Decoration Intimidation

The first title for this post was sublimation intimidation,  but I soon realized that the problem doesn’t just lie with sublimation,  it could involve a heat press, or an embroidery machine or a direct to garment printer or almost any piece of equipment that can be used for decoration.    The issue I want to discuss today is the fact that new equipment and new decorating practices can often seem intimidating and that taking the first step and just getting started is often the most difficult part of the whole process.    I think almost all of us have experienced this form of intimidation at one time or another.  The question we need to answer is how to get past the intimidation factor and move on to successfully using your equipment.

The first thing to remember is that your equipment is tougher than you think.   Yes,  it is possible to break a machine or a printer,  but that probably isn’t going to happen if you push a button or send a print job.   Most manufacturers or suppliers will also send printed instructions or direct you to a website which can help you with set up.    There is also always a tech support option if you get really confused.   Before you do anything else,  you have to take the machines out of their boxes or crates and get them running.   A machine you’ve spent good money on that never gets used certainly isn’t going to be a good return on your investment.

The second thing to remember is that you will screw up.   You’ll print something backwards.  You’ll put something on the heat press the wrong way around and get ink on the platen.  You’ll sublimate something for too long or for not long enough and end up ruining a blank.    Mistakes will happen,  but they aren’t the end of the world.   EnMart sends practice fabric with our sublimation systems precisely because errors happen, and it’s always best to  build a mistake fund into your budget,  that way you can make mistakes without impacting your bottom line.  It is also a good idea to not take any rush jobs until you’re familiar with and secure in your ability to operate your equipment.  Nothing screws up a learning curve like deadline pressures.

Third,  remember that there are resources out there to help you learn how to use your equipment and be successful at whatever decorating discipline you choose.   There are blogs like this one.   For sublimation and ChromaBlast system owners,  Sawgrass has a variety of education and technical support information on their website.  Many suppliers will offer videos or instructional downloads for the machines or supplies they sell.   There are also forums and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter which provide a place to ask questions and find help.

What it comes down to in the end is being willing to work past the intimidation to give something new a try.   You did the research,  you decided what decoration discipline you wanted to add to your business,  you purchased the necessary equipment and supplies,  and now you’re too intimidated to take the stuff out of the box.   You’ve already made a monetary investment,  now make an investment in courage and in time.   After all, equipment that’s left in a box only generates revenue for the person who sold it.

Get Started with Sublimation in 2012

To get started in sublimation you need five things:

  1. A printer
  2. Sublimation ink
  3. Sublimation paper
  4. Blanks suitable for sublimation
  5. A heat press

Your selection of printer really depends on what size prints you want to make.  If the biggest thing you’ll ever print will fit on an 8.5 x 14 sheet of paper,  then you might do well with a Ricoh 3300.   If you want to print 13 x 19 right out of the box,  it might be wise to consider a Epson WF1100.   If you want to print large images and think you will be doing quite a bit of production,  your best choice might well be the Ricoh GX 7000.   Different printers work best in different situations,  so please be sure to take into account how much you want to print and the largest thing you might want to print when deciding which printer to buy.

Sublimation ink is fairly simple –  if you run a Windows system,  you can purchase Sublijet ink for the Ricoh or the Epson printer of your choice.    If you use a Mac,  then you’re best off selecting Artainium ink,  as Sawgrass supplies ICC profiles for that ink which work with Macs.   Enmart does not currently list Artainium ink on our website,  but we can get it for customers who request that we do so.

When it comes to sublimation paper,  EnMart recommends our Mpres Paper.   We’ve tested many different kinds of paper over the years,  and Mpres is the best we’ve found.

Choosing sublimation blanks largely depends on what it is you want to sell.    EnMart offers a wide selection of blanks for sublimation,  everything from dog tags to mousepads, coffee mugs to jewelry boxes.   We also carry Vapor Apparel t-shirts, which are very well suited for sublimation.    EnMart also allows you to purchase just one of any item you might like to try,  subject, of course, to our $25 minimum order.

