Earlier today I got a call from a customer who had a question about buying a mug press. We sold this customer her sublimation system, the blanks she uses, and got her started using an oven and mug wraps. She’s doing a nice business selling her original artwork which she puts on the mugs, and was very happy with this method of sublimation until the oven she was using broke. She purchased a replacement oven, but it didn’t seem to work as well, and she called us asking about purchasing a mug press.
Now we sell a high end mug press from Geo. Knight, and it’s a press I’d recommend to anyone. Our parent company has used Geo. Knight presses for years, and we know they’re well made, and well supported. I have no problem advising a customer that a Geo, Knight press is a great buy, except when I can tell from what the customer is saying to me that the Knight press, while a great purchase, isn’t really what the customer wants and needs.
In this case, the customer wasn’t sure she wanted a press at all, and certainly wasn’t sure she wanted to spend what it would cost to buy the Knight. I explained why the Knight press was worth the price, but she was still hesitant, so I recommended a few other places, friendly competitors of ours, where she might find presses that were less expensive. I told her if we couldn’t have the sale, I’d rather that it went to a company I knew would treat her right.
She was still unsure, so we talked a bit more. As it turned out, she liked working with an oven, had the process down pat, and found the results were great. The only reason she was considering a mug press was because her current oven wasn’t giving her the results she wanted, her previous, more expensive oven that had worked beautifully had died, and she was under the gun to finish orders. As we talked, she realized she really didn’t want a mug press at all, that she was just stressed about making her order deadlines and grasping for solutions. By the time we’d hung up, she had decided to go out and get another higher end oven and proceed with the sublimation method that she liked and knew to be successful.
If there is a moral to my little story, and I think there is, it is this: our interactions aren’t about us, they’re about you. At EnMart, we believe that our job is to listen to what you need and help you find the best way to meet those needs. If meeting your needs involves selling you products we carry, that’s great, we are a business after all. If meeting your needs means directing you elsewhere and recommending a solution that may not put any money in our pockets at all, we’ll do that. Our goal is always, if we can, to create a happy customer and one who comes back to shop with us again and again.
People who are not currently sublimating often ask why they need to add dye sublimation (often just referred to as sublimation for brevity’s sake) to the decoration processes their shop offers. Now, let me say up front, no one needs to add sublimation to their shop. If you choose not to offer sublimation services, the world will not spin off its axis, a meteor will not hit your shop, and things will go along as they normally do without any horrific consequences. The only bad thing that will happen is that someone else in your market will be making a profit on sublimated goods and your shop will not. So, really the question is not why do you need to add sublimation to the decoration techniques your shop offers, but why you should want to add sublimation. Here are a few reasons why we think most shops would want to add sublimation.
1. It’s a new profit center – In order to stay profitable, shops need to diversify. While there are shops out there that do only one thing and make a living that way, most decorators have learned to offer a variety of decoration techniques. Sublimation is simply another decoration technique to have in your arsenal.
2. Sublimation opens up new products – If you’ve primarily decorated clothes, adding sublimation to your shop allows you to add hard goods, mugs, plaques and the like. There are a wide variety of sublimation blanks available for decoration and an equal variety of markets to which those goods can be sold. Adding sublimation gives your shop the ability to offer additional categories of goods, and to capture additional dollars when a client places a clothing order.
3. Financial barriers to entry are comparatively low – We’re not saying that sublimation is inexpensive, larger printer packages can be in the $1500 to $2000 range, and a quality heat press can add another few thousand dollars to that total, plus the price of blanks. Still, when comparing that cost to the cost of a new DTG printer or screen printing press, sublimation is a relatively economical way to get started in a new business.
4. The learning curve is fairly low – Yes, sublimation is a decoration discipline and, as such, it has its own quirks and tricks that need to be learned and understood. That said, if you can use graphics software, know how to print to an inkjet printer and understand how to use a heat press, you can sublimate. There are a number of resources out there to help you get started, and learning to produce a usable print should not be that difficult.
