Making Your Own Templates for Sublimation or Laser Transfers

Templates are excellent tools for imaging onto small items.  They guide you on how to resize your image to fit the substrate as well as allow you to see a mock-up of the final imaged product.   In some instances, you can see what parts of the picture is cut-off by holes in the substrate (such as an iPhone cover camera hole).

While most vendors will provide you with templates for your imprintable blanks, not all blank items will have their own template.  So it is useful to know how to make your own templates.

Here’s how to make your own template:

Cylindrical Objects
cylindrical objects such as mugs and water bottles are especially challenging when making your template as the surface is not flat.  But you can always wrap a piece of paper around the surface and mark critical boundaries on the paper.  Once the critical points are marked, you can easily measure out the dimension as the printable area is likely to be a rectangle.

Here’s an example of making a template from a travel mug white patch.

I have marked the corners with a pencil.  Once marked, I can easily connect the crop marks to make a rectangular shape that I can measure with my ruler and input the template size in my graphics software.

Irregular shaped items
Ceramic ornaments with irregular shapes such as a star, heart, snowflake, etc. are items that you cannot measure with your ruler.  However they can easily be traced or scanned in your copier.  One method is to use a pencil and carefully trace the edges of the object.  After tracing is complete, you can scan it into your computer.

It is recommended to use a scanner and not a camera.  Scanners are more accurate because it keeps the sizing of the template consistent, whereas a camera doesn’t do a good job as taking pictures from different distances will change/affect the size of the template.  It’s best to trace your object on paper and then scan it.  Try to avoid placing the object directly on your scanner to scan as ceramic items may scratch the glass on your scanner.  Once scanned use the pen tool or outline trace tool in your graphics design program to make your template.

Here are some examples below.


In this example, I have traced the heart ornament on a piece of paper.


Here is a scan of the iPhone cover with a black background from our scanner.

Tips and hints on making your own templates
Remember when you are finished scanning or measuring your template, make sure to add a bleed border to your template and to consider safe print areas.  This will account for any tiny difference between the size of the substrate and the size of your template.

And finally here is a link to all of Joto’s imprintable blank templates.

www.jotopaper.com (click on the product to get the template)
Unisub blanks templates

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Centering Your Image on One or Multiple Small Items

Centering your image is easy to do when you are doing a full bleed image.  But what if you are doing an image with just a white background?  It’s difficult to see your image as the substrate or the paper will be blocking the image.

Centering your image on small items such as name tags is quite simple and is similar to bleeding your image on a substrate.  All you need is a border around your image.

Putting a border around your image helps to center the image especially if you plan to have white as your background.  Simply scan in or get the dimensions of your substrate.  Remember when making a border; always make it 0.25-0.50 inches bigger than the actual printing size of the substrate.  This way, you will not accidentally print the border onto your substrate but you will still be able to use it for centering purposes.  Once the border is made, you can center align your image to the border and print!  See picture below.

Here is an example of a name tag (1” x 3”).  I have created a 1.25” x 3.25” border and have centered my image in the middle of the border.   Once printed, simply place the substrate within the borders with roughly equal space between the substrate and the border on all 4 sides.  Then place a blank sheet on top and press.

For items that require the paper to be put on top of substrate, simply tape the substrate onto the paper after alignment and flip over to press.

Cutting Dark Transfer Papers

Dark Transfer Papers need to be trimmed before applying to fabric.  The reason for this is because areas that are unprinted and untrimmed will appear white on the shirt.  There are a number of ways you can trim dark transfer papers.  You can use a pair of scissors, an exacto knife, a paper cutter (for square images), or a cutter/plotter with an optical eye (recommended method).

Using a cutter/plotter with an optical eye is the best method simply because it is extremely accurate and efficient.

How does the Print and Cut Feature Work On a Cutter/Plotter?
Most of the programs provided to you by the manufacturer to run your cutter will have a print and cut option (CutStudio for Roland GX 24, and GreatCuts for GCC cutters).  You simply turn on the print and cut feature either before or after (CutStudio is before and GreatCuts is after) you have finished laying out your graphic and cut lines.  Although you may have the print and cut option in your program, please ensure that your cutter has an optical eye.  Without an optical eye, the print and cut function will not work.

Once print and cut is activated in your software, you will see 3 or 4 registration marks on the corners of the transfer paper.  From this point, you can print your graphic along with the registration marks out on your printer.  This is how they would look:

  

After printing your graphic with the registration marks, you are ready to load your transfer paper into the cutter.  Once the paper is loaded, simply select cut in the software and the cutter will start cutting.  First the cutter will activate its optical eye system and you will see a red dot moving.  This is the cutter’s way of scanning for the registration marks.  Once it has read all 3 or 4 registration marks, it will cut the graphic out.   You can then weed the excess paper off the sheet.  Peel off the graphic or use tack to keep non-continuous parts together.  Then place on top of your fabric with image face up on your heat press.  Ensure you protect your graphic/image with a silicon or teflon sheet when pressing.

Here is a link to a video of this print and cut feature using CL Dark Premium

Why Do You Need the Print and Cut Registration Marks to Cut with Your Cutter?
The print and cut system is used so that the printer can communicate with the cutter via registration marks.  Simply put, the printer uses registration marks to tell the cutter where it has printed the graphic on the paper.  Without the registration marks and an optical eye, it is near impossible for the cutter to determine where the printer has printed the graphic on the paper.

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!