vinyl cutter

Heat Press vs. Hand Iron

Heat Transfer Vinyl has become very popular among t-shirt decorators.  The introduction of lower cost and “craft” vinyl cutters in to the market has made cutting vinyl much more affordable.

Most heat transfer vinyls can be applied using a hand iron.  It is recommended that you set your iron to the “Linen” setting, and apply as even of pressure as possible to each section of your design for anywhere between 20-30 seconds.  This will usually provide good results, but it’s tough to be sure that you were able to apply adequate and even pressure to each section of your design.

For more professional results, it’s good to invest in a heat press.  A quality heat press will provide even heat and pressure across the entire platen for the time specified by your heat transfer vinyl supplier.

Heat Transfer Vinyl will last the longest, and look the best, if the time, temperature, and pressure applied are all accurate and even.  If you are using your Heat Transfer Vinyl to produce garments for sale, it’s best to use a heat press to make sure the transfer will look great when your customer receives it, and years down the road.

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What to Know Before you Buy a Vinyl Cutter

In my almost 13 years in this industry, I’ve encountered many people that are looking to start a t-shirt or vinyl cutting business.  Our industry is very friendly to anyone looking to start a business because of our very low startup costs.  Below is a list of what anyone that is considering adding a vinyl cutter to their existing business, or is looking to start a business should know before they buy.

1.  Know the difference between a Vector and a Raster image – A vinyl cutter works exclusively with Vector artwork.  A vinyl cutter essentially draws on your vinyl, only with a cutting blade and not a pen or pencil.  A vinyl cutter will follow the contours and intricacies of a graphic.  This is different from a standard printer that will move from left to right and spray ink onto a material.  Vector and Raster can be described as different languages.  A vinyl cutter only speaks Vector.  I found a very basic and easy to understand explanation of this here – The difference of vector and raster images.

If you don’t have vector graphics, don’t give up!!  Most graphics can be converted in Cadworx Live (free if you purchase your cutter from Imprintables Warehouse), a graphic software like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw, or outsourced to a company like Artvark Express.

Start adding a certain keyword to your search terms.  It’s the theme of the post so far – Vector.  If you’re looking for a basketball graphic, instead of searching for “Basketball Clipart”, try searching for “Vector Basketball Clipart”.  You’ll see a big difference in your search results!!

2.  Know what you are paying for, or not paying for.  There are entry level cutters and professional grade cutters.  An entry level cutter will be the least expensive and provide you with minimal risk.  If things don’t work out, you can always try to resell it on eBay or Craig’s List and not lose too much money.  They won’t be as easy to use or set up initially, but they will certainly get the job done.  Professional grade cutters are made to last.  They are an investment that will continue to pay dividends well into the future.  Most will have premium features that will enable to you cut faster, quieter and more accurately.  I tell many of my customers that don’t have the budget for the professional grade cutters to start with the entry level, and then upgrade down the road if needed.  View our Buying Guide for an idea of the features available on each machine.

3.  Work with someone that will work with you.  If you’re going to buy a vinyl cutter, make sure you purchase from a vendor that is knowledgeable about the machine and will take the time to answer the questions you  have.  If you go after the cheapest price, you’ll get the cheapest service.  If a vinyl cutter is a new venture for you, you will need someone to lean on if you have a question on how to do a certain graphic, or what material to use on a fabric or surface.

4.  Buy a cutter that will effectively cut the materials you’re looking to work with.  If you’re looking to cut Rhinestone Templates, it will be best to purchase a cutter with sufficient force and an overcut function.  If you’re cutting very long runs, you’ll want to choose a cutter that has accurate tracking.  Going back to Number 3, the vendor you are looking to purchase from should be able to help you choose the machine that will cut what you need to cut.

5.  Consider your current set up.  Not all cutters will work with Mac computers.  If you are using a Mac, make sure you choose a cutter that has a compatible software and cutting driver.  You’ll also want to consider space requirements.  All 24″ or smaller cutters can be set up on a table.  A cutter stand is available if space is an issue and is recommended for longer cutting accuracy.  Some cutters are bundled with the stand, while they are an add-on item for other options.

6.  The software bundled with the machine will vary greatly.  Most will have plugins for Corel Draw and/or Illustrator.  Some software will outperform others with design capabilities, easy to access features and vinyl cutting specific functionality that isn’t available even on the more expensive, standalone graphic design software.  Cadworx Live will also be a great assist.  Cadworx has a lot of vector based clipart, templates and more.  There is also a very quick and easy Team Name and Number generator called Easy Teams.  Cadworx helps bridge the software gap between the entry level machines and the professional.