One of the most common questions about sublimation that we get asked is “what can I sublimate?”. It’s a common question because people either assume you can sublimate anything or they assume you can only sublimate items that are in some super secret special category to which not everyone has access. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Not every item is suitable for sublimation, as with most decoration disciplines, there are items that cannot be sublimated because of how they’re made, what they’re made of, or because they won’t fit properly into the heat presses or other heating methods available. On the other side of the coin, items suitable for sublimation are not some magically coated items that only a select few can use or buy. In reality, sublimation is really a fairly easy decoration discipline to enter and master. If you are thinking of starting a sublimation business or wondering what you can and can’t sublimate, here are a few pieces of information that should help you understand what you can sublimate and what may not be an ideal choice when it comes to sublimating a product.
The first thing you need to know is that hard goods suitable for sublimation need to be poly coated. This means, as I said in my last post, that you can’t go to the dollar store and buy a mug and sublimate it. Yes, there are sprays that can be used to coat items for sublimation, and going that route may be a viable choice for some people. For most people, however, the easiest route is to buy sublimation blanks already coated. This will ensure that you get a quality blank with a smooth coating that is designed to stand up to the temperatures needed to get a good sublimated print.
When it comes to sublimating fabric, 100% polyester fabric will always give you the best result. There are several t-shirt brands, among them Vapor Apparel, that make 100% polyester shirts that are comfortable to wear and have a nice feel. These shirts are designed especially for sublimation and come in an array of colors that are suitable for this decoration discipline.
People often ask if it is possible to sublimate a polyester blend, and the answer to that question is yes, with a qualification. Yes, you an sublimate a poly blend but, because it is a blend, the sublimation ink will only dye the poly fibers. This results in a more distressed look for your print. Some people find this sort of look attractive and desirable. Others do not. If you want a full color print, your best bet is to start with a garment that is 100% polyester. This will always produce your best and most colorful result.
Sublimation is actually fairly simple when you get right down to it. You need sublimation ink and sublimation paper and a blank suitable for sublimation. You need a heat source that can reach 400 degrees, either a heat press that can accommodate the blank you want to sublimate, or a wrap that can hold your transfer in place while the item is in an oven. Finally you need a blank that is suitable for sublimation and some graphic software to create the graphic you want to print. If you have all those things, you’re ready to sublimate.
We just started a series called Actual Advice, in which we answer questions from customers, on SubliStuff’s sister blog, EmbroideryTalk, and I thought it would be fun to have the same series over here. Often the best indication of what people need and want to know is in the questions they ask, and I figured it would be helpful to share the questions and answers here on this blog so more people can benefit. So, without further ado, here are a few questions we’ve been asked.
Question 1: Can you buy mugs from the dollar store and sublimate them? The first thing to say here is nothing is impossible. Yes, theoretically, you could buy mugs from the dollar store, buy a coating spray designed for sublimation, coat the mugs yourself and sublimate them. In practice, however, that’s a dicey proposition. Coating items for sublimation yourself is difficult, and getting the coating evenly applied can be problematic. Dollar store mugs may also be less sturdy and less able to stand up to the heat and pressure of a mug press. There’s also the fact that sublimating mugs this way won’t save you much. The cost of buying a dollar store mug, purchasing coating and the implements to apply that coating and then spending the time necessary to apply the coating would probably far outstrip the cost of buying drinkware for sublimation that is already professionally coated and prepared.
Question 2: Do you do sublimation tutorials at your EnMart locations? We do set up sublimation tutorials upon request, provided we have the necessary equipment and personnel available. We do keep printers set up in the R&D lab, but they are sold as demos after a certain period of time. The R & D heat press also tends to get sold at trade shows, as it doubles as our trade show press. On the plus side, this allows us to ensure that we have the latest equipment in the lab. On the minus side, it sometimes means that we don’t have the necessary equipment available. The other half of the equation is that our sublimation lab and our sublimation experts are at the company headquarters in Michigan, which is the only location that offers tutorials. If you are interested in a tutorial, and are able to come to the Michigan location, you can always contact us to see if we can set one up.
