5 Things to Do with Sublimation in 2020

If you sublimate,  you already know it’s a versatile decoration discipline which can be used on fabric and on hard goods.   Part of what makes sublimation fun is the fact that it offers possibilities for a lot of different decoration options,  and has less of a learning curve than some other decoration techniques.    If you’re new to sublimation,  or have only stuck to using sublimation on one particular type of item,  you may not be taking advantage of the full spectrum of what sublimation can offer.   Switch up your sublimation routine by trying some of these options in 2020.

  1. Patches –  Whether you want to sublimate the patches yourself,  or buy them already sublimated,  sublimated patches can be a great profit center.   They’re a perfect way to add decoration to items that otherwise wouldn’t be easy to decorate.   Patches can also serve as the cornerstone for a hat or garment line.
  2. Wrap it Up –  Want to try mugs or shot glasses,  but not sure you want to invest in a press (which wouldn’t work for shot glasses anyway)?  Invest in a mug wrap or a shot glass wrap and a convection oven.  This method is likely to cost less than most quality mug presses and gives you a way to investigate your market without committing to a press you may not need or continue to use.
  3. Ornaments:  Not Just for Christmas – If you’re interested in entering the souvenir market,  ornaments may be a great way to start.  Not only are they available in a variety of shapes,  like states,  they’re also fairly easy to sublimate and something people are likely to buy as keepsakes and mementos.    They’re also easy to display and don’t take up a lot of valuable retail space.  Sublimated ornaments are also easy to personalize.
  4. Take Your Show on the Road – One of the advantages of a sublimation system (certainly a SG400 at least)  is that it’s portable and doesn’t require an elaborate set-up or electrical options.  There are also plenty of stock designs that can be queued up to be printed on demand.  Take your system to a craft fair,  a sporting event or a festival and print unique, personalized items that fit the theme of the event.
  5. Create your own personal, freeform sublimated designs – If you don’t have a sublimation system,  you can still create sublimated designs.  Artesprix Permanent Thermal Sublimation Transfer Markers are the perfect way to preserve children’s artwork or to give the adult artist in your life free reign.   The markers can be used on plain paper, and the drawn designs can be added to your item of choice with an iron (although a heat press is recommended for best results).  Make hand turkeys for Thanksgiving.  Preserve your child’s first handwritten notes.  The possibilities are endless.

T’was the Night Before Christmas – Sublimation Version

Christmas is coming soon, so I figured it was a good time to share this.   It’s a parody of T’was the Night Before Christmas with a sublimation theme.  I first wrote it in 2011 and it’s become something of a holiday tradition.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the shop
All the printers were printing and going non-stop
The pressers were pressing with all of their might
For presents, for Christmas, were needed that night

The t-shirts were folded up neatly and boxed
And dreaming of sublimation transfers that rocked
And mamma in her apron and I in the same
Were printing sports jerseys with numbers and names

When out front of the shop there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my work to see what was the matter
Away to the entrance I stumbled pell-mell
Threw open the door and screamed out “What the … bell?”

I clung to the doorframe, exhausted and drawn
Wondering where all the daylight had gone
A miniature sleigh, and Santa, plus eight
Reminded me quickly that orders were late.

The little old driver, that lively St. Nick
Cried, “Bring me those orders, and move them out quick!”
Bring mousepads, bring mugs and t-shirts galore
Bring bookmarks and puzzles and tote bags and more!

Now Printer, you know this, stop looking so ill
There’s children, world over, with stockings to fill
Bring jerseys; bring car flags, and maybe a plaque
But hurry, please hurry and fill up my sack!

