14 Transfer Trends Every Promo Professional Should Know

Transfer methods in the promotional products industry are ever-evolving. Customers are always looking for the next best thing. It’s your job to steer them in the right direction.

As a seller, you want to be the expert. Do your research so that you can tell your customers what’s hot and provide them with the services they need to stay relevant.

We reached out seasoned promo professionals Ken Chadwick, strategic account manager for GroupeSTAHL®, Dena Rothstein, director of product management for Prime Line®, and Eric Levin, executive vice president of senior management for Prime Line, for popular and emerging deco techniques to help you stay ahead of the curve. Their answers are compiled in the list below:

Apparel & Hard Goods  

Direct to Garment

Direct to Garment (DTG) has been growing in popularity. It’s a printing process that uses specialized aqueous (water-like) inkjet technology. DTG printers are designed to hold a garment in place while a printer sprays ink onto the textile with precision by the print head. It’s a clean deco method that eliminates the need to burn screens.

Texture & Dimension

Design doesn’t have to be an exclusively visual experience. Pique the interest of onlookers by getting the sense of touch involved. Patches, emblems, domed logos, and silicon material can enhance the look and feel of any promotional item.

Full Color

Superimpose a high-def image on your promotional product. This technique produces a crisp, colorful image that can be applied to a variety of fabrics. The full color technique is often used to create graphic tees.

Variety of Fabric

From vinyl to felt to twill, modern decorators love experimenting with a variety of materials. These days, there are fabrics available to suit any creative deco endeavor. Some of the most popular fabric trends can be found here.

Heat Print

Keep up with the fast-paced fashion industry without sacrificing quality. Heat print offers customizable patterns and a wide array of digital colors, giving decorators the flexibility to collaborate with artists. This technique is great on apparel and accessories alike.

Water-Based, Screen-Printed Transfer

Providing superior stretch and rebound, water-based, screen-printed transfer is ideal for heat application on performance wear made of Spandex, Lycra®, and woven nylons. This is a great method for those fearful of scorch marks since it can be applied with low temperature


Known as the first “special effect” for garment decoration, flock is a versatile material that provides a smooth, velvet-like feel to a graphic. It’s a great alternative to standard screen printing or embroidery. Flock creates a 3-D, plush effect with vibrant colors capable of being replicated by other printing methods. Flock can be applied to garments by direct flocking, flock transfers, CAD-CUT® flock, and a sonic fusion method.

Printable glitter

Add some sparkle to your fabrics with a printable glitter finish. This method is perfect for team-oriented styles like fan wear and cheerleader garments.


Create a graphic that shines in the dark. Reflective or high-visibility graphics are excellent for use as an accent on sports uniforms and accessories. This particular technique is not recommended for multi-layer applications.

Silicone Dye-Block™

Available in vinyl rolls, Silicone Dye-Block offers the power of dye-blocking without messy ink or the need to burn screens. It can be applied with a heat press and has the ability to block dye migration even on sublimated polyester.

Hard Goods Only

Digital 4-Color Process

This is the fastest-growing deco method on both flat and cylindrical items. 4-Color Process is the most widely used method for printing full-color images. In this method, images are created on a printing press by applying separate layers of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks.

Laser Engraving on Tumblers

Laser engraving has been around for a while. It’s an interesting technique that has traditionally been used to decorate key chains, flashlights and pens. Now the same technique is being used on different types of metal water bottles, vacuum insulated bottles, mugs and tumblers.

Plastic Engravings 

The demand for plastic engravings is on the rise. This technique produces consistency in finish and thickness. Plastic engraving is used on Prime Line’s Light up Logo collection.  The engraving leaves behind a transparent surface that allows LED light to illuminate the logo.

Etching on Ceramic and Wood

Traditionally seen on glassware and metal surfaces, etching is the process of decorating using a sandblast method or a chemical process. The result is a satin texture tone-on-tone finish. More companies are experimenting with this technique on surfaces like ceramic, wood and bamboo.

The world of decoration is filled with innovative thinkers. With so many creative individuals, it’s no wonder printing technologies are constantly evolving. There are plenty of resources you can lean on to keep up-to-date on all things deco. Some of those practices include following industry-specific companies on social media, attending trade shows (Imprinted Sportswear Shows), subscribing to educational podcasts and YouTube channels (The Print Life, Stahls’ TV) and participating in educational seminars.

Did you know alphabroder decorates as well? Our new deco capabilities provide a one-stop-shop solution, saving customers time and money. To learn more about alphabroder’s deco services, send an email to decorationservices@alphabroder.com.

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