The Direct to Garment Process: What Happens If I Don’t Pretreat?

Direct to Garment printing is a revolutionary digital printing method for customer T-shirts which offers the look and feel of screen printing but in a much more simplified process. A T-shirt is simply laid onto the flat bed of the printer and the image is directly printed onto the shirt in full color.


To ensure that the printed image actually shows up on a colored or dark T-shirt however, there are a few extra steps we need to take. The most important step is to always pretreat the garment with “pretreatment” solution. Pretreatment is a milky or clear liquid that acts as a primer base and prevents the ink from soaking into the shirt and disappearing into the fibers. It also helps the water based inks stay put during printing and not mix with each other while still wet. Pretreatment is especially important for the white base that is printed underneath the colors to make them pop!

The pretreatment liquid is applied onto the shirt by either a hand sprayer or a spraying machine , then allowed to air dry or dried under a heat press and finally pressed at 338F for 40-45 seconds at medium pressure to set the pretreatment. The layer should be close to invisible and will completely wash out after the first wash.


What happens if we don’t pretreat the T-shirt?

Nothing good. The white ink soaks right into the T-shirt, leaving the rest of the colors with nothing to sit on top of. The result is a muddy mess due to the rest of the colors soaking further into the fibers and bleeding into each other.


Lesson learned: Always pretreat a T-shirt that is a brighter or darker color (you may be able to pull off a light gray shirt or tinted off-white but that’s about it).

There are a few brands of pretreatment available, but generally the pretreatment liquid and the inks should be the same brand. Our top choice is the Epson SureColor F2000 Pretreatment Liquid which is compatible with the same brand printer and inks. It comes as a concentrate and needs to be diluted with distilled water.

For best results, we recommend using the pretreatment process on any colored shirt. Even light colored garments can show through the design and tint it slightly.

Top 10 Back to School Products For Every Occasion

Summer is almost over and the back to school frenzy is in full blast. Stock up on these great products – they are a must for the new school year! From backpacks to socks, we have you covered.

1. Backpacks

These hot items can be personalized for any age and fashion sense and are highly functional during the school year. Our unisex sublimation backpacks (pictured on left below) come with a full white flap cover for either partial or full sublimation. Already have a backpack that you bought from a store but can’t sublimate on? Heat Transfer Vinyl may be what you are looking for, which is perfect for lettering, logos and school mascots (pictured on right below).


2. Drawstring Bags

Our drawstring bags provide a different option besides a backpack and are fully dye-sublimation friendly made from 100% white polyester (both one sided and two sided bags are available). These would be a cool accessory for sports teams and after school activities, but can be used to make a fashion statement too! They are ideal for middle school students and older as they are somewhat large for a small child.

drawstring bag

3. Vinyl

We can’t forget our vinyl which can be applied to cotton, polyester and blends along with other fabrics that can withstand heat of up to 320F. Our vinyl comes in many colors and textures, from standard matte to specialized glitter and flock materials. Add letters, school mascots, quotes and logos to any shirt that can match and even outshine the school spirit clothes offered at the school bookstore. Go a step further and create designs inspired by current trends: animals, motivational quotes, and personal hobbies!


(Vinyl used in photo: Easyweed Silver)

4. Water Bottles













Pick from two styles of waterbottles: stainless steel straw-top and regular removable cap, available in a natural silver/steel finish and glossy white to achieve your desired look. These are ideal for sublimation in a mug press or an oven with a silicone wrap. They are easy to carry from one classroom to another or to any after school program.
















5. Socks

100% white polyester socks for front and back sublimation are perfect for youth and adults alike. These come in different sizes as well as lengths. Crew socks, tube socks, knee high socks: we got all the socks for you! For better results, we recommend using a straight jig or a hockey jig, which stretches the sock and allows for sublimation ink to dye maximum surface area, however that is not necessary with the black interior socks (pictured below).




Never lose another page with our custom bookmarks! These are a must, and they are made from durable aluminum and come in a longer 1.5 x 5 in. size (pictured below) as well as 2×3 in. size. The ultra white glossy side is made for quality sublimation results. The days of dog-eared book corners are over!


7. Compact Mirrors










Pretty AND useful: our beautiful mirrors are truly compact at only 2.25 inches and can fit in purses and even smaller pockets. There is a regular mirror on one side and a magnifying mirror on the other and the top cover comes with a separate glossy white sublimation insert that is easy to attach. Square and round shapes are available. Middle school to high school girls would love this great addition to their makeup kit for a midday touch-up or getting ready for a school event.



