Technology

Is a Heat Press Transfer the Same as a Custom Vinyl Decal?

If you’re just getting started in the world of custom printing, it’s important to know and understand the different tools and equipment that are used for various projects. As you might already know, the printing method you use depends largely on factors such as the material of the garment or item you’re printing on, the quantity you’re planning to print and the number of print runs for the same logo or graphic.

Of course, starting out with any new hobby can come with confusion and uncertainty, and it’s always a good idea to seek out advice from seasoned printers as well as helpful online resources to steer you in the right direction. That’s where we come in!

One of the questions we are frequently asked is whether there is a difference between a heat press and a custom vinyl decal. The answer is yes—and it’s a pretty big one! Here’s what you need to know:

Heat Press

A heat press machine is used in the custom printing process for both heat transfer printing and sublimation printing. Heat transfer printing refers to transferring graphics or logos printed onto heat transfer vinyl, or HTV, onto garments, mugs and other items. The transfer paper is effectively “ironed on” using the high temperatures and flat, wide surfaces of the heat press machine. Sublimation printing is a similar process but uses sublimation ink, which effectively dyes the fabric as the graphic “bakes” into it, rather than sitting on top as with a heat transfer. The best heat press machines can be used for both methods of custom printing, depending on the temperature at which they are set.

Custom Vinyl Decal

A vinyl decal is a type of heavy-duty sticker that is often applied to car windshields, storefront windows and other glass or metal surfaces. A bumper sticker is a great example of a vinyl decal. While a heat press can be used for heat transfer vinyl, or HTV, which is used on fabric, ceramic and plastic to create custom branded merchandise such as t-shirts, hats and mugs, a heat press must never be used on the adhesive type of vinyl decal that is used for cars or windows.

Because both heat transfer vinyl and adhesive vinyl for decals are made from, well, vinyl, this can cause confusion among novice printers. However, with a little practice and experience, you’ll get the hang of the various types of custom printing that work best for different projects.

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