EnMart will be closed Tuesday, December 24 and Wednesday, December 25 in honor of the Christmas holiday. We wish all our customers and friends a safe and happy Christmas.
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:
If you would like to try a sample few pages of MPRÉS-II paper, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Now that the headline has grabbed your attention, I’m sure you know that there are no “get rich quick” schemes that are even remotely legal, and all earned wealth comes from hard work and creativity, with a little luck thrown in. Sublimation alone is (probably) not very likely to make you rich either. So then why bother?
Because sublimation has its own niche – much like embroidery, direct to garment printing, and screen print all belong to separate decoration niches. Unlike the others however, sublimation only requires a fraction of the startup costs, generally requires less labor, and is a lot easier to learn. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find ANY business venture that you could start up for LESS than sublimation that has even close to the same payback potential.
Sublimation, and whether to invest in doing it or not, seems to make for quite the conundrum for some though. It’s fascinating to me that many people who don’t seem to bat an eye at borrowing or spending thousands of dollars on an embroidery machine, direct to garment printer, or screen print equipment, will suddenly freeze in apparent terror when confronted with the idea of doing sublimation. It’s almost as if spending money on a sublimation system is somehow the equivalent of lighting a pile of money on fire. Or maybe they think because it doesn’t cost very much to start out that it can’t really be “all that”. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Sublimation does things that other decoration methods cannot, although it does come with its own set of limitations, the same as everything else. Because there is no magic “one size fits all” decoration method that does everything, that’s why you see all those other methods and equipment in use.
For example, screen print is limited to a few colors per image or it becomes impractical, but it is very well suited to large runs and mass production, and works on a wide variety of substrates and products with any color background. Yes, it IS possible to do full color images but you will typically see a dot pattern and it will not look anything like an actual photo. A screen print business is also very expensive to start up.
Likewise, direct to garment printing is an expensive investment as well, although you can do full color prints onto garments of all colors without worrying about a dot pattern. This method is very well suited for one-offs, small quantities, and even some larger orders, but is limited in the number and types of additional substrates that can be used, and can require a lot of maintenance and upkeep.
Embroidery, while long recognized and accepted as a premium product, is a complex endeavor requiring expensive equipment, software, and training, and yet cannot reproduce anything resembling photo quality (although there are some extremely talented digitizers that produce admirable work in this area). Embroidery is also limited to only substrates that can be stitched – typically items made of fabrics and other similar materials.
With sublimation, there is nothing else out there that allows you to do permanent, full color photo quality printing on such a wide variety of substrates and items. Basically, if it’s either made of polyester, or coated with a similar type of polymer, is a light color or white, and will hold up in a heat press, then you can sublimate it with any image, artwork, or photo that you can dream up – and it will outlast anything else except possibly embroidery. That list of sublimatable products includes thousands and thousands of different items, fabrics, and garments, in an almost endless variety of sizes and shapes.
It’s so easy to learn and do that your older kids can even do it as a hobby, or for fund raisers. Even if it is just for holiday gifts for the family and friends, you can still easily justify the purchase of a system, and then anything else you use it for is just a bonus – especially if you get paid for it.
There is a bit of a learning curve, same as there is with anything – but this curve is more of a gentle bunny slope compared to the black diamond mountain trails of learning that go along with embroidery, screen printing, and direct to garment printing. Not that you shouldn’t invest in one or more of those too – it’s really all about how many different decoration methods you want to offer your customers, and what you feel comfortable with.
And if you already have a decorating business, here’s why you should add sublimation to it. Simply put, it makes a great add-on for only a little investment, and offers you a high return rate. Instead of buying sublimated transfers or referring out that type of work, you can do it yourself, cut out the middleman, and make some of the best margins possible anywhere. 400% or better markups aren’t unheard of with sublimation, depending on your local market environment.
The same as any other business, what you get out of it is directly proportional to what you put into it. You will need a plan, a market for your goods, and some idea of what that market and those goods would be. A good place to start is “Top 6 Questions to Ask (And Answer) Before You Buy A Sublimation System”. Other articles in this blog will provide you with additional valuable information.
Last but not least, as always, if you have any questions, contact us – we’re here to help.
I get a lot of questions from people looking to purchase sublimation systems, and these potential buyers run the gamut from “just what is sublimation?” to “I’m looking to buy today”. Most fall somewhere in between though, and usually have a lot of questions. Many are uncertain about doing it at all, and a few appear to be so intimidated as to be almost petrified. To help eliminate a lot of that uncertainty and give you some confidence before you go out and start shopping, here are 6 questions you should answer for yourself first.
- What is the largest size image you will probably need to print?
This is perhaps the single MOST IMPORTANT, and most overlooked question, because it determines what printers, blanks, and heat presses are available for you to choose from. The answer to this question determines whether you should go with a desktop Virtuoso SG400 System that will print up to 8.5” x 14”, or a larger 11” x 17” SG800 System with the capability of upgrading to 13” x 19”, or even larger wider format roll systems.
