In the world of vinyl graphics, vinyl and tape go together like peanut butter and jelly. Application tape (or Transfer Tape) is essential for transferring cut vinyl to substrates. In the garment decoration field, transfer tape is less essential. For most cut graphics using “T-shirt vinyl” like HotMark 70 no tape is needed. But for digitally printed apparel graphics, transfer tape can be a lifesaver. This is especially true of thinner solvent printable media like HotMark Print, and Siser ColorPrint Soft Opaque. These products require tape with unique properties to transfer them from the release liner to the garment without wrinkling or stretching the face film. So what tape should you use?
Use Only Heat Transfer Tape
Some printed T-shirt films like EasyPRINT can be applied without transfer tape. But even with EasyPRINT, there’s a case to be made for using tape. When placed on a heat press, the heat radiating from the platen can cause the edges of the film to curl. This can make it hard to place it smoothly and accurately on the shirt. Sliding a Teflon sheet over the film can help keep it flat, but masking it with Transfer tape will keep it from curling and help you place the transfer exactly where you want it.
For transferring solvent printable graphics, standard tapes used for vinyl graphics won’t work. Part of the reason for this is the necessity of leaving the tape on the print and garment through the heat transfer process. Paper tapes leave adhesive residue on the garment after removal. In addition to the residue problem, even high tack paper tapes don’t consistently remove the film from the liner, so it’s not a good option. Clear tapes for vinyl signs such as R-Tape AT60 or Main Preview Plus are very likely to melt on the heat press. Cross them off your shopping list. What you need is a transfer tape that won’t melt and won’t leave adhesive residue on your newly decorated garment. We stock both EnduraTex ATT and Siser TTD heat transfer application tapes so you have some choices.
Siser TTD Easy Mask & High Tack Mask
If you’re using Siser ColorPrint PU, ColorPRINT Easy, or ColorPRINT Soft Opaque, you’ll probably want a matching branded transfer tape. Siser has replaced their ColorPRINT Mask and ColorPRINT Mask Evolution tapes with TTD Easy Mask and TTD High Tack Mask. TTD Easy Mask is a clear, medium tack tape laminated to a paper liner that must be removed before use. Siser recommends that the masking process be performed upside down, with the tape face down. The print is turned over and applied print-side-down on the tacky side of the tape. Easy Mask is the product of choice for ColorPRINT Easy. Easy Mask also works well with some other brands of heat transfer film including EnduraTex DarkJet Solvent. For more details on the TTD Easy Mask process, please click here to download the instruction guide. TTD Easy Mask comes in 20″ and 29.5″ widths. 20″ by Fifteen foot rolls start at only $18.00. For step by step instructions for using Easy Mask, please click here to download the instruction guide.
ColorPRINT Soft Opaque is too thin for TTD Easy Mask to handle, so Siser added TTD High Tack Mask. The more aggressive adhesive on TTD High Tack mask removes these films from their release liners more effectively. The instructions are the same, but the results are much better. ColorPRINT PU can be used with either Easy Mask or High Tack Mask. TTD High Tack Mask also comes in 20″ and 29.5″ widths with prices starting at only $18.00 for a 20″ x 15 foot roll.
ClearMASK LT is a low-tack heat transfer tape that is great for Logical Color WarmPEEL CP PRINT and CozySOFT PRINT. The low-tack adhesive helps reduce the risk of stretching fabric during removal. Sometimes a higher tack tape will pull the garment and may stretch it a little too much. This could cause your graphics to stretch with the garment. No customer would want a garment that is already stretched out with a lopsided graphic. It will be unappealing and you have one unhappy customer. Also, when using a higher tack tape, if not used correctly, the mask could take some of the ink off the graphic.
ClearMASK MT is a medium-tack tape that is compatible with thinner printable material like CozySOFT PRINT. It works great with Logical Color Universal PRINT as well. Universal Print has a self-adhesive carrier to help with weeding the material. Because of this, ClearMASK LT has a hard time pulling the material up from the carrier.
EnduraTex ATT Series
If you’re using Chemica, EnduraTex or other printable heat transfer films, try one of our ATT series of heat transfer tapes. We now have four options: ATT450, 500L and 600. These are specially engineered for use with products like HotMark Print, HotMark Print SIR, GlitterPrint, and ShinePrint. These are clear transfer tapes that come in a variety of tack levels, with and without a release liner.
• ATT450 is our easiest and most affordable option. It’s a 3 mil, medium-tack tape on a release liner. It works great with both thicker and thin films like DarkJET Solvent and HotMark PRINT, and it costs only $49.95 for a 20″ x 22 yard roll.
• ATT500L is a low tack tape that comes without a liner. The tack level is so low you can stack your masked graphics without having to worry about them sticking to one another. And the lack of a liner is ideal for high-production shops where efficiency is key.
• ATT600 is a high tack tape designed for use with very thin, premium PU films like HotMark Print. If you’ve tried one of other tapes in this article and you’re still having trouble getting the printed film off its release liner, ATT600 is your sure-fire solution. When you have your graphic masked, you may need to pull it aggressively to remove the liner. If you give it a good firm yank, it will produce a loud tearing or snapping sound, but you’ll have a masked graphic ready to press. For best results, remove the tape warm, then repress the graphic for a few seconds to seal the deal.
If you’re not sure yet which brand or product to use, click here to see them all. No matter which brand you choose, remember to use good squeegee techniques when laminating the tape to your print. This will avoid wrinkles that can be transferred to the film. You’ll find that, once you get the hang of it, using heat transfer tape to apply your printed T-shirt graphics is a fairly easy process. It helps you place your print correctly, facilitates removal of the film’s release liner, stands up to the high temperatures, and removes cleanly with no messy adhesive residue. If you still have heat transfer tape questions, feel free to drop them in the comments field below.