successful sublimation

6 Keys to Successful Sublimation

Kristine Shreve is the Director of Marketing for EnMart and parent company Ensign Emblem. She developed and writes two blogs—the EnMart Threaducuate blog and the SubliStuff blog. Shreve also maintains the EnMart Twitter account and Facebook page. She can be reached via email at kristine.shreve@myenmart.com

One of the beauties of sublimation is that it isn’t limited to one type of item. You don’t have just to embellish garments, just work with fabric, or just work with hard goods. It's a method that allows you to decorate a wide variety of items, some fabric, some hard goods, and some in the middle of the spectrum. While each specific piece will have its own unique characteristics and application needs, there are some universal fundamentals. Here are six pointers to help you sublimate almost any substrate whether it's poly T-shirts, puzzles, mugs, or mousepads. 

Tip 1: Each item is different. Read the instructions and always test. It’s easy to assume that a polyester shirt is the same regardless of manufacturer, but that isn’t always true. Read the instructions specific to the item and test it before going into the full production run. Each heat press, batch of ink, and substrate will react a little differently. Consider purchasing one extra item to test out. This can save you a ton of money by avoiding ruined items down the line.

Tip 2: Too much moisture is a bad thing. If the environment you're room working in is too humid, it can cause issues with your paper and substrate. Sublimation paper must be stored in a cool, dry place. If your paper seems too moist, put it on your press for several seconds to evaporate any moisture. Press garments for 10 seconds if they’re retaining more moisture than they should. It may also be a good idea to use an absorbent cloth or a non-textured paper towel behind your transfer to absorb any excess moisture.

Tip 3: Don’t leave the transfer on the garment or substrate for too long. This tip may be especially relevant when it comes to ceramics, like tiles or mugs. Quickly removing the transfer helps prevent ghosting of the image and prevents the paper from sticking. 

Tip 4: Make sure you have the right pressing time. Press your item for too few seconds, and you won’t get a good print. In the case of T-shirts, you may even get a print that washes out too quickly because the ink hasn’t had enough time to dye the fibers. Press the item for too long, and you could get image fade on fabric or ghosting on ceramic. Double check the instructions for the substrate you’re pressing to be sure you’re sublimating at the right time and temperature.

Tip 5: You will make a mistake. Deal with it. In my opinion, one of the main problems novice sublimators have is the fear that they’ll make a mistake and ruin an expensive blank. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this will happen. Plan for it to happen, deal with it when it does happen, and move on. Don’t let fear of making a mistake stop you from ever trying at all.

Tip 6: Information is your friend. The more you know, the better you can sublimate. Industry suppliers host a gamut of how-to videos and webinars that can help teach you to sublimate on certain items. Look for blogs that offer tips and encouragement. Forums like T-shirt Forums or the ADF Forum have whole sections devoted to sublimation.