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.

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

Common Problems when using TrimFree

Common Problems when using TrimFree

Most users have had no problems using TrimFree and are aware of the limitations of TrimFree.  However there are a few users who have had nothing but trouble with this paper.  So here are some of the most common problems and solutions to using this paper.

Printing TrimFree
When printing TrimFree Transfer Paper, we recommend that you feed the sheet in one at a time through the bypass tray.

Toner Offsetting – One of the most common problems when printing this paper is toner offsetting on the page.   TrimFree will not run in plain paper mode for almost all printers.  It is likely to run in Heavy 1 to Label 2 mode.  When you run TrimFree in plain mode, you will notice that the majority of the image is not printed at all (refer to above image) and sometimes you get toner on your fingers when you rub it against the image.

Good Print - Printed on the OKI Printer on Labels 1 Mode

Toner Offsetting
Toner Offsetting - Printed on OKI in Plain mode

If you are getting Toner Offsetting remember to run a few sheets of blank paper through the printer to get rid of the excess toner left in the fuser (if the excess toner is not completely cleaned from the fuser unit, all consecutive transfer paper prints will likely be unsuccessful).  Then try the next heavier paper mode.  Keep repeating until the problem is gone.

Faded or patchy image after printing – This problem is quite rare.  If your image looks faded or had white patchy spots in the solid colors and it is not a result of toner offsetting.  It is likely that the paper setting is set too high.  Normally when you set the paper setting too high, the paper will jam in the printer.  But in rare cases, it may just produce faded or patchy images.

To fix faded or patchy images, simply print on a lower paper setting and this will fix it.  It is always recommended to run a few sheets of plain paper whenever you get a failed print.

Pressing onto the Garment.
TrimFree is a one step heat press process and can be mastered with practice.  The extra repress step with a silicon sheet is to ensure better wash resistance.  When pressing TrimFree, ensure that you follow the instructions given to you.  In the rare case where you received no instructions, please contact Joto for instructions.

Some of the most common problems when pressing TrimFree are:

Polymer Window on the unimaged areas.

If you get a polymer window or partial polymer window on your image where there is no toner, there are two possible reasons for this.

1.)    When peeling, the wait was too long.  We recommend peeling the paper 5-10 seconds after heat pressing.  This wait will vary depending on the fabric.  For lighter thinner fabrics like tank tops, you could almost peel the paper immediately.  For heavier thicker fabrics, such as sweaters and hoodies, you need to wait the full 10 seconds to peel.  Waiting too long to peel will result in some polymer window being left behind.  And if you wait too long, the backing paper may stick to the shirt and peeling the backing paper off will be next to impossible.

2.)    If the temperature is too high or the press time too long, it will also leave a polymer window on the shirt (see above image).  TrimFree is designed to be pressed at 330F for  30 seconds.  If you press TrimFree at 375F or 25 seconds, it is most certainly going to leave a polymer window where there is no toner.

Polymer Window - Black image printed on blue to better show polymer window when too much heat is applied (375F for 25secs)
Perfect Black Only TrimFree Image (330F for 30 seconds)

So if you get a large visible polymer window, check your press temperature to ensure it is not too high.  And check to make sure that you have not waited too long to peel.  Most times if you have waited too long to peel, and there is a bit of polymer where there’s no toner, you may be able to lint brush the excess coating off.  But there is no fixing a pressed image where too much heat has been applied to the transfer.

Incomplete Image Transfer
If you get an incomplete image transfer, there are 4 reasons why this could be:

1.)    You used drop shadows, gradients or skin tones.  This is not a defect in the paper, it is a limitation of the paper because of how drop shadows, gradients, or skin tones are created using toner.   TrimFree will only print solid colors consistently.  Either print the photograph on regular laser transfer paper such as CL 135 or edit your graphic so that it contains solid colors only.  Sometimes it is difficult to see that a graphic has gradients, but if it does, there’s a chance that TrimFree will not image the gradient portion.  With some gradients, TrimFree will print fine, but we always suggest you test first.

2.)    You didn’t wait long enough to peel the backing paper off.  As mentioned before, different fabrics will require different wait times depending on how thick it is.  Thin fabrics will require less wait time and thicker ones will require more.

3.)    You didn’t apply enough pressure when pressing.  Pressure will also affect the transfer and is more evident in light colors such as yellows, beige, etc.  Also with insufficient pressure, it will affect the wash resistance of the final product.

4.)    The toner may be incompatible with the paper.  However this is rarely the case as most of the time, images will transfer fine even with incompatible toners, but will not wash very well.  To the best of our knowledge, we know that HP and Brother brand toners will not work with TrimFree.  But because there are so many different brands of OEM toners and third party toners, there may be more on the list.  If you are using third party toners, with approved brands of printers, please test to ensure that the third party toners are compatible with TrimFree.

Incomplete Transfer - This is a combination of not enough pressure and not waiting long enough to peel

Wash Results
After Pressing TrimFree to your garment, we also recommend you do a wash test before commercial production.  Most of the time the wash is superb and no problems are encountered.  However sometimes there are problems and here are the top 3 reasons why you may get poor wash results.

1.)    The number 1 reason that bad wash results occur is from using an incompatible brand of toners.  HP and Brother toners are incompatible with TrimFree.  They may transfer fine, but once washed, almost the entire image will wash out.  This problem is amplified more when you put the garment through a dryer.

2.)    Insufficient pressure.  Like all laser transfer papers, you need a lot of pressure to fuse the transfer paper coating onto the fibers of the shirt.  With insufficient pressure, the image will still transfer to the shirt perfectly, and you will only be able to tell after you have done a wash test.  One of the easiest ways to correct insufficient pressure is to put the press onto a lower table so you have more leverage.  The ideal height of the bottom platen of the press should be around your stomach.  Using an automatic press will also ensure heavy and consistent pressure

3.)    Using bleach, harsh/corrosive detergent or fabric softener to wash the garment may give you poor wash results.  Most transfer papers are not designed to withstand rough wash cycles.  Even with normal t-shirts, putting it through rough wash cycles and the dryer will reduce the life of the fabric.

If you have any troubles with TrimFree, feel free to contact us at 1-800-565-5686 with a picture of your problem ready to send to us by email.  All of our sales reps will be able to assess what might be causing the problem.