7.  Have a business plan!  I’m sure there’s a reason that you decided to consider a vinyl cutter.  Whatever that reason is, create a plan around it!  If you’re looking to create you own custom t’s for online retail, consider getting your website in order.  If you’re making this investment to get involved in the popular school or sports markets, contact your local organizations to see if you have a chance at the business.  You don’t want to take any orders until you have your cutter in place and have a general idea of what to do with it.  There is no faster way to lose a customer and potential business than to overpromise and under deliver!

 

These 7 points will help you be more prepared to start your vinyl cutting venture.  If you have any other ideas, or any questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at adam@imprintables.com.

 

Trade Show Video

Hello all.  I exhibited at the NBM Printwear Show in Charlotte a couple weeks back and shot a video with the folks at NBM in our booth.  The video was limited to three minutes but you can get an idea of the products I represent at Imprintables Warehouse and also get a chance to view a bit of our Trade Show Booth if you haven’t made it out to see us at a Trade Show before. 

Here’s the link to the video:  Imprintables Warehouse Booth – Charlotte.

Also, if you’re interested in coming out to a show, the Trade Shows page on the site has been updated with the shows Imprintables Warehouse will be exhibiting at next year and the shows which I will be attending.  As free registrations are posted, I’ll add them to the site as well.  Keep checking  back!

Print And Cut with the GX-24

A while back I created a step-by-step walk through for setting up the Roland GX-24 for Print & Cut using the Cut Studio software.  I’ve been emailing it out as requested to date but it belongs in a more public domain. 

Before I get into the steps involved, the most important thing to know is that this process has to be done in only the Cut Studio software.  You can create your artwork in another design software if you so choose, just save the artwork as a Bitmap (.bmp) or Jpeg (.jpg) to bring into Cut Studio. 

  • The secret to the Print & Cut process is in the Crop Marks.  The Crop Marks that are set up in Cut Studio are what the Optic Eye on the GX-24 uses to register itself.  To add the Crop Marks on the screen, click on “File” and then “Print & Cut”.  This will put two round, black circles on the bottom of your page and one in the upper left.
    • You should notice the options below “Print & Cut” (print, print setup, etc) are no longer grayed out.  If you aren’t in Print & Cut mode there is no reason to use any of those options. 
  • Make sure you have the correct printer and paper size.  To do this, click on “File” and “Set up the printer”.  This is where you’ll select the printer and paper size for your job.  If you adjust the paper size you should notice the crop marks automatically adjust to account for the new settings.

You are ready to import your artwork.  Cut Studio does not read fill colors for vector files so make sure the artwork you are importing for Print & Cut is a bitmap or jpeg as discussed above. 

  • To bring in your image, click on “File” and “Import”.  Locate your design and click “Open”.
    •  More often than not Cut Studio will bring a design in very large.  To re-size the design, click on “Properties”, the “Size & Shape” tab and then re-size your design as needed.  Click the “Move” icon on the top toolbar to bring your design to the origin point on the screen.
  • The next step is to add the cut line(s). 
    • With the image selected, click on “Object” and then “Image Outline”.  This will bring up the “Image Outline” box. 
    • Cut Studio will add a cut line anywhere the black meets the white.  You can adjust the colors by moving the Alignment Image Density slider. 
    • Once you have your desired density, click the “Extract Contour Lines” button.  If you don’t like what you see, you can still adjust the slider and hit the button again.
    • Once you have the cut line the way you want it, hit the OK button.

You are ready to print.  It is very important that the file does not move from here on out.  Once it is sent to the printer, what is on the screen must remain the same as when you send it to the cutter.

  • Steps to print
    • To preview what your design will look like when printed, click on “File” and “Print Preview”.  You should notice that the image will be a bit move vivid and the Cut Studio Grid will be gone.  You’ll also notice that the cut line is not visible.  Cut Studio recognizes the cut line and removes it from the printed image.
    • To send to the printer, click the “Print” button in the upper left hand corner.  When your print box comes up, click the OK button.  This will send to your printer.

Now that you have your printed design, you’re ready to cut.  Make sure you leave Cut Studio in the “Print & Cut” mode.  This is the only way the Optic Eye will function.

  • On the cutter
    • Load the printed Transfer in the cutter with the two registration points on the bottom. 
    • Select “Piece” when the Select Sheet option comes up on the GX-24.  This will measure your width and length. 
    • Set your origin on the registration point in the lower left hand corner. 
    • Back on the Cut Studio software, click on “File” and “Cutting”.  When the cutting box opens, make sure the GX-24 is displayed in the drop down box.  Click OK.

When you click OK, the Optic Eye laser will search for the Registration point.  This is why you set the origin over the Registration Point at the lower left.  It makes it easy for the cutter to find it’s starting point.  Once it finds all three, it will begin cutting. 

The Print and Cut process is pretty simple as long as you’re familiar with it.  Hopefully this has helped you!

If there are any questions, please contact me.

