Doing Right by Copyrights

I spend a lot of time on T-Shirt Forums and the Apparel Decorators Forum and one of the most common types of question that I see there is in regards to some aspect of copyright law.   Whether it’s “can I draw my own version of a celebrity/well known logo/ famous picture and sell it?”  or “is it all right to use a copyrighted image if I’m just making something for myself?” or “can I use the lyrics from my favorite song if I name the artist?” I see questions about copyright every day.

Copyright law is a complicated subject and I am making no claim at being an expert or even a dilettante when it comes to copyrights,  but I do know enough to know this,  if it’s not your original work, don’t use it without the proper permissions or licenses.  It’s really that simple.   People tend to complicate the copyright issue because they’re looking for some miraculous loophole that will allow them to legally do what they know they shouldn’t,  but, at its core copyright is pretty simple.  The rights to the image, or the words, or the song,  or the face and body belong to the person with whom they originated.   If you didn’t create it or, if it’s a case of wanting to use a celebrities image,  if you aren’t the celebrity in question,  it’s not yours and you shouldn’t use it unless you have gotten the right to do so.

You may be wondering what this has to do with sublimation and, again, the answer is pretty simple.  Sublimation is about decorating items or garments with images.  The images that you use should either be images that you’ve created yourself,  or images that you have the legal right to use.  That also applies to items that you make for customers.  If they don’t have the rights to the images they’re asking you to use,  then they and you are guilty of copyright infringement.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and no one wants to be sued, so you’re always wise to err on the side of caution when it comes to copyright.

To learn more about copyright:

Copyright Law of the United States

Copyright Basics

U.S. Copyright Office – Frequently Asked Questions


Happy First Birthday SubliStuff

I had been thinking that the first year anniversary of the starting of this blog was coming up,  but I didn’t actually notice when we blew by the actual date.  Still, I suppose I’ll chalk this post up to “better late than never”  and spend a bit reflecting on why this blog was started and what it has become.

The first post on this blog was entitled, appropriately enough, “Introducing SubliStuff” and in it I said the following:

This blog will be the place where we share our knowledge and insight into the world of sublimation and ChromaBlast.   We’ll write blog posts based on our own experiences, feature guest posts by sublimation and ChromaBlast experts and will also keep you updated on the latest news and special offers from EnMart.  Our goal is to create a complete sublimation and ChromaBlast resource and to make this blog a place that will be of benefit both to the novice and to the experienced sublimator.

All we ask of you is that you read and that, every once in a while, you talk to us.  Leave a comment, send us an e-mail, help spread the word about a great post by mentioning on Twitter, just do something to let us know you’re out there.   As long as you keep reading, we’ll keep writing.

Since that first post I’ve written, including this post,  97 others which have covered a wide range of topics.    We did a series of post on the subject of getting started with sublimation.    This series covered selecting your printer,  finding customers,  and how to get started with sublimation if you’re on a budget.   We have also talked about how to overcome barriers to starting with sublimation  and where to find sublimation templates.

Another fun thing I’ve been able to do with this blog is tell you more about EnMart.   I’ve always thought of a blog as a sort of conversation,  a way for us to get to know you and you to get to know us.    While writing for this blog I’ve talked about how we got our sublimation experience, our sales philosophy,   and even what trade shows we attend.    SubliStuff is a great way for us to make a connection with our customers and potential customers.

One of the best things I’ve been able to do with this blog is to bring in experts,  either our in house experts,  or people from other places in the industry who are trying something new and fun,  either with EnMart products or with sublimation in general.   One example of that would be a recent post on fabric sheets and sublimation, which told about the experiences one of our customers had sublimating our fabric sheets.   Another fun post was the one I wrote about George Rivas from MWC Enterprises,  who was using sublimation to preserve old family photos.    Finally, of course,  there are the posts, like this post on sublimation paper,   that are written or informed by our in house sublimation expert Tom Chambers.   He is an invaluable resource when it comes to sublimation,  and I hope to get his input on more posts in the coming year.

What pleases me most, however,  a year into this blog,  is that fact that some of you are starting to talk back, either here,  or on EnMart’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.    I love making connections with our customers,  and it’s great to have your feedback.    I said it when this blog began,  and I’ll say it again today,  as long as you keep reading,  and talking back to us,  we’ll keep writing.

Is that a deal?

Fabric Sheets and Sublimation

Some of you may already know that EnMart sells the material we use to make our blank patches in sheets as well.   These fabric sheets are 12 x 17 pieces of material,  available in 20 + colors and sold with either heat seal or sew on backing.    We know that people often buy the sheets to make their own patches  but we’ve never really thought about other uses.  Luckily,  we have customers and friends who do.

One of the forums that I visit on a regular basis is the Apparel Decorators Forum.  This is a terrific forum and I highly recommend it to anyone who works with any sort of garment or product decoration.   Some of the members of the forum have also become EnMart customers,   and they, on occasion,  make suggestions for new ways to use our products.    This is how a new use for fabric sheets was discovered.

Ken,  Cochise on the forum,  bought some fabric sheets are decided to try and create some sublimated decals for a customer of his.    As he puts it:

Imagine being able to create a full color patch with no restrictions on size or shape. Design it, sublimate it, cut it with a plotter/cutter or scissors and apply it to your garment.