Finally, in order to sublimate, you need a heat press.   EnMart’s parent company, Ensign Emblem has a long history with George Knight heat presses, and has known them to be durable and reliable.  Since we’ve had such a good experience with these presses,  Geo. Knight is the brand of press that EnMart sells.   If you’re looking for a press,  remember to take into account the largest thing you will every sublimate, as you want to make sure your press is able to handle it.

Getting started with sublimation is not difficult, and EnMart is here to help make it even easier.  If you have questions or concerns, we’ll be happy to help you, or to connect you with people who can.

Sublimation 101: A Complete Guide

Whenever I write about helpful websites or useful information for those who sublimate,  one of the companies and sites I often mention is Sawgrass Ink.   I tend to mention Sawgrass because (1) EnMart is a distributor of the sublimation and ChromaBlast ink they make and (2)  they know what they’re doing when it comes to sublimation and ChromaBlast.   They also put out great educational materials.  One of their latest offerings is Sublimation 101:  The Complete Guide to Sublimation Printing.

Now, when Sawgrass says a complete guide,  they aren’t kidding.   They cover everything from the history of sublimation, to color management to working with graphics to the sublimation process.  They also include an extensive section on how to sublimate many of the most popular sublimatible goods.    This is a terrific resource,  and well worth downloading.

One of the best sections, in my opinion anyway,  is Chapter 9.  This is the section that walks you, step by step,  through the process of sublimating some of the most popular sublimatible items.   If you’re interested in sublimating performance wear,  coated metal,  mousepads or ceramic tiles,  you’ll find this section very helpful.   Actually, if you want to sublimate anything, you’ll find this section very helpful,  as there is a helpful dye sublimation quick reference guide at the end of the chapter.

To download your own copy of Sublimation 101,  simply visit the Sawgrass website.  You will be asked to register with the site before you proceed with your download but, in my opinion anyway,  the registration is a minor price to pay for the information you are being offered.    If you’re just starting out in sublimation, this guidebook will be invaluable.   If you’re experienced with sublimation,  you will also find tips and tricks that will help make your sublimated goods that much better.    This guidebook is definitely worth a look and a download.

Pushing Past the Barriers

If you’ve ever tried to start something new,  be it a new routine,  a new habit or a new business,  you’ve probably encountered an obstacle or two.  Very few roads to something new are ever completely smooth,  and part of the fun is finding ways to circumvent the challenges that might keep you from meeting your goal.   Nothing worth while happens without effort,  and we know adding sublimation to your business will be very worth while.  We also know that there may be some barriers standing in your way.  Today I wanted to make some suggestions for circumventing some of the most common challenges.

Challenge 1 – I don’t know what sort of system to buy – First you need to answer some basic questions.   Do you want to decorate cotton garments?  Then you need a ChromaBlast system.  Are you more interested in creating colorful mugs and mousepads and flip flops?  In those cases,  you best bet would be a sublimation system.  Once you’ve decided what sort of products you want to decorate,  you just need to figure out what the biggest thing you would ever want to print would be.  This will help you zero in on the type of printer and heat press that will be right for you.

Challenge 2 – I don’t know where to find customers for my new business – Sawgrass offers webinars about finding new customers.   We offer tips on this blog about finding new customers for your sublimation or ChromaBlast business.   Most communities have a Chamber of Commerce which is generally eager and happy to help new businesses get established.   Twitter and Facebook can be great places to find customers online.  Sometimes finding new customers is as simple as wearing your work and handing out business cards.  If you get the word out about what you can do,  and keep putting it out there,  customers weill come.

Challenge 3 – I don’t know anyone else who does sublimation – Having a mentor or someone you can call on when you have a question or a problem is a great comfort.   If you’re looking for a community of people who already sublimate,  two great places to check out are the T-shirt Forums and the Apparel Decorators Forum.   Both forums contain a lot of helpful sublimation information and have members that are ready and eager to answer questions.  Also, keep in mind that,  should you purchase your system or supplies from EnMart,  you’ll also have us in your corner.  We’ve been working with sublimation and sublimation inks since the late 90s, and we’re always happy to share what we know with our customers.