As some of you already know, Sawgrass has released a new line of sublimation printers, the Virtuoso line. There is a smaller printer, which can do up to 8.5 x 14 out of the box, and a larger printer, which prints 11 x 17 out of the box or larger sizes with the additional of a bypass tray. Along with the printers, they have also released sublimation design software, available online, called CreativeStudio.
If you have purchased a printer, or are considering purchasing a printer, you may have questions about this software. Here are some quick instructions for getting started with the software.
1. Download, install and register CS Print and Color Manager for Windows
2. You will receive an account activation e-mail. Once you have that, log in to CreativeStudio. Once you have logged in, it is recommended that you complete the training exercises in the Tutorials.
Once you’ve followed these two steps, you are ready to start creating.
Please keep in mind, once you register for the CS Print and Color Manager, you will receive two e-mails. One is a Registration Code E-mail, and the other is an Account Activation E-mail. The Account Activation e-mail should arrive within two business days. You will not have access to CreativeStudio until you receive the second e-mail.
You may also wish to register for a CreativeStudio orientation webinar or a CreativeStudio Q&A session. Q & A sessions are happening at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. EST on Monday, June 24, Monday July 8, Monday, July 22, Monday August 5, and Monday, August 19. When registering for a Q&A session, click on “Show my Time Zone” to choose the correct webinar for your location.
EnMart is starting out 2015 by slashing prices on our inventory of sublimation and ChromaBlast packages. If your New Year’s Resolution was to add an additional profit center to your business, there’s no better time than now. Take advantage of these great deals and be sublimating or printing ChromaBlast transfers by the weekend.
XT PRO Ricoh 7100 System – 13″ x 19″
Everything you need for production sublimation printing – the largest size Ricoh 7100 printer plus bypass tray for maximum size 13″ x 19″ prints, eXTended size ink cartridges, various sizes of Mpres paper, a spare waste ink tank – and more!
20% off full price – now only $1769
Standard Ricoh 7100 System – 11″ x 19″
Entry Ricoh 3110 System – 8.5″ x 11″
We all know that the beginning of the year is a time when many people embark on new adventures. If you’ve been thinking that 2015 is the year you should start that sublimation business you’ve been contemplating, EnMart can help.
The first place to start is in the sublimation category on the EnMart website. There you can see the printers available, a selection of the blanks that can be sublimated, and get an idea how much things like ink and paper will cost. You can also download the 2011 edition of the Dye Sublimation Bible. Although this book is now a few years old, it still provides a good basic overview of sublimation and how to sublimate various blank items.
Another helpful resource is this blog. From time to time, I write a series of posts that deal with a particular aspect of sublimation. It might be how to get started with sublimation, it might be how to sublimate a particular item, or it could be a discussion about paper or ink. The posts are designed to help you gain more knowledge about sublimation and how to successfully make it part of your business.
There are also a variety of magazines and trade organizations that deal with sublimation. Most magazines will have archives of back issues so you can find sublimation related articles you may have missed. The organizations all deal with sublimation in some form. In addition to those mentioned, you may also want to check out the Advertising Specialties Institute, which may be a useful resource when you’re working to find markets for your sublimated goods.
Sawgrass Technologies, the manufacturer of sublimation ink, provides a wide variety of helpful resources on their website. They offer webinars, videos and a library of articles about sublimation. They also offer technical support and advice should you have issues getting started with sublimation.
Keep in mind, the biggest resource for sublimation is the willingness to try something new and a comfort with the idea that you’ll probably mess things up once or twice. Sublimation is not hard to learn, but there are tricks and tips that can help you successfully sublimate almost any substrate suitable for sublimation. The resources listed above will help you learn what you need to know to make your sublimation business a success.