that what shows up on screen is how it will look printed onto transfer paper before continuing further.
6) Now print out your image onto the transfer paper following whatever printer instructions you have for your specific printer (some printers require color tweaks, some require certain settings, etc.) Once your image is printed onto the transfer paper, make sure that it fits on at least one 8.5in x 11in piece of paper if you are using standard letter size.
7) Find a good place to put down your transfer onto while preparing for printing/transferring onto garments (I recommend somewhere smooth like glass or porcelain). Make sure that the surface you are printing on does not have any sort of texture because this will translate into your images/graphics being transferred and ruin the overall look of them. A
8) This step can be done with anything that doesn’t distort or catch the transfer paper mesh. I recommend using an actual heat press so that pressing your shirt(s) down onto the printout is as easy as turning a knob and pressing them for however long you need.
If you don’t have access to a heat press, you can use your household iron (no steam!) or use a piece of wood/glass/etc. and put your garment(s) on top of that and place something heavy on top like big textbooks for example (if using this method, make sure to turn off any sort of steam options because water droplets will ruin the transfer).
Make sure that whatever you are using to apply pressure does not stick or scratch your transfer paper; if it does, try covering it with wax paper so that no matter how hard things get pressed down there is at least some buffer between everything.
9) Once everything is lined up correctly, turn on your transfer machine or press down with whatever you are using to press things. Make sure that the heat setting and time recommended by your specific heat press/iron is used: the time and temperature I use for my heat presses is 320°F for 15 seconds which produces great results considering it’s a household iron we’re talking about here.
10) When you’re done transferring, peel off the white plastic layer of paper to reveal your crisp images/graphics so that they can be applied to whatever item of clothing you want.
11) If you plan on putting your shirt(s) in the dryer after printing transfers onto them, make sure there is something between each shirt so that they do not stick together while in the dryer.
It can be as simple as printing the color onto your transfer paper with an inkjet printer, or you could mix different colors together using acrylic paint.
Screen printed transfers, also known as plastisol heat transfers, are screen printed images that are printed in reverse on transfer paper and placed face down against a shirt which is then heated up until it peels off smoothly without any residue left behind.
These prepped items can last anywhere from two weeks to 12 months depending on how often they’re washed in the washing machine. They can be removed by simply reheating them for about 20 seconds using an iron (but use baby oil if your heat press has cooled down).
MAKING THE SCREEN(S)
To print on a shirt, you coat the screen with a thin emulsion. But, when printing onto a shirt transfer paper, you need to coat the screen with a thicker emulsion. Use the round side of the scoop coater to get a thicker layer of emulsion on top of your screen. The reason for this is that you want a thicker ink deposit onto your transfer paper; therefore, you need a thicker layer of emulsion.
Remember when printing film, you need to reverse your image in the Print dialog. Make sure your images are printed with the text reversed on the negative (the backside of a lens). When exposing your screen, make sure that you show this to us now and not later. We will reverse it again during heat pressing for best results!
SCREEN PRINTING THE TRANSFER
Heat transfers are easy to make. You need to have an off-contact of 1/16″ throughout the screen and keep it consistent. If you print a few transfers, use spray adhesive so they don’t move around when printing. If you plan on printing lots of transfers or different colors, get a vacuum pallet that will hold them down with suction while they are being printed.
When printing multi-colored transfers, you need to print in reverse order (under base). You also need to flash between colors. If the design has thick areas that take a long time to gel, then it may need more flashing time. Thin areas will gel faster. For example, if you are making a neck label with fine print, thin areas will gel quickly and thick areas will take longer.
Insider’s Tip: If you do not remove all of the powder, too much adhesive will stick to your garment.
TIME TO CURE! WAIT A SECOND…
Actually, you are not really curing the ink during this step. You want to make the ink wet but it needs time to dry when heated. How long and what temperature it needs depends on what type of ink you are using and how detailed the design is. Thicker designs take more time (more heat) and thinner designs take less heat. Low cure inks like FN-INK™ will need less heat whereas plastisol inks (with a 300°-320° cure temp) will need more heat.
Printers usually heat up the ink for 6-10 seconds. That will change if the ink is thick or there are a lot of details in the print. For low cure inks, you want the ink to be heated to 180°. For high cure inks, you want it to be at 240°. Don’t use different kinds of ink for multicolored prints. Pick one and stick with that for a good result!
How do you tell if your ink is properly gelled? You should be able to peel it from the paper. If the ink is under-gelled, then it will break apart easily. If the ink is over-gelled, you won’t be able to peel it off of the paper. The best way to tell that your ink has been gelled well is if you can stretch and split it without having any cracks or breaks in it.
Storing your screen print transfers properly is key to ensuring they last for an extended period of time.
Once you transfer is cured, you should store it in a dry and temperature-controlled place like a heated studio or room. If stored properly, it can last for more than a year!
This is easy. Set the heat press to be 30°-40° hotter than the cure temperature of your ink. If your ink cures at 260°, set it at 300°. For standard plastisol inks, set it at 330° and then use light pressure for 10-12 seconds.
For a medium transfer, you should press firmly into the shirt. Wait for the time limit or for the transfer to cool down. Always do a wash test before you use it and make sure it is completely cured with good adhesion.
How long do screen printed transfers last?
Screenprint transfers can last anywhere from a few weeks to 12 months, depending on how often they are washed in the washing machine.
How do I remove screen printed transfers?
If you are not happy with your design after it’s been applied and dried, don’t worry! You have up to 24 hours before removing them for a refund or replacement. All that needs to be done is run an iron over the wet area of transfer paper for about 20 seconds then peel it off gently (or using baby oil).
There will be no residue left behind when peeling. If your heat press has cooled down too much so that transferring doesn’t work anymore you can also reheat using either a dryer at a medium-high setting or place it under a lamp for a few seconds.
What are the benefits of screen printed transfers?
Screenprint transfer paper is an inexpensive option for customizing clothing and other fabric when compared to having these items professionally embroidered, or even using vinyl heat press designs that leave residue behind after peeling them off.
Screenprints can also be used in conjunction with other printing methods like acid dyes which will give you more color customization options than you would have otherwise!
Hot Vs Cold Peel Transfers
There is no difference in the end result of a hot peel or cold peel. The only thing that could differ would be if you were using either transfer paper with plastisol ink (cold peel) for printing on cotton, linen, or polyester fabrics then it may not work as well because they are heat-sensitive materials – so make sure to take this into consideration when selecting your type of transfers!
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