A majority of available blank goods can be printed just fine with 8.5” x 14” or smaller paper. You can even sublimate designs larger than your system can print when they can be split in two and printed in 2 (or more) sheets and taped. But if you need to print and sublimate larger items on a regular basis, you’ll need a larger system and a larger heat press.
- What is your expected volume?
If you anticipate that your system may sit unused for a day or more at a time, you should probably go with one of the two Virtuoso desktop systems from Sawgrass, as they handle sitting idle for periods of time better than anything else on the market. If you plan on having a high-volume production operation, it would be best to start with the largest, widest format printer you can afford based on your estimated volume and type of work.
If you don’t already have a heat press, your estimated volume can also help determine whether an inexpensive light duty or all in one press will work, or if you need a more specialized or dedicated heavy duty commercial grade press. Large volume shops may opt for a larger format shuttle heat press.
- Will you be producing only flat goods, or will you do mugs too?
If you plan on only doing shirts, fabrics, name tags, metal, Unisub, and other thin, flat items, you can save some money and go with a good clamshell press, or use your current heat press if you already have one. Plaques, slate, and other thicker flat products require a heat press that you can adjust the head clearance on, in which case the industry standard swing-away type press is the best option. If you plan on doing mugs, drinkware, plates, or other items, you may need to consider a combo press, a convection oven and oven wraps, or perhaps even a dedicated mug, cap or even plate press.
- What is your target market?
This may well be the hardest question to answer, and present the greatest unknowns. If you have an idea already, you will be ahead of the game, and it will assist you in answering the other questions. If you don’t… my advice is to spend some time doing a bit of research into your local area. See what’s already available, and what isn’t. Some possible options are schools, clubs, teams, florists, souvenir shops, and any local stores or other businesses where you can either make promotional items for them, or items for them to sell. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as it never ceases to amaze me at the creative and unique uses customers come up with for sublimation systems.
- What graphics software will you use?
You’ll need to learn and use a computer and graphics software program to create all that artwork before you can print and sublimate it. The bottom line is that you can use whatever graphics program you are comfortable with as long as you can turn off any color management features and let the Sawgrass printer color management software control it. The three most common graphics programs are CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator, and Creative Studio (an easy to use, online based free system from Sawgrass).
- Last but not least, what’s your budget?
Ok, now you’ve figured out what system you need, what blanks you are going to print, and what kind of heat press you require, so how much does it all cost, and does it fit within your budget? The good news is that sublimation is one of the least expensive businesses that exist to start up, and no matter what budget level system you choose, with a little effort, forethought, and planning, you will be successful.
When it’s all said and done, if you have incomplete or conflicting answers to some or all of the above questions, it can present a problem in making your decision. In that case, here are a couple of basic fundamentals to clear things up and break any deadlocks.
- If money is the primary issue and you have some trepidation – play it safe and buy the smaller SG400 desktop system and a smaller less expensive press. When you are successful and have more than paid for the smaller system and have plenty of business – then purchase a larger system and press. Keep the smaller one for small jobs and as a backup, and use both of them.
- If money is a secondary issue to uncertainty about what sizes of items you will be printing – then always start with at least the larger size desktop SG800 Sublimation System and a larger heat press. In this case, bigger is indeed better. It’s essentially the same principle as for purchasing a television – get the largest one you can afford. After all, was anyone ever unhappy because they went with a larger tv?
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.
To Our Customers:
Most of you, if you follow the news at all, have probably heard of the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of South Dakota vs. Wayfair. This decision has altered the rules about when and why sales tax must be collected.
Currently, EnMart and Ensign Emblem collect sales tax in the states where we have a presence, MI, GA, IL, CA, NV and NJ, as was required by previous tax law. With the advent of the new decision, we will also begin collecting sales tax on all orders that ship to AL, IN, KY, MO, WA and WI. It is likely there will be additional states added to this list in the near future.
If you are currently in one of the states listed above, you can establish your tax-exempt status with EnMart/Ensign by completing the relevant state sales tax exemption form and submitting it to us. This form should be completed in your legal business name. We will begin charging sales tax in the additional six states listed above on October 1, 2018. If we do not have a completed form on file by that date, your account will be charged sales tax until such time as the completed form is on file.
Please be aware that, even though we are currently only adding six additional states, most states will probably be requiring sales tax collection in the near future. Even if you are not in one of the states in which we currently charge tax, it still might be worthwhile to complete a sales tax exemption form for your state and send it to us. All forms are kept on file, and once an account is set to exempt status it will remain so.
For a current list of taxable states, links to their respective exemption forms, and for submission of your completed forms, please visit our Sales Tax Exemption Forms and Links page.
As always, our goal is to remain compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.
Thank you for your assistance and cooperation.
Buying a heat press is a big investment, and the decision about which type of press to buy should be made carefully to ensure that you get the type of press you need and one that will provide the most utility for your shop. Since a heat press is one of the more costly items that people who create sublimated goods will need, it pays to do the research and the math before purchasing a press. When making your buying decision, here are five things you should consider.
