ChromaBlast Printing for Dark T-Shirts

Did you know that you can use ChromaBlast ink to create transfers for colored or black t-shirts?

Most companies, including ourselves at one time,  would tell you that ChromaBlast is engineered for light colored garments,  and that’s quite true.  For the lightest hand possible,  you do want to print with ChromaBlast ink on ChromaBlast paper and transfer to a light colored cotton garment.   ChromaBlast is, of course, engineered to be a very high quality, long lasting transfer with a very soft hand that rivals the best direct-to-garment prints, for a tiny fraction of the cost.  When pressed onto white (or light colored) 100% cotton shirts, it creates a special bond between the ink, the transfer film on the ChromaBlast paper, and the cotton fibers.

EnMart has discovered, however,  that you can create a transfer using ChromaBlast ink which will work on dark garments as well.  With ChromaDark (3g Jet Opaque) transfer paper from EnMart, you use the same ChromaBlast ink to print onto a thin white base layer on top of a paper sheet, which is then trimmed either by hand or a cutter, peeled apart, and heat-pressed onto a 100% cotton shirt.  The end result is a high quality photo-realistic image on any color of t-shirt – even black.    As the picture shows,  we have tested this method and this paper and it works.

For even more impressive results, use a vinyl cutter to cut the outline around your designs and/or lettering.  Because you are printing onto a white base layer, you will feel it – the same as if you were using screen printing, direct to garment printing, or any other type of transfer.   If you would prefer a transfer that you will not feel once it has been printed to the garment,  your best bet is still a light colored polyester garment and sublimation ink and paper.   If, however,  you wish to print to dark garments,  ChromaDark paper and ChromaBlast ink offer a cost effective solution.

Sublimation and ChromaBlast Inks: A Comparison

When you visit the EnMart site to purchase inks you’ll notice that sublimation and ChromaBlast are included in one menu category.    Since both inks are made by Sawgrass and both are used to print transfers for the decoration of garments and other items,  it seemed logical to include them under the same menu item.   Linking them together in this manner does not, however, mean they are exactly the same thing.

Sublimation ink is designed to work with polyester garments and poly coated blanks.    This ink actually sublimates when heated and dyes the coating or the fibers of the item it is being used to decorate.   Sublimation ink can be used on a wide variety of items,  including mugs, mousepads,  tiles,  dog tags,  pet bowls and shot glasses.    Because the ink bonds with the coating on the hard goods or the fibers in the garments,  there is very little to no hand with a sublimation print.   Although it is a transfer,  you don’t feel the carrier mechanism.

ChromaBlast Ink,  on the other hand,  is designed to work on cotton garments and other items like tote bags or hats.    It is a true transfer, in that a carrier mechanism is used to transfer the ink to the fabric.   While ChromaBlast has less of a hand than some other transfer methods,  you can feel the transfer on the shirt if you run your hand across it.   ChromaBlast ink is also intended strictly for light colored garments,  the one thing it does have in common with sublimation ink.  Neither ink is suited for dark colored garments.

Free Ink for Ricoh Printers

Many EnMart customers are already familiar with our QuickStartR package,  featuring the Ricoh GX e3300N printer,  or with the Ricoh GX 7000 which is a production grade printer.    These printers are great options for sublimation shops,  with reasonable price points and smooth operation.

This summer,  EnMart is going to make the Ricoh platform even more attractive with a special offer on ink.  Between 6/1/2011 and 7/31/2011,  EnMart is offering one FREE ink cartridge with a first re-order of CMYK Sublijet-R or ChromaBlast-R sublimation ink.    To qualify, customers must purchase a Ricoh GX e3300N or GX7000 Printer with either a full set of SubliJet-R ink cartridges or a full set of ChromaBlast-R ink cartridges.   Once your initial order has been placed,  you will receive a coupon for one Free ink cartridge with your first reorder of a set of CMYK ink.   The coupon must be redeemed by 12/31/11. Offer is available only in the United States and Canada.

The Ricoh platforms are now available for both Windows and Mac operating systems,  so there’s never been a better time to get started with sublimation.    The Free ink offer expires on 7/31/2011,  so get your system ordered today!


