Tag: getting started with sublimation

Reasons NOT To Try Sublimation (2017 Edition)

A few months short of seven years ago,  I wrote a tongue in cheek post listing 5 reasons not to buy a sublimation system.   While I wrote that post with a light hearted slant,  the intent behind it was to make people think about what sublimation could offer and why a decorator might want to try sublimation.  Roughly seven years later,  we still think that sublimation is a good way to create a profit center for your business and we still advise and encourage those who want to get started with sublimation to give it a try.

Still,  as the post from 2010 says,  there were reasons then not to buy a system and there are still reasons today not to get involved with sublimation.   Here are a few that have cropped up since the original post was written.

Reason 1:  Creative Studio makes design too easy – One of the obstacles to starting with sublimation, for some people anyway,  was the fact that you really needed to know how to use some sort of graphic design program.   Since the release of Sawgrass Ink’s Creative Studio,  a lack of graphic design expertise is no longer an issue.   Creative Studio is designed to be easy to use and doesn’t require an incessant watching of tutorials or reading of manuals.   Using this software,  you can learn to create print ready designs in a matter of minutes.   Best of all, Creative Studio comes free with any Virtuoso Printing System.

Reason 2:  Virtuoso Printing Systems are adapted for sublimation – Nozzle checks take time.  Clogged printheads lead to uneven prints.  One of the issues with sublimation, historically, has been that printers that weren’t designed for sublimation were being used to print transfers.   It made the whole process challenging.   Now,  some of that challenge has been eliminated.  The Virtuoso SG400 and SG800 are the first printers designed specifically with sublimation in mind.   Sawgrass Ink partnered with Ricoh to develop these printers on the Ricoh platform,  taking into account the special requirements of printing sublimation transfers.  The result is a printer that prints fast and with dazzling color.

Reason 3:  So many blanks,  so hard to choose – As sublimation has gotten more popular,  the number of blanks that are available to be sublimated has steadily increased.   Whether it’s a greater array of garments that can be sublimated,   or a larger spectrum of hard goods,  it will take time to decide which blanks you want to offer.     You can even decide to specialize in a particular kind of mug,  or coaster or cutting board,  and make a living doing so.   The possibilities are endless,  and who needs to spend brain power narrowing them down?

Reason 4:  So many places to sell,  so little time – The markets for sublimation have exploded in the last few years.   People are selling on their own sites,  or on sites like CafePress or Zazzle or Etsy.    Some are setting up their own websites.   Other people load a printer and a press and take their business on the road,  printing at sporting events or trade shows.    There’s money to be made in so many places,  no one has the time to get to them all.

Obviously,  like the last post,  this one is intended to be a funny way to make you think about getting started with sublimation.    If you are interested in learning more about sublimation and adding it to your business,  contact us.    We’ll be happy to give give you some advice on and assistance in getting started.

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What Sublimation Is (and Isn’t)

The calls are almost always the same.   At least a couple of times a week,  someone calls EnMart wanting to know about sublimation.   What it is,  how it works,  what can be made,  what it costs,  what kind of equipment is necessary,  the questions are all over the board.  Since the same sorts of questions come up relatively frequently,  it seemed like a good idea to do a post detailing what sublimation is,  and what it’s not.

What Sublimation Is:

First,  the technical stuff:  the official definition of sublimation is as follows:  “In chemistry, the direct conversion of a solid into a gas, without passage through a liquid stage. (See phases of matter.)”  Dye sublimation is the process by which heat is applied to inks turning them into a gas and bonding the ink with the polyester fibers of fabric or the poly coating on hard goods.  The result of the bond is a print that won’t wear out until the imprinted  item does.

Sublimation is a process that has less expensive start up costs than most other decoration options.   Those who wanted to go all out and get the biggest printer package and a top of the line heat press and a ton of blanks and the latest graphic design software could probably still set up their business for less than $7500.   Those with smaller budgets, or who may already have some of the components like design software or a heat press, could most likely get started for a few thousand or less.