Adding sublimation to your existing business,  or starting up a new business centered around sublimation or ChromaBlast can be done for a relatively small investment,  and the rewards can be quite large.   If you’re thinking about setting up a sublimation or ChromaBlast business of your own,  but have encountered a few barriers to getting things going,  give us a call.  We’ll be glad to help you remove those barriers and get further down the road to sublimation or ChromaBlast success.

Get Started with Sublimation: Target Market

Note:  This post marks the beginning of a new series “Get Started with Sublimation” which will be co-authored by our sublimation expert, Tom Chambers.  In this series we will lead you through the steps you need to take to set up your own sublimation shop and will give you tips that will help ensure you get the right equipment and supplies for your needs.   Our first post in this series will deal with determining what customers comprise your target market.

Typically, people who consider sublimation fall into two main categories, those who know what their target market is and have a good idea what they want to sell, and those who don’t have that information at hand.  Those who do know exactly what their market is and what they plan to offer to that market have only to answer some basic fundamental questions about equipment and they are off and running.  Business owners who are not as clear about what they want to do, what products they might like to offer, or what their local market will accept, can follow the same methods, but might have to incorporate a larger degree of flexibility, and a little guesswork to boot.

Clearly it pays to have a firm idea of what your target market is and who makes up that market before you start stocking and equipping your sublimation shop.  For some people the temptation may be to say that the target market is “everyone”, but that rarely holds true for any business or product.  Even if you do have a product with universal appeal, there are probably some segments of the marketplace that will find that product more appealing than other segments will.  The trick is to find the segments that want what you have to sell, and target your products and marketing directly to those people.

So, when it comes to sublimation, how do you figure out what to sell and to whom you should sell it?  Here are a few questions that can help you you make that determination.

Question  1:  Where are you going to sell? – Are you going to have a brick and mortar store in the town where you live?  Do you want to sell your product through a series of web sites?  Are you interested in taking your equipment on the road and selling at shows and events?  Each of these scenarios could have an effect on who your target market will be as well as on what products you’ll be likely to sell.

Question 2:  Who will buy your product? – If you’re looking to start a brick and mortar store, investigate the demographics of the surrounding area.   Also look at what sort of traffic gets generated in your town, tourists, for instance, may have interest in souvenir products that would not interest the local population.  If you want to go to flea markets or track meets or horse shows, ask the producers of the show if they can supply you with demographic information for those who attend.   If you want to sell online, do some research to determine what sort of people buy online and what and where they buy most frequently.    Doing the research may take some time and work, but it will be invaluable when it comes to deciding what products you’ll sell.  Knowing your audience will help make sure that you don’t end up trying to sell air conditioners to Eskimos.

Question 3:  What do you want to sell? – Now that you know how you’re going to put your product before the customer, and who that customer is, you’re ready to figure out what you want to sell.   Determining your product mix really comes down to using the knowledge you gained from answering the first two questions.  If, for instance,  most of your sales will be made when you travel to horse shows, you probably don’t want to offer a lot of fragile or easily breakable items.   If the demographics of the area surrounding your business are mostly young, single surfers, you probably don’t want to sell a lot of baby items.  In order to make a profit, you have to sell things that people want to buy.  That sounds like a very simple idea, but it’s one that new business owners often overlook.

Once you’ve answered the three questions above, and determined your target market and what you’ll be selling to that market,  you’re ready to start equipping your shop.    To do sublimation, you’ll need six basic components:

  1. A supported sublimation printer
  2. Sublimation ink
  3. Sublimation paper
  4. A computer containing some kind of graphics software, and either an ICC color profile, or specific sublimation printer driver
  5. Sublimation blank items to print and sell
  6. A heat press

In the next post in the “Get Started with Sublimation” series, we’ll talk about selecting your sublimation printer, which is where building your sublimation shop starts.