Let’s break this down from the top. First you need to know what plastisol is. Plastisol is a type of ink used for screen printing on garments (t-shirts, hoodies and much more). Plastisol ink is unique in that it does not dry without heat. plastisol ink will stay wet for days or even weeks without being heated to a certain temperature. The heating process is know as curing and is done with a conveyor dryer or a flash dryer. The temperatures vary by product but a good average is  300 – 330º F (143-166º C). Now on to the good stuff.

Plastisol Transfers are screen printed almost the same as a t-shirt would be with a few key differences. The  designs are printed (in reverse) on a special heat transfer release paper instead of directly on the shirt. Once the design is screen printed onto the paper, the screen printer applies a special adhesive powder then partially dries or “cures” the ink.  The printed heat transfer papers are shipped to your house. You can then use a heat press machine to press the printed designs onto your t-shirts, hoodies, or any other garment.

Why Use Plastisol Heat Transfers?

This method is very cost efficient and reduces a lot of overhead on your side. If you have ever used sites like Teespring, Custom Cat or any of the other Print On Demand and fulfillment companies you know that your cost can be a little high. If you are paying ten dollars per shirt you are forced to sell  your t-shirts on the high side of retail cost. That cuts into potential sales and your bottom line. With plastisol transfers you can cut out the middle man and take control of your business. The main piece of equipment you will need is a heat press.

Another added benefit is you get a hands-on feel of your product. You get to inspect every product you sell before you ship it out. You will also have product on hand to show to friends, family and potential customers. Plastisol transfers allow you to sell offline as well as online. I have listed a few more benefits of plastisol transfers below. And don’t forget….


1) You can Focus on Designing Artwork

If you are a graphic designer, then this method would benefit you the most. All you need to do is create the design and you can get them printed on a high quality release paper from a 3rd party company. Once they send it to you, you just need to use a heat press machine to print it out on a garment. The printing process is simple and takes no more than 3 minutes per shirt once it is setup.

2) Your Workspace is Clean

For those that have tried screen printing, you know how messy it can get. Cleaning up becomes a hassle. With heat press printing you only need the machine itself and a table to put your custom designs and garments on.

3) You don’t have to invest as much money

With traditional screen printing you have to put up a lot of money up front. You have to pay for all the shirts to be printed and most screen printers have a minimum of 50 shirts, or if they offer smaller minimums the cost per shirt goes up a lot. If the shirts don’t sell or you bought the wrong sizes there is nothing you can do.

With plastisol transfers you can buy the shirts as you go and try out multiple colors and different garments like tank tops, hoodies, v-necks, and long sleeve shirts. The investment is a lot smaller and you aren’t stuck with inventory you cant sell.

4) Print multiple designs on single transfer

If you have a couple one color designs you can print them all on a single transfer paper.


Using this method also have some drawbacks.

1) Costs

You have to buy the heat press machine which is a little investment. They start from the low $200’s like the <a target=”_blank” href=””>Fancierstudio Power Heat press Digital Heat Press 15 x 15 Sublimation Heat Press Rhinestone Heat Press T-Shirt Heat Press 15×15 B/BLK</a><img src=”//” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” /> and go up to 2,000+ like the Hotronix Fusion

2) You have to apply the design on yourself

With traditional screen printing everything is already done, you just ship out the orders. With plastisol transfers you apply the design to the shirt when you sell it. This works well when you are starting out and experimenting with new products but if there is a design that is selling well I would suggest investing in a screen printed shirt to save time.

3) Heat Press Machines Are Heavy and You Could Get Hurt

A typical heat press machine is at least 50 lbs. or more. When starting the machine, it is heated up to 400 °F+, which could burn you if you are not careful. I have never gotten burned by the machine but if you are a clumsy, then you might want to watch out.

What are Heat Press Machines and Where to Get Them?

heat press is a machine engineered to imprint a design or graphic on a substrate, such as a t-shirt, with the application of heat and pressure for a preset period of time. While heat presses are often used to apply designs to fabrics, they can also be used to imprint designs on mugs, plates, jigsaw puzzles, and other products.” [Source: Wikipedia]

Clamshell-Heat-PressOverview of the Whole Process

To make it simple for you, here is a quick summary of how the entire process works:

  • Buy a heat press machine
  • Get your design printed by a plastisol transfer company preferably Quixo Media & Promotions
  • Order the required t-shirts from wholesalers
  • Print them yourself when the order comes in

I also wanted to mention you need a wholesale sellers permit if you want to get blank t-shirts directly from the distributors. However jiffyshirts is a great alternative.

Startup Costs

Heat Press $230 – For PowerPress on Amazon

Plastisol Transfers $69.99 – Quixo Media & Promotions (50 x $1.00 + $19.99 setup) for a 1 color print on 15″ x 15″ paper

Shirts $50 – Jiffy Shirts (2.50 x 20)

Total $349

If you sell all 20 shirts at $20 a piece thats $400 already. You have made back all your money and you still have 30 transfers left over.

Buy and sell 30 more shirts (cost $2.50 x 30 = $75) (sales 30 x $20=$600). That’s $1,000 in sales and $446 in costs with a $554 profit.

Of course its not as simple as that. There are costs of the website, shipping, advertising, but this hopefully gives you a better idea of the potential. There is less risk then traditional screen printing and more profit and less start up cost then DTG.