How to Use Transfer Tape

How to Use Transfer Tape

How to Use Transfer Tape

If you're looking to use transfer tape to install vinyl graphics and decals onto a surface, you'll need to know how to install it, what type of tape to use and other handy tips. As an expert in transfer tapes, TapeManBlue has collected a great deal of knowledge about transfer tape over the years. Whether you're using transfer tape for commercial or personal purposes, you'll find the information you need to get started below.

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How Is Transfer Tape Commonly Used?

There are several ways to use transfer tape. For example, it's often used to improve the visual appeal of a company's signs, buildings and other relevant surfaces. Typically, transfer tape is used with decals, stickers, vinyl graphics and craft projects.

For commercial use, transfer tape is often employed to make a company's building look more attractive, impressing potential clients or customers, while also making their space more pleasant for employees to work in. Companies that want to grow their brand awareness often utilize transfer tape to put up custom decals, graphics and stickers in key locations.

Many stores use transfer tape to place graphics in locations that attract potential customers. For instance, companies often use transfer tape to place an attractive decal in a storefront window that aims to attract foot traffic.

For personal use, many people like to use transfer tape in craft projects. DIY types love the feeling of crafting a graphic that can be placed directly onto their living room wall as decoration. To make sure they get the placement just right, they use transfer tape.

How Do You Apply and Use Transfer Tape?

If you're looking to use and apply transfer tape yourself, you'll need to follow a set of rules to ensure that the transfer tape is used properly for the most visually appealing final product. Below you'll find the proper steps to install transfer tape:

1. Create the Design and Cut the Vinyl

The first step to using transfer tape is to have a graphic that you want to apply to a surface. Once you have a graphic you want to use, you'll typically print it out on vinyl. Often, cutting machines have a kiss-cut feature that only cuts the vinyl, rather than cutting the backing paper as well. This sort of cut makes the vinyl decal peeling process much easier.

2. Weed Any Excess Vinyl

After you've printed out the decal that you want to use and had it kiss cut, you'll need to weed the transfer tape.

Weeding refers to the process of removing the unnecessary parts of a design that you don't want to use. Essentially, weeding is the process of removing the material that you don't want with your design. Just like weeding a garden, you are getting rid of the unattractive parts that distract from the main elements.

To complete the weeding process, you can remove the excess vinyl by peeling it off of the vinyl liner. After peeling, if there are any extra pieces of vinyl remaining, you can carefully cut them off. While weeding the excess vinyl, it's important to note that the vinyl's backing should remain intact.

3. Place the Transfer Tape

Next, you'll cut out a piece of transfer tape slightly larger than the decal. You'll place it over the vinyl graphic, making sure that there are no air bubbles in it. Once the tape is over the image, you'll then want to rub, or burnish, the tape onto the vinyl. You should begin burnishing the tape in the center of the tape, slowly working outwards until all of it is securely placed on the graphic.

4. Place the Vinyl Graphic

After the transfer tape has been placed on the graphic, you can then peel the decal from its backing. With the decal's adhesive now activated, you can then place the vinyl graphic onto the proper location.

Finally, you'll place the transfer tape and graphic onto your desired surface. Start with the edge of the transfer tape to make sure you are in the proper position before fully placing it on the location. To complete the installation process, burnish the decal and tape, starting in the center and moving outward. When it's fully burnished, you can pull the tape off of the decal, leaving it firmly attached to the substrate.

Tips and Tricks for Easy Application of Transfer Tape

Tips and tricks for easy application of transfer tape

There are a few tips for applying transfer tape that you should follow to ensure proper application.

