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Which type of transfer is BEST?

Hi there! Kristen from The Creative Mustard Seed here! We specialize in RTS Screen Print Transfers and Sublimation Transfers. These transfers can be used on shirts, koozies, mugs, and so much more!

I get asked multiple times a week which type of transfer is best for making shirts at home for family and friends or even for small commercial use. I have one consistent answer. It’s totally your preference!! I think both are great! Lets break down what separates these transfers and maybe it can help you decide.

Screen Print Transfers

Why do I love screen print transfers? Easy! Majority of the screen print transfers you find on the market are printed in bulk and most often listed as “Screen Print Transfers RTS”. You can see ours by clicking the link! That means, the transfers are already made and Ready To Ship!! Shops simply have to package and your transfers are on their way! The reason screen prints are made in bulk is because screens have to be cut for every image/color, in the size that’s needed for the shirt/transfer.

We use low heat transfers for our shop. They can be put on any color fabric and fabric make up. Simple! I often tell customers that if you are use to using HTV/vinyl transfers, these will be almost identical in pressing. They require a heat press that can give you heavy pressure. This is what helps bind and cure the plastisol ink into the fabric. Temperature varies from heat presses from 325-340 degrees. You’ll have to find what works best for your press. And you only press for 7-10 secs. Quick and easy!! Screen print transfers can also be stored easily too. The plastisol is dried and there is no sticky backing like vinyl so you can stack them together until you’re ready to use them!

There is one drawback I find to screen print transfers from customer feedback. 1-3 color screen print transfers will have a texture and feel of traditional screen printed shirts. Awesome! The newer and more popular, Full color screen print transfers on the other hand, are made with a digitally printed image on top of the plastisol. This is great because the image is clear and bright just like if it was printed right on to the shirt. This process, however, makes the print feel extra smooth compared to the traditional 1-3 color screen prints. It’s pretty similar to a vinyl texture, which most people don’t mind. But for some, this is what some don’t care for. They prefer the traditional, plastisol paint, screen print feel. Screen print transfers don’t feel bulky on the shirt. And as opposed to vinyl, they don’t peel or fade!❤️

Sublimation Transfers

I also love sublimation transfers!! You can view our always changing inventory HERE. They give t-shirts a completely different look. Sublimation transfers are images printed with sublimation ink. Think of a printer printing out your image with a special ink, on a special paper, that allows you to dye your shirt. Most shops will not carry stock of sublimation prints simply because it’s easier to print them on demand. Sublimation prints can be printed in any size, one at a time. As oppose to screen print transfers that are made in bulk.

Sublimation transfers only work on light colored shirts that contain at least 50% polyester. The higher the polyester in the shirt, the better! If it’s 100% cotton, there will be no transfer! This is what most people struggle with when it comes to sublimation transfers. Polyester shirts are a lot easier to find at local stores than previous, which is great! But some do not like the “light colored” shirt aspect. Sublimation ink is “transferred” on to the shirt when the ink is heated up and lifted from the transfer paper and bound to the polyester shirt fibers. Because of this, if the shirt fibers are already dyed in a color darker than the sublimation image, transfer of the sublimation dye will be hard to see. To get around this, many people press sublimation transfers on darker colored shirts and then bleached over the image to get the image on a white background for contrast. The bleach will remove the shirts original dye colors, but not the sublimation ink that’s bound to the polyester. This is totally a preference in overall shirt look. It’s a great way to give it a vintage, washout feel!

The biggest down fall in my opinion with sublimation transfers is the learning curve of pressing your transfers. It’s recommended to use a heat press (some use heat transfer tape also) so that the image stays in place when being heated. Since the sublimation ink is being transferred over onto the shirt fibers, moving the transfer while pressing will cause a shadowing effect. Many people have success using hand held heat presses, but it takes practice. Sublimation transfers require high heat with medium to light pressure (which is a plus when you don’t have a heat press)!! Sublimation ink requires heat of 385-400 degrees to be lifted and transferred off the transfer paper. Hand held irons will either not get this high in temperature or will sometimes not be large enough to cover the entire image to heat evenly. When using a heat press, you also have to find your right pressure. Too heavy, you’ll run the chance of getting outlines on your shirt from the transfer paper. Too light, you run the chance of not getting a good transfer (light colored image). Since sublimation transfers require high heat, you also have to watch for shirt scorching. If you find yellowing on your shirts, too high heat is most often the reason. (Peroxide is an easy fix to lift the yellowing. Just don’t get your image!) I often recommend getting extra transfers if you’ve never made a sublimation shirt (yes, transfers can only be used once). Some people are pros automatically and others have to mess around with settings to find what works best. 

Once you’ve done a few sublimation transfers and found your heating technique, you’ll love them! You don’t have to worry about peeling images because you essentially “dyed” your shirt. And your shirt has no texture on it, which is what most people LOVE about sublimation! 

The Winner!?

I say, try BOTH! You’ll find that screen print transfers and sublimation transfers are quite different, but amazing in their own unique ways! If pressing and using the transfers is concerning to you, don’t worry! We send instructions with all of our transfers and include handy tips on how to get the best results! As always, we are welcome to questions if you have any!

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest! We also have a private Facebook group where customers give input on new designs, reach out for quick questions with quick responses, and get access to extra website promotions! 

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