When it comes to creating garment graphics from heat applied thermal film or more commonly known as T-Shirt vinyl, it is a pretty simple process. However, it also has a couple of quirks.

If your first experience with vinyl cutters is with T-shirt graphics, the learning curve is a little steeper. To help you clear those hurdles more quickly, here are a few tips.

One common problem encountered is that the film would not stick to the garment and this issue is further divided into initial adhesion and final adhesion.

Problems with initial adhesion occur when the process of removing the liner lifts the newly pressed letters. The most likely cause is insufficient pressure. Everyone focuses on the time and temperature settings and, if the appliqué doesn’t stick, new users tend to increase the dwell time.

The other probable reason for initial adhesion failure is the presence of a coating on the fabric. These can come in the form of a moisture repellant or antimicrobial coating. Moisture repellant coatings are normally found on products like tents and nylon raincoats. Coatings on Nylon can often be removed by pre-heating the fabric with a sheet of silicone paper or Kraft paper to absorb and remove the added chemical. Antimicrobial coatings are normally found on performance apparel. It’s added to repel bacteria and odor, but may also repel your heat transfer film.

When an appliqué sticks initially and comes off later, it’s almost always because of improper layering or improper laundering. When applying one layer of T-shirt film upon another, always use similar products.  Warm peel films can be applied in layers on other warm peel films. Likewise, you can usually layer or overlap cold peel PU films one with another. But mixing hot and cold peel films is a recipe for failure and frustration. And if you are layering a metallic film with a standard PU product, the metallic layer must be on top.

Another probable reason for initial adhesion failure is a simple fabric mismatch. You put the wrong film on. Check the film’s specifications and make sure you’ve chosen material that is suitable for your garment. Using a film designed for nylon and leather on all of your shirts may seem like an economical choice, but these films are prone to failure on cotton, polyester and blended garments, especially when washed in hot water.