What is the Right Cutter For You?

Whether you are buying a cutter for the first time or buying additional cutters for your company, there are many factors to consider.   The cost, cutting width, maximum force, tracking length, cutting speed, software, additional functions are all factors that you will need to consider.

Some of the factors are obvious such as cutter size, while others such as tracking length and maximum force are not.  So here’s a brief explanation of each one.

Cost
The cost is one of the biggest factors when purchasing a cutter.  However if you purchase the wrong cutter, you may end up paying more than you wanted in order to get the right one.  A great cost effective starting cutter if you are just cutting vinyl is the GCC Expert.  It is basically a stripped down version of the GCC Puma III.  What’s more is that the GCC Expert comes with 3 pinch rollers for better tracking!

Cutting Width
This one may seem obvious because this is the maximum width your cutter can cut.  When buying a cutter, you should always take this into consideration the maximum size you need to cut.  Most T-shirt designs are 8” x 10” in size.  So most users would think an 8” or 10” cutter would suffice, but that may not be the right choice for you.  The reason is that most t-shirt vinyl will come in 15” or 20” wide rolls.  So you will need a cutter that can cut at least 15”.  It is possible to cut vinyl down to 10”, but this method is normally costly and time consuming.  Also you have to consider wastage.  If you cut a 10” wide design on a 15” wide vinyl roll, you will waste 5” of vinyl.   So it may be better to use a 20” vinyl roll so you can do a 2UP design to maximize your vinyl usage.  We recommend buying a vinyl cutter that can cut at least 20” wide rolls such as the Roland GX24, GCC Puma III, GCC Jaguar, or GCC Expert.

Maximum Force
Most cutters will have a maximum force of 250gf or greater.  250gf is normally enough force to cut through most material.  Most cutters are built to cut to their maximum force with no problems.  However it is recommended that you don’t use the cutter at maximum force.  This is because you are pushing the motor to cut at its limit which in some cases may cause it to wear out faster.  It’s like driving a car, if you keep driving the car at 200km/hr, the engine will more likely wear out faster than if you were driving at 100km/hr.  If you plan to cut material that requires 220-250gf, it is recommended you get a cutter with a higher maximum force than 250gf.  The GCC Puma III has a maximum force of 350gf.

Tracking Length
This is the guaranteed maximum length a cutter can cut while still maintaining accuracy of the cut lines.   This is important if you are cutting multiple designs on a roll of vinyl.  Say you have a customer who orders 50 of the same shirt; you would want to cut all 50 logos at once without interruptions.  This is where the tracking length is important.  If you are cutting one or two logos at a time, the tracking length would not be as important.

Cutting Speed
This is how fast the cutter can cut.  Of course the cutter will not be cutting at maximum speed all the time as complicated cut lines will slow the cutter down.  The faster the cutter, the more graphics you can cut.  If you have one person weeding, it won’t matter how fast the cutter is because chances are, the cutter will cut faster than the person weeding the vinyl.  If you have three people weeding, then it might be a good idea to get a fast cutter or to get an additional cutter, as this will increase productivity.

Software
This is what kind of software is included with the cutter.  This includes the driver and any other software that comes with it.   The Roland GX24 comes with Roland CutStudio, while the GCC Puma III, GCC Jaguar and GCC Expert come with GreatCuts software.  If the cutter you choose doesn’t come with software, then you would also have to buy the software which should also be factored into the cost of the cutter.  Some software is a lot more user friendly than other software.  If you are just starting out, you may want to get a cutter that has user-friendly software included.  Roland GX24 is a great cutter that comes with user friendly CutStudio software for the beginner.

Please note that even though some software is easier to use than others, there will be a small learning curve, and you will need to set aside some time to learn and test the cutter before doing any jobs.  We recommend giving yourself a full day to learn and test your cutter.

Additional Functions
These include whether the cutter has an optical eye.  The optical eye allows for precise and accurate print-n-cut functions for full color printable material where the cut lines will need to line up with the printed graphic.  The optical eye function is available in the Roland GX24, GCC Puma III, and GCC Jaguar.