Sublimation is a decoration technique that has a lower learning curve than some.   In order to create sublimated goods,  a person must know how to operate a heat press and an ink jet printer.  Some knowledge of graphic design and graphic design software is also helpful,  but not necessarily required.    There are programs,  like Creative Studio from Sawgrass  which can help with the design side of things.

What Sublimation Isn’t:

Sublimation isn’t suitable for dark colors.   The printing disciplines that work on dark colors are those that offer an option for white.   Anything printed on dark shirt is usually printed over a white underbase.   If your printing process does not offer that option,  then it is not suitable for use with dark colors.   Sublimation does not offer an option for white ink.

Sublimation isn’t suitable for fabrics other than polyester.   Poly blends may print well enough for some people,  but use of a poly blend garment will result in a more distressed look.   For best results,  print on 100% polyester garments or poly coated items.   It should be noted that there are coating sprays available which can be used to turn almost anything into an item suitable for sublimation,  but application of those sprays or coatings outside of a professional coating booth can be tricky.

Sublimation isn’t intimidating.   Some people are worried they’ll ruin a few blanks when they start out.   Don’t worry,  that will happen,  it happens to everyone and it’s part of the learning process.   If you can handle a printer and a heat press,  you can handle sublimation.   Fear of the unknown keeps a lot of potential decorators from trying something new and that’s a shame.  Sublimation does have a slight learning curve,  but it’s not that difficult to master.

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What We Can’t Teach

professorIt’s a new year and I would guess that many shops are taking a look around and deciding what new decoration techniques or disciplines they’ll be adding to their shop in 2016.   I always think the beginning of a new year is an exciting time,  because it seems that so many things are possible,  and so many options are available.    The first quarter of the year is a time of learning and questioning for a lot of companies,  as they find out what they could do and make a decision about what they should do to increase their profits.

At EnMart,  we always find this a fun time of year,  because we get to spend time talking with customers who are considering whether or not sublimation is a good choice for their business.   We’ve been working with dye sublimation,  through both EnMart and our parent company Ensign Emblem,  practically since inkjet sublimation was a thing,  so we love sharing what we know with people who are just starting out.   Part of our mission here at EnMart is to be educators,  helping business owners learn how to use their supplies and their equipment to the best advantage.

We can teach you how to sublimate.    We have the equipment and we have the skill.   We know about transfers that slip and cause ghosting,  about printing on the wrong side of the paper,  and about picking up that mug or tile when it’s still just a little too hot.    Having been sublimating for so many years,   we understand the wonder of that first print,   and we also know you can still feel that wonder after the 500th or 5000th print.    Our customers have gifted us with their joy as they understand what can be done with sublimation,  and their gratitude when we’ve explained a problem they weren’t able to solve.   Really,   we can teach you,  through blog posts, on social media,  through articles,  on the phone, or face to face,  almost everything you need to know about sublimation,  except for these things.

We can’t teach how exciting it will be the first time you successfully sublimate something.    You won’t really understand the value of sublimation as an upselling tool until you add an order of coffee mugs to that logowear order you get every year.     We can’t replicate the first time you see the variety of products that can be sublimated and realize in how many ways sublimation can expand your business and your potential profits.     There are no words that can convey the satisfaction of landing the account you’ve been trying to get for years and finally landed,  because you had something new to offer.     We can teach you the nuts and bolts of sublimation,  but the intrinsic things,   the fun and profit of sublimation,  you have to learn on your own.

The fun part,  from our perspective,  is we know that,  if you add sublimation to your business,  you will.

 

 

Starting a Sublimation Business in 2015

startWe all know that the beginning of the year is a time when many people embark on new adventures.   If you’ve been thinking that 2015 is the year you should start that sublimation business you’ve been contemplating,  EnMart can help.

The first place to start is in the sublimation category on the EnMart website.  There you can see the printers available,  a selection of the blanks that can be sublimated,  and get an idea how much things like ink and paper will cost.     You can also download the 2011 edition of the Dye Sublimation Bible.   Although this book is now a few years old,   it still provides a good basic overview of sublimation and how to sublimate various blank items.

Another helpful resource is this blog.   From time to time,  I write a series of posts that deal with a particular aspect of sublimation.  It might be how to get started with sublimation,  it might be how to sublimate a particular item,  or it could be a discussion about paper or ink.     The posts are designed to help you gain more knowledge about sublimation and how to successfully make it part of your business.