AY

Name and Number Options

Choosing the Heat Transfer that is right for your application will depend on many factors.  What type of equipment do you currently own?  How quickly can my customers get their finished goods?  How much will the equipment, material or service cost me?  To decide which option is your best, you have to ask yourself these questions.

Transfer Required:

Create Names & Numbers for Sports Uniforms

Options:

Vinyl Cutter & Heat Press

  • Creating your own Names & Numbers with a vinyl cutter is as simple as adding a Heat Applied Material such as the Spectra Eco-Film.

Advantage – Owning your own vinyl cutter gives you the most flexibility and is less expensive in the long run.  You will have the ability to create on demand with sufficient stock.  Roster additions can be made same day.  Choosing the correct vinyl cutter will also open you up into different markets, including signs, applique and pre-printed transfers. 

Disadvantage– Investing in a vinyl cutter can be expensive for some.  A start-up business would be well served by making the initial investment but the money isn’t always there.  Pricing will range from $1000 – $7995 for the most common cutters purchased.  Choosing a model like the Roland GX-24 will get you into all the markets mentioned above for under $2000. 

When cutting your own, you also are responsible for weeding.  Weeding is simply the process of pulling away excess vinyl from the carrier before applying to your garment.  The options listed below will usually come ready to apply, no weeding required.

Order Pre-Cuts – Ordering pre-cuts is the most inexpensive way to get started with athletic lettering.  A Heat Press is still required.

Pre-Cuts are typically ordered two ways

  • Pre-Spaced Player Names – Pre-Spaced Player Names are ordered custom.  Input your roster of players, including numbers if applicable, and the names will be sent to you ready to apply.  Pre-Spaced Player Names and/or Numbers can be ordered from Stahls ID Direct and ship out within a few days.

Advantage– Low start-up cost.  Names come ready to apply and no additional work (weeding) is required.  Ordering pre-cuts can be beneficial as an outsourcing option.  If you are very busy with other projects you can have someone else do some work for you at a reasonable price.

Disadvantage– Higher price per name and/or number vs. cutting your own.  Turn time and lack of control over your project also has to be considered.

  • Die-Cut Letters – Die-Cut letters and numbers is how the lettering industry got it’s start.  Before Vinyl Cutters came about, Dies where used to cut vinyl one letter at a time.  Today, Die-Cuts are still a viable option and at a much higher production.  Die-Cuts are also available from Stahls.

Advantage – Just like Pre-Spaced Player Names, low start-up cost, ready to apply and an outsourcing option.  Pricing is a bit lower, much closer to cutting your own.

Disadvantage– You’re still lacking control and turn time.  Die-Cuts can be stocked but having all the letters, numbers, colors, etc available isn’t always going to happen.  Die-Cuts also have to be spaced out.  There are tools available to help you accomplish this but it is more time consuming compared to the Pre-Spaced or Cut Your Own options mentioned above. 

Summary:

All of these options are viable.  If you take the time to answer the questions I posed in the opening and consider the features, advantages and disadvantages, you should be able to determine the transfer that is right for you.  If you are a start-up or expanding business without the funds to invest in a Vinyl Cutter, Pre-Cuts will still allow you to create the transfers that your customers require.  It is an excellent way to test and build your market.  When the time comes, adding the cutter will give you better flexibility, cost savings and expand your offering.  I will always recommend cutting your own but each situation is different.  If it is feasible, start out right and offer everything that you can to your customers.  Keep in mind, if you can’t offer it, odds are someone else can.

Cutting Twill with the GX-24

UPDATE:  For anyone that is interested, there will be an oncore performance of the Cutting Twill webinar given by my co-worker, Josh Ellsworth on Feb 24 and Feb 25.  Please follow This Link to sign up for or see additional information on this free webinar. 

 

cuttingtwill

Cutting Twill with the Roland GX-24 is pretty simple.  I’ve created a step-by-step for you to follow to fully understand the process. 

You’ll need the following:

    • Roland GX-24
    • Cut Studio Design Software (included with the GX-24)
    • Imprintables Twill Stitch Pro
    • 60 Degree Carbide Blade
    • Pressure Sensitive Poly-Twill

Here’s the process:

Cutting

  • Import your artwork into Cut Studio.   You can import .eps or .ai files directly into Cut Studio.  If you currently use Corel Draw or Illustrator, you can also use the Cut Studio Plug-In to bring the artwork directly in.
  • Make sure your design is NOT mirrored.  Unlike the standard Heat Applied Materials that you are accustomed to cutting, Poly-Twill is cut in the positive. 
  • Make sure your design is sized the way you want it.  You will not be able to change the size after you cut!
  • On the GX-24, make sure you do a test cut to check cutting depth.  You’ll want to put the 60 degree blade in there before doing your test cut. 
  • In Cut Studio, Click on “Cutting” icon that’s on the top tool bar.  On the cutting dialog box that pops up, click “OK”.
  • After the design has finished cutting, take the material off of the machine and weed away the excess material.

