What do I need to know about incorporating inkjet transfers into my business?


Inkjet transfers are created using water-based inks, and the image is printed in reverse on clear media for white garments. To use inkjet transfers, you need a printer, transfer paper, inkjet inks, and a heat press. A cutter with an optical eye is optional.

Light-colored shirts are printed with a clear transfer paper. Because inkjet inks are translucent, printing on a colored shirt results in some color shift. For example, if you print green ink on a yellow shirt, it will look blueish.

Dark shirts use an opaque transfer paper, and the design is printed on a white underbase. Unless the paper is self-weeding, you must cut out these transfers to prevent a white edge around the design’s perimeter.

Inkjet transfers adhere to cotton, polyester, and blends. Examples include apparel, tote bags, and backpacks. These transfers don’t adhere to hard goods, such as mugs and plaques.

Entering this market takes a low capital investment, depending on the equipment you need to buy. An inkjet printer costs as little as $150 and a heat press is priced as low as $400. It’s possible to start cranking out transfers for less than $1,000. However, starting low can impact quality, versatility, and labor. If you want to print on dark garments or produce intricate lettering or graphics, you may want to purchase a cutter, which generally starts around $400, but an optical eye cutter costs $800 or more.

Keep in mind that the hand of inkjet transfers tends to be heavier with a papery feel. Durability is also a problem. Inkjet transfers may show wear after only 15 washes, depending on how they’re washed. For the most part, inkjet transfers are best suited for low-volume orders and applications where the garment will not be subjected to frequent laundering or abrasive use.