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I recently became fascinated with learning how to make my own custom plastisol screen print transfers. These transfers are great when you want to print a design in advance and heat press it on to your garment later. Making a custom plastisol transfer is pretty much the same process as screen printing t-shirts – with just a few minor modifications. Even though they are not that hard to make, most people making these transfers have decked out shops and industrial grade equipment.
Well you know me, I couldn’t let those guys have all the fun. I just had to try it out myself.
In this article, I will show you how I made my own custom plastisol screen print transfers and tell you what I learned along the way.
Transfers, Transfers, Transfers
Before I get into the details of my experiment, you might be wondering why I am working with transfers at all. Have you ever wanted to print on demand? Meaning, having your screen printed design ready to easily apply to your garment as needed.
Taking pre-made transfers to an event to make custom apparel on site or making custom transfers to sell online is very popular right now. There are three main types of transfers people are using: Supacolor digital heat transfers, DTF transfers, and plastisol screen print transfers.
What is are Plastisol Screen Print Transfers?
Plastisol screen print transfers are created by screen printing plastisol ink onto transfer paper. The ink is covered in a special powder and gelled. This allows you to store the printed designs to use later. When you are ready, place the screen print transfer on your garment and heat press. This transfers the plastisol screen printing ink to your garment.
The best thing about screen print transfers is they can be applied to a wide variety of blanks – t-shirts of all types, sweatshirts, jackets, hats, tote bags, and much more. When it is done right, these screen printed garments will last for years.
How I Made My Own Custom Plastisol Transfer
DIY Screen Print Transfers
To make your own screen print transfers, you will need your basic screen printing supplies plus:
- Plastisol Transfer Paper
- Plastisol Transfer Adhesion Powder
- Flash dryer (a conveyor dryer is a better option if available)
- FN-INK Plastisol Ink*
- Heat Press
- Blank T-shirts
*It is important that you use plastisol ink for this process. Water based screen printing ink (like Speedball) does not work for transfers.
What I Learned
Plastisol ink is much different than the water based ink I use in my unique screen printing method. The most important thing to know is you can’t wash this stuff down the sink like you can water based inks. You will need a special plastisol cleaner to get the ink off your screen before washing with water.
To get the best results from a plastisol screen print transfer, the ink needs to be heated evenly. With the proper heat, the ink will “gel”. This allows you to store the screen print transfer until you are ready to heat it onto the garment. Most of the experts recommended using a conveyor dryer to properly gel the ink. I don’t have a conveyor dryer so I used my flash dryer. This worked for me, but it is difficult to control an even temperature over the entire transfer doing it this way. I definitely wouldn’t want to cure hundreds of transfers like this.
Mirror the Design
My Screen Printing with Vinyl process is unique because you put the vinyl on the bottom of the screen which means you have to mirror your design to print on garments. To make plastisol screen print transfers, you are printing your design on transfer paper so that it can be flipped over and pressed onto your garment. This means you want to cut your vinyl without mirroring it before you apply it to the bottom of your screen. Be sure to watch my tutorial video if this is confusing.
Printing on Paper
I have screen printed on just about everything so I was pretty comfortable making these transfers. Even so, it is important to remember you are printing on paper – not a shirt. Pay attention to your squeegee pressure and speed. The ink will easily bleed outside of your design if you’re not careful.
What’s the Verdict? Should you Make Your Own Custom Plastisol Heat Transfers
There are definitely some perks with creating your own screen print transfers. If you’ve purchased screen print transfers lately, you know how expensive they can get. This DIY transfer method will give you the flexibility to create your own designs at home.
When you are planning your next event, screen print transfers are a great way to get the quality of a screen printed garment with the convenience of only using a heat press.
I am a huge fan of trying any and everything, but this project is not for beginners. There is a lot of trial and error with this process. Even the pros have to make a few different runs to get everything fine tuned on their own equipment.
If you’re an experienced screen printer and want to give this process a try, go for it. I would love to hear how it turns out.