Must-Have Cutting Tools for Heat Printers

Filed in Custom Transfers by on September 14, 2016

Not many tools are needed to be a heat printer other than a heat press, transfers and blank garments. A heat printing business can be very minimal and be run out of your home or small office. Additional tools are optional but definitely come in handy when the time is right.

Since we are working with heat transfers that are printed on a release paper or plastic masking with digital transfers, often times we need a cutting tool to cut the transfer papers. With screen printed transfers in particular, several images can be printed on the 11.25″x14″ release paper, we call this a gang sheet. When the transfers arrive at your door and you get ready to heat apply them to your blank apparel, some cutting needs to be done to cut the designs apart from the gang sheet.

A screen printed transfer gang sheet that has been cut to separate the designs before heat pressing.

A screen printed transfer gang sheet that has been cut to separate the designs before heat pressing.

So we are taking a look at the must-have cutting tools for heat printers and which ones to use when.

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  1. Paper Scissors are the go-to cutting tool for heat printers. These normal, everyday scissors do a great job at cutting the screen printed transfer release paper and digital transfer masking. Just remember, paper scissors are for paper, fabric scissors are for fabric. Mix them up and you could ruin your scissors making cutting more difficult.
  2. Fabric Shears aren’t necessarily needed for heat printers because we are generally not cutting the blank apparel we are printing on. However, they can come in handy when you need to cut fabric for testing or just to use as rags. When you come across a messed up shirt, don’t throw it in the trash. Cut the fabric down into smaller pieces of blank fabric to use to test your transfers on before doing a whole run.
  3. Rotary Cutters have their place in a heat printers life. Not a needed tool but a rotary cutter can help when you need to cut long straight lines or if you need to cut around a design if your gang sheet images are spaced close together. We would normally choose an X-ACTO Knife for this job, but if you have a rotary cutter already, it works great for this purpose. We also found it useful when cutting foil sheets as regular paper scissors didn’t work as well.
  4. Pinking Shears are fabric cutters that have a sawtoothed blade instead of a straight blade. They will leave a zigzag pattern on the edges reducing fraying on fabric (see image below). These won’t be used for the heat transfers themselves, but if you want to create printed samples on fabric swatches, you can use the Pinking Shears to create a clean, professional edge on your fabric samples. They will have an unfrayed edge that you would be happy to show your customers.

    Pinking Shears are perfect for creating sample fabric swatches without edges fraying

    Pinking Shears are perfect for creating sample fabric swatches without edges fraying

  5. A Paper Guillotine is our favorite cutting tool to use with transfers.  This tool is great for cutting a stack of transfer papers at once with a straight cut. With guidelines and a ruler already built in, you’re cuts will be the same every time. Even though this type of cutter is more expensive than a standard pair of scissors, it will save you a ton of time when cutting transfer paper.

    A Paper Guillotine cutting screen printed transfer gang sheets

    A Paper Guillotine cutting screen printed transfer gang sheets

  6. X-ACTO® Knives are a single-blade knife for cutting accurate, precise cuts. We choose this type of cutting tool when we space designs on our gang sheets too close together. If ink from two designs are too close together, using scissors or a paper guillotine is out of the question because they have the potential of touching and scraping off the ink.
  7. Portable Paper Cutters are similar to a guillotine cutter in that you get long, straight, precise cuts every time. However, with these portable paper cutters, instead of a downward cutting motion, you’re using a sliding, horizontal blade. You won’t be able to cut many transfer papers at once as you can with a guillotine cutter, but the portable, cutter is a lower cost option. We have also found that these cutters work better with cutting foil sheets than any other cutting method.

    Portable paper cutter is perfect for cutting foil sheets.

    Portable paper cutter is perfect for cutting foil sheets.

  8. A Ruler is an essential heat printer tool. Not only will you use your rulers to measure the print area on blank apparel before creating your design, but you will also be using your ruler as a cutting tool, especially with an X-ACTO® Knife or Rotary Cutter. Everyone has their preference on what type of ruler to get, metal or plastic, clear or opaque, straight, triangle or T-Square. No matter which one you choose, your ruler will be at your side for every job you do.
  9. Cutting mats will save your work surfaces! Investing in a self-healing cutting mat will save your tables and your cutting tools from a lot of wear and tear. If using an X-ACTO® or Rotary cutter, you will NEED a cutting mat. They usually come with a grid ruler printed on the mat which helps you keep things straight and aligned. Cutting mats are available in a wide range of sizes, but we suggest you get one big enough to at least fit our 11.25″x14″ transfer sheet.

Now that you know what type of cutting tools a heat printer should have in their tool box, we can give you some other tips to help when it comes to cutting transfer papers.

Spacing between designs on your screen printed transfer gang sheets properly can save you headaches when it comes to cutting the transfer papers. When setting up gang sheets, we suggest a .5″  gutter space between each design. A half of an inch is a perfect spacing if using a guillotine cutter and need to cut a large quantity of transfer papers. If ordering over 50 transfer sheets, we suggest setting up your gang sheet with adequate space between each design for the easiest cutting. With smaller quantities of transfer sheets, you may be able to space your designs closer together and use scissors or an X-ACTO® Knife to cut the images apart.

If you would prefer to leave the cutting to the professionals, we offer a cutting service where we cut the gang sheets apart for you before sending you the transfers. This alleviates any labor on your part which allows you to immediately begin heat printing. Ask your Dealer Services Rep when placing your order about our cutting service.

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