Screen print transfers are the most common and the easiest way to integrate screen printing with sublimation printing. You may need a craft cutter to cut the heat transfer vinyl. Usually in heat-press, sublimation printing transfer, and vinyl cutting application.
So, what are screen print transfers? Screen-print transfers are actually screen printing on transfer paper, not directly onto the apparel. Here, screen printing works the same as a sublimation printer. Then you heat press the printed transfer onto the t-shirt or garment. You can print the ink of your choice. Either, you get the printer setup or buy these screen print transfers from Etsy or Transfer Express. Easily heat press these transfers like sublimation printing. Therefore, you can do sublimation without a sublimation printer with screen print transfers.
Screen printed transfers are preferred over vinyl because it makes the print job easier and faster on higher volume orders. That is to say, you can take large orders without directly screen printing on them. You can take all orders in-house without having to set up a huge printing infrastructure. Instead, use screen print transfers and heat press.
The greatest advantage of screen print transfers is you can print larger images with logos that can take up the entire area on the transfer. Furthermore, you can print transfer which you can print now and use for years. Whereas the greatest disadvantage of screen print transfer is that it isn’t long-lasting as you actually screen print on the garment.
We make screen printing transfers work as heat transfers with plastisol ink. Basically, you are gelling the transfer paper with the plastisol ink which can sublimate onto the garment with a heat press.
The advantage of screen printing transfers is that you can print tons of artwork, keep it for a year, and print instantly at the last minute to fulfill orders. The disadvantage is that when you are gelling the transfers with ink and putting that onto the garment, it not curing but gelling onto the top. That is to say, it isn’t long-lasting as you directly screen print onto the garment.
3 Benefits of Screen Printing Transfers:
The benefits of full-color screen printing transfer are as follows:
- Screen printing transfers are good for the customers that come and order a lot of personalized shirts to be delivered within a short period of time. So, it is similar to a last-minute order and screen print transfers are much handy and mostly preferred for emergency use.
- Secondly, screen printing transfers are great for on-site events and trade shows. Instead of carrying the huge screen printing machine, conveyor dryer, and screens; you can take a simple heat-press, a substrate, and the screen printed transfer.
- Third, transfers are also great for special items, apparel like hats, name tags, sleeve prints, name & numbers on jerseys, canvas, etc. You can print 10 to 15 small graphics or logos on a single transfer paper, cut them, and heat press on different shirts. As a result, it could save you money on transfers, ink, time, and labor by preventing the entire printing procedure for each garment. Just heat press and you are done with the print.
Materials Required to Make Screen Print Transfers:
For screen printing transfer, you are going to need:
1. Screens of mesh count of 110 to 156:
The mesh you use for screen transfers should be a little bit lower i.e. 110 to 156. As you would create a thinker ink layer on the transfer paper. Because you got to have sufficient ink to release onto the substrate after heat press. If you are using a higher mesh count like a 305 mesh, you are not going to have a lot of ink build-up on the transfer. Insufficient ink will cause faded prints. The transfer won’t be effective on the garment.
2. Dual edge scoop coater:
It should have a round edge and a thin coating. So, instead of using the thin side of the scoop coater, use the round side. Because it lays a thicker layer of emulsion onto your screen. Coat the outside of the screen first and then the inside. You are going to use the round side.
3. Transfer paper:
Use premium transfer paper that is of good quality to hold enough ink.
4.Transfer adhesion powder:
Transfer adhesion powder is used for screen printing transfer for adhesion of the ink to its surface.
5. Opaque plastisol ink:
Plastisol inks are thick and have adhesive properties. It has a thicker build-up onto the surface of the transfer paper. While water-based inks are thin and likely to fall.
Step by Step Method to Make Screen Print Transfers:
In the screen-making process of the screen printing transfers always create a little bit thicker stencil to lay more ink. The thickness of ink should be equal to the thickness of the stencil. As a result, you print with enough ink onto the substrate so that that the artwork is bright and clear.
Step 1: Create film positive:
When you create your film positive for screen printing on transfers, you need to reverse them. If you are printing a two-color transfer, it has a white under-base and the print above it.
Usually, we expose this onto the screen with the positive showing through the screen. It means as you look through the screen mesh you should see the image as you would see onto the shirt. However, with transfer printing, we need to reverse that film positively as opposed to what we usually follow in direct screen printing.
The reason to reverse the film positive is that it goes reversed on the transfer and then faces up onto the t-shirt. While the other way is to mirror the image when you are printing out the film and follow the usual method. It is your choice.
If you are little used to sublimation printing, just recall the process of mirroring the image before printing transfer with a sublimation printer. Exactly, we are following the same process here; substituting the sublimation printer with a screen printer. That’s all.
