The most prevalent type of heat transfer product in the decorated apparel industry consists of an image imprinted onto a substrate (various types of paper) by means of screen printing, inkjet, or lithography. The heat transfer is then placed on a garment or textile surface and through the application of heat and pressure, the image, itself, is transferred to the textile surface.
A heat-transfer press is a device that has top and bottom metal platens, the top of which is electrically healed, and is engineered to hold the platens firmly in place together above and below the fabric for a prescribed number of seconds, the time for which is determined by the type of ink employed and the type of garment being imaged. Rhinestone transfers work a little differently, but the principles of how rhinestone or nailhead graphics are transferred onto a garment are essentially the same as with heat transfers with inked graphics.
Professionally Manufactured heat transfers
By using professionally manufactured heat transfers and transferring images onto a garment using a superior quality heat-transfer press, a decorated apparel creation done with heat printing technology is absolutely indistinguishable from one decorated on a screen printing press. Heat transfers also can be made through sublimation printing, a process involving special inks on specially manufactured paper that can be made by inkjet or laser printers and on specially designed photocopiers.
The resulting heat transfer can then be applied to a textile surface using a heat press. Sublimation printing can also be transferred onto ceramics, glassware, wood, and metal. Cylindrical objects, such as coffee mugs, can be decorated on a specially-engineered cylindrical heat press that wraps around the surface to be decorated and uses a combination of heat and pressure to cause the image to transfer on to a specially coated mug. It’s the coating on the mug that is actually heat printed.
Heat printing is the most affordable technology for start-up apparel decorating entrepreneurs, where an investment of between $1,000 and $3,000 for a commercial-quality heat transfer press, start-up supplies, and accessories, are all that’s needed to get into business as an apparel decorator.