Getting started with printers

You want to start with personalization and printing on substrates and this means you need a printer. Question is, which one? Laser, LED, Inkjet, Eco Solvent, DTF? What are the differences, what are the possibilities and what are the limitations of a certain type of printer. In this article we give you an overview of the different techniques and tell you everything there is you need to know to decide which printer is best for you. In short: We guide you through the world of printers.

Which printer is right for me?

There are many different printers and printing methods. To understand which one suits your needs the best, we will give you an overview of the different printer techniques that are commonly used for transfer printing, and even tell you about printers that are not suitable, because that is also good to know. Here we go:

How does a Inkjet desktop printer work

Inkjet printers spray ink onto the paper in tiny droplets and compose the image that way. In general, these type of printers can be very good in printing images and photographs especially the ones that come with more colors of ink than just CMYK. On average printing razor sharp text and logos is not their strongest point as the ink always has the tendency to spread out a little.

What transfer applications can I use it for

Because these printers are very common in many small (home) business, we often get the question if they are suitable to transfer images onto other substrates and products. We can be bluntly about that: They are not suitable for printing on anything else than plain paper at all. Why not? There are a couple of reasons, but the main reasons are: Desktop inkjet ink is very water soluble. This means that any application where washability is important, you have a problem. Furthermore, once on paper, the image cannot be made to adhere to other surfaces by itself like for instance toner can. These are the main reasons why transfer paper for these kinds of printers is not a good idea.

How does a Color Laser and LED printers work

These printers have a completely different way of composing an image when compared to an inkjet printer. Color Laser/LED printers have dry toner instead of ink and an electro-static process is used to get the right amount of toner on the right spot to compose the image. The laser or LED light is used to direct the electro-static charge on the drum unit and determine exactly where toner is supposed to come and were not. In general, you could say these printers are very good in printing sharp text and logos, and they are not quite as good in printing photographs when compared to inkjet.

Toner is polyester or plastic powder with color pigments, some wax implanted and anti-cacking material to prevent it sticking to each other. The powder works like a thin layer of hot melt glue and is melted on the paper by the fuser unit. Also worth mentioning is the fact that there are Color LED printers available that can print with white toner. (CMYW) This is especially interesting for TheMagicTouch Transfer papers, as it allows you to print free formed designs onto colored substrates giving even more possibilities. To optimize this, TheMagicTouch has developed the TheMagicTouch Software to help the user by automatically arranging all the necessary settings for transfer printing.

What transfer applications can I use it for

The properties of the toner make it very suitable for transferring onto many different substrates and products. TheMagicTouch has developed many applications and transfer papers to take full advantage of the properties of toner. Garments of all colors, mugs, wood, candles, and many, many more applications and products. For transfer printing the same toner is used as for normal plain paper, which means when you use the printer for transfer, you can still use it for your plain paper printing as well.

For more information on the utilization of TheMagicTouch transfer paper, look at this article Getting started with transferpapers.

How does a sublimation printer work

A sublimation printer is an inkjet printer. The big difference is in the type of ink that is used. This sublimation ink requires special inkjet technology and color management to get good results. So, although the principle idea of inkjet is the same, the printer has to be specifically developed for optimal use of this type of ink. Another important part is the sublimation paper itself. TheMagicTouch DyeSubMagic paper is developed for optimal performance and is perfect for all sublimation applications. [LINK]

Once printed on the DyeSubMagic sublimation paper, the solid dye particles remain on the paper as the liquids evaporate very quickly. When heated on a heat press the dye particles become a vapor that very easily enters polyester and colors the surface. The end result is an image transferred into the polyester surface of the product.

What transfer applications can I use it for

Sublimation works great on polyester and products with a white surface that have a polyester coating. The benefit is that the image quality is very good, and the pigments are very vibrant and colorful once transferred. The limitation of sublimation is that you can only transfer white polyester, or a product that has a white surface and a polyester coating. Even though there are many products that have been specially made with a polyester coating to be sublimated, this means you cannot transfer onto any kind of product, and you are limited to what is available. Because of the special ink, a sublimation printer is not to be used with normal plain paper.

More on the applications of sublimation look at this article Getting started with sublimation.

How does a eco solvent printer work

These use basically the same technique as desktop inkjet printers, but on a bigger scale and with inks that have a different composition. As these kinds of printers are also used for printing on self-adhesive sticker material, posters and banners they are very common in the Sign industry. Eco Solvent printers are large format printers starting at around 50cm / 20” printing width for the smallest ones up to 3 meters/ 10 feet or even more for the largest. So, they are inkjet printers, but use Eco Solvent inks. The difference is that the Eco Solvent inks dry much faster and are capable of better adhesion to different materials and they are waterproof.

What transfer applications can I use it for

TheMagicTouch have developed special MagiCut printable Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) optimized for these types of printers. The print result can be contour cut by either the same machine if it also has cutting capabilities or by a separate cutting plotter using registration marks that are printed along the design so the separate cutter can determine where to cut thanks to these markers.

With these printers and TheMagicTouch printable HTV, you add full color printing to the possibilities of HTV. For more info on HTV we have a great article in our Help Center about Getting started with Heat Transfer Vinyl.

How does a Direct To Film (DTF) printer work

Again, another type of inkjet printer, specially developed for printing textile transfers. The design is printed on a special film, first in color and immediately, in one operation, white is printed on top. The ink is formulated specifically to dry relatively slow. This makes it possible to sprinkle a special hotmelt glue powder onto the still wet ink. The powder adheres to the ink and is patted of from all areas where there is no ink. The ink and powder are then heated to fuse the powder even further with the ink. The end result is a transfer in full color that can be transferred onto many types of garments regardless of the color of the garment by using a heat press. The printers and ink are specially made to make this process possible, as it is quite a technical feat to make sure the white ink sits atop the colors without mixing or blurring and the level of curing of the ink must be just right to make the powder stick in the right amount. Also, the film is an important factor as it has to hold the ink while printing, but easily release the image after printing.

What transfer applications can I use it for

The whole process is developed for garment printing and is especially interesting for companies that have a lot of demand for relatively small run, full color prints on garment. Also, the DTF transfers can be sold by itself so other companies can transfer them onto the garments themselves without having to invest in the DTF equipment. As this system is at its best when it is printing large quantities, it is usually used by companies with larger number of orders. The print quality is very good, and the smallest free formed details can be incorporated into the design.

It is not suitable for anything other than garment printing as the transfers are not suited for other materials.

Now you know a lot more about the different kinds of printers. To sum it all up we give you a brief summary:

Summary of different printers

Type printersTechnologyApplicationsAvailable media
Inkjet desktop printersInkjetMainly printing on plain paper in small office & home environments or as photo printerNot applicable
Color Laser/Led printersElectro-static with dry toner Garments of every color, mugs, wood, metals, acrylic, glass, and many substrates and products moreTheMagicTouch transferpapers
Sublimation printersInkjetWhite polyester and products with a white surface and polyester coatingDyeSub Magic Sublimation paper
Eco solvent printersInkjetPrintable Heat Transfer vinyl for garment printing. Also, very suitable for self-adhesive signage (stickers) and photo and poster printingMagiCut Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl
DTF printersInkjetGarment transfer printingDTF Film

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