The main difference between inkjet and laser papers, besides the type of printer that is used, is the self-weeding capability of laser papers that inkjet papers do not have.
Inkjet heat transfer papers transfer the whole sheet which can be either transparent (papers for light fabrics) or completely opaque (papers for dark/colored fabrics). For that reason, more often than not, the design has to be trimmed with scissors or a vinyl cutter.The durability and image quality of inkjet heat transfer papers are excellent for this type of application and the start-up costs are lower. Another bonus is that you can print anything from black and white designs to full-color photographs.
The limitations are greatest with inkjet heat transfers for dark/colored fabrics when it comes to detail work. Because the design has to be lifted off the carrier and placed on the shirt before pressing, designs with a lot of lettering or small disconnected pieces are tedious and difficult to work with. The opaque papers have a unique look and thickness which is not suitable for those who want a "screen printed feel".
Inkjet heat transfer paper is excellent for:
- Durable transfers
- Simple logos
- Low start up costs
- Great compatibility with the majority of inkjet printers
Laser heat transfer papers are revolutionary due to their self-weeding (no cutting) capabilities and with white toner printers in the market, the options are limitless. Self-weeding papers give you the option to design with as much detail as you'd like without having to worry about cutting or weeding the design. Papers for light fabrics are especially easy: just print, press on your shirt and peel away the backing, revealing your image on the garment. Papers for dark fabrics are similar with an added extra step of transferring adhesive to your image prior to pressing onto garments. Durability and color are comparable to inkjet papers, with some papers excelling in quality!
The downside of laser self-weeding papers is limitation in color if printing with regular CMYK printer. These types of papers do not contain a white base or film carrier, therefore any white or very light colors of the design will have to be printed with white toner, which is only made for select few OKI printer models. If using a regular CMYK printer (which most of the printers on the market are), you are limited to only bright, bold designs. Photographs or light gradients will not transfer well. These limitations are no longer the case if you are printing with a white toner printer.
Additionally, laser printers operate on heat to fuse the color onto the paper and with certain heat transfer papers, that may cause an issue if you are running a printer with temperatures that are hotter than 350F° or too cool/not enough fusing power. Some heat transfer papers come pre-coated with an adhesive which may soften and jam in the printer. Printer compatibility is something to be mindful of with laser heat transfer paper.
Laser heat transfer paper is excellent for:
- Long lasting transfers
- Simple and detailed logos, lettering, complex designs with multiple pieces
- Faster production time / no need to cut or weed design
- Screen printed look and feel with some papers/transfer design only
- The preferred choice for complex artwork for dark/colored garments in combination with white toner OKI printers
Note: Not ALL laser transfer papers are self-weeding. Please double check prior to purchasing.