Printing on Cotton

EnMart is a sponsor of T-Shirt Forums, and a regular on several other forums,  including the terrific Apparel Decorators Forum,  so I get to see firsthand the questions that people ask about sublimation and printing on garments.    One of the questions I see frequently being asked is whether a design can be sublimated on a cotton garment.  The answer to that is always no,  as sublimation works only with polyester fabric of substrates.    Those people who want to print on cotton should not lose hope however,  for there is a solution,  and its name is ChromaBlast Ink.

For those who are unfamiliar with ChromaBlast,  the first thing you need to know is that it is not a sublimation ink.    ChromaBlast ink uses a patented chemical process which, combined with heat and pressure,  set up a cross-link between the cotton fabric,  the ink and the media which transfers the image.   The end result is a garment that has vibrant color,  superior washability and a soft hand.

ChromaBlast is like sublimation in that it is easy to create customized cotton items.   All you need to do is create your image or design,  print your image using ChromaBlast Ink and ChromaBlast paper,  and then press your image onto a cotton substrate.    Like sublimation ink, ChromaBlast Ink is available for both the Epson and Ricoh printer models,  so you can choose the system that best suits your needs.

Cotton and cotton blend products will both work well with ChromaBlast ink.    You can print on any substrate made of cotton,  which makes this an ideal ink for shops that create a lot of corporate apparel.    Whether you’re adding a logo to a polo shirt,  or creating golf towels for a corporate golf tournament,  ChromaBlast will let you customize cotton items exactly as you customer requests.   ChromaBlast ink also allows you to offer things like printed monograms on cotton sheets,  or personalized tote bags or aprons.   If the substrate is cotton,  you can use ChromaBlast ink to customize it.

If you’re unfamiliar with ChromaBlast,  Sawgrass does offer information that will help you get started.  You can view a video about applying digital transfers to cotton apparel, or one about applying digital transfers to tote bags.    There is also additional technical support information offered on their website.

For those who want to see ChromaBlast in action,  please visit the EnMart booth at any of the shows at which we exhibit.  We have samples of printed cotton garments in the booth,  along with ChromaBlast transfers and a ChromaBlast printer.  We’ll be happy to discuss ChromaBlast ink and the printing process with you.


A Plug for ChromaBlast Ink

If you read this blog with any regularity you’ll probably notice I tend to talk about sublimation more than any other topic.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  One is simply that this blog is called SubliStuff,  and so it stands to reason that we’ll discuss sublimation topics the most.    Another is that sublimation is a versatile process,  allowing you to decorate a wide variety of items.   More options for decoration means more subjects for posts,  and anyone who has ever tried to write anything knows more topics about which to write is always a good thing.   Finally, we tend to talk about sublimation more because really there doesn’t appear, at first glance, to be much to say about ChromaBlast.  You can use the ink to decorate cotton fabrics, the end.   That doesn’t make for a very long post unless, of course, you dig a little deeper.

The first thing you find when you dig deeper is the fact that cotton is one of the most popular fibers for clothing.  Cotton is used for shirts, dresses, socks,  almost any garment you can imagine.   Since many people like the softness and breathability of cotton clothing, it also sells well.    Even if you limited yourself to simply decorating cotton t-shirts,  you’ll still have a product made of a fabric that people like to wear and use.

The second thing to remember is this:  should you choose to use ChromaBlast Ink,  you aren’t necessarily limited to decorating simply t-shirts or even clothing   There are also cotton hats,  cotton tote bags,  cotton fabrics for pillows and upholstery and more.   From bed sheets to Christmas stockings to diapers,  there are a large number of products made of cotton.

A third thing to consider when considering ChromaBlast is that it offers a way to decorate cotton garments that generally has less barriers to entry than direct to garment printing.    Back in May we did a post in which we compared ChromaBlast printing with other decoration options.   In that post we discussed that fact that direct to garment printers tend to have more maintenance issues and that the cost is quite a bit higher than the cost of purchasing a ChromaBlast printing system.  While direct to garment printing is a great choice for many people,  it may not be the best choice for someone who is just starting out,  or who only wants to decorate a limited number of garments.

In the end,  ChromaBlast can be a great choice and a useful addition to a garment decoration business.  If you already do sublimation,  ChromaBlast adds the option of decorating cotton garments.   If you’re simply interested in decorating cotton fabrics,   ChromaBlast is a less expensive and has less of a learning curve than other types of cotton decoration methods.   EnMart’s Ricoh GX e3300N ChromaBlast package starts at only $419.00, which is a fairly minimal investment when it comes to garment decoration equipment.