8. Headbands







Headbands have become a must-have accessory for everyday use to keep those stray hairs away. Our headbands have a satin white finish and a black velvet interior for comfort and slip resistance.The satin finish results in excellent image clarity and vibrancy. The adjustable elastic back allows them to fit most ages from elementary all the way to college. To sublimate, simply unclip the back and lay them flat on the press. Easy and beautiful!

9. Cuff Bracelets










Add the finishing touches to any outfit with custom bracelet cuffs! These Chromaluxe bracelets promise a vibrancy that is equivalent to the gallery worthy photo aluminum panels made by the same company. This year, we have added many more styles and finishes to the list. Now there is a choice between white, gold and silver finishes and multiple shapes and thicknesses.

The bracelet cuffs arrive flat for perfect sublimation and then are curved using our form tool.



10. Arm Sleeves

Vapor’s arm sleeves are still fairly popular, especially among students who play sports but with the right design, these can be worn by just about anybody, regardless of age. They are available in a range of youth and adult sizes for the perfect fit.  Their dual function of protection and fashion placed this item on our top 10 list.



How to Use Finishing Foil With Image Clip Laser Dark

Foiling is a heat transfer paper finishing technique that is not only eye catching, but also fairly easy to do. The foil comes in a variety of metallic colors, such as silver, gold, blue, red, and more specialized shimmery color combos like confetti gold, glitter red and dust gold (check out all of our available colors HERE).

In this tutorial, we used the “glitter silver” metallic foil which has a great multi-color finish and illusion of texture and Image Clip Laser Dark two step paper. Image Clip Laser Dark is a popular paper compatible with both CMYK and white toner printers and its self-weeding properties make it possible to transfer complex and detailed designs hassle free: no cutting or masking required.



Print your image in a solid black color, mirrored horizontally. You may also print your design in a very dark color such as a dark blue or red to match the foil color, but in most cases black works best. It provides great toner density for a more durable transfer and helps create a distressed look once the foil starts fading over time.

When using Image Clip Laser Dark, make sure you are printing on the sheet with the purple grid backing also marked as IMAGE CLIP Laser Dark Imaging Paper.






Step 1

During this step, you will be adding a layer of glue on your already printed design. Lay the printed imaging sheet on the press facing up and place the second sheet of paper that has a tan (light brown) grid back and is marked as IMAGE CLIP Laser Dark Transfer paper on top of it with the blank side face down. This process is called “marrying” the two sheets together.

We recommend pressing the two sheets together at 225F for 20 seconds with medium pressure (4-5 bars).

Once the 20 seconds elapse, open the press and peel off the top transfer paper immediately while still very hot in one quick, smooth motion.




After the glue sheet has been removed, your black design should now have an opaque layer of white glue transferred evenly across the page. Inspect both the imaging sheet and the glue sheet for any inconsistencies. On the imaging sheet, any parts that are missing glue will not transfer on the shirt well or at all. Make sure there isn’t excess glue anywhere else on the page: glue should adhere to toner only and not on the blank paper itself. If any of the black is transferring over to the top glue sheet, decrease the pressure.








Step 2

Once glue has been successfully added to the purple imaging sheet, place the sheet with the design face down onto the shirt. We used a 100% black cotton shirt for this tutorial.

We recommend doing this step at 375F for 25 seconds at a medium pressure (4 to 5 bar).

After pressing, move the shirt off to the side and let it cool completely. Once it is cooled, peel away the paper to reveal the black design.




AAA_3259You may notice some white spots, especially in really small detailed areas. With such tiny detail, that is normal as the glue tends to spread out a little due to the pressure and heat applied during pressing. The foiling sheet will cover up all these areas.










Step 3

For this final step, place the shirt back on the press and put a piece of foil on top of it, cut down to size, with the whiter opaque side facing down. The color of the foil itself should be facing up as that is the side you will be looking at once the transfer is complete.

The foil can be pressed at anywhere from 300F to 350F. For this tutorial and paper, we pressed the foil at 350F for 35 seconds with heavy pressure (6-8 bars).

Let the foil completely cool down before peeling.




AAA_3303Once the foil is cold to the touch, peel away in a smooth motion. You will notice that the foil has completely adhered to your previously black design, leaving a transparent image on the foiling sheet where foil once was. All of the white glue areas should be gone at this stage. Foil will not adhere to fabric alone which makes this step self-weeding and hassle free as well.








finished_foil1The finished design is definitely a head turner!