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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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!

Transfer Papers

Transfer Papers are a great way to start a business with very little to no start up costs.  All you need is a computer with design software, a printer (inkjet or laser), and a heat press!

You can just use any old printer to start printing your t-shirts.  The paper you need to buy will depend on the printer you have.  Most times, you can just use the printer you have at home.  Normally it will be an inkjet printer.