I’d never made claim to being an elf,
But found, by St. Nick, I could not help myself
The printers sprayed color, the heat presses pressed
And presents were finished for Santa’s great quest

The last transfer was printed, the last item dyed
When I turned to find Santa smiling by my side
“Printer you’ve done it!” he said with a grin
And his sack started bulging as the last gift went in

Whether mugs for a latte, plain coffee or tea
A puzzle, a clipboard, a box for jewelry
A key chain or shirt with a logo so bright
There’ll be happy children with gifts made this night

How Santa’s eyes twinkled, his belly it shook
As he gave me the kindest and nicest of looks
His laughter was merry, his praise much desired
My gifts had passed muster and were much admired

As I stood in my shop, all the gifts finally made
The stress of the holidays started to fade
Personalized gifts, sublimated, jolly and fun
Would delight gift recipients, every last one

With a wink and a nod Santa sprang to his sleigh
Gave a flip of the reins and was flying away
His bag bulging with presents, his sleigh loaded down
He set off to being joy to every city and town

I laughed as I saw him, that jolly old elf
Flying off with gifts made by my very own self
With his bag full of pet tags and beer mugs and all
I waved as he flew off and then heard him call

Hey Printer, keep working, there’s always next year
And I’ll be returning now never you fear
Until then, keep printing, with colors so bright
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sublimation vs. Heat Transfer Vinyl

One of the fun things about garment decoration is the fact that there are so many methods of decoration from which to choose.   Two of the popular methods for which EnMart sells supplies are sublimation and heat transfer vinyl (HTV).  These methods share some of the same characteristics,  they both need to be applied with heat, for example,  but they’re also offer many different options when it comes to decorated goods.   Given that,  how do you know which option is the right option for your project?  Here are some guidelines that may help you with that decision.

First of all,  while both decoration disciplines work with heat,  the heat required for sublimation is much higher.   For polyester shirts or poly coated hard goods,  that won’t matter and sublimation is a great option.   If you’re working with fragile fabrics or items that have a low melting point,  you’re going to want to work with the EasyWeed Vinyl, which seals at a lower temperature.

Second,  what color is the item in you’ll be decorating?  It sounds like a silly question,  but sublimation works best on light colored garments and items.   HTV,  on the other hand,  is not effected by the color of the item onto which it is put.  So,  if you’re working with a dark or strongly colored item,  you might want to opt for heat transfer vinyl as opposed to sublimation.  (Although, side note,  tone on tone sublimation can be a very attractive option,  and works well as long as the fabric is lighter than the print. )

Third question,  what sort of fabric are you using,  or what type of coating does the item you’re decorating have?   As stated earlier,  sublimation only works with polyester fabric and poly coated items.   If it isn’t polyester or poly coated,  it can’t be sublimated.   For other fabrics,  or items without a polyester coating,  HTV is your option.

Fourth,  does the decoration you’re adding include a photo?   While vinyl cutters are great for cutting out designs and silhouettes,  and there are such things as printable vinyls,   the sort of vinyl EnMart sells is probably not the best option for photos.   When you want to add a photo realistic image to something,  sublimation is the decoration discipline with the major advantage.   You can print your exact photo on to the sublimation paper and transfer that directly to your garment or hard good.

Don’t forget,  there’s always the option of using heat transfer vinyl and sublimation together,  either by sublimating the vinyl,  or by combining the two disciplines in a mixed media decoration.    The effects offered by some of the vinyls,  like Holographic or Glitter,  can be very complimentary to the sublimation and add a little extra eye catching glamour to the design.

 

How Do I Use Sublimation Transfer Markers?

For those who are new to Artesprix Permanent Thermal Heat Transfer Markers,  let’s first start with what they are.    Basically,  this is sublimation ink in a marker,  which means you don’t need a printer to create sublimated products.   These markers are a great option for preserving children’s artwork,  creating a one of a kind craft project and personalizing almost anything that’s polyester or poly coated.    If you’re a great free hand artist,  these markers would allow you to create original works of sublimated art.

Unlike using a sublimation printer and sublimation ink cartridges,  these markers allow art to be drawn on any type of paper and then sublimated on to the polyester garment or poly coated item of choice.  The first step is to make your drawing,  it can be line art or colored in as you prefer.   The next step is to press your drawing onto the item you want to embellish.    You can use an iron (making sure not to use steam and have the iron on its highest setting)  but the best results will probably come from using a heat press.

One little quirk of the process is that the final product is a mirror image,  so any text will need to be reversed in the drawing if it is to come out properly in the completed version of the product.  Stencils or light boxes might be helpful for this part of the process.

