Where there are companies that sell ball printing kits and consumables it is possible to put together something on your own to heat transfer print onto balls.
You will need a ball heat transfer press (although a cap press can also be modified), a laser printer, laser transfer paper (intended for hard surfaces) and your blank balls. Some companies sell coated blank balls that are intended for heat transfer printing but it’s often expensive.
Here I will show you how to coat your own balls for printing.
Before a ball can be printed onto it must first be coated with a chemical so the heat pressed image can properly adhere to it.
Traditionally a ball printing supplier would sell you a “specially coated” ball which only they claim to stock and work with their machines or paper.
But what if I told you that you can print on almost any kind or ball using the right chemicals? What if I told you I have been printing balls from which the heat press, the balls, the transfer paper & and the coating chemicals all come from different suppliers?
In order for the printed image to adhere to the ball a thin layer of coating chemical must be added. Some sublimation printers who use polyester spray will be familiar with coating before printing as the process is identical, but with balls you don’t have to bake it afterwards to fix the coating.
Now make no mistake you can actually heat press a image onto any (non coated) ball providing you have the correct printer & heat transfer paper, but the image is likely to come out patchy. Coating the ball first prepares it better.
What you’ll need:
• Water based PVC varnish (can be purchased from a chemical supplier, you can use the varnish used to coat banners in the signage industry)
• Spray gun or spray can capable of spraying a fine mist
• Ball to be coated
• Stand (to prevent balls from rolling while being coated). The stand below is made from chipboard cut with a jigsaw:
1. Pour your water based PVC varnish into spray can or can
2. Put ball to be coated on stand.
3. Spray print area of ball with a fine mist to coat and wait to try.
Ball is now ready to be printed.
Which chemical to use to coat ball for printing
The chemical we use is a water based PVC varnish used for varnishing PVC products such as toys. This PVC varnish is identical to the varnish used to finish PVC banners but is just more flexible so it doesn’t crack off the inflated ball. However instead of using the varnish to finish an item to protect it, we coat the ball with the varnish before we print onto it.
How to apply PVC varnish to the ball
In order to achieve a perfect transfer the ball must be evenly coated. We normally use a spray gun hooked up to an air compressor. If you are already using a pneumatic heat press then you most likely own a compressor and just need a spray gun attachment.
How to clean varnish PVC off the ball
If the chemical has not dried (see below) then it can be rinsed off with water.
Cleaning a printed mistake
If after you have heat pressed the image onto the ball and you see you have made a mistake such as the image did not transfer properly or you forgot to mirror the image now its back to front. Then you can wipe the mistake off with lacquer thinners, but please remember thinners will remove the coating as well so you will re-coat the ball afterwards.