  • Avoid removing all transfer tape: If you're unsure about where exactly you want the decal to be placed, you should wait to take all of the backing transfer tape off. First, only peel a corner off, striking it onto the part of the substrate you'd like it to be. Once you've evaluated how the rest of the design will look in that position and find it acceptable, you can then remove the rest of the tape, placing the decal confidently.
  • Cut transfer tape larger than the vinyl: To help you peel transfer tape easily, you should cut the tape slightly larger than the vinyl you are looking to install. The larger piece of tape will help you easily pull it off of the graphic when it comes time to remove it.
  • Snip the transfer tape for curved surfaces: At times, you'll need vinyl placed onto a curved surface. For the inexperienced, this kind of placement may result in wrinkles in the final product. To prevent this, you can snip little bits of the transfer tape to increase flexibility. Of course, you'll want to make sure that you don't cut the decal you'll be placing.

Transfer Tape Selection Guide: Which Transfer Tape Is Right for Your Project

Transfer tape, also called application tape, makes the placement of vinyl easier. But, what transfer tape is right for your project? There are different types of transfer tape suitable for different projects and needs, but it's necessary to make the right choice. From paper and clear options to varying levels of tackiness, application tape has a range of potential for your projects.

Because application tape is essential for preventing damage to your vinyl, decal, sticker or other projects, you should understand what transfer tape tack level to buy along with the types of transfer tape out there. Use our transfer tape selection guide to discover which transfer tape is right for your project.

What to Look For When Purchasing Transfer Tape

What to look for when purchasing transfer tape

As you decide on transfer tape, you'll want to check the following qualities to determine the quality of the tape you are purchasing:

  • Tear quality: As you decide on a tape, you'll want to see what kind of tear quality it offers. A low-quality transfer tape will tear off in uneven pieces that are often useless. A high-quality tape will allow for precise, consistent tearing.
  • Wrinkling: Wrinkling is one of the most frustrating problems that comes with low-quality tape, as it can harm the visual appeal of a graphic. A higher-quality tape will reduce the amount of wrinkling that occurs with your transfer tape.
  • Edge lift: In lower-quality tapes, the edges will often curl upwards and away from the vinyl. If you sell graphics, tape that's curled away from the edges can collect dirt, harming the graphic's appearance. A high-quality tape will stay attached to the corners.
  • Static: Often, clear tape will bring with it issues like a static charge when people unwind the tape. Investing in higher-quality transfer tape will reduce the amount of static generated.
  • Tack level: As you purchase a transfer tape, you'll want it to match the type of substrate you're placing your vinyl graphics onto. As you pick a tape, consider the bond between vinyl and substrate, tape and substrate and vinyl and tape. You'll want the tape's bond to be stronger with the vinyl than it is on a paper release liner so as not to remove the vinyl from the liner.

Understanding Transfer Tape Tack Levels

The tack levels of application tape refer to the stickiness of the tape. There are three primary transfer tape tack levels: low, medium and high. However, some products come in in-between levels, like medium-high. 

When you decide which transfer tape tack level to buy, you have to think about the type of project you're making and where it's going. In doing so, you'll also need to consider the bond between:

  • The transfer tape and the vinyl.
  • The vinyl and the surface you're applying the vinyl to.

You'll need a balance between those various bonds, or you'll risk the application going wrong. The bond between the transfer tape and vinyl can't be too strong, or you won't be able to pull the tape away from the decal after application.

You'll also want the strength of the bond between the tape and vinyl to be stronger than the bond between the vinyl and the release liner. You will be able to pull the liner away from the vinyl easily if the tape has a better hold on it. It may take some adjustments to discover what works best for the products you use and your various applications.

If you have access to several types of application tapes and aren't sure how to choose the right transfer tape, start with the lowest tack. To choose the right tack level, you need to understand the characteristics of each:

Low Tack Level

A low tack level will have the minimum amount of stick to hold onto vinyl or other materials for transfer, but it won't be overly sticky. You may find that low-tack application tape works well for projects with larger graphics. If your vinyl has a low tack level, be sure to use low tack transfer tape to ensure it sticks to the substrate. Decals with a higher tack level may work with certain low-tack options, but you might have a challenging time removing the vinyl from the release liner with a low-tack transfer tape.