How many pinch rollers does the cutter have.  The more the better, as this allows for better tracking meaning the vinyl will move less when it is being cut.  The GCC Expert & GCC Jaguar has 3 while most standard cutters have 2.

Does the cutter have an Overcut functions?  The Overcut function allows for easier weeding and makes up for incomplete cut lines.  It is necessary if you plan to cut lots of small lettering that are less than 1.5 inches.  But most shirt graphics will be more than 1.5 inches because shirts are meant to be seen from far away.  The GCC Puma and Jaguar cutters have an overcut function.

Other Factors
Other factors you should consider when buying a cutter is your long term and short term goals.  You may be cutting small t-shirt graphics with one color vinyl in the beginning, but you may end up cutting bigger T-shirt graphics with vinyl or printable vinyl(requires optical eye) later.  So it is best to plan ahead.  So when buying a cutter, ask yourself if this is for long term or short term.  Sometimes it is better to plan to upgrade your cutter as your business grows.  If that is the case, you can buy a cheaper cutter (GCC Expert) at first, and then as your business grows buy a new one (GCC Puma III) so that you minimize your start-up costs and risk.  Of course, if you buy an expensive cutter with an optical eye right at the start, you won’t have to upgrade and you will save some money but your start-up costs would be higher.

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Multi Decoration

What is Multi Decoration?  It’s when you combine two or three different technologies to decorate clothing.  An example of this would be combining cuttable heat transfer vinyl with transfer paper.

Multi Decoration is a great way to create custom one of a kind clothing pieces.  You can combine all the strengths of each technology in one piece of clothing.  For instance, cuttable transfer vinyl is great for lettering, but not so great with photographs.  On the other hand, dark laser transfer paper is great with photographs, but not as great for lettering.  So you can use both to create a design that would incorporate a photograph and lettering!

The image above was printed with MultiCut Ultra vinyl for the lettering, and CL Dark II for the photograph.

The advantage of this method compared with using only laser dark transfer paper is that I didn’t have to use a 11×17 sheet of laser dark paper (which would require me to use a laser printer that can print that size) and I didn’t have to use an optical eye on my cutter for the print-n-cut needed for the lettering if I were to use transfer paper.  In addition I’ve avoided the whole tacking procedure.

Also if I had chosen a metallic color (say gold or silver) for my lettering, I wouldn’t be able to do that with CL Dark II.

When using multi decoration, remember to try to keep the heat press off of the areas that have been imaged.  If there’s no way to keep the heat press off of imaged areas, ensure to heat press the items that need the highest temperatures first and do the ones with the lowest temperatures last.  Usually if you are combining transfer paper and transfer vinyl, you press heat transfer papers first (as they normally require high heat to apply), and then press heat transfer vinyl last (as they normally require much less heat to apply).  This will eliminate most problems with multi decoration.  And of course, test and wash one sample first before commercial production!

Advantages of Cuttable Heat Transfer Vinyl

Most corporations, sports teams, charity organizations, school teams, and other association groups have logos that are 1-3 colors so that it is easy to identify and associate with the organization.  One of the most popular methods of promoting an organization is through t-shirts, jerseys, uniforms, hats, etc.  So how do you effectively target these organizations with your business?   The answer is cuttable heat transfer vinyl!

Cuttable transfer vinyl are ideal for 1-3 color logos, graphics, numbers, lettering, and names!  They can be used in conjunction with other technologies, such as embroidery, rhinestones, screen printing, etc.

Oftentimes transfer vinyl are referred to as cad-cut material.

Cuttable heat transfer vinyl rolls are available in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures.  You create the mirrored cut lines for your 1-3 color logos in your graphics program; import it into your cutter layout program and start cutting.  After cutting, weed the excess vinyl and press on to the shirt/fabric!  It’s quick and easy!

What Do You Need to Get Started with Cuttable Heat Transfer Vinyl?

You will need a computer, a cutter, cuttable heat transfer vinyl, and a heat press.  In addition, you will need a piece of fabric to press onto.  The color of the fabric can be any color because the material is opaque!