There are also a variety of magazines and trade organizations that deal with sublimation.  Most magazines will have archives of back issues so you can find sublimation related articles you may have missed.    The organizations all deal with sublimation in some form.   In addition to those mentioned,  you may also want to check out the Advertising Specialties Institute,  which may be a useful resource when you’re working to find markets for your sublimated goods.

Sawgrass Technologies,  the manufacturer of sublimation ink,  provides a wide variety of helpful resources on their website.   They offer webinarsvideos and a library of articles about sublimation.    They also offer technical support and advice should you have issues getting started with sublimation.

Keep in mind,  the biggest resource for sublimation is the willingness to try something new and a comfort with the idea that you’ll probably mess things up once or twice.   Sublimation is not hard to learn,  but there are tricks and tips that can help you successfully sublimate almost any substrate suitable for sublimation.   The resources listed above will help you learn what you need to know to make your sublimation business a success.

SubliStuff Sublimation Series Posts

series listOver on the EmbroideryTalk Blog,  I just did a post where I collected all the links to my series posts in one place.  For those who don’t know,  a series post is when I deal with one subject over several posts,  talking about a different aspect of the topic in each post.   I’ve also done some series posts here on the SubliStuff blog,  so it seemed like a good idea to collect links to those posts all in one place so people can more easily find them.

Subject:  Getting Started with Sublimation

Target Markets for Sublimated Products 

Sublimation: It’s (Not) Complicated 

Create, Print, Press! Is It Really that Easy?

Choosing a Heat Press

Choosing a Printer 

Target Market 

Sublimation Reality Check

Subject: How to Sublimate a Specific Item

How to Sublimate a Shot Glass

What Exactly Can You Sublimate 

How to Sublimate Tiles 

Subject:  Sublimation Paper

Mpres Paper 

The Quest for Fire… Sublimation Paper, pt 1

The Quest for Fire… Sublimation Paper, pt 2

Subject:  ChromaBlast Ink

ChromaBlast:  A Comparison 

ChromaBlast for Cotton

ChromaBlast Printing for Dark T-Shirts

Please keep in mind that this blog has been around since 2010, so some of the printers mentioned may no longer be offered.   I do think the information contained in these posts is still helpful, however, and hopefully you will as well.

Sublimation Reality Check

reality checkI post on a couple of decoration forums and on one of them,  the ADF,  we’ve been having a discussion about sublimation.  Now,  if you search sublimation on a decoration forum,  you’ll find lots that’s positive,  as there are many people out there who are doing very well with sublimation and having thriving businesses built around sublimating clothing or other goods.   You will also, however,  find people who don’t like the printers,  don’t like the ink and don’t think sublimation works well at all.   Everyone is, of course,  entitled to their own opinion,  and certainly an individual’s own experiences will form that opinion,  but I have to wonder if part of the disillusion when it comes to sublimation is because of poor information at the start.   Since I figure that might be the case,  at least in part,  I thought today might be a good day to post a sublimation reality check and discuss a few things that everyone should know before they start sublimating.

Reality Check #1:  Learning Curve –  The learning curve for sublimation may be smaller than for other decorating techniques,  but there is a learning curve.   You need to expect to make some mistakes and ruin some blanks.   You need to plan on spending some time watching videos or reading blogs to learn how to sublimate correctly.   Compared to some other decoration techniques,  sublimation is fairly simple,  but it still takes time to learn how to sublimate properly.

Reality Check #2:  Printers and Ink – Yes,  sublimation ink is different from regular printer ink.  Yes, printers used with sublimation ink,  regardless of brand,  can have clogs and sometimes do.   No,  this does not mean that sublimation ink is terrible and the printers are crap.    It means you have to learn how to use your system properly, and you have to pay attention to the conditions around your printer and stay on a regular printing schedule to avoid problems. It also means sometimes you can do everything you know to do and clogs happen.  The law of averages says some printers will have problems,  but that doesn’t mean every printer and every cartridge of ink is flawed.

