- Why Sublimation?
- With the Dye Sublimation Transfer Process, you can print high quality digital images on a huge variety of items made of any material that is treated or polymer coated or garments made of polyester. The imprinting is accomplished using a printer, special transfer inks, paper and a heat press.
- What is Sublimation (Dye Sublimation Transfer)?
- Dye Sublimation Transfer is a process where you take an image that has been created digitally (either by scanning, downloaded from a digital camera or created on your computer). The image can then be printed with a printer using special sublimation transfer inks onto transfer paper. When heated to high temperatures, sublimation ink turns into a gas. Pores of the polymer coated item open up and allow the gas to enter. Then, once removed from the heat, the pores of the polymer substrate close up, trapping the ink inside. The entire image will be smooth to the touch. This is a transfer process in which the image becomes a part of the actual item. Sublimation needs special ink, paper and specific substrates with polymer coating to work.
- How does sublimation work?
- Basically, you're transfering a special ink onto a special surface using heat. Using your Epson inkjet printer equipped with sublimation inks, you print to a high-quality inkjet coated paper. Then you position your printed page against the item to be printed (image facing the item), secure it if you need to (recommended for mugs and other hard items). You may want to use a teflon sheet (or pellon sheet for mugs) to protect your item from scorching and to keep "ghost images" from being deposited on your heat platen, which may later be transferred to the next item you press (Just position the sheet between the heat element and the item). Then press. Be careful when removing the printed sheet, if it shifts against the item you printed, it may produce a "ghost image".
- What are the special inks?
- The inks are liquid sublimation inks made to work like inkjet ink in the Epson printer. When the inks are heated, they turn into a vapor and imbed into the coating of the poly/sublimation coated item.
- What printer do I need?
- Our manufacturer has only been able to adapt this process to Epson printers. The Epson Stylus 800, 850, and 900 are the smaller printers that can be adapted. The Epson 1520 and 3000 are also adaptable to the process and can print much larger areas. Remember - It may not be better for your purposes to have a larger printer. If the items you will be printing are smaller than 8"X10.5", you will only need the 800, 850, or 900. Also, be aware of the area limitations of your heat press. The 3000 uses 4 separate ink cartridges, (CMYK), while some other printers use one black cartridge and one tri-color cartridge.
- What type of Heat Transfer Press do I need?
A heat press is the machine that presses a transfer onto an imprintable substrate. Using high temperatures and specified pressures for a certain amount of time, the transfer is permanently embedded into the product. Heat presses are available with various sized platens, with clamshell or swing away heating elements, and with manual or automatic release features. Some heat presses are created for specific uses, such as the cap or mug presses. The maximum print size of your printer should match the platen size of your press.
Heat presses are recommended for professional and satisfying results simply because standard laminating devices and home hand irons can not get near the temperatures required for a reliable transfer. Sublimation transfers require anywhere from 375° to 425° F and demand serious force in pressing often from 40-80 psi. These temperatures and pressures are not possible with other heated device.
What sublimation can and can't do
- Imprint cotton shirts
- As mentioned before, sublimation needs polyester in order to complete the process of transfer. Sublimation will turn out best with only 100% polyester shirts. Cotton shirts should be completed with heat transfer paper.
- Imprint 65/35 and 50/50 shirts with bright colors
- Since a percentage of the shirt is still cotton, the sublimation ink does not have enough polyester to create a vivid transfer. The image will end up with dull colors, especially after washing. Again, using heat transfers for cotton shirts is really the best option.
- Imprint colored shirts
- Any colored background drastically alters the imprint colors. Since sublimation will become part of the shirt, any color already on the garment will overwhelm the transferred image.
- Imprint non-polymer-coated items
- Remember that sublimation is printing into the coating, not the item.
- Imprint gold/silver metal used by award companies
- This is another instance where the background color of the substrate will interfere with the image.