Once you’ve completed your drawing,  secure it to the item you want to sublimate with thermal heat tape.   The tape will secure the drawing and ensure it doesn’t move during the transfer process.  Heat tape, rather than regular tape, is necessary since sublimation requires a fairly high temperature.   Make sure to remove any protective covering on the item you’re sublimating as well.

Place the securely taped blank and drawing under a heat source.   For best results, the manufacturer of the markers recommends using a heat press.  As stated earlier,  the temperature,  time and pressure used with the press will vary based on the item being decorated.    If using an iron,  use the highest heat setting with no steam.   You will need to press (hold the iron on the transfer and keep it stationary) for anywhere from one to five minutes.    Mugs can also be put in an oven using a mug wrap.   Remember that you should never leave a transfer under a heat source unattended.

Once the press is complete,  allow your item to cool and carefully remove the transfer.   You should now have a unique decorative item or garment customized with your hand drawn artwork.   Artesprix Markers come in a 10 pack and include the following colors: yellow, magenta, orange, red,  light blue, green, dark blue, purple, brown and black.

5 Tips for Selling Sublimation with Pinterest

For those who may not have heard one of my rants regarding how valuable a tool Pinterest can be for decorators,  I thought I’d recap.   Because Pinterest is about aspiration and ideas,  it’s a great place to sell the work decorators do.   It’s especially great for sublimation because a lot of people don’t know what dye sublimation is or what can be done with it.   Creating boards on Pinterest allows you to essentially create a lookbook or a gallery where your customers can browse,  learn about sublimation,  and get ideas for products they may want to buy for themselves.   If you’re a sublimation business and don’t have Pinterest boards,  you should set some up immediately.   Here are some tips to get the most out of your Pinterest account.

#1Set up a business account –  A Pinterest business account will offer anyalytics and other tools that a regular account won’t offer.  It’s also something you need if you want to offer buyable pins.    Business accounts also allow for advertising,  something a basic account does not do.

#2 – Follow strategically – You’re setting up the accounts to draw in new business and to educate your customers,  so you want to be sure you’re information is getting to the right people.   Figure out who your target market is and where they are on Pinterest and then make sure your information is in those places.    You can have the best boards in the world,  but if they’re not seen by the right people,  it won’t matter.

#3 – A picture is worth a thousand words – Pinterest is all about the visuals,  so make sure you have the best pictures you can possibly take.   While captions and informative descriptions are helpful,  it’s the picture that’s the first introduction to the product.  Make sure that introduction is a good one.

#4 – Educate your customers – A lot of people don’t understand what sublimation is,  so make sure your boards do more than just showcase the products you can create.   Give glimpses of the process and behind the scenes.   Help potential customers understand what dye sublimation is and what it can do.   The more your customers understand what can be done,  the more likely they are to ask you to do it.

#5 – Create boards around a specific theme – If there’s a particular product you like to make,  or a particular market to which you’d like to sell,  create boards that target that theme.   One of the things people do on Pinterest is try to get ideas,  for a party,  for a gift,  for an event and so on.   If you want to do items for family reunions create a family reunion board where you show pictures of families using and wearing your work,  showcase new ideas you have for family reunion themed merchandise,  and maybe even include tips about planning a reunion.   Same for schools or clubs or whatever you might want to target.  Specific boards tend to sell better than general boards,  as you’re narrowing in on a target and providing the info your potential customers need all in one place.

Choosing Sublimation Mugs

By Tom Chambers

As one of the most popular of all sublimation blank items, mugs are available in a variety of styles and rim, handle, and/or interior colors.  But the most common of them all is the omnipresent 11 ounce white “C” handle coffee mug.  These are available from a wide range of manufacturers, distributors, and resellers, in almost as wide of a variety of quality levels.  All of these mugs are not created equal, and if you find some bargain mugs and have problems with image quality, soft coatings, or shape irregularities, any cost savings go out the window.

So just how do you go about the task of choosing mugs to sublimate?  Here are 5 basic tips that will ensure you pick the right mugs.

