What Are Heat Transfers Printing?

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Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone you first meet and they ask you what you do for a living? For most people, what they do for a living is easy to explain. I usually start out with something like “I’m a salesperson”.  Usually, this stops nearly anyone from asking for details, but sometimes if the situation is a more intimate social circumstance, they will ask say something like “Oh, really, what do you sell?”.

Then I find myself trying to explain that I make custom heat transfers. Most people have absolutely no idea of what in the world a heat transfer is or what the heck you do with them.  So for any of you who may find yourself “Google-ing” What is a heat transfer?, I will do my best to explain what they are.



Heat Transfers – Simply Explained.

Heat Transfers are simply a method used to embellish a garment, bag or other item using a special release paper. Ink is generally screen printed on this release paper (image reversed), which is semi-dried through a commercial conveyor oven.

Once the transfer is ready, the user places the paper on the garment with the ink side down. By using a Heat Press machine, the user applies both heat and pressure for the recommended time and temperature.  This causes a chemical change to the ink which allows the image to “transfer” and bond to the fabric.  The ink releases and instantly transfers to the fabric, creating a finished embellishment.



Heat Transfers – Who uses them?

If I told you some of the largest clothing companies in the world use heat transfers to decorate their clothing, you may not believe it, but it’s true!  Heat Transfers are used because they are so versatile. They can be produced economically in both small and large quantities and apply quickly and inexpensively.  Some types of companies that use heat transfers every day are

  • Children’s Apparel
  • Soccer Shops
  • Major Sports Franchises
  • E Commerce Clothing Stores
  • Promotional Product Suppliers
  • Men’s & Women’s Fashion Retailers


Heat Transfers – Why should you consider using them?

Heat transfers have many benefits to consider. It doesn’t matter if your a startup company or a seasoned printing profession, heat transfers can help your business in many ways.  Some of the main reasons to consider using heat transfers are

  • Produce High Quality Graphics
  • Minimal Startup Costs
  • Print Small orders
  • Can Print on variety of fabric types
  • Easy to apply with no experience
  • No Expensive equipment to buy
  • Fast Application to fabric and substrates


Heat Transfers – Are there different types?

The answer is Yes!, Heat transfers can be made using several different inks and processes.  

The most popular ink formulas are plastisol transfers. Plastisol transfers are preferred because many of the inks have the ability to remain opaque on dark colored fabrics. Plastisol transfers can also be made in metallic colors as well as four color process formulas (CMYK). Some types of transfers are


  • Polyester Formula – Made to apply at low temperatures to 100% Polyester.
  • Cotton Soft Formula – Made to apply to cotton and feel soft to wear.
  • Aqua Color HD – Made using CMYK or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black for photo real look.
  • Stretch Formula – Made to apply to elastic and synthetic fabrics.
  • Dye Block Formula – Made to resist dye migration on sublimated fabrics.


Heat Transfers – Do they wash and wear well?

Heat Transfers wash and wear extremely well when the print formula is matched properly to the fabric and dye characteristics. When applied properly with a functioning heat press machine, heat transfers will meet or exceed the wash and wear cycle of their direct screen print competitors.  


Heat Transfers – Are they cost effective?

Custom heat transfers which are “gang” printed on large sheets of paper with other compatible designs can be one of the most cost effective ways to decorate a garment.  Heat transfers come ready to print right out of the box and can be applied very quickly, with little or no experience necessary. Heat transfers do not require the user to purchase anything other than the blank garments or fabric products.

Once you own the heat press machine you can begin to apply them. Custom heat transfers can be the perfect solution to control your inventory.  You can have multiple t-shirts, garments, jackets and tote bags and with some formulas use one transfer type which applies to all of them.

Heat Transfers – What do I need to place an order?

When you have decided to place an order for custom heat transfers, there are just a few things you will need.


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