Digitizing

  • Back in the Cut Studio software, take the same design and again click on the “Cutting” icon.
  • This time, make sure the “Print to File” box is checked and then click “OK”.
  • Change the “Save As Type” to All Files.  When naming your file, put a .plt on the end of the file name ex. adamyukish.plt.  Once named, click “Save”.
  • Open up the Imprintables Twill Stitch Pro Software and start with a blank white screen.
  • Import your saved artwork into the Twill Stitch Pro.
  • You should have the “Tree View” box open on the left.  Right Click on the color and then scroll down to “Convert To”.  Arrow over to “Tackle Twill”.  This will put place the stitches on your design. 
    • Note that you can also add a placement line and tack down line and change the density, inset, etc by right clicking on the selected design and going down to properties.
  • Once you have the stitches the way you want them, you’re ready to create your sew disk.  Click on “File” and then “Save As”.  There are many different extensions to pick from.  Make sure you choose the one that matches up to your embroidery machine. 

This wraps up the cutting and design side of creating your own appliques using the GX-24.  All that’s left is to use the cut twill and the digitized file to finish it off. 

A video showing this process will be coming, it will be a little redundant, but sometimes visual is more effective than reading.

If there are any questions, let me know!

Leasing Equipment Q&A

When is it a good idea to Lease equipment vs other purchasing options?  I’ve asked Chris Pfriem with ACG Equipment Finance to help answer a lot of the common questions about leasing. 

 

Q:  What are the primary benefits of leasing equipment vs. other purchasing options? 

A:  Generally, there are a few reasons why customers choose to lease in an “up market and also in tighter financial market we face today.”  First, leasing offers 100% tax deductibility.  Second, leasing conserves companies lines of credit with their bank since LEASING is “Off Balance Sheet” financing.    Companies can use Leasing for equipment purchases and keep their LINES of credit open for cash reserves or payroll, or for expansion purposes.  Lastly, many of my repeat customers come back to ACG for convenience.  Banks prior to freezing up credit can and in many instances are hard to work with.  Banks want financial statements from an accountant which costs money and time.  With LEASING, for most transactions up to $100,000.00, all that is needed is a one page credit application.  Decision time for LEASING is usually within a 24 hour period.  Banks can take days to make a decision.
 
 

Q:  What are the tax benefits of a lease*? 

A:  100% of the monthly payment is written off as an expense. 

 *It is recommended that you consult with your tax professional to review your tax savings based on your tax bracket and financial situation.

 

Q:  Do you have a minimum purchase amount to apply for a lease? 

A:  $1,000.00 

 

Q:  What is the timeframe from start to finish to receive my equipment? 

A:  We have many customers approved the same day they have submitted their credit application.  Once we receive the quote from Imprintables, we email the contracts to the customer and include a pre-paid FED-X label.  Once we receive the originals, we issue Imprintables the PO, and from there Imprintables ships the equipment. This can take just 24-48 hours to get completed.  (I suggest all customers contacting their Imprintables representative for shipping times and dates for delivery)  

 

Q:  What are the payment terms that are available? 

A:  We lease from 12, 24, 36, 48, or 60 months.

 

Q:  Can you be flexible with your payment plans?

A:  YES, depending on credit and the customers time in business, we have offered 3 and 6 month deferred payment plans to help a customer with cash flow while getting their equipment running for profitability. 

 

Q:  Are there buy-out options? 

A:  We have 2 buyouts.  One and the most common is a $1.00 buy out lease.  At the end of the term, the customer owns the equipment for $1.00.  The other and less common is a 10% residual lease.  Example for a $19,000.00 deal…After the lease is over a 10% or $1,900.00 balloon payment is required to be done with the lease.  (A 10% buy out lease would have a lower payment vs.. the $1.00 buy out lease.) 

 

Q:  What is my monthly payment? What is the rate? 

A:  In Leasing, we do not use an APR.  This is a LEASE and not a loan.  With leasing, we use a monthly matrix factor to calculate the rental payment.  This matrix factor is based on risk..  The lower the payment, the lower the risk etc.  Payments are calculated basically with 2 things.  First, is the personal credit.  Second, is the companies time in business. 

 

Q:  What if I am a new business and what if I have “not so good” credit? 

A:  We have a very high approval percentage at ACG.  We have programs to fit most credits and we do new businesses. 

Most approvals are good for 60-90 days.  Chris suggests to any customer who is interested to Email Him about your needs and your credit and to fill out a credit application.  There is NO OBLIGATION once approved.

Chris also asked that I post some additional documents that can also be helpful.  Please download and read the “Why Lease” and “Lease vs Bank vs Cash” documents from the “Box” on the left.