Low tack transfer tape will have the minimum amount of stick to hold vinyl or other materials for transfer.

Use low-tack transfer tape for: 

  • Digital printing projects
  • Larger graphics such as full-wall murals
  • Billboards
  • Tractor-trailer graphics

Medium Tack Level

Medium tack transfer tapes have a wide range of uses because of their average tackiness. You can use this type of application tape for:

  • Medium to small-sized graphics
  • Large to medium-sized lettering
  • Projects with uncured ink
  • Wall graphics and removable wall decals
  • Vinyl decals for car windows
  • Frosted window graphic film

Use medium tack tape if your vinyl also has a medium tack level. Since medium tack level tape works with so many projects, you will likely use this or medium-high varieties most often in your creations.

High Tack Level

Transfer tapes with a high tack level have the stickiest adhesives of the three options. Choose high-level tack tape for projects like: 

  • Smaller sized graphics
  • Signs
  • Labels
  • Small removable wall decorations
  • Crafting projects such as small decals or lettering for mugs, water bottles, journals, candleholders and more
  • Metalized films 

Avoid using low tack vinyl with application tape that has a high tack level. If that happens, your decal will have a stronger bond with the transfer tape than the surface you apply it to. 

Understanding Material Type: Paper vs. Clear Transfer Tape

As you use vinyl transfer tapes, you should be aware of the two main types of transfer tapes: paper and transparent tapes. Paper tapes, as their name suggests, are tapes that are constructed out of paper. As such, the paper face film will come with an adhesive coated on it. The film will usually be somewhat translucent but will not be entirely see-through. Often, this tape is the go-to choice for those who need a versatile tape that doesn't require a great deal of precision.

In contrast, transparent tapes are made out of plastic face films. Unlike paper transfer tape, clear transfer tape is totally transparent, allowing for greater accuracy in the placement of graphics. For example, if you need to place layers of multi-colored vinyl graphics on top of one another, then clear transfer tape is the kind of tape you need.

What Is Paper Transfer Tape?

Paper transfer tape is a versatile option that doesn't require much precision. As the name implies, it's made out of paper, which gives it various advantages as a transfer tape, like:

  • It's partially see-through.
  • It doesn't always require scissors to cut.
  • It's more flexible and softer than clear options.
  • It's typically less expensive than clear tape.

However, paper transfer tape also comes with some disadvantages you should consider, like:

  • It wrinkles more than the clear variety.
  • It's less precise than clear transfer tape.

When Should You Use Paper Transfer Tape?

Because of its construction, transfer paper works great for:

  • Signs
  • Wet applications
  • Heat-pressed T-shirt transfers

If you leave the transfer paper on a project for a client to remove, paper may not be the right choice because it compromises the presentation quality. However, if you're handling the removal process, paper may be right for your projects because of how versatile it is.

Paper Transfer Tape Pros

Many companies use paper tape for the benefits they provide to users. Some of these benefits include:

  • Greater flexibility and softness as compared to clear transfer tape
  • Wide range of tack levels, coming in low, medium and high tack levels
  • Often less expensive than its clear tape counterpart due to its material
  • Porous film allows for it to be used with application fluids

Paper Transfer Tape Cons

Though there are many pros associated with paper transfer tape, there are also a few cons that you should be aware of before you select it:

  • Not as precise as clear transfer tape
  • Paper pre-mask can reduce a graphic's visual appeal before being removed
  • Will not be as transparent or have as high of a presentation quality as clear transfer tape.
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What Is Clear Transfer Tape?

As the name implies, this transfer tape is made of clear plastic. Clear transfer tape has several advantages, like:

  • It's fully see-through.
  • Some varieties have a grid.
  • It's less likely to wrinkle.

However, there are some disadvantages, like:

  • It can develop static.
  • It's not as versatile as paper options.

