What is Sublimation?
Dye sublimation is defined as the process of solid dye particles changing into gas using heat and pressure, then bond with any polymers (Polyester) present, and change back into a solid. Using these inks and a special ink-jet paper, we are able to create sublimation transfers. With a heat press and the accurate time, temperature & pressure we can complete the process by applying the printed transfer on to one of a million blanks products. When the heating cycle is completed, the image on the paper has been transferred to the item and has actually become a part of the surface. You can run your finger across the surface of sublimation and you will feel nothing.
Sublimation also allows for bright colors and photograph quality images to be transferred to a variety type of light colored Imprintables. Another words, anything white or light in color with a 100% polyester or poly coated will accept a sublimation transfer. T-Shirts, Mouse Pads, Mugs, Ceramic & Glass Tiles, License Plates, Business Cards, Trophy plates, Dog-Tags, etc…The possibilities are endless.
Sublimation does not use films that carry ink or toner that sits on top of the fabric. Rather, it is a dye that penetrates the fiber of the fabric. Sublimation can give you the nicest feeling transfer of any process. However, like with any technology there are limitations. The substrates must be 100% poly and white or light, this eliminates any dark garments from the sublimation process. Most of the time the polyesters shirts are more costly than a 50/50 or 100% cotton. The best way to sell sublimation is to show sublimation. Let your customers make the decision. In the case of shirts let them chose between, screen-print, heat-transfer, vinyl cut materials embroidery, etc…Price each shirt based on quantity and technology. (Consider time, cost of blank, ink, thread, minimums, etc…) One thing I can almost guarantee is your customer will tell you what process they want and what they are willing to pay based on you placing it on their hand and letting them make the choice.
To get started in sublimation you will need just a small investment. A computer with a graphics program, usually a scanner and or digital camera, a printer which can or is running sublimation inks, a print-driver to tell the printer what substrate you wish to heat apply to, a heat-press (mug press and cap press, if you wish to imprint those items) and products to sublimate. All of which The Paper Ranch can assist you with.
Making Money with Sublimation
The time required to print a sublimation transfer is determined by the size, the ink coverage and the speed of the specific printer. A large image having 100% color coverage on a smaller format printer is going to take 3-4 times longer than a smaller image with moderate ink coverage on a newer and larger printer. The other time factor in heat applying the transfer is determined by the substrate being used. On the low end fabric transfers can take as little as 25 -35 seconds to complete. On the high end, more dense materials like tiles may require 4-7 minutes (depending on size) to give optimum color reproduction.
Margins on these products can range from 100% to more than 1000% depending on the quality and novelty of the item being used.
Knowing your local market is important. Health clubs, gyms, running clubs love the micro fiber sublimation shirts. Realtors are always looking for unique gift ideas for their clients. Personalized cutting boards, tile trivets featuring the new home make memorable choices. Anyone with a car could enjoy a custom license plate featuring a favorite interest along with other personalization. Mugs are a perennial best seller particularly with a special photo, logo or phrase.
One of our largest sublimation customers says that he loves selling sublimation products particularly on the hard surface substrates like the license plates, mugs and dog tags. He says that the vividness of the photo is striking. The depth of the color saturation is amazing. He feels great about selling sublimation because his customers are getting phenomenal products.
Dye Sublimation Start-Up Packages
Congratulations on your decision to enter the lucrative market of selling customized heat transfer items. The Paper Ranch has developed strong relationships with the transfer paper mills, heat press manufacturers, ink companies and the other necessary suppliers to provide you a One-Stop Source for all your Heat Transfer needs. Click here to visit our standard Start Up Packages or call us at 1-877-777-2624 for a customized start up package.
Types of Sublimation Printers
Epson printers are most common used because of the piezo printheads used are more suitable for dispensing the sublimation inks. However, not all Epson printers are used because the ink manufacturers will only select specific models in various size formats at a given time.
We recommend that you buy a separate printer for sublimation use. Switching back and forth between sublimation and regular inks is not recommended when you mix the two ink types neither ink type will do the job that it was designed to do. To clear ink out of the lines is an expensive proposition.
Types of Sublimation Inks
Sublimation ink has dye particles that do not bloom or attain their full color until they are exposed to high heat (about 385- 400 degrees F). So the color that you see on the sublimation transfer paper will not be the same color that will be produced on the sublimation product after the paper has been transferred in the heat press. That is why having a good color control program is critical. The Paper Ranch distributes Sawgrass and ArTainium Inks.
All sublimation products must be either polyester, specific plastic materials (like FRP) or coated with a plastic coating that will be receptive to the sublimation inks. The sublimation inks are not compatible with natural materials like cotton, silk, wood etc.
Some of the more popular and interesting products that can be customized using sublimation include high tech apparel, glossy finish puzzles, license plates, jewelry, holiday ornaments and can or bottle insulators.
Types of Heat Presses
Flat platen heat presses are the type of heat presses that are used for at least 90% of the sublimation products. These flat presses are available in basically two designs either a clam shell press which is hinged at the back or a swing away press which allows the top platen to swing or move to the side. If shirts and other thin items are going to be the main products then either style press will work well. If thicker products, like tiles are going to be pressed, then the swing away press may be a better choice. The flat platen presses start as small as 9” x12” and go to 20 x 25” in standard production models. Custom presses in much larger sizes can be ordered from several manufacturers.
For products having a curved surface special presses are available. The mug press is specially designed to close around the curved surface of a mug or stein while applying even heat and pressure.
Cap presses are easy to use and very popular for sublimation. Some presses can be ordered with interchangeable platen sizes to accommodate the various types including golf, baseball and youth caps.
Below are links to the instructions are for our products. All instructions are in printable pdf files and can be easily saved to your computer. Please contact our Technical Support Department at 877-777-2624 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, please visit our Tips and Tricks Blog to learn some new techniques and common challenges companies like your’s face everyday.
Sublimation Inks Information
- Sawgrass Inks Competitive Sales Information
- Sawgrass SubliJet IQ Sublimation Ink Brochure
o SubliJet IQ Features and Benefits
o SubliJet IQ Heat Transfer Instructions
- Epson 4000 Red & Blue XG Sublimation Ink
- Epson C86 Sublimation Printer Brochure
- Epson 1280 Sublimation Printer Brochure
- Epson R1800 Sublimation Printer Brochure
o ArTainium UV Sublimation Inks for Epson R1800
- Epson 4000 Sublimation Printer Brochure
o Epson 4000 Red & Blue XG Sublimation Ink
- PowerDriver IQ Color Management Software Brochure
- PowerDriver XG8 Color Management Software Brochure
o PowerDriver XG8 Color Management Software Flyer
Sublimation Tile Information
- TEC Tile Information Brochure
- TEC Tile Film Retail Pricing Guide