There are two basic ways to make more money in business: sell more of your wares to existing customers, or sell your existing wares to new customers.

If you are a sign business doing most of your work with a plotter and adhesive backed vinyl, there’s an easy way to do both of these at once. You can sell more of your wares to your existing sign customers and sell vector graphics to a much larger market just by adding a Heat Press and some Heat Transfer Vinyl. An investment of only $300 or more can turn your sign shop into a custom t-shirt shop. Hello, new customers!

For those who are ready to go after that extra business, we offer a full line of cuttable heat transfer films, aka "T-shirt vinyl". One of our most popular products through the years has been Chemica HotMark. HotMark is loved because it's super soft and offers the widest color range in the industry. You get over 50 colors and a film that feels like it's part of the fabric. Just as Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite, HotMark T-shirt vinyl has a weakness, but it's manageable.

HotMark Overview

Chemica Hotmark heat transfer vinyl is a very thin polyurethane heat-applied transfer film. It has a clear low-tack release liner . And like most T-shirt vinyls, you have to cut it in reverse because - unlike sign vinyl - the adhesive is on top. When you cut it with your plotter, you're cutting through the adhesive and the face film. The Polyurethane face film makes it extremely flexible. That's the source of it's legendary softness. The term legendary applies here because HotMark was our first T-shirt transfer film and has been opening markets for SignWarehouse customers for over 15 years. Hotmark is compatible with a wide range of fabrics including cotton, polyester, cotton-polyester blends, acrylic, Lycra Spandex, performance apparel and more. It's not recommended for application on Nylon and leather, but its fraternal twin, HotMark Revolution, handles those jobs pretty well.

Recommended Plotter Settings

Most thermal transfer films are very thin so you don’t need a special blade or a lot of force. HotMark is only 50 microns thick, which equates roughly to 2 mil. Use a standard 45 ° blade and set your plotter for about 75 grams of force, or whatever setting you normally use for plotting cast vinyl. The amount of force needed will change as your blade wears and some colors may require a teensy bit more pressure than others, so always, always, always do a test cut before committing to a complete job.

Weed it, Flip It, Press it, Peel It

Once you’ve cut your graphic, weed it just as you would normal vinyl. HotMark has a low-tack adhesive so it's ridiculously easy to weed. Once it’s weeded, you’ll have the clear liner showing the graphic on the bottom. Place the weeded graphic on the garment on your heat press so that it is now “right reading”. If you’re still looking at a mirror version of the image, it’s upside down and will stick to the heat press instead of the shirt (not that I have any personal experience with that problem. Never happened).
Time, temperature, and pressure are equally important factors. For HotMark, you should set the press to 300-340°F for 20 seconds. Use Firm pressure. Many customers who use HotMark for the first time forget this and fiddle with multiple time and temperature settings without success because they forget to adjust the pressure. The low-tack adhesive needs a little more force to activate it and bond the PU face film to the fabric. Give it a little more muscle. Warm or Cold peel: Once the cycle is done, remove the graphic from the press and give it a five-count. Then peel the liner and move on. You can also peel it cold if you prefer, but it's usually not necessary. That's the basic how-to guide. lf you prefer pictures and captions, click here to download our two-page HotMark Tutorial.

Layered T-shirt Graphics

It wouldn't make sense to offer HotMark in fifty colors if you couldn't apply them in layers or overlapping designs. Layers are not a problem. Just remember to try to mix HotMark with HotMark whenever possible. If you need to add a different kind of film such as a metallic accent, check the handy-dandy layering guide first to see what's compatible.

Colors and Sizes

Now that you know what HotMark is, how to use it, and what to put it on, your next questions probably deal with how to get some. What colors, what sizes, how much? The answers are… a bunch, a whole slew, and not much. Or more specifically, we offer it in a bunch of sizes ranging from 15" x 3 foot rolls to 15" x 66 foot rolls. There are a whole slew of colors - 50, as noted above. These include bread & butter standards like Red, Blue, and Athletic Gold, Fluorescents, and pastels colors. And the answer to how much does it cost is 'not much'. Prices start at only $9.35. So you get all that premium super-soft T-shirt transfer goodness for not much coin. Start your shopping here.

Wrinkles on Cotton

About that kryptonite thing. There is a slight downside to using such a soft, thin heat transfer film. HotMark's 50-micron face film is designed to stretch with the fabric. When applied to cotton, and washed at high temperatures, this can cause the film to take on a puckered or wrinkled look. This is caused by the cotton expanding in hot water, then shrinking when it cools. The HotMark expands and shrinks with the cotton and may become wrinkled in the process. The easy answer is to instruct your customers not to wash their decorated apparel in hot water. If they do, the damage can be undone by flipping the garment inside-out and ironing the transfer.

This is not an issue on Polyester and other man-made fabrics. For super-soft apparel transfers, it's hard to beat Hotmark. Yes it can pucker a bit when applied to cotton and washed at high temperatures, but this can be fixed. Polyester and cold water washing help preserve its silky smooth softness. But the super-soft hand, and unparalleled color selection enable you to satisfy your most discriminating customers. So, if you're looking for ways to increase your business by expanding into the enormous garment decoration market, HotMark, the old standard, is still an excellent choice.