What is Considered a Light Colored Fabric?

“For use with White, or Light Colored fabrics.”  You often see this in the instructions of light heat transfer papers.  What does this mean?  Where is the boundary between light colored shirts and dark colored shirts?

The answer isn’t that simple.  It really is a case by case basis.  When determining whether your colored shirt will work with your light transfer papers, you need to determine the type of image it is.

All Black Images
If your image only has black in it such as simple black text or simple line graphics, etc.  It is likely to work on a darker colored shirt such as red and blue shirts.  For most light transfer papers, you will still have to trim around your image to reduce the polymer background.

Photographs/Graphics with solid, non-neutral colors such as reds, deep or dark blues, and greens.
These images can be printed onto colored shirts like pink, beige, or light blue.  But keep in mind that there may be a bit of color distortion depending on the image and the shirt color.

Photographs/Graphics with gradients, drop shadows, light or neutral colors such as grey, light blues, and some yellows.  
These images should only be printed on white fabric only.  This is because colors will distort significantly due to the large amount of white used in the graphic.  Wherever white is used (in gradients, drop shadows, and to produce light colors such light blue), the shirt color will show through and mix with the image.

Black Only Image
Examples of a Black Colored Image on white, pink, and a dark colored fabric.
Black Colored images work well with the colored fabrics shown above
Colored Image
Examples of a Colored Image on white, pink and red fabrics
This colored image works well with both white and pink colored fabrics. On the red fabric, the yellow mixes with the red and the image cannot be printed well on a dark colored fabric.
Photo comparison
Examples of a Light Colored Image on white, pink, and red fabric.
This image only works with a white colored fabric. This image will not print well with most colored fabrics

On light transfer papers, keep in mind that any white areas of any image will become the color of the shirt, as most laser and inkjet printers do not use white ink.  The white comes from the paper.  When using light transfer papers, the white base paper is peeled off leaving the ink and a transparent coating on the shirt.

If unsure whether your image will work on a colored shirt, it is a safer bet to use a dark heat transfer paper instead of a light one.  Dark heat transfer papers will work on any colored fabric.  However, dark transfer papers tend to be a little bit thicker and costs a little more than light transfer papers.

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Growing Your Business

Most of you that read this have already successfully started your embroidery or personalization business.  Now you sit there and wonder…what do I do next?  How do I take my business beyond the proverbial 9 dots?  Are the other methods and means of decoration really for me?

I can guarantee you that everyone in business; from Fortune 500 companies to the corner coffee shop go through the same thought process.  A wise college once told me, “If you are not growing, you’re shrinking.” This of course means you must annualize your income and add on some addition revenue to account for inflation.  Fortunately, in our business choosing the proper way to expand is not rocket science.  It is more a case of investigation, assimilation and making an educated decision.

I have made a career in small scale personalization using heat transfers of one kind or another, most recently utilizing digital technology.  I have considerable experience and knowledge that I believe can help you make those intelligent decisions in your business.  Yes, it comes with a commercial since we all have to pay the bills.  However, I have decided to join the Joto’s team because they have a full line of equipment and supplies, a very good business ethic and technical integrity.

In future post, I will endeavor to outline the alternatives and discuss what you need to think about and then arrange to get you needed samples and information to make a informed decision.  There is already a considerable body of instructional video on our YouTube™ site http://www.youtube.com/user/jotopaper.  I encourage you to spend some time and look at it.   It’s really good stuff and will give you an idea of what is involved in alternative decoration processes. In each case, I will give you some information on the market, details on the process and the cost of entry.  I intend to cover the most logical small scale decorating techniques:

  • Decoration using sublimation technology.
  • Decoration using laser and color laser technology.
  • Decoration using ink jet technology.
  • Decoration using cutter/cutter printer technology

Diversify, diversify, diversify is the mantra.  Diversity is one of the easiest opportunities for growth in small scale decoration.  It is also strategically, multiple streams of income can help fill voids in your business.  Additionally, there may be areas where you can enjoy higher margins, than in your core business.   By making intelligent decisions and targeting other markets you can “Grow Your Business Bringing Images to Life.”

If you have any questions about the business, you can e-mail at waynepotter@jotopaper.com.

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.

The Value of a Good Heat Press

The key to successful heat transferred images using transfer paper and vinyl is heat and pressure.  Follow the instructions exactly and ensure enough pressure is applied to your item.  A combination of not enough pressure and incorrect heat will result in incomplete transfers and/or washing problems.

Heat presses can affect heat and pressure when doing transfers.  As a result, one of the most important big ticket items you buy for your digital decoration business will be your heat press.   When you first start out or are looking to upgrade, make sure to ask the right question when purchasing a heat press.

It’s a heat press, how much can they differ?
One of the main differences is the size of the heat platen.  Most standard heat presses come in 16×16 or 16×20 platen sizes.  The platen size determines the maximum image size you can press onto your fabric.  The standard size heat presses are sufficient for the majority of businesses as your desktop printer or cutter probably cannot produce images bigger than that.  Ensure you have the right size for your type of images.

There are also two main types of heat presses.  One is the clamshell model and the other is the swing away model.  The Insta 138 is an example of your standard clamshell model and the Insta 228 is an example of your standard swing away model.   There really isn’t a right type here, it is just personal preference.

Another major difference in a heat press is how it is operated.  There are heat presses that are Air Automatic, Auto Release and Manual Heat Presses.  An air automatic press (Insta 728) is basically a heat press that is automatic in almost every way.  It automatically closes and opens the press using air pressure.  You simply dial the pressure in and press a button and it will close and open after the pressing is done.  An Auto Release Press (STX AutoClam) is one that requires the user to set the pressure and manually close the press, but when the pressing is done, the heat press will automatically open.  This is handy because there is no risk of it overcooking your items.  The last one is a manual heat press (Insta 138) which require the user to manually close and manually open the press when it is done.

Other Heat Press Functions
Modern day heat presses are normally digital ones which display temperature and time on a LED screen.  There are older models that will display temperature on a gauge and some require the user to use a separate stop watch for the press time.  We recommend using a digital press because it is much more accurate and consistent in measuring temperature and time.

Quality of Heat Press
Aside from the differences of a heat press, you should also consider the quality of the heat press.  Ensure the heat press is well built and that it gives you consistent pressure and temperature.  Your vendor should be able to give you a recommendation for a good heat press.  Also quality brands will have warranties which will ensure that if it breaks during the period of the warranty, that the manufacturer will fix the problem for you.
Not only should you ensure the heat press is in good working order at the time of purchase, you should consistently check that the heat press is in good order over time.  It is recommended that you buy a heat gun to check for cold spots that may occur over time.