What is a solvent vinyl transfer?

This is a tried and true decorating method that most decorators probably haven’t heard of unless they are also involved with signs and banners. However, most decorators are familiar with cut heat transfer vinyl.

With cut heat transfer vinyl, decorators take a roll of vinyl, run it through a plotting/cutter, weed the excess vinyl, and transfer it onto a garment. Solvent transfers are very similar, but the vinyl is printed with a solvent-based printer and solvent inks. It’s cut, weeded, and the product is masked for transfer.

This method makes extremely durable transfers that withstand many washes and retain color well. It is not permanent like sublimation, but it will rival screen printing in washability.

The problem lies in the inks being solvents, therefore requiring a specialized printer that handles corrosive solvent inks. The inks have continued to improve over the years, so they no longer have a horrible smell and are not as dangerous.

Pros of solvent vinyl transfers include:

  • Durability and washfastness
  • Versatile decorating method ideal for various garments
  • Able to print signs and banners with the same equipment

Cons of solvent transfers include:

  • Tedious weeding
  • Solvent inks tend to have a bad smell
  • It has a heavy hand

One tip for weeding is to apply a little heat to allow the cuts to open up. The heat shrinks the vinyl slightly and warms up the adhesive, making weeding much more manageable.

It’s ideal for workwear, spirit wear, and youth sports garments where durability is critical.

—MontCo Consulting

Allee Bruce

Alexandria Bruce

Alexandria Bruce is the former managing editor of GRAPHICS PRO magazine.

View all articles by Alexandria Bruce  

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