If you are interested in learning more about ChromaBlast Inks and the options they offer,  please contact us.  We’ll be happy to help you decide if ChromaBlast is the right choice for your business.

Think Ink

Many times when we talk about sublimation,  we talk about the printers or the blanks or the paper.  All of those items are important and necessary for sublimation,  but none are quite so vital as the sublimation ink.   Without the ink there is no printed transfer,  and without the transfer there is no image to place on your shirt or mug or mousepad.    The ink is where everything begins.

Dye sublimation is a process by which an ink is turned form a solid to a gas without going through the liquid state.    The conversion from one state to another occurs when the ink is heated  and is controlled through time and pressure.   When the ink is used with the proper paper and transferred to a polyester or poly coated substrate,  the result is a vibrant print that is sturdy enough to withstand washing and sun.

Sublimation ink is manufactured by Sawgrass Technologies,  and is available as Sublijet for Epson printers and Sublijet-R for Ricoh printers.    Both formulation and cartridge size can differ based on the make and model of the printers you are using,  so please be sure you select the correct ink category for your printer.    You should also keep in mind that sublimation ink is designed for printing on polyester fabrics or poly coated items.  If you attempt to use transfers printed with Sublijet ink on any medium other than polyester,  your transfers will not print correctly.

If you would prefer to print transfers for use on cotton garments,  the ink option you should explore is ChromaBlast Ink.   Like the Sublijet Ink,  ChromaBlast ink is available in formulations suitable for Ricoh or Epson printers.    ChromaBlast is for use on cotton fabrics only,  and is suitable only for white or light colored fabrics.   For some people,  ChromaBlast Ink and paper offer an alternative to direct to garment printing.

Finally,  we can’t forget that EnMart also offers ink for those who print directly to garments using a Brother GT-541 printer.  EnMart sells NaturaLink B from Sawgrass.  This ink is color matched with the Brother OEM inks, and is available at a less expensive price.    For more information on NaturaLink B and Brother, please read our in-depth FAQs on the subject.

Whatever your ink requirements,  be it sublimation,  ChromaBlast or direct to garment printing with a Brother GT-541,  EnMart has the supplies and ink you need.   If you’ve been looking for a one stop shop for sublimation,  or for a quick and efficient shipper for your ChromaBlast or NaturaLink B inks,  look no further than EnMart.    We will be happy to assist you in finding the ink you need for your particular printing requirements.

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.

ChromaBlast for Cotton

We’ve been talking about sublimation a lot on this blog recently.  There a couple of reasons for that.  First, sublimation is popular and a lot of people have questions about it that we can answer.  Second,  we just introduced an awesome sublimation package and naturally we wanted everyone to know this package was available.   So, for most days in the past few weeks, this blog has been a little sublimation heavy.   Today is not, however, one of those days.

Today I want to talk about ChromaBlast Ink and what it can do for those who want to decorate cotton garments.   Many people will tell you that the best way to decorate cotton is to do direct to garment (DTG) printing,  and that may be the best way for some people.  Other people may find that DTG printing has a rather steep learning curve, that DTG machines can on occasion be temperamental, and that optimum quality and smooth running requires constant use and a high production level.   DTG is not for everyone, and those people who choose not to do direct to garment printing may find that ChromaBlast suits their needs quite well.

ChromaBlast inks are to cotton what Sublijet inks are for sublimation. If you want to decorate cotton substrates, ChromaBlast should be your ink of choice.  It can be used on any light colored cotton garment or item made of cotton.  These  inks offer consistent accurate color with photo-quality output.  EnMart offers ChromaBlast  in C, M, Y, and K cartridges and bulk systems.

You will not find ChromaBlast ink for dark garments.  If you are interested in decorating dark garments, your options are DTG printing, as mentioned above,   Ntrans transfers or Direct Screenprinting.   If, however, your interest is in decorating light colored garments, you will find that ChromaBlast creates vivid, colorful prints with a soft hand.  When used in conjunction with the ChromaBlast paper,  the ink creates transfers that can be heat pressed to a cotton garment.  The process is simple and there is a relatively small learning curve.

ChromaBlast ink is not yet available for every printer that EnMart offers.  To be sure that you purchase a printer for which Sawgrass has developed ink, make sure you buy your printer from our ChromaBlast printer category.