Sublimation, Direct to Garment and Transfers

Since we deal with sublimation,  and are becoming known as rather knowledgeable in that field,  and since we also create and sell screen print transfers,  we often get calls from people looking for garment decoration options.  Sometimes they want to know how a particular garment they’ve seen or been asked to duplicate was decorated.  Other times they’re simply looking for the most cost effective or easiest way to decorate a garment.   We once did a post that compared ChromaBlast to other cotton decoration techniques,  but I don’t believe we’ve ever covered the differences between sublimation and other techniques.  I thought I’d correct that today.

Let’s start with the one we deal with most often, sublimation. This type of decoration can be used on 100% polyester garments,  and can also be used on mugs, mousepads,  booksmarks and a variety of other items.  The only requirement is that the item be either 100% polyester material or be 100% poly coated.    The sublimation process bonds the ink to the garment or the coating,  so there is no hand.  The print literally becomes a part of the substrate.   Sublimation works only with light colored garments or items,  and cannot be used to create white images or for printing on dark colors.   In order to create a sublimation transfer,  you need a printer for which sublimation cartridges or inks are made,   sublimation ink,  and sublimation paper.

Next we’ll look at direct to garment printing.  Like sublimation,  direct to garment printing requires a special printer and special ink.   As the name implies,  direct to garment printing is done directly to the garment,  there are no transfers.  Direct to garment printers tend to be more expensive than sublimation printers,  and there may be more of a learning curve when it comes to learning how to use the printer.   Some direct to garment printers can be used to print white and create prints on dark colors.   These printers are, generally, on the higher end of the price scale.   Direct to garment prints must be cured with a heat press,  and will have a bit more hand than a sublimation print.

Finally, let’s consider screenprint transfers.   These transfers are created from screen print ink,  and are sealed to the garment with a heat press.  There is a distinct hand to a screen print transfer.   These types of transfers are often used for the names and numbers on sports uniforms.  Because they are transfers,  they can be made in any color and used on any color fabric.    They can also be heat sealed to any type of fabric,  the only requirement is that the fabric you’re using can stand up to the heat of a press.   Screen print transfers can be custom created or, in the case of things like numbers or letters can be purchased from stock.

Using NaturaLink B for Brother GT-541

If you use an Brother GT-541 direct to garment printer,  you will want to know about NaturaLink B Inks.  Manufactured by Sawgrass Ink,   NaturaLink B is a water based, environmentally friendly ink that has the same basic formula as the original Brother ink.  With NaturaLink B, you can print on 100% cotton or 50/50 blend shirts,  just as you would with the OEM ink,  except that the Sawgrass ink offers better washfastness at a lower cost.

Best of all,  the NaturaLink B cartridges are color matched with the OEM cartridges,  so you can switch your cartridges out as you need to do so.   Plug and print compatibility makes switching from one ink to another very simple.   The small amount of original ink left in the lines and dampers will not have any noticeable effect on printability.

There are a few precautions you should take when using your NaturaLink.  These precautions will help ensure maximum ink life and that you get the best results from your ink.  First of all, make sure your ink is stored away from direct sunlight.   Second, install the ink cartridges in the color slots that correspond to the color of the ink in the cartridge.   Do not pull the ink cartridges out once you have started printing.  Removing the ink cartridges will result in poor print quality and may cause damage to your printer.   You should also be aware that garments coming off the printer may still be wet and could smear until the image is fixed by heat and pressure.   To cure, or fix the printed image,  press the printed garment on the following settings:

  • Temperature 360 degrees F
  • Pressure 40 psi
  • Dwell time 35 seconds

NaturaLink B is also easy to keep clean, whether it spills on your work surface, or while it is being used inside your printer.  If you spill some ink on your work surface or yourself,  and it has not been cured,  you can easily remove it with a paper towel soaked with a common household cleaner like Simple Green.   The printer itself can be kept clean using the Wiper Cleaner which comes with every black ink cartridge.   Your Basic Operation Manual will have instructions on how to use the Wiper Cleaner.

To learn more about NaturaLink B and your Brother GT-541 printer,  please read the FAQs available on our website.

NaturaLink-B for Brother GT-541

Those of you who are familiar with our site most likely already know that we offer Sawgrass inks for sublimation.   What you may not know is that we also offer NaturaLink B which is ink for the Brother GT-541 direct to garment printer.   Today I thought I would tell you a little bit more about that ink and how it can help you if you use a Brother GT-541 printer.

First of all, let’s start with what NaturaLink-B is.  NaturaLink-B is a DTG (Direct to Garment) ink, developed by Sawgrass Technologies to replicate Brother® International’s ink for its GT-541 garment printer. NaturaLink is a water-based
pigment ink and is environmentally friendly. There is no difference in color rendition, or chemical behavior that your printer can detect, between NaturaLink and the Brother ink.

Second let’s discuss the differences you will see if you switch from Brother OEM ink to NaturaLink-B.  The short answer to this is that you won’t see any, except for increased wash fastness.  You may simply replace an empty Brother® cartridge with a new one containing NaturaLink-B without concern.  For optimum printing performance, make sure that there is no original ink left in the cartridge you are refilling. The small amount of original ink remaining in the in the lines and dampers will not have a noticeable effect on printability.

Third, we should address how we know that there is a difference in washfastness.  The answer to that is simple, Sawgrass did a side by side comparison.  After five washes NaturaLink has substantially less loss in optical density than Brother inks. This means that your prints will stay brighter longer. Optical density (OD) is a measure of the intensity of the color in a printed image. The higher the OD, the more intense the color. Over time, and with repeated washes, colors fade. A faded color is a color that has lost intensity, and has, therefore, a lower OD—the result of OD loss.

Fourth, and prehaps, most important, we should answer the most pressing question for many people, will using NaturaLink-B void the warranty on your Brother printer?  The short answer to this is no.  In the United States, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act of 1975, as well as the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts that precede it, stipulate that a manufacturer cannot void your warranty for using third-party ink or cartridges.

To learn more about NaturaLink-B, please read the GT-541 FAQs on our website.