When Should You Use Clear Transfer Tape

Because clear transfer tape is see-through, you can get a more precise application. Consider using it for:

  • Detailed projects
  • Multi-layered decals
  • Avoid using clear transfer tape in wet applications. Since the tape is plastic, it won't allow liquids to evaporate and may damage the vinyl as a result.

Clear Transfer Tape Pros

Clear transfer tape is a higher-grade transfer tape, often used when a great deal of accuracy is required. As you consider it, see its main benefits below:

  • Completely transparent
  • Pre-masked image is more attractive to customers who will be completing the installation job themselves
  • Easier and more precise installation

Clear Transfer Tape Cons

Along with its benefits, there are also a few cons that come with using clear transfer tape:

  • Inability to let liquid through the fill, meaning that the water can end up degrading the vinyl adhesive and the tape
  • Lower tack adhesive, making it unsuitable for certain types of vinyl
  • Often generates static charges, which then bring debris to the graphics
  • Not as versatile, as it can't heat-press T-shirt transfers due to plastic face films melting at high temperatures
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Frequently Asked Questions About Transfer Tape

To help you gain a broader understanding of best practices associated with transfer tape, consider the following answers to common questions about transfer tape:

1. What Do You Need to Use Transfer Tape?

All you need to have to work with transfer tape is vinyl, the transfer tape and something to cut with. Depending on the job, you may only need paper punches, die-cuts or scissors, while others may require a cutting machine. Often, squeegees are used when applying the transfer tape and vinyl to a surface to prevent air bubbles and wrinkling.

2. How Does Adhesive Vinyl Work With Transfer Tape?

Adhesive vinyl comes with an adhesive on the back of it and a backing sheet covering the adhesive. When the adhesive vinyl is cut into the shape you need, you'll make sure that it's not cut through the paper backing. The backing is then removed so that the adhesive can attach to the surface you are placing the decal on.

3. How Will the Substrate Affect the Transfer Tape Application?

Before you decide on a transfer tape, you'll want to be aware of how the surface will affect the tape. For instance, cut vinyl is often meant to be applied to a flat surface. Rough surfaces reduce how much the adhesive sticks to the substrate, making it difficult for the vinyl to stay attached to the substrate.

Often, companies will mistakenly pair high tack tape with low tack vinyl as they apply a graphic onto a rough substrate. This combination will typically fail due to the vinyl film having a stronger bond with the transfer tape than the rough surface. As you select a transfer tape, you'll want to check to see if the substrate and transfer tape pair well together, as you don't want the tape overpowering the substrate's adhesive power.

4. Do I Really Need Transfer Tape?

Most likely. While it's possible to remove vinyl from its backing to its new location, it's challenging to place it accurately or prevent damage from occurring to it. Transfer tape makes the process much easier and saves companies the time and money required to fix or replace an improperly applied piece of transfer tape.

5. What Is the Difference Between Tacks?

Tack describes a transfer tape's ability to attach to a substrate after being placed under pressure or over contact time. In other words, low, medium and high tack all describe how sticky the application tape is. Medium-high tack transfer tape is often best for smaller graphics, while low tack transfer tape is often used for larger graphics.

6. Is Application Tape the Same as Transfer Tape?

Application tape is simply another name for transfer tape. It can also be referred to as pre-mask. All three names describe the same product and carry out the same task. They transfer vinyl graphics. Transfer tapes can be paper or film, but both allow you to see through to where you are placing the graphics.

Looking for High-Quality Transfer Tape?

Whether you're looking for paper or clear transfer tape, TapeManBlue can help you find it. With our tape, you can be certain that you're getting the highest-quality transfer tape around. Our online store has a variety of paper and clear transfer tapes, all coming in different sizes to fit your needs. If you already know what you need, visit our store now to find what you're looking for.

If you're unsure about the type of tape you need or have any other questions, contact us today to speak to one of our knowledgeable representatives.

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