Hard Surface Heat Transfer Paper

When white toner printers from OKI and DigitalHeat FX first hit the market several years ago, taking the custom promotional products market by storm.  This was because there was finally a way to print short run full-color shirts without all the drawbacks of other technology.

A full color LED printer, like the 8432WT (or the  9541WT that comes in the DigitalHeat FX bundle) doesn’t require maintenance like direct to garment printers do.  Also, it doesn’t have to be used regularly, and is JUST as reliable as an office printer.  Those are some great advantages.

So, while the t-shirt transfer revolution which was inspired by DigitalHeat FX heat transfer printers is still going strong – hard surface printing by those same printers is expanding in popularity.

The same technology, printer and heat press that’s used to produce hundreds of thousands of t-shirt transfers is now being used to produce lots of unique hard goods as well.

Hard Surface, Hard Goods, and Promotional Products

This whole ideas of applying a transfer to an object rather than fabric or a t-shirt is called many different things.

But whatever you call it, you follow the same steps:

#1 | Create your artwork (or buy it)

With no color limitations and without thought to the substrate you’re applying to. In other words, it’s not screen printing, so you don’t have to dumb down the colors to reduce costs.  Since it’s digital you can use the same design or transfer that you put on a shirt or logo on a hat for a hard surface product.

Buying that artwork is an option if you’re not a graphic artist. We recommend you try out our inhouse service - ColDesi Graphics because they do a great job, and they know the unique challenges of hard service prints.

#2 | Open your art in PrintOptimizer

PrintOptimizer is a RIP software that comes with DigitalHeat FX systems exclusively. It’s ONE of the things that makes it different buying an OKI pro9541 from ColDesi vs. other places.

You’ll simply choose the right Queue, which is a set of settings, choose your print mode for hard surface and bring your graphic in. Then you can resize it, set up to print multiple copies, knock out colors. It’s a very powerful software application!

PrintOptimizer will… optimize your print (of course) … for use EZ Peel Hard Surface heat transfer paper.

#3 | Load your Paper and Print

You’ll see several video examples of using hard surface heat transfer paper below. It’s important to note that the hard surface heat transfer paper is not the same as you use to make a t-shirt transfer!

Everything is different – from the print mode you use to make the transfer to the temperature and pressure you use to apply. If you see or hear any instructions here, please realize that these are examples and current to the publication of this article – things change and improve all the time so check your instructions to make sure they’re up to date!

Applying Hard Surface Heat Transfer Paper

The most important requirement for applying hard surface heat transfer paper is simple:


It seems obvious, but when you use EZ Peel Hard Surface paper it requires a heat press to seal the image onto the substrate or object.

When you’re creating t-shirt transfers it’s really not a concern because, -well, t-shirts are all pretty thin and pretty flat.

A heat press like the Fusion or DK20 clamshells are fine for things like printing on tiles, or small signs, or notebook covers for example. None of those are very thick and all have a flat surface.

But you’ll see us apply a hard surface heat transfer to a baseball – and you can’t use a flat heat press for that.

Or a coffee mug. Or a travel cup.

And you must use a good quality heat press with even temperature and pressure distribution. Because the entire transfer needs to be applied the same way. If one corner of your mug press isn’t as hot as the other corner – your transfer is going to peel.

Hard Goods Customization Opportunities

Just to get your imaginations started, we brainstormed some of the most popular materials you can apply hard surface heat transfer to:

And a few of the things you can make – and make money at:

You get the idea!

How much can I Make Selling Custom Hard Surface Products?

Let’s take a simple example from the 

customized glass coasters.

We found you can buy simple, blank 4”x4” glass coasters for as little as $.53 each in 100 pc quantities right on Amazon.

And the EZ Peel 11”x17” Hard Surface paper comes in a box of 50 for $50.00, so $1.00 per sheet.

You can get ten 4” X 4” images on 1 sheet, so that $1 per sheet works out to $.10 per transfer for the coasters.

[there is a cost of toner, but that varies dramatically with the density of the print]

We also looked online for short-run customized glass coasters and found the most common retail price for 10-50 to cost $12.95 each.

Here’s what you’re profit would look like if you sold a dozen customized glass coasters:

Sale Price: $12.95 x qty 12 = $155.40

COGS: $.63 x qty 12 = $7.56

Gross profit for this order = $155.40 – $7.56 = $147.84

There are, of course, many other variables you might apply to your cost of goods and determining your sale price, but even these rough numbers are compelling! Imagine what else you can create and make some extra money on?

Check out these how to videos on using Hard Surface Transfer Paper

For more information on EZ Peel hard surface heat transfer paper, DigitalHeat FX and the customization business just chat below or contact us here.