Many vendors have special cutter packages that will save you money compared with buying the components separately.

What Can You Decorate With Transfer Vinyl?

A large selection of clothing can be decorated with vinyl.  Examples of items that can be imaged are:  t-shirts, sweaters, tank tops, jerseys, hats (with hat press), pants, shorts, socks (some limits apply), uniforms, towels, aprons, etc.

Materials can be made of either 100% cotton, 100% polyester, or any polyester/cotton blends.

Why Use Cuttable Transfer Vinyl?

Here is a list of the advantages that come with using cuttable transfer vinyl:

  • Ideal for printing 1-3 color designs, logos, names, numbering, and lettering.  Easy to add a name or a number to an existing jersey or uniform.
  • No setup time.  All you have to do is create the cut lines or have your customers send you their custom cut lines.
  • Many cutters come with their own layout software that allows you to create your cut lines, therefore eliminating the need for expensive software.  Examples are Roland with CutStudio, GCC with GCC Greatcuts.  Most cutter software is also compatible with Corel Draw and Illustrator.
  • Extremely durable!  Most cuttable transfer vinyl will last the life of the shirt.  This is great for uniforms and jerseys as they are normally worn frequently and go through a lot of wear and tear.
  • Many colors, patterns, and textures are available. Some of these cannot be replicated with traditional screen printing methods.  In addition, custom colors and patterns can be ordered but need to be in large quantities.
  • What you see is what you get.  No color management required.
  • The material is opaque, allowing you to print on any colored (white, black, red) fabric without worrying about color shifts (except in the case of dye migration).
  • Same cost to print one item or 1000 items.  So no minimum orders, and perfect for 1-up items and promotional items for small businesses, schools, charities, sports teams, parties, reunions, and many more!
  • Quick and easy to produce, allowing for same day or even same hour production.
  • A speedy production process that allows for on demand printing that reduces risk and wastage.  Just print it when you need it.  No need to preprint shirts for events or shows.
  • The cutter used for cutting transfer vinyl can also be used to cut sign vinyl for your shop’s windows, company car, etc.

Limitations

With every printing method there will be limitations and so here are a few…

  • 1-3 color designs recommended.  Although you can go over 3 colors, it is better to use printable transfer vinyl due to labor and material costs.
  • Layering (when colors intersect) is required for some designs and will require separate press for each color.
  • Complex designs may require more time to weed compared with simple designs.  This will need to be factored into the pricing.

With all the advantages of transfer vinyls, it’s a great new addition to any print shop!

Preventing Dye Migration on Your 100% Colored Polyester Fabrics

What is dye migration you ask?  Some of you may have had the unfortunate experience of having white lettering on a red 100% polyester shirt turn pink after a few weeks.  This is because dye migration has occurred.

100% polyester shirts are colored using sublimation dyes and thus when you print onto the shirt, you will need a special vinyl with a BlockOut layer to prevent the sublimation dye from migrating from the shirt to your printed vinyl.

There are a large selection of colors out there that are either specially made with a blockout layer, or the pigments used have sublimation dye resistance.  The most popular colors are available with a blockout layer and should be used when imaging polyester fabrics.  For the colors that are not available with a blockout layer you should check with your supplier to ensure they are dye resistant prior to using.

The problem of dye migration may not always occur immediately after pressing.  It may occur right after pressing or over a short period of time depending on the material and the color.  However, there are tell tale signs that the shirt will have the problem of dye migration immediately after pressing.  Here is a picture of the self adhesive backing sheet of a white vinyl after it has been pressed and peeled off of a 100% polyester red jersey.

As you can see there are traces of red on the backing sheet which means that the red dye will migrate to the vinyl if the vinyl is not dye resistant.  (Note that if there are no dyes on the backing sheet after pressing the vinyl, it does not mean that dye migration will not occur.)

Luckily I used a white Blockout vinyl, so there will be no issues with dye migration!  We recommend using blockout vinyl whenever you are dealing with 100% polyester clothing just to be on the safe side.  It simply takes out the risk of dye migration.

BlockOut Jersey BlockOut Closeup BlockOut Closeup 2