  1. Buy from a reputable supplier. First and foremost, you want to buy your mugs from someone who has a reputation for selling quality products at a good price, with great customer service in case you do have questions or a problem.   Someone like us here at EnMart.  Yes, I am admittedly biased, but to be fair, there are some other reputable suppliers out there as well.
  2. Mugs should be perfectly round with straight and smooth sides. All mugs have a slight taper or curve to the top rim and bottom edge.  This is to assist removing the mugs from the mold when they are made.  That curve should be very minimal though, with the area between the top and bottom of the mug as smooth and straight as possible, and perfectly round.  That lets your press provide even pressure and heat to produce the best image quality, with full top-to-bottom printing around the entire mug being easily achievable. Lower quality mugs can have uneven sides, larger curves and tapers on either the top or bottom, and can even be out of round.  All these things can make it challenging to get a good print, and nearly impossible to print full top-to-bottom.  If this happens to you, then you are buying the wrong mugs, and should definitely give our high quality mugs a try.
  3. Mugs should always have a hard coating. All coatings are not made equal either, and there’s a big difference in how a hard and soft coating sublimates.  Soft coatings typically require lower temperatures to sublimate, or you’ll wind up softening the coating up so much the paper will stick to the mug to where you may never get it off. Hard coatings, on the other hand, don’t get soft until a much higher temperature, so your paper isn’t likely to stick at all.  Another huge plus is that hard coatings are dishwasher safe, and the images you put onto these mugs will last for years – much longer than any softer coated mugs.
  4. Mugs should always have a smooth, even coating. Inferior coatings may have visible blemishes, or even thin areas in the coating.  You may even see spots where there is no coating, and no coating equals no sublimation.  You want to see a smooth, glossy finish with no imperfections.
  5. Mugs should sublimate with full, rich color. Even if you follow all of the above tips, there is no substitute for sublimating a mug and seeing what it looks like.  Assuming all of your settings are correct and there are no issues with your sublimation system, you should see rich vibrant color similar to the image on your monitor.  If not, you might have mugs with a lower quality coating.

The bottom line is that if you are using the correct settings, proper sublimation ink, quality sublimation paper, and a well made mug press, then you should expect no less than great results when you sublimate your mugs.  If you have light areas of thin color, can’t print all the way to the edge, have poor and dull colors, or any other quality issue, then it might be time to look for a new mug.  After all, the price difference between a soft coated economy mug and a high quality hard coated mug usually isn’t more than a few cents anyway, and that can easily be recouped by eliminating wasted mugs and time, along with gaining a reputation for selling quality products.

Tom Chambers is EnMart’s sublimation guru,  the guide and mentor regarding all things sublimation.   Tom was instrumental in introducing inkjet sublimation to industrial laundries, and has been working with the process since the early days of thermal ribbon sublimation. 

Press to Mpres

by Tom Chambers

Sublimation paper can be the bane of the sublimation decorator’s existence if it doesn’t work right and fails in some manner.  Having a good quality paper is critical.  But the most expensive papers don’t always give you the best results, and the cheapest papers can leave you wanting something better.  Other issues can arise if your trusted paper brand suddenly and inexplicably changes their formulas, or wink, wink 😉 gets the paper from a different, i.e. cheaper, upstream supplier.

Here at EnMart, we know what it’s like when that happens; it’s happened to us in the past, and I’ve had to go on a quest for a new paper on more than one occasion.  I’ll spare you the long detailed stories and just tell you that one of the most important things you need in a sublimation paper is “stability”.  In other words, the paper you buy next year needs to have the same properties as the one you like to use today.

EnMart only uses and sells sublimation paper with the brand name of MPRÉS-II.  You know, kind of like “iMPRESs” which can mean “iMPRESsing” your artwork onto something, or maybe you’ll be “iMPRESsed” with how it works, and “iMPRESs” your customers with the quality of your finished products.  At any rate, we thought it was a clever name for a product that we were impressed with.  (Also, the “M” is a nod to our Merlin sublimation system that is used by rental uniform companies to create their own sublimated emblems for uniforms.)

MPRÉS-II is our brand name, but we don’t make it – and it is sold elsewhere under various other names for a variety of prices.  We try to sell it for a fair price relative to its cost though, even though we could probably package it in fancy boxes with full color labels and sell it for more money.  Instead, we’d rather pass along the savings to our customers, and even though our packaging is rather generic looking, it doesn’t mean the paper is generic at all.

