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What is the difference between using a Teflon sheet versus a sheet of Kraft paper?

Essential Accessories For Heat Printing

Josh Ellsworth

Josh is the VP of sales, dealer channel for Stahls'. He deals in the sales and implementation of heat-applied, apparel-decorating systems with a focus on customization. He holds skills in the production, sale, and marketing of customized apparel. He presents seminars at trade shows and contributes articles to trade publications, like Printwear magazine.

Some of the simplest and least expensive items can have a profound impact on business. In heat printing, there are many tools that complement the production process, most of which are very inexpensive, but often overlooked or misunderstood.

Cover sheets

Decorators ask the question a lot: what is the difference between using a Teflon sheet versus a sheet of Kraft paper? Those who don’t know often complain of heat transfers being too glossy or not glossy enough.

Believe it or not, the gloss level of a finished transfer can be greatly impacted by the cover sheet. To make a finished transfer look more matte in appearance, cover and press finished graphics for 5 to 8 seconds with Kraft paper. For a gloss finish, complete the same process with a Teflon sheet. Choose between these options and select by the finish desired, not just what’s available in your shop.

While Teflon and Kraft paper are the most popular, there are special-use cover sheets or cover materials as well. A silicone rubber flexible application pad is one of these. This pad is ideal for using as a cover sheet for heat sensitive items. Use it to help eliminate the “gloss box” on leather and nylon items being pressed.

At a cost of approximately $20, it’s a worthwhile accessory to have in the shop. When using a thicker cover-sheet material, increase dwell time, as the heat will take a little longer to get through the cover and to the adhesive on the transfer.

Cover sheets are recommended by nearly every heat transfer manufacturer to help prevent costly mistakes such as an upside-down transfer sticking to the heater of the press.

Erase mistakes

We all make mistakes. We just hope they can be corrected. Wouldn’t it be nice if the real world had an <edit> <undo> control? Letter remover solvent is about as close as we’ll get to undoing a mistake in the heat transfer process.

Whether you spell a name incorrectly, put it on upside-down or mess it up another way, this chemical will help to remove unwanted transfer film and some heat transfer inks. Simply apply it to the inside of the garment and peel away the unwanted areas of the design. Be sure to take proper precautions when using this chemical (MSDS sheets should be included).

While this product or good, old fashioned proof reading can prevent misspellings, and extra caution can prevent incorrect placements, there are some additional preventative measures to help avoid improper application.

Having trouble with graphics that won’t adhere correctly? Look to heat press temperature strips to double-check the machine accuracy. Heat printing requires accurate time, temperature and pressure to get durable results. Additionally, schedule routine checkups for the press and use temperature strips. The $15 strips are a lot cheaper than replacing garments or, worse yet, losing customers.

Weeding killer

The most sought-after item for anyone completing the weeding process on a vinyl cut heat transfer is a weeding tool. If employees doing the weeding are using tweezers or an X-ACTO knife, they are wasting valuable time and complicating the process.

The weeding tool usually features a rubber handle for ease of gripping and a curved point for easy removal of excess vinyl. It looks exactly like a dental pick and, funny enough, is perfect for working on cavities of a different kind.

Weeding tools that are designed for heat transfer production—as opposed to general-purpose XACTO knives—make the process easier and faster.

Loading and unloading

Every heat application requires the garment to be loaded onto the heat press. Heat presses feature a rubber pad on the metal bottom platen. Positioning a garment on the press or removing the garment from the press is often more difficult than it needs to be, as the pad naturally grips the shirt and makes it tougher to move around.

With the addition of a pad protector, this process becomes a lot easier. The pad protector is like an ironing board cover for the bottom of the press and helps to speed up production while ensuring the garment doesn’t catch on the bottom part of the press and snag. If you can invest $30 to $50 per heat press machine, equip every machine in the shop.

Cover sheets are used to protect the heat press but also to achieve gloss, matte or special effect finishes.

Lining up

Alignment tools can come in handy in this business that’s a lot about layout and positioning. Most use a ruler for placement, some use a T-square, build custom templates and/or invest in other industry-specific alignment devices.
The least expensive of these devices are upgraded rulers; the more expensive devices actually utilize laser lines projected onto the heat press area. Whether basic or advanced, some sort of alignment tool is necessary.

Surface prep

Almost all heat transfer manufacturers recommend preheating the surface area of the shirt before completing an application. This pre-heat step helps to remove moisture and wrinkles.

Through years of heat press experience, I’ve found that this step unfortunately doesn’t remove lint, hair, threads and other potential debris. Keep a lint roller nearby your press for fast removal of items that may get in the way of the transfer.

Grace under pressure

They’ve been mentioned before, an accessory article can’t be published without talk of print pads and/or Teflon pillows. Remember, time, temperature and even, accurate pressure are critical to getting desirable results. Print pads and Teflon pillows help with this task when it comes to creating even pressure.

Simply insert one of these into the garment of choice to raise the print area above any obstructions such as seams, buttons or zippers. While they can be used pretty much interchangeably, the lone exception to this rule is that the Teflon pillow. Due to its low density, is not recommend for high-pressure applications.

Investing in heat printing is a big step. Take time to consider which of these tools and accessories will help with efficiency and accuracy. For little investment, users can make heat printing a lot easier by being prepared for each and every job that comes your way.