7 Tips for Sublimation Success
Hey guys! I have been playing with sublimation printing for the last 6 months and so I have decided to put together my top 7 tips!
1) Get the right equipment!
-Sublimation is an attractive opportunity because it can be easy and fairly cheap to set up. The only equipment that is needed includes a printer, sublimation ink, sublimation paper and a good heat press.
I Suggest The Sawgrass Virtuoso System
an all around perfect package for those who are brand new to sublimation. The system is easy to set up, is good for small and large volume jobs, and you will get very active customer support through Sawgrass on both the printer and inks. The ink has low water content and is formulated like a gel to prevent drying and clogging, and the printers have automatic self-maintenance as long as they are left on which keeps the nozzles clean at all times. Depending on your needs, the Virtuoso System comes with either an SG400 or SG800 printer.
2) Have These Sublimation Accessories on Hand
- Heat Tape
- Heat gloves
Both can be found on Amazon!
3)Plan Ahead, Stay Stocked on Sublimation Blanks
-Sublimation can be tricky at times. New problems arise, mistakes happen, and items go out of stock at the last minute. If there is a large order due in a month, always plan ahead and factor in possible time for testing and trial and error, extra blanks that may end up being a waste, ordering as early as possible, etc. Holidays are especially risky because items can be in stock one day and backordered for weeks following that.
4) Know Your Design Software
Basic design software knowledge goes a long way with sublimation, and when I say design software, I am talking about Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Draw and similar programs. At the minimum, you will need to know how to crop and re-size images to fit a specific item. But don't worry! There are loads of online tutorials and guides to get you ramped up quickly.
5) Watch How Other People Do It
-Get on Tik tok and Youtube! People LOVE to show off their skill! Learn from them!
6) Heat, Pressure and Moisture
If you are running into problems with the final transfer being faded, burned, too light or spotty, check the three most important things: heat, pressure or moisture.
Too much or too little heat are usually problematic and result in over pressing or under pressing of the substrate. Uneven heating on the press is also an issue and results in spottiness where parts of the substrate sublimate properly but other parts don’t. It is a good idea to invest in temperature strips or a thermal gun, both of which map out the temperature of the heat platen. If there are any inconsistencies or cold spots, it is best to call the manufacturer of the press.
Pressure is equally important and sometimes, uneven transfers can be resolved by simply increasing the pressure. It is possible for the press to be providing uneven pressure however and generally, the manufacturer would do a phone walk through on how to calibrate the press and provide additional assistance to resolve that problem.
If everything checks out, moisture may play a role in spotty transfers. Moisture can warp flat items and can act as a barrier between the surface and the sublimation ink trying to penetrate it. This step is not always listed on the instructions, but it is good practice to pre-press items for 5-10 seconds at high heat and light-medium pressure to let moisture escape and flatten out the substrate. For warped items, such as MDF boards, pre-pressing both sides may be necessary.
7) Test, Test, Test
No matter how long you have been in the sublimation business, variables change all the time and sometimes overnight. A heat press may suddenly not heat up to the temperature it shows or apply even pressure even though it has worked for 2 years without an issue. An item may be slightly changed in manufacturing requiring a heat/time adjustment which usually happens without warning, or it could be a brand new item you have never used before.