Step 2: Pre-heat transfer paper:
For doing multiple color prints, pre-heat to shrink the transfer paper.
Send the transfer through the conveyor dryer. We pre-shrink the transfer paper because during the two-color printing process we have to flash between colors.
If we don’t pre-heat and shrink before printing, during flash it will shrink up the paper and ruin the print.
Step 3: Align onto the screen printing machine:
If you are done with pre-shrinking, align it onto the screen printing press.
In this step, we are aligning the image to the transfer paper and make registration marks.
Vacuum platen keeps your transfer paper consistent or fixed while printing, If you do not have a vacuum platen, you can use a spray adhesive to stick the paper. Though, it is better to get a vacuum platen.
Step 4: Setting up for the print job:
Multiple color transfers in screen printing are printed in reverse. That is to say, the front colors are printed first while the back color or the under base is printed last. As opposed to when we directly screen print on a garment we print the under base first and then the top color.
Moreover, there are a couple of different ways to print the transfers. One of the easiest ways is the underbase method where we will be using transfer adhesion powder. This is one of the easiest ways to do it. Moreover, you can also prefer other ways like transfer additive or an adhesion paste while you screen print.
Step 5: Off-contact:
Screen printing on paper is different from printing shirts. It is better to use newer screens for good screen tension. And probably you must set 8 inches off contact because the screen mesh should pop up and release the ink smoothly on the transfer paper.
You also need to set your print pressure and print stroke. If you smash the ink on the ink transfer paper it will smash the design.
Step 6: Print the first coat:
As we discussed above, we shall print the top coat first and then the underbase. While Printing the first coat, keep the squeegee at an angle of 75 degrees for the first stroke. It lets ink release uniformly with even pressure. As a result, you get detail in transferring through the stencil.
Do not press the squeegee too hard as it will smush out the ink and we will lose detail.
Step 7: Flash Cure:
Before you print another layer on the transfer, you have to cure the first ink layer under a flash dryer. You can have an 18/18 flash dryer. Keep the flash cure temperature within a range of 260 to 270 degrees Fahrenheit. In due process, check the print, over its corners if it is dry without over-curing.
You can use a laser temperature gun to check. However, if you over-cure this ink it will not release from the transfer paper during heat press.
Step 8: Printing the Underbase:
Flood the white underbase with a very consistent print stroke. Do not put much pressure on the squeegee. You will get a completely white print over the first layer we printed in Step 6.
Step 9: Apply transfer adhesion powder:
Sprinkle the transfer adhesion powder over the print. Perform this step in a separate bucket. Run through the transfer and just tap the paper to remove excess powder.
Do not get too much adhesion powder onto the paper because the paper will stick to the tee-shirt while heat pressing.
Step 10: Curing:
Cure the transfer paper at 275-280 degrees. As usual, test the temperature with a temp gun as over-curing won’t let the ink transfer onto the shirt.
The result is that you should be able to peel off the top layer like a sticker. Finally, this is your printed transfer paper ready to heat press onto the garment.
You may skip step 11 and directly jump to step 12 in case you don’t face any issues.
Step 11: Production:
To put the transfers on the shirt. One thing that can happen in printing transfer is that you can have ink build-up. It is unlike t-shirts that receive but the transfer paper doesn’t.
So, the easy way to fix the blurry image is to take some paper or low adhesive tape to put over your image area. As you peel it out, it takes all out of the top white layer.
For black shirt:
The above procedure is suitable for printing a light-colored garment. For a black t-shirt, you need to follow a little bit of additional procedure.
Use spray adhesive or vacuum pallet to put down the transfer on the platen in registration. Then stroke with a squeegee to apply again the first coat as we did in step 6. Let it cool. Next, again apply the white underbase after curing as we did in step 8. Then follow step 9 for adhesion powder and finally curing. For printing on a black shirt, apply the second coat of underbase.
To summarize, we apply the first coat once and the underbase twice for printing on a black t-shirt.
Step 12: Heat Press:
Now, we are back to the process of sublimation printing where we heat press the transfer to print onto the shirt. Make sure you don’t have fingerprints or ink around the transfer paper. If you find any, cut that part. Then properly align your transfer to the center of the shirt. Use Teflon sheets below and above the setup.
Finally, heat presses the garment at 320 degrees for about 10 to 12 seconds under medium pressure. Then peel off the paper and you get a beautiful print from the screen print transfer.
Use opaque inks for transfer printing, use good paper and adhesion powder as additional supplies for screen printing transfers.
If you are a screen printer and opt for getting into a sublimation printing business without buying a sublimation printer, screen printing transfers are the best way to go.