Like most decoration techniques, sublimation does have a learning curve, although it’s considerably less steep than some other decoration options. Still, if you’re just starting out, or even if you’ve been creating sublimated goods for a while, there are probably things you don’t know that could help you create sublimated items a little faster and a little better. Every once in a while we like to do a sort of round-up post where we list some sublimation hints and tips, in the hope of assisting our customers in their quest for the best possible sublimated product.
Cool, man! A basic step in the sublimation process is letting items cool. Make sure the transfer paper is removed quickly when the item comes off the press, and make sure items are laid out separately and not overlapped when cooling. An item like a sublimated mug can be cooled in a room temperature bucket of water. Make sure the water is not too cold, as that could cause the mug to crack.
Humidity is the Enemy! Moisture can make a mess of your sublimated supplies, so it’s always good to make sure humidity is kept to safe levels. Protect your sublimation paper from humidity by keeping it in a plastic bag, or a resealable bin. If you’re worried the paper you’re using is too moist, set it on your press for a few seconds. The warmth will help remove excess moisture from the paper. The pre-press technique can also work for garments. Also, using a cover that absorbs moisture, like newsprint, in place of Teflon can help eliminate moisture problems. Just make sure to change out the absorbent cover sheet after every press.
The Heat is On! One of the most common issues that cause sublimation failure is a heat press that isn’t heating up to the correct temperature. Yes, the gauge may show the proper reading, but the actual temperature of the press can vary widely. Make sure to test the temperature of your press frequently, using either a heat gun or temperature test strips, to make sure the press is actually heated up to the required temperature.
Stick to It! Heat tape is probably one of the most underrated items in your sublimation arsenal, but it’s a must have for every shop. Use it to keep your transfers securely positioned on your blanks. Make sure not to tape across the image area, instead securing the transfers on the sides. Another useful item is a strong adhesive tape, which can be used to secure sublimated images onto things like pendants or belt buckles.
Primary Colors! Anyone who prints on an inkjet printer knows about nozzle checks, but they might not be as familiar with primary charts. A good primary chart will show solid blocks of color without any lines or gaps. Running a primary chart and a nozzle check is definitely a good idea if you haven’t used your printer for a while. For details on how to run a primary chart from your Virtuoso printer, visit this blog post from Sawgrass Ink.