He used a white fabric sheet.  The design was sublimated at 380 degrees for 40 seconds.   His fabric sheet had a heat seal backing, so he then pressed the sublimated fabric onto the garment,   again at 380 degrees, this time for 15 seconds.  He reports that the heat seal backing hold securely.  You can read the entire thread,  including his description of the process,  by joining the forum.  It only takes a minute to register,  and I can tell you it’s totally worth it.

Thanks to Ken for thinking up a new use for an EnMart product, and for sharing his process and the outcome with us.    As always,  we appreciate the support of the ADF members.

Printing Garments

I was looking back through the blog archives today,  as I sometimes do when I’m at a loss for a post idea,  and I noticed that I’ve talked a lot about sublimation blanks and how easy it is to print those,  while neglecting to discuss printing garments.    Since EnMart sells garments for sublimation,  as well as the inks necessary for printing sublimation transfers and ChromaBlast transfers,  I thought today might be a good time to discuss that very subject.

When it comes right down to it,  printing garments is pretty much like printing anything else.  You print a transfer and then you use your heat press to transfer the ink from your transfer paper to the garment.   If you are using sublimation ink,  your garment should be 100% polyester and the finished product will have almost no hand as the ink dyes the fibers of the garment.    If your garment of choice is cotton,  and of a light color,  than your transfer should be printed with ChromaBlast ink.  These transfers provide bright, clear color,  but they will have a slight hand to them.  You may also see a bit of transfer residue around the edges of the design.  That should disappear after the first wash.

There has been some discussion about whether or not sublimation printing can be done on anything except 100% polyester garments.   If you print on anything other than 100% polyester,  your design may be faded in spots or have uneven printing.  This is because the ink only dyes the polyester fibers.   Some people like the more faded or distressed look and are satisfied with the results they get from using a shirt that is a blend of fibers.   For best results, however, it is always recommended that any garments you sublimate be 100% polyester.

We also often get asked how the people create the get t-shirts that have designs that go down the sleeve and across the back,  or that start in the back and swirl around to the front.   Those shirts are definitely unique and fun to wear,  but they are printed as separate pieces of cloth and then sewn together once the designs have been printed.   It is a more expensive and custom way of creating garments,  but the finished product may well be worth the effort for some people.

As with anything you print,  you should always keep in mind that the size of the transfer should be in proportion to the size of the garment.  Bigger shirts need bigger transfers,  so this is something to consider when purchasing your printer and heat press.  A printer that only prints 8 1/2 x 11 or 8 1/2 x 14 transfers will limit the shirt sizes you can create.  If you want to make sure you can print as many sizes of garments as possible,  make sure you get a printer that allows printing on a variety of paper sizes and a press that can handle the biggest garment size you are likely to use.

Finally, another question that is often asked is where new sublimation and ChromaBlast garment printers can get more information or hints and tips about the garment decoration processes they are using.   One source is, of course,  blogs like this one.   Two additional great resources are T-shirt and the Apparel Decorators Forum.   Both forums are terrific resources with a lot of good information and are a great place to ask questions and pick up tips.

Write What You Know, Except When You Don’t

I’ve never made a claim to be a sublimation expert.  I’ve sublimated exactly one thing in my life,  and that was a ceramic tile.  It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself,  but I don’t consider my one success as qualification for the title of expert.   At best I’m a dilettante.   I know a reasonable amount about the craft and practice of sublimation because I listen and I ask questions.   Where I’ve been very lucky is in the fact that I have experts with whom I work who patiently, some of the time at least, answer my questions about what and how and why.  After I’ve gotten my answers I bring them here and share them with you.

One of the oldest adages in writing is “write what you know”.   In my case,  particularly since I started writing for EnMart,  that’s the last thing I’ve been doing.  When EnMart began, what I knew about thread, machine embroidery, bobbins,  sublimation, ChromaBlast and the other supplies and disciplines that EnMart encompasses wasn’t enough to write more than one or two blog posts at best.   Since the first post I wrote my job has been a combination of archeologist and town crier.  First I go dig up the nuggets of information and knowledge I need.  Then I come here or to EnMart’s other blog,  EmbroideryTalk,  and share what I’ve learned.

If you wonder where I’m going with this, I’m mainly trying to reinforce what I said in yesterday’s post,  which was about educating yourself so you can then educate your customers.   When you’re first starting out,  machine embroidery or sublimation can seem overwhelming.  There’s so much to learn and remember and it can seem like you’ll never know what you’re talking about,  or how to answer even the simplest question.  If, however,  you take the time to ask questions of others who have more experience,   to practice your craft,  and seize every opportunity to learn more,  eventually you get comfortable with the techniques and procedures,  and you’re able to answer questions and make suggestions easily.

What seems overwhelming is only that way if you let it be that way.  There are tons of resources out there,  websites like Sawgrass Ink’s site,  forums like the Apparel Decorator’s Forum and T-shirt Forums,  and blogs like this one,  not to mention the many experts who offer seminars at trade shows and do webinars and video classes.   The information is out there,  but it’s up to you to go and find it and spend the time absorbing it.  If you do that,  you’ll soon find that the stuff that you didn’t know has become the stuff that you do know,  and your business and your customers will both benefit.