This series will cover the printing of sports balls using the heat transfer method. For a more popular method to print onto golf balls see Pad Printing. To print onto the panels of soccer balls before they are made up see Screen Printing Soccer Balls. To print onto PVC toy balls see Toy Ball Printing.
Ball printing is the process of printing an image onto a sports ball such as a rugby or soccer ball. The desired image is printed onto a sheet of heat transfer paper and applied to a ball using a heat press. Much the same as a t-shirt heat press or cap heat press works. This process is called heat transfer printing.
Uses for ball printing
Heat transfer ball printing is usually a novelty printing area as the printed balls are mainly for display purposes. And often fall into three areas: promotional items (includes company logo), personal gifts (contains a person’s photo) and memorabilia which contains a team’s logo or photo of mascot.
Types of images that are usually printed onto balls:
Photos for personal gifts
Graphics such as logos for promotional purposes
Photos and graphics such as a team photo with the team logo or mascot to keep as memorabilia.
Types of balls that can be printed onto using this method (alphabetically listed)
American Football balls (mini, mid & full size)
Basketballs (mini & full size)
Golf balls – (unless you want to add a full colour photograph to a golf ball I recommend pad printing)
Rugby Balls (mini & full size)
Soccer Balls (mini & full size)
Volleyballs (mini & full size)
Water polo balls (mini & full size)
*Please note: While most balls types are available, you are limited to the size or shape of the ball that can fit into your heat press and/or whether the ball can be coated so the transfer paper image can adhere to it.
Other Items That Can Be Printed Onto Using This Method
Hockey Pucks (will need a flat hockey puck head machine attachment)
Ornaments such as Christmas tree hangings
Other non sports balls such as pet balls
Printable mini baseball home plates
Equipment Needed – What you need to print your own balls
[See What You’ll Need To Print Your Own Balls for more details and photos]
The basic equipment needed to print your own balls are:
Ball heat press or modified cap press (and air compressor if you are using pneumatic heat press)
Compatible printer & transfer paper (we use a laser printed with hard surface transfer paper)
Blank balls (If you don’t have a supplier that sells pre-coated balls for heat transfer printing you are going to have to coat your own balls.)
Computer or laptop
Graphics or layout software (DTP software will also work)
As the balls are mainly intended for display purposes some suppliers often sell accessories such as stands to hold balls or display cases. You can also use a ball holder such as those found here – www.ballandhelmetholder.com/isapi/isapi.dll?page&home to mount the balls for display. Besides being a necessary addition as most balls are unable to be displayed without rolling these accessories also add another revenue stream to your ball printing shop. Although seeing that they are gifts for display it is advisable to at least include a basic stand for free while the nicer display cases can be sold for a profit. Accessories for non sports goods such as stands for printable ornaments are also available.