So what’s with the “II” (2) in the name?  Well, years ago, the paper we called MPRÉS stopped working the way it was supposed to because the manufacturer changed something.  Remember those paper quests and long stories I mentioned earlier?  At any rate, about a decade or so ago upon finding our current paper, one which closely mimicked the best properties of the original MPRÉS, we named it MPRÉS-II.  And that paper is the same today as it was last year, and the year before, and the years before that, all the way back to when our parent company, Ensign Emblem, began using it for making thousands of sublimated patches every day (which they still do).

What I’m saying is that MPRÉS has that required stability, and if someday it changes (which is VERY unlikely with the current manufacturer), then we’ll either find or make a paper that has similar properties and call it MPRÉS-III.  In other words, you don’t have to worry about sublimation paper stability when you buy MPRÉS from EnMart.

Ok, stability schma-bility you say, but what about quality, and how does it perform?  That’s a fair question, so let me tell you.

MPRÉS-II is what we call a hybrid sublimation paper, with some properties of a high release paper and some of the best properties of a quick drying (low release) paper. Because it is a hybrid, it isn’t quite as fast at releasing the sublimation dye as high release papers, where you have to worry about the ink remaining wet, smudging, curling, or even blow-out due to too much dye on the surface of the paper having nowhere to go when it releases so quickly.  At the same time, it still dries quickly and gives you a quicker release than low release, fast drying papers that take longer in the heat press, which can affect image quality.

MPRÉS-II is really the best of both worlds.  And that makes it a great choice for the only paper you ever need to use for sublimation – whether it’s fabrics, ceramics, glass, or metal.

For more in-depth reading on MPRÉS-II and sublimation paper in general, check out these two Sublistuff articles I wrote on this very subject all the way back in early 2010:

The Quest for Fire… er… Sublimation Paper, Part 1

The Quest for Fire… er… Sublimation Paper, Part 2

If you would like to try a sample few pages of MPRÉS-II paper, email us at mpres@myenmart.com and include your name, complete address, phone number, and mention this article.  We can’t send it to you without an address, and while this may seem like stating the obvious, you’d be amazed at just how many people just send an email saying “I’d like your sample pack” and nothing else.  We’d love for you to try our paper, but we aren’t psychic, so unless you tell us what to send and exactly where to send it, we have no idea.  After you try it, we’d appreciate it if you drop us a note letting us know what you think of it too.

9 Steps to Sublimation Success

By Tom Chambers

So you’ve decided to enter the world of sublimation.  Now what?  Where do you start?  What do you do first?  And most importantly, how do you make it a success?

There is so much information on the internet about sublimation these days that it can be overwhelming.  In fact, it’s much easier to be overwhelmed and confused than it is to just do it.  Yes, it really is that easy – and it’s fun too.

The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you how to create a business plan, how to go out and sell sublimation, or specifically what to charge for it.  It IS however a general guide to using your system to create a successful business.

A good starting point once you understand just what sublimation is (and isn’t), is to ask yourself these 6 questions.  But what if you’ve already done all your research, purchased a sublimation system and blanks, and now you are wondering where to go next?  In that case, here are some tips that will help you on your way to success.

