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On one side is paper, and on the other is the image that will be transferred in reverse. After placing it on the fabric and either running over the fabric side with an iron or pressing with a heat press, the image is transferred to the fabric. Iron-on transfer paper is available for use with computer printers.
Commercial quality heat transfer paper used in a heat press will yield much better results in terms of 'hand' (how the print feels on the fabric) and durability than store bought papers or transfers applied with a home iron.
A number of inkjet, copier and laser printer toners have been developed to utilize this process. This is the process developed at BlackLightning by Walter Jeffries in the 1980s for negatively charged laser printer toners for use in black and white laser printers like those from Apple, HP, Xerox, Canon and other vendors.
The advantages of commercial heat transfer over screenprinting are that it is relatively cheap and easy to create one-off, full color designs. Also, when compared with dye sublimation techniques, heat transfers can be used on 100% cotton garments, whereas dye sublimation requires at least a 50/50 poly cotton garment.
Iron-on fabric has a glue backing that melts into another fabric it is applied to with heat. It is used in patching torn clothes or to apply extra fabric in places subject to extreme wear. An alternative to iron on adhesive is dryer heat activated adhesive.
There are primarily 2 types of iron-on labels: a form of material tape; and a form of vinyl similar to that used on graphic t-shirts. With the vinyl type the objective is to effectively melt the label onto the cloth so the label and garment become one, hence a permanent bond. The application of a label typically takes about 10–15 seconds for the label to become one with the garment and then a few minutes to cool.
Iron-on appliques are decorative embroidery items with a melt-glue backing.
Iron-on patches can be created in a variety of ways. The key behind all iron on patches is an heat reactive adhesive is added to an imprinted material to allow an iron or heat press to activate the glue. Different glues react to different fabrics in different ways.
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