Heat Press Ink Jet Transfers

I have discussed print on demand (POD) t-shirt publishing in previous articles and discussed how you can use online systems such as Cafe Press to start your own business with little out of pocket expense and a few good ideas. I still highly recommend using these systems due to their relative ease of use and low start-up cost, but there are other options available.
I discussed Direct To Garment (DTG) printers in another article, which is what Cafe Press uses to print their shirts, and talked about the high cost associated with them. If you were to buy one of these machines it would set you back at least $16,000 for a used machine. If anyone finds one out there for less money and in decent shape please drop me an email as I would like to stay on top of any declining prices in the DTG sub-section of this business. It’s my opinion that if these machines were more affordable they would be the best option for people interested in the t-shirt design business. You have the ability to print out one shirt from your design template and truly see how it is going to look printed on to the fabric. There is simply no substitution for this. You can blow up your image on Cafe Press and get a good feel for what you will be getting, but when your design is printed the color palette is CMYK based, and on your computer screen the images are RGB based. RGB of course stands for red, green, blue which most people are familiar with. The CMYK color wheel is a little less known, but the one used in printing. It stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). If you are uploading your RGB image to Cafe Press they are going to convert it to CMYK for the printing process and some colors can have a different appearance. This isn’t a huge deal right now, otherwise Cafe Press would certainly address this issue if people were returning merchandise because it wasn’t the same colors as what they thought they were getting. There is a difference in the two color wheels, however, and you should at least be aware of the difference.
Most of you probably know about Plastisol heat transfers which are a sheet of paper that ink is distributed on and then, using a heat press, are transferred to the garment. You can have companies make these for you from your designs if you want to do your custom shirts from your home or office, but the same problem as with print on demand arises due to the fact that you can’t actually see all the colors you would if you printed it right on the shirt. So let us say you have a great design with multiple colors that you are absolutely sure will sell like gangbusters. You upload your design to your company of choice and they print 500 heat transfers with your design on them. A short time later you get the designs and excitedly press your first shirt, and it doesn’t look like what you wanted. Perhaps an area of the design is too light or dark. Maybe the text is too small or the stroke of the text is too thin. The bottom line is you are now stuck with 500 transfers that you paid good money for and aren’t happy with the design.
Along comes another option that could bail you out of the above scenario and save you a boatload of time and money. Introducing the ink jet heat transfer. What? Yes you read that correctly, ink jet heat transfer. You can now purchase blank Plastisol transfers and run them through your standard ink jet printer to print out your image. I can hear the gears in your head spinning, I know mine were when I first heard this. You are probably thinking you’ll just forget about the print on demand option and use that standard printer of yours to print out shirts, allowing you to sell them for less money than print on demand can. Well, that was where I started going as well, but keep in mind those companies like Cafe Press are printing, shipping, advertising, and accepting credit cards for you, not to mention the fact that they are a corporate presence with a website attracting millions of customers. After contacting the company who makes these transfers for more information I put together a list of other concerns and problems.
* The cost of standard ink has to be taken in to account and it’s not cheap.
* They didn’t convince me that the quality was as good as their other transfers, and you don’t want an inferior product out there with your name associated with it.
* How long did your last printer hold out? Home printers aren’t designed to print in large numbers or last very long. I have yet to find a printer that impresses me with longevity.
* You need to make sure your printer uses pigment based ink instead of standard dye ink. Dye ink, which is industry standard, absorbs in to the paper, whereas pigment based inks set on top of the paper in encapsulated bubbles basically. I imagine it’s because of this lack of absorption that the pigment is the best option.
So you may be wondering why I bring this method up if I don’t believe it’s a viable option. Well I think it’s a great option, but not for making your shirts for sale. If you have a heat press or want to get one consider using the ink jet transfers for testing your designs. Imagine being able to print out a reasonably good quality image of your design and heat press it on to a shirt. The benefits to that would be huge!
* You could make sure the text was the right size.
* You could ensure that the colors come out the way you anticipate.
* You could show it to friends and family on a shirt instead of a computer screen and get opinions and critiques.
* You could wear your design around in public and see peoples reaction to it, complete with your website name on the back.
The ink jet transfer papers may become a better option in years to come, but right now I think it makes a great option for testing your designs. It could save you some headache and possible product returns down the road. Any questions please feel free to contact me. Happy Designing!

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