  1. Set up your system. Yes, first, you have to take the system out of the box and set it up.  While that may seem obvious, you’d be surprised at the number of people that let it sit unused for months or years, whether from subli-timidation or some other reason.  But if you don’t set it up, you definitely won’t be successful, and the sooner you do it, the sooner you will succeed.
  2. Understand your equipment, and how to operate it. Realistically, if you are even slightly tech savvy, you can probably set up your sublimation system, turn on your heat press, and start sublimating something all without reading a single word.  But those instructions contain details that are important, like turning off color management in your chosen graphics program for example. So for the best results, read the instructions, follow them in order, and understand what you are doing – not just on your printer and computer, but your heat press(es) as well.
  3. Learn to use your chosen graphics program. There are several graphics programs available, but these 3 are the most common in sublimation.  A little study and practice will pay off many times over with better quality artwork, which ultimately translates into better looking products and hopefully more money for you.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Experiment on your chosen blanks, and make sure you always have extra.  Don’t assume that you will never make a mistake or ruin something – you will.  And don’t be afraid to make mistakes either.  It’s ok, and all part of the process.  No matter how many settings charts you manage to obtain, depending on the exact mix of equipment, blank products and manufacturers, you will likely have to do some troubleshooting and make a few adjustments that only reveal themselves with practice.
  5. Make samples. Whether you are selling on Etsy, Amazon, at a fair or trade show, or in your own storefront, you will need samples to make photos of and to show people.
  6. Sublimation is best suited for smaller orders and custom work. While that doesn’t necessarily mean you should turn down that order for 1000 mugs of the same design, most people expect a price reduction when ordering larger quantities.  Since sublimation costs you virtually the same amount of money per item to produce no matter the quantity, any price breaks come directly out of your pocket.  Sublimation is especially well suited for doing small orders and custom work.  As a result you can charge a premium price for it, and increase your profit margin.  So unless you have a wide format system and a large shop devoted to mass sublimation production, focus on smaller and custom orders for the most profit.
  7. Know your market. Simply put, know who you are selling to, what they want to buy, and how much they’re willing to pay.  That’s easier said than done though, and will likely require some research on your part – but this step is very important to your success.  Just because you have 3 other people doing sublimation on your block doesn’t mean there isn’t room for you too – especially if you are doing something they aren’t.  And if everyone you know is doing performance apparel – that doesn’t mean you should too (unless there’s more business to go around than your competition can handle).
  8. Don’t compete solely on price. Ah, the price trap.  Many people make the mistake of falling into this pit of constantly lowering prices until there really isn’t any incentive for you to do sublimation any longer.  Here’s the thing – there will ALWAYS be someone that will beat your price, somewhere.  Set your prices for the item you are selling and area you are in and the amount of profit you require.  If you can’t compete on service and quality in this case without losing on pricing, then consider making other items that aren’t as highly competitive on price.
  9. Offer good service and quality. Service and quality go a long way to make up for price differences.  There will always be those people who buy solely on price, but chances are that whomever they do wind up buying from will wind up sacrificing either or both service and quality in the process, and sooner or later that customer will most likely wind up back at your shop or website.

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but the 9 basic principles here will create a sound foundation for you to build on.  Or maybe you have already created a successful business doing sublimation, and if so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments with your own steps to success.

Tom Chambers is EnMart’s sublimation guru,  the guide and mentor regarding all things sublimation.   Tom was instrumental in introducing inkjet sublimation to industrial laundries, and has been working with the process since the early days of thermal ribbon sublimation. 

Sublimation vs. Printed Transfers

by Tom Chambers

This article is intended to be a summarized comparison between two very popular methods of garment and promotional decoration.  While much of it has already been covered in more detailed fashion elsewhere in this blog, this summary is a general guide to better enable you to make an informed choice between two very different methods.

Sublimation

Sublimation is both a process and a bit of science, and is a unique method of decorating.  When you sublimate, you print a dye onto a special paper.  When you put the paper on something made of or coated with polyester or a polyester polymer, and put it in a heat press, the heat turns the dye into a gas, which then permanently dyes the item by penetrating and bonding with the polyester molecules.

  • Sublimation requires a system comprised of a printer, special ink and paper, graphics software on a computer, a heat press and/or an oven, and a variety of blank products to sublimate.
  • Sublimation is NOT a “transfer”. There is no transfer paper with a transfer film. There is no feel or residue.
  • Sublimation works only on polyester (such as performance apparel), or special polymer coated blank items. If you sublimate 50/50 poly-cotton, you’ll get 50% reduced image quality for a worn look (or use ChromaBlast paper for a hybrid subli-transfer solution).
  • Once fabric is sublimated, it IS permanent. Bleach won’t even faze it.
  • Sublimation looks best on white or light colored items. There is NO white ink. You can NOT sublimate onto anything darker than the actual color(s) you are trying to sublimate.
  • Sublimation is arguably one of the least expensive, yet most versatile methods of decoration available, capable of decorating thousands of different items in addition to apparel, with photo quality artwork.
  • Sublimation is perfect for smaller orders and custom work with high profit margins.

