4 Reasons When You Should Switch from Vinyl (HTV) to Screen Printed Transfers

Heat transfer vinyl, or htv for short, is a great way to decorate custom t-shirts, hoodies, and other apparel.

This is the way most crafters and small t-shirt shops get started. It is popular and cost effective.

However, there is another transfer method to making custom shirts and other apparel. This other method is screen printed transfers.

In some situations, it is smarter to switch from vinyl to screen printed transfers.

This can save you so much time and labor, which equates to more money in your pocket, especially when you can then increase your throughput of jobs and finished apparel in the same amount of time.

Before we get into when you should switch from vinyl to screen printed transfers, let’s start with the basics.


What is heat transfer vinyl and how do you use it?

Heat transfer vinyl is a thin vinyl material used to feed into a piece of equipment, known as a cutter, to cut out and create designs which are then heat applied onto shirts using a heat press machine.

You can buy htv by the roll or by the sheet.

Stahls' vinyl rolls

It is an inexpensive, do-it-yourself method to create custom shirts. It is easy to get heat transfer vinyl wholesale, too.

If you type “heat transfer vinyl near me” into your search engine, you will get plenty of results, since it is carried by most craft store retailers such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann Fabric, and even Walmart.

You can order it online as well, from Stahls’ and other locations.

There are so many different htv colors, including patterns, glitter, and even some that glow in the dark.

When decorating with heat transfer vinyl, you are in full control of the decorating process from start to finish.


What are screen printed transfers?

Screen printed transfers are also heat applied transfers for apparel like t-shirts, hoodies, bags, and more.

Instead of the vinyl material, this transfer type uses plastisol inks, the same as direct screen printing, to create your design.

screen printed transfer

When using this transfer type, you would not need to do any of the screen printing, or have any messy inks, or printing equipment, though.

You would order your design as a screen printed transfer, and the transfers would be delivered to you to then heat apply using your heat press, just like you would apply the vinyl.

This video summarizes the process:


To the untrained eye, screen printed transfers and heat transfer vinyl can look and feel very similar for the finished decorated shirts.

So when is it beneficial to switch from heat transfer vinyl to screen printed transfers?

Let’s discuss these scenarios.


1. The Number of Custom T-shirts You Are Printing

One of the advantages of vinyl is that it is generally pretty low cost when you can buy your vinyl by the roll and get a lot of designs out of it.

However, for anyone who has ever used vinyl to create custom shirts, you know the time it takes for the entire process, start to finish. This is fine when you are doing low quantity orders.

However, as the quantity starts to increase, so does your time.

What time is involved when using heat transfer vinyl?

Once you have your design prepped and ready to cut, you then have to feed the vinyl into your cutter to literally cut every piece of the design.

Depending on the nature of the design, it can take several minutes alone just to cut the design out for one t-shirt.

Then, once the design is finished cutting, you will then need to remove all the excess vinyl. This is known as “weeding”. Again, depending the intricacy of your design, it could take seconds for simple designs to weed away the extra vinyl or it could take several minutes for more complex designs.

heat transfer vinyl weeding

weeding heat transfer vinyl

Now it is ready to be applied with your heat press to your blank apparel at the time specified for the type of vinyl.

Given this process, it can be a little lengthy for each shirt. Multiply this by several shirts, and your production time can be pretty time consuming.

The production time for screen printed transfers is cut down (no pun intended) to just the heat application time.

All you need to do is place the ready-to-apply screen printed transfer onto the blank shirt and heat apply with your heat press. Since Goof Proof screen printed transfers apply in just 4 seconds, you can finish large quantity orders in little amounts of time.

You’ve probably heard the saying “time is money”. The shorter the production time, the more shirts you can produce in the same amount of time. Therefore, you can get more jobs done in a day or in a week.

[Related Content: Being the Most Productive You Can Be in Your T-Shirt Business]

Generally, it is beneficial to move over to screen printed transfers at around 5 or 10 shirts. It’s not an exact science, because there are other factors than just quantity.

For instance, the amount of colors should also be taken into consideration.


2. The Number of Colors in the Artwork

Besides quantity, the amount of colors has an impact on the t-shirt decoration process you choose.

A one-color t-shirt design is pretty straight forward. But what happens when there is more than one color?

