Digital sublimation printing is a high-tech printing process used mostly for print on demand apparel. In the world of apparel, it’s a game changer in that it allows whole garment prints — designs that go seam-to-seam. Today we’re going to pick it apart-what is it and how to have success in this process.
What is digital sublimation printing?
Let’s start with the broad strokes. What exactly is sublimation printing?
In simple terms, dye sublimation printing, or just sublimation, is a process to transfer ink onto different types of garments.
High levels of heat and pressure are applied to make the ink quickly disintegrate into a gas, allowing it to permanently bond with the garment. Sublimation ink will only bond with polymer molecules. So, in other words, sublimation only really works with specific types of fabrics and materials that have these polymer molecules in high enough supply. Typical fabrics are polyester, nylon, spandex.
No amount of washes, rinses, or fabric cleaners will remove the ink from the fabric. The process is almost like a tattoo, but instead of for your skin, it’s for your chosen product. The heat opens up the pores of the fabric, then with the applied pressure the ink cools and returns to a solid form.
The result is a permanent, full colour image that won’t crack, peel or wash away from the substrate. The process allows the ink to go from a solid to a gas without turning to liquid, a bit like dry ice. The conversion is initiated by heat and controlled by pressure.
This quick and effective digital print method is growing in popularity for smaller batch orders and those designs that rely on the details. Sublimation printing is also known as ‘all over printing’ as it allows you to choose a design that can literally go from seam to seam.
How to succeed in dye sublimation printing?
Prepare the right equipment
Digital sublimation printing is an attractive opportunity because it can be easy and fairly cheap to set up. The only equipment that is needed includes a sublimation printer, sublimation ink, sublimation paper, a high-quality heat press.
(1. Digital sublimation printer
We can either use a printer designed and manufactured for sublimation, or we can convert an already existing inkjet printer to support sublimation.
(2. Sublimation Ink
We have a great guide for finding sublimation ink for our clients. Welcome to contact our team to get it!
(3. Sublimation Paper
There are a lot of different kinds of sublimation paper out there. I’d recommend checking out the brand Sublistar! If you want to read more about our thoughts on the sublimation paper, please enter our website.
(4. Heat Press Machine
This is what we will use to transfer the design. Make sure to get a heat press that has the minimum size requirements for our designs and transfers.
In general, finding the right equipment is of the up-most importance!
2.Get familiar with our software
If we aren't able to quickly, efficiently, and effectively produce images and designs for our sublimation business, then we will be wasting time on our designs! Managing pour money and time is essential to having success with dye-sublimation, and if we overspend our time on the design process, weare mismanaging our time.
Being efficient in our design process means that we need to be constantly improving with our software of choice. Whether we are using Adobe CC, Photoshop, GIMP, or any other photo-editing software, we need to make sure to be able to quickly make beautiful designs. I recommend checking out various Youtube Channels that feature tutorials on our software of choice. That way, we will always be on top of our game!
- Control of heat and pressure
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.
No matter how long we have been in the sublimation business, variables change all the time and sometimes overnight. It is generally bad practice to test a full image on a final item and just hope it works right off the bat. That often leads to a wasted item with no extra white space that can be re-used for testing. All blanks can be pressed multiple times for testing purposes.
5.Never Stop Learning
By far and away the most important thing is to always strive to get better! Remember, always try new things and never shy away from trying new things and meeting new people in the industry. It is no secret that people have the tendency to come up with their own way to sublimate an item, but it is also a good idea to keep up with current videos and blogs on what is new in sublimation printing or how to press an item. You may catch something in that process that is easier or results in a better transfer than what you might be used to doing. Or if you are brand new, then a little bit of research goes a long way.