Printed Transfers

Printed transfers are, as the name implies, printed, and then transferred.  Other than the fact that you print your artwork and press it, there is very little similarity with sublimation at all.  Transfers are printed onto a special paper, and then the actual print itself is transferred over to the item when you press it.

In general, printed transfer systems can be divided into a couple of types.  Inkjet – ranging from home printers to pro systems such as ChromaBlast; and Laser – both home and professional laser transfers, and also ones that print white that eliminate the need for transfer film based papers and trimming.

  • All transfer systems regardless of type require a printer, ink or toner, transfer paper, a heat press (an iron can be used for some small home based systems), graphics software, and various products to transfer to.
  • There are many different transfer papers available, usually specific to the type of system. Most have a film that carries over the ink or toner to the t-shirt or other item that must be trimmed to avoid leaving excess film residue.  Utilization of a self-weeding type paper can eliminate the need for trimming, but can have mixed results depending on the paper and process used.  Laser printer self-weeding papers tend to produce better results vs. inkjet self-weeding paper.
  • Whether you are doing white and light colored items or dark colors determine the type of transfer paper you will use on many systems. A vinyl cutter is also recommended for trimming the paper close to the edges of your design (except for self weeding paper types).
  • Dark shirts or items require either a white transfer layer to print on, or the ability for the printer to print white. Designs on dark fabrics using the white transfer layer will have a heavier feel to them as a result.  Laser transfers printed with white ink instead are not as thick, but do still have some feel to them (as will any method of printing transfers for dark t-shirts).
  • Printed transfers are a relatively inexpensive method of producing full color graphics for small to medium size orders of t-shirts and other cotton and cotton blend goods at a lower price point. Some can even transfer to polyester as well.

Inkjet

  • Home Office: Simply use your existing regular printer and ink, buy some transfer paper designed for this method from an office supply store or other source, and use an iron or heat press.  Results vary, but generally this method doesn’t create long-wearing and lasting transfers, and is more for occasional hobby use and novelty gifts.  This is the least expensive type of transfer method and system, and quality can be an issue.
  • Pro: There are a variety of larger, professional inkjet systems on the market with different inks and transfer papers that provide a wide range of results that are used mostly for cotton and cotton blends.  This system is somewhat more expensive, but in general you should expect longer lasting designs and better overall quality vs. the home office type setup.  Some inkjet systems purport to be able to transfer to other blank goods besides garments.
  • Chromablast: A pro level inkjet system that is sold by EnMart is the ChromaBlast inkjet transfer system, which offers a high quality long lasting transfer with a soft feel.

With ChromaBlast, a strong, yet stretchable and breathable bond forms between the film, the ink, and the cotton, and most of the extra untrimmed residue where there is no ink will wash out with the first washing.  This wash also makes the transfer feel even softer.

ChromaBlast is designed for use on light colored or white COTTON fabrics ONLY, utilizing proprietary ChromaBlast Transfer Paper.  It CAN be used on dark garments though with other specialty transfer papers such as ChromaDARK, which will have a heavier feel and should be closely trimmed for best results.  In spite of those limitations, ChromaBlast is relatively inexpensive and higher quality compared to many other systems.

Laser

  • Home Office: Similar to the home office inkjet, you can purchase transfer papers from a variety of places to work with your single color or color home laser printer.  Slightly better results than the home office inkjet, but still not a pro level system.
  • Pro: One of the more expensive printed transfer type systems to purchase, it has some of the best results overall on both light and dark colors.  Excellent self-weeding papers are available that eliminate excess transfer film without having to trim.  Having no restrictions as to cotton or polyester, and added abilities to do laser transfers to mugs and many other items are a bonus.
  • White: Simply put, these laser print transfer systems come with all the advantages of the Pro Laser category, and also have the capability of printing white toner – eliminating the need for that thick white transfer film on the transfer paper.  There is no trimming needed either, and you have the ability to do full color printing onto both light and dark colors.  Even though this extra ability comes at a significant increase in system cost, the finished per unit cost is low enough to provide good profit margins.
Tom Chambers is EnMart’s sublimation guru,  the guide and mentor regarding all things sublimation.   Tom was instrumental in introducing inkjet sublimation to industrial laundries, and has been working with the process since the early days of thermal ribbon sublimation.