What if you have a 2, 3, 4 or more color design?

When you have a multi-color design, working with heat transfer vinyl can get a little tricky. Now your skill level needs to increase (along with your patience).

Similar to screen printing, your process needs to repeat for each additional color.

For example, if you have a 2 color design, you need to cut, weed, and heat apply each color.

The tricky part is that you need to align the pieces/colors together. If you have thin pieces, especially if they touch each other like an outline color, this can be challenging.

Besides patience, it will also take a little more time to get that alignment just right.

So for a 2 color design, your production time literally doubled for the same shirt. For a 3 color design – tripled the amount of time.

For screen printed transfers, they come ready-to-apply in a 1 step application, no matter how many colors the design contains.

If it is a 2 color design, both ink colors are already on the same transfer sheet. The time to apply then is still 4 seconds for Goof Proof transfers.

A 3 color design? Still 4 seconds. You get the gist.


So when your design increases in the amount of colors, you may want to switch over to screen printed transfers much faster, especially as your shirt quantity increases.

At this point, you would want to switch over to screen printed transfers closer to the 5 quantity mark for multi-color.


3. The Complexity of the Artwork

Another factor to consider is the complexity of your artwork that you will be decorating your apparel with.

As your artwork gets more complex, the faster you will want to switch to screen printed transfers.

The more areas, shapes, lines, etc. that your cutter has to make a cut, the more time it takes to cut the design. Not only that, the more time it will take you to weed the vinyl after it is done cutting.

Sometimes it’s not even a time issue. There are simply some design effects that a cutter just can’t do.

Distressed artwork is fairly common these days and a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. It is a quite popular effect that adds a vintage look to any design.

Essentially, this look is achieved by the absence of ink or the design material, giving it an aged look.

distressed t-shirt design

Layout QSL-84

With vinyl, this would be difficult to achieve with a cutter.

With screen printed transfers, this type of effect happens on your end with the click of a button to add distress. You just have to decide which distress you would like to use.

We have 5 choices of distress patterns.

5 distress choices

Another instance of complex cutting would be with smaller text. A cutter has limitations on how small of detail it can cut. Small text would not be able to be achieved, or any other design element that is too small to cut the detail.

Some small detail may be able to be cut, but then has the possibility of being lost during the weeding process. It can accidentally be removed because of the small pieces.

The more complex the artwork and the smaller the detail, the better it is to switch to screen printed transfers.


4. Your Skill at Developing Artwork

For those of you who aren’t artists, artwork development can definitely be a struggle.

If you don’t already have the artwork file needed to cut, creating artwork in an art program can be a nightmare for some.

If a customer brings you a design and you just can’t figure out how you would re-create the design in your own art program, we have another option for you.

Easy View, our online designer, makes anyone a professional artist even if you can’t draw a stick figure.

This designer, which is free for all customers, is loaded with over 5,000 design layouts and over 10,000 additional clip art. You can make any design your own by just adding your own text, swapping out the clip art and fonts, and adding your colors.

Or you can just upload a piece of artwork that your customer brings to you.

It takes just minutes to create a design and order the transfers. The turnaround time for the screen printed transfers is next day for one color if ordered by 3 pm. Multi-color designs take just 2 days.

With Easy View, it allows you to preview and share your design on the apparel of choice. Email it to your customer and it looks like it is coming from your own email.

Easy View preview

Not ready to order? Save it for later in your library. Your library contains all your past orders as well, for easy reordering.

So if artwork is something you struggle with, Easy View designer is always there to create screen printed transfers quickly and easily.

[Related Content: 8 Ways Easy View Can Help Your Apparel Business]



Heat transfer vinyl is a popular and useful way to decorate custom shirts and apparel.

However, in the above situations, it would be beneficial for you to switch from the vinyl over to screen printed transfers.

It can save you time and money for your business.

Who doesn’t want to add more profits in their pocket for the same job and same end result?

If you already have a heat press and are pressing heat transfer vinyl (htv), then request a free sample pack to receive samples of our screen printed transfers.

Ready to try Easy View, our free online designer? Sign up now in just minutes.

[Watch Recorded Webinar: When Cricut & Silhouette Users Should Switch to Custom Transfers]


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