Two-plus Heat Transfer

Two-Color Heat Transfers

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.

Heat transfer films come in many different styles and effects. While decorating apparel with heat transfer films can be quite easy, knowing how to combine materials seems to stump even the most advanced decorators.

Vinyl tutorial

A vinyl cutter cuts film color by color. This means that, in the art creation process, colors must be separated and output individually to the cutter. The workflow is quite simple. Create the art, separate by color, output each set of cut lines to the appropriate color of material, weed away the excess film, then heat press each layer onto a garment.

Just as if setting up for a screen print job and charging a screen charge for each color used, so should an increased charge be assessed in the heat-transfer film process for each color used. In essence, you are completely duplicating the labor and cost of materials for each color added.

One of the most common questions with this method is what material can be layered onto what. While there isn’t a foolproof methodology for figuring this out, there is a general rule of thumb. Most polyurethane based materials can be layered with other polyurethanes while most PVC (polyvinyl chloride) materials are not recommended for layering, especially as a base layer. For sure-fire recommendations and guarantees, consult with the particular manufacturer of the material types being used.

Even with this recommendation, some are still hesitant to create a two-plus color design. The process is quite simple and shouldn’t be feared. Let’s look at some basic steps for creating a two-color number in CorelDRAW.

Step 1: Working in Corel, type the number onto the screen in the font required. It is very important to select the font desired prior to sizing the number or moving to the next step.

Step 2: With the number selected, go to “Arrange” and click on “Convert to Curves.” This step allows the font-based design to become an object. This is important because we want to be able to size the object in inches, not by font point size.

Step 3: Type in the desired height of the number. Be sure to select the icon designated for proportional sizing in CorelDRAW so that the width sizes proportionally to the height and maintains the integrity and consistency of the font choice.

Step 4: Go to “Effects” and click on “Contour.” A contour menu will appear in the sidebar. Select “contour to the outside.” This is important as it creating the background number. Type in the desired offset, or amount of color you will want to see around the outline of the number, and click apply.

Step 5: With the number combo selected, go to “Arrange” and click “Break Contour Group Apart.” Now you should be able to grab each color individually to separate for cutting.

After looking at this workflow, it becomes apparent that the recommendation is to cut a full background layer and allow layer-on-layer rather than trapping. Trapping refers to a process where we cut out the inside of the background number and inlay the foreground number. While this is possible, the alignment of numbers becomes much more complicated in the heat-application step.

Layer application

The basic steps to full layer-on-layer heat application are as follows.

Step 1: Position the background layer of design and heat apply for therecommended time, temperature and pressure. Next, remove the mylar carrier.

Consider that any initial applications will receive heat a second or possibly even a third time. For this reason, it’s only necessary to “tack” this layer in place. The recommendation is to use the least amount of time possible to prevent any possible shrinking and alignment issues with the foreground layer.

Step 2: Align foreground layer, heat apply and remove mylar carrier.

If the application provides a variable time and temperature, it is suggested to err on the higher side of the range. This will ensure enough heat reaches the adhesive on the initial background application.

Mixing it up

With heat-applied film, the technology is pretty simple in that each material must be heated for the recommended time, temperature and pressure. Folks typically get confused or concerned when mixing different styles of materials. Let’s explore a few combination examples to help.