As people look for new startup business opportunities, many are discovering the versatility of laser transfer printers for garment decoration. The UniNet iColor series has long been a leading choice because of its versatility and value. One of the things that makes the iColor 550 and 560 desktop printers so attractive is the ability to print outside the box. These desktop printers are limited to 8.5" by 14" sheet sizes, so you might think they limit you to creating small transfers.

Not so. UniNet has bundled them with a smart app that expands the envelope to include XXL size transfers. This cool boundary-busting app is called SmartCUT. It comes bundled with all new iColor printers and can be added to TransferRIP or ProRIP software for use with older printers - even OKIs. What is iColor SmartCUT tiling software, and how does it work?

How SmartCUT Works.

Since iColor SmartCUT tiling software was created specifically for use with garment decoration, it doesn’t just cut files in half. It analyzes image files and tiles them according to the color content. The image separation differs depending on whether you’re going to apply it to a dark or light garment. And it allows for a wide area of overlap in order to hide the tiles for a seamless transfer. And it does all of that in five mouse clicks. That’s the general overview. Here’s a step by step summary of the process.

Step by step summary: How to use iColor SmartCUT tiling software

iColor SmartCut tiling software dividing an image
FIG 1: Use the sliders to create the overlap between tiles.
  • Open SmartCUT and browse to an image file. Double-click on the file to add it to the SmartCUT workspace. The application supports .png and .tiff files.
  • Determine the desired transfer size (ie. 11 x 17). Rotate the image in the preview window to maximize the tile sizes and make optimal use of the work space.
  • Use the tile border sliders to preview sizes of tiles (Fig 1). Because each page size is displayed as you slide the borders, you can make sure each tile fits on a sheet of transfer paper. The borders overlap. The larger the overlap area, the less visible the seam will be.
  • Click the Split button. A pop-up window asks if the image will be applied to a light or dark surface. This determines where SmartCUT places the seams.
  • If your preview looks okay, save as. If not, click revert, adjust the sliders and try again. Some images are easier to split than others.
  • Save as a multiple page PDF or a pair of .PNG files. If you choose the .PNG format, SmartCUT creates two versions of the file labeled L and R (left and right). PDF is simpler because you only have to import one file into your RIP software, but the .PNG option has an advantage.
  • If you’re working with a complex image, it’s a good idea to open the files in Photoshop or some other graphic design application and position them to make sure the seams match. This is the advantage of the .PNG option. You can manipulate the tiles separately and do a ‘soft proof’ to verify alignment before committing to A Foil.
  • If your tiles align properly, you’re good to go. Open iColor TransferRIP or ProRIP, add the PDF or .PNG files, and process them as you would normally. There are a few other wrinkles in the application process.

iColor SmartCUT Application Tips

As is the case with all laser transfer garment decoration products, some of the critical elements are in the application process. You can get a perfect split from the software and end up with an unusable t-shirt transfer if you botch the application. To save you some head-scratching, here are a few SmartCUT application tips.

  • A Foil Only: Although the software has an algorithm for light apparel, I wouldn’t recommend using one-step laser transfer paper. Stick with iColor 2-Step, LXF Dark, or a similar laser transfer media solution using transparent A-Foil sheets. You’ll see why in a moment.
    t-shirt decorated with iColor 550 laser transfer printer and SmartCUT software
FIG 2: Oversize t-shirt transfer applied with no visible seams.
  • Marry the A-Foil and lo-temp B paper as usual for both tiles; or all three or four if you’re creating a ginormous transfer. The changes come in the second step of the two-step process.
  • When you’re ready for the second step, apply only one tile to the shirt at a time. Don’t press the first tile with the usual amount of high pressure. The official instructions are to use just enough to tack the toner to the shirt. That’s an elusive target. Our testing found that you still need what most would consider ‘medium’ to heavy pressure - Just not as heavy as usual.
  • Peel the first tile cold as usual. Place the next tile on the shirt overlapping the edge of the first tile so that the seams of the toner line up perfectly. Here’s where the transparent A foil sheets become indispensable. You have to be able to clearly see the toner through the transfer media to make this work.
  • Cover the first tile with silicone Kraft paper or matte finishing paper, and press the second tile at the same reduced pressure. Peel cold.
  • Now you have a perfectly seamed extra large T-shirt transfer.
  • Cover the entire image with matte finishing paper and press once more with full pressure to fix the toner into the fabric. Wait at least five seconds, remove the paper, lightly stretch the shirt and you’re done.
  • Remember, you’re not limited to two tiles. You can build a LXF Dark jigsaw puzzle and make an XXL sized transfer if you want. But the more tiles you create, the more you risk getting a misaligned seam. And the more time the transfer takes. Charge accordingly or consider buying a bigger printer.

SmartCUT Price & Specifications

For owners of OKI WT printers or iColor500 and 550 printers, SmartCUT is a $349 option. If you've purchased a newer iColor 550-s printer, you're in luck. The s stands for SmartCUT. The tiling app is part of the updated software bundle that makes iColor printers so attractive. To make matters even easier, SmartCUT is integrated into the ProRIP software on iColor 560 and newer printers. There's more information about this new smarter version of SmartCUT on the White Toner YouTube channel.

As a standalone product, SmartCUT comes with a security dongle that must be plugged into to an open USB port on your PC. It must of course be the same PC where your RIP software is installed. SmartCUT runs in Mac and Windows OS. It’s compatible with Windows 7,8,10 and Mac OS X 10.10 and higher. You’ll need a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 3.5 GB of RAM, and 2 GB of hard drive storage space.

If you have a little patience and like trying new applications, iColor SmartCUT is a great addition to your laser transfer system. It’s especially helpful if you have big ideas, but a small budget. You can start with an iColor 550 or 560 and offer customers 11” x 17” transfers for about half the price of a tabloid sized White toner printer. Or you can add SmartCUT to your iColor 600 or OKI Pro 8432WT and turn your 11” x 17” transfers into 13” x 19”. Or 16” x 20”, or 20” x 25”, or many other sizes.