Introduction: Multi-Color Custom T-Shirts

About: Mechanical Engineering Student at UC Berkeley

Hey all! This a build off of my previous Instructable, Custom T-Shirts With Heat Press Vinyl. Here, I will show you how to create your file so that you can create shirts with multiple colors! If you've seen my other guide, Multi-Color Vinyl Decals, you'll notice that the concept is fairly similar.

Step 1: Choose Your Image

Since we're in the Bay Area, the easiest and most familiar design I could think of was, of course, the Golden State Warriors logo!

Step 2: Image Trace

First, Image Trace your design to create vectors. We'll want to use 3 Colors since our design really only consists of a few colors. Don't forget to Expand!

Step 3: File Processing Pt. 1

Image Trace outputs the vectors all as a Group, but we'll want to right-click and Ungroup them to separate the parts of our design that will be colored and the parts that won't be. Then, using the Selection Tool, the black cursor (this is different from the Direct Selection Tool, which is a white cursor!), select the blue parts of the logo and right-click and re-Group these pieces together.

Move your group to a separate Artboard to organize them since you will be vinyl cutting them separately!

Note: If you can't see Group/Ungroup for whatever reason when you right-click, you can find them under Object -> Group.

Step 4: File Processing Pt. 2

Adjust your colors to suit your vinyl cutter (in our case, we use black vector outlines).

The file must be reversed so that it’s a mirror image of the original design because of the way CAD heat transfer film is manufactured and shipped (think of it as upside-down vinyl). To do this, highlight your design and right click, then select Transform -> Reflect in Adobe Illustrator (or find Object -> Transform -> Reflect at the top of the window).

In the Reflect Dialog Box, make sure Vertical is selected and Angle is set to 90 degrees.

Step 5: Equipment

Recall that: Creating custom t-shirts with heat press vinyl primarily requires some sort of heat press (in our case, the The MAXX Heat Press by Stahls'), heat press vinyl of course, and a vinyl cutter (we use the Roland GS-24). Heat Press Vinyl is just a type of material that is sold by multiple different suppliers with different material specifications, so watch out for exactly what temperatures they should be run at and for how long.

To be more specific, if you were to choose from Stahls' assortment of CAD-Cut Heat Press Vinyl, you'd want to double check their User Guide to see the temperature and time specs. Three key components to consider when decorating with a heat press are: time, temperature, and pressure.

  • Time: The amount of time, in seconds, that heat must be applied to the design/garment.
  • Temperature: The optimal degree at which the design will adhere to the garment.
  • Pressure: The amount of downward force needed when heat applying.

Step 6: Vinyl Cut and Weed

Cut out your design on the vinyl cutter, and weed it out!

Step 7: Heat Press First Color

Then, for the first color, you'll want to follow the material specs, and set your heat press to the correct desired temperature (say, 320 F) and time (say, 15 secs). You pull down the handle and allow the heat to transfer the heat press vinyl onto the material of the shirt, then release and allow it to cool before you try to remove the plastic covering. Don't throw away the plastic covering! It can help with the next step.

Step 8: Heat Press Second Color

Now, to apply the second color. Set it up properly so it aligns with your previous design on the heat press, then try to cover the recently pressed parts of the design - either w/ the fabric, or with leftover plastic covering from the first color. This is to prevent the heat from the heat press from accidentally warping or un-bonding your previous application!

As you can see from my images, since our design only had a bit uncovered I just used the top and bottom of the shirt. Make sure to let your design cool before removing it, and do so carefully to avoid any part of the previous design being pulled off as well.

Voila! You now have a two-tone design!

Step 9: Final Product

Ta-da! I personally really like how the shirt came out, and this was only a simple example of a technique that can be applied to any multi-color design you can think of. Can't wait to see what you guys make, and I hope this helped clear some stuff up!

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