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 WarmPEEL Universal or EasyWeed, 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 CozySoft Print, HotMark PRINT and Siser ColorPrint films. 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 Chemica 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 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 three excellent heat transfer tape options: Logical Color ClearMask, Siser TTD Easy Mask, and Chemica ATT.
Logical Color ClearMask
Logical Color ClearMask heat transfer tape was engineered specifically for use with Logical Color printable HTV. These include UniversalPrint, WarmPEEL CP Print, and CozySoft Print. ClearMASK is a polyester foil coated with special high-temperature adhesives. It comes in two tack levels, simply – and logically – labeled as LT and MT. ClearMASK LT is the low-tack tape and ClearMASK MT is a medium-tack transfer tape. ClearMASK LT is preferred for printable films on a low-tack release liner. These include CozySoft Print, WarmPEEL CP Print, and Siser S-Print. ClearMASK MT is preferred for transferring films on a higher-tack release liner. ClearMASK MT works great for Logical Color Universal Print, ColorPrint PU, and ColorPRINT Easy. Click here for the ClearMask product data guide. The guide includes complete instructions and troubleshooting tips. ClearMASK comes in 15″, 20″ and 30″ rolls. Click here to order. If you have questions about the heat transfer tape, process, check out our Logical Color Printable HTV application videos.
Siser TTD Easy Mask & High Tack Mask
If you’re using Siser ColorPrint PU, ColorPRINT Easy, S-Print or ColorPRINT Soft Opaque, you may 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. 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.
UniMask ATT Series
If you’re using Chemica printable heat transfer films, you may have best results with Chemica’s UniMask ATT heat transfer tapes. We offer three options: ATT450, 500L and 600. These are specially engineered for use with products like HotMark Print, HotMark Print Revolution, and BestPrint. These are clear transfer tapes that come in a variety of tack levels, with and without a release liner.
• ATT450 is the 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 is very affordable.
• 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 and HotMark Print Revolution. 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 may 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.