#1 Is Cheaper Better – A heat press is a big investment and, especially if a business is just starting out with sublimation, the impulse might be to go with a no-name Chinese press from eBay or to start with a smaller press that is less costly. There are, however, a couple of problems with this approach. One is that no-name presses often don’t have service or technical support which leaves you with few to no options if your press breaks. Buying a smaller, less expensive press can also be problematic as the size of the press will place limits on what can be sublimated. The rule of thumb is to assess your needs and take into account technical support and repair options and then buy the biggest press you can afford.
#2 Consider your physical abilities – No, running a heat press isn’t as physically taxing as mining coal or being a mover, but it does take a toll on the body. Smaller people may have more issue with opening a manual press. Standing all day can have an impact on the knees and feet. There are options like auto release pop-up which can make a press easier to operate. Don’t assume that everyone will be able to operate a press with the same level of ease. Take into account the physicality of running a press for hours at a time and do what’s necessary to make that physical toll a little less.
#3 What type of goods will you be sublimating? – One of the biggest questions that needs to be answered before any heat press purchase is the type of goods your shop will be selling. If the goal is to just do garments, a flat press, most likely a swing-away press, would be a useful option. If you want to do hats or mugs or something that won’t work well in a flat press, your best bet would either be a specialty press or a combo press. For those shops doing a variety of items, a combo press may be best, as it combines a flat press with the specialty press options.
#4 Where’s the best place to buy a heat press? – The temptation to buy a heat press on eBay or Amazon, where the prices seem cheaper may be overwhelming, but that’s not always the best place to buy a press. In our opinion, the best option for purchasing a heat press is from a company that knows and uses heat presses. If you can purchase directly from the manufacturer that’s great. When that’s not possible, the next best option is purchasing from a supplier who uses the presses they sell and knows them well. Keep in mind the place that sells you the press may also be the place that provides technical and repair support. The better they know the press, the more able they will be to assist you when you have an issue.
#5 Can you add other disciplines to maximize the utility of your press? – Yes, sublimation is one decoration discipline that requires a heat press, but it is not the only one. If you’re buying a press, you might also want to consider what you already do, or could add to your shop which could make a heat press that much more useful. Rhinestones, screen print transfers, adding patches to hats or bags, there are a variety of options for how a heat press can be used. Spreading the utility out over a variety of disciplines may help your press pay for itself faster, and help you justify the expense of a bigger and better press.
Every year brings with it a new set of trends that can be capitalized on to bring additional business. In 2018, there are some interesting trends that could be of huge benefit to those who have sublimation businesses. Here are a few things to watch, and perhaps add to your sublimation business, in 2018.
The first trend to consider is bags. Tote bags, backpacks, wallets, clutches, cross body messenger bags, the possibilities are endless. Of particular interest is the trend of reusable grocery bags and the fact that some cities are banning plastic bags. There will definitely be opportunities for those who sublimate in that area, particularly making reusable totes for groceries or organic food stores. Decorated backpacks are another fertile area. More brands are developing backpacks that can be sublimated. There are also a variety of companies that are making faux leather wallets and clutches that can be sublimated.
The second trend to keep in mind is decorated footwear. Sublimated socks were something we talked about last year, and that craze still continues. More men are getting into the idea of wearing a colorful sock, and sublimation is a perfect way to create a unique design. Shoes are also being sublimated, from flip flops to boat shoes or sneakers. Keep in mind that sublimation can only be done on polyester or poly coated items, so not all footwear will be suitable.
A third trend that is just starting to take hold is garments you can color. With these garments, a design is sublimated, usually in black, and then the wearer is given fabric markers and allowed to color in the design. This also occurs with things like mugs or mousepads. The same trend is also being exhibited with sublimated patches, which are created in outline and then colored in by the wearer. The advantage to these sorts of designs is that people can color them in to suit their own tastes and create something original.
Pillows are another decorating trend that has started to take hold. They could be monogrammed, decorated with a favorite picture or saying or made from a fabric that was specially designed to coordinate with a specific theme or interested. Pillows suitable for sublimation are available in a variety of sizes.
Finally, a trend that seems to be working well in the embroidery world is kits. Creating a kit requires putting together items that would work together, some decorated and some not, and selling the whole thing in a bundle. You could make a kit out of mugs and a serving tray. A kit could be a cutting board, some oven mitts with recipes or monograms on them, and some serving tools. The only thing that really defines a kit is that everything in it goes together in some way.
EnMart will be closed Monday, December 25, 2017 so our employees may celebrate Christmas with their families. We will re-open on Tuesday, December 26.
We wish all of our friends and customers a merry and safe Christmas!
Note: I first wrote this parody of The Night Before Christmas in 2011. It amused me, and some other people, so I thought it was worth making it a Christmas 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!
EnMart will be closed Thursday, November 23 and Friday, November 24 to allow our employees to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families. We will re-open on Monday, November 27.
Among the many things we are thankful for this holiday season, we must count you, our loyal customers and friends. Thank you for supporting EnMart. We wish everyone the happiest of Thanksgivings.