Reality Check #3:  Sublimation is a money pit/ gold mine –  It costs money to get started in sublimation,  although start up costs are lower than with some other decoration disciplines.  It’s also possible to make a good living with sublimation,  although that takes work and some selling.   Customers won’t drop into your lap,  but they are out there,  and sublimation also makes a nice compliment to other decoration disciplines,  like embroidery.

The main thing to remember is that building a sublimation business is like building any type of business – it takes time and dedication and a certain amount of making mistakes before you reach success.   If you are dedicated to buying a good sublimation system,  willing to spend the time to learn how to use it properly,  and realistic enough to understand that there will be bumps in the road,  you will most likely be able to develop a profitable and satisfying sublimation business.

5 Steps to Sublimation Success in 2013

stepsEnMart’s parent company,  Ensign Emblem, has been working with inkjet sublimation practically as long as inkjet sublimation has existed.   We know the benefits of adding sublimation to a business because we’ve helped a great many businesses  do just that.    If you’re looking for a new profit center in 2013,  or searching for a relatively inexpensive way to start a business of your own,  sublimation may be just the thing for which you’ve been looking.    Make 2013 your most profitable year ever by following EnMart’s 5 steps to sublimation success.

Step 1:  Buy your equipment and supplies from a dealer who knows sublimation –  I know many of you probably thought I’d say that step one should be buy from EnMart,  and I do think you should buy from us,  but I won’t say we’re the only company out there who sells sublimation supplies knowledgeably and at a reasonable price.   Take your time,  do your research and ask questions of the companies from which you are thinking of buying.  Go with the one that suits you best and provides the information and experience you require.   Personally,  I think if you talk to us,  the company you choose will be EnMart.

Step 2:  Take your purchases out of their boxes – I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me and said they bought a sublimation system at a show months ago and never took it out of the box.   A system that isn’t used can’t generate revenue.  Don’t let your sublimation system gather dust in a corner.  Take it out,  set it up and turn it on.

Step 3:  Make mistakes, lots of them  – Let’s get this out of the way now,  you will screw up.   You’ll sublimate a design upside down.   You’ll leave something on the heat press too long or not long enough.   Learning the graphics software you choose will be more difficult than you anticipated.   You will waste money and time,  completely unintentionally,  but it will happen.  Make peace with that fact and don’t let fear of screwing up keep you from even trying.

Step 4:  Learn –  Sawgrass has a wide variety of videos and webinars which can help you learn various aspects of the sublimation business.    Attending a trade show is always a great way to learn more.    Reading blogs, like this one,  can give you lots of hints and tips.     Download the Dye Sublimation Guide from our website.    Read and watch and ask questions  all with the goal of getting better at sublimation today than you were yesterday.

Step 5:  Sell – Once you’ve got your sublimation system up and running,  it’s time to let people know what you can do and start soliciting orders.   Post pictures of your work on your company Facebook page.   Set up a table at a local market.   Create an intriguing display in a corner of your shop.  Contact your current customers and let them know about your new capabilities.  Network with future customers to find out what sublimated goods they might wish to buy.

The 5 Ws of Sublimation: Why Sublimate?

Note:  This post is the third in the series called the 5 Ws of Sublimation.  The traditional five Ws are who, what, when, where and why.    For the purposes of this series, however,  I’m changing the five Ws to who, what, why, which and when.   This post deals with why a business would want to add sublimation to their product offerings. 

Probably the biggest question we get from people who aren’t familiar with sublimation is that of why anyone would want to sublimate.   The easy answer would be that sublimation can add another profit center for a business,  and that’s a good answer,  but it’s not really a complete answer or the only answer.    If you really want to deal with the question of why a person or a company would want to add sublimation to their product offerings,  you have to examine the entire picture.   As I see it,  there are four main reasons why sublimation is a good idea for most decoration businesses.

Reason 1: Sublimation offers more options –  Most, although not all, decoration options seem to be about clothing or tote bags or hats.   Adding sublimation allows a business to expand to a wide variety of hard goods as well as offering the ability to decorate clothing and hats.    Sublimated products can open an entirely new market, or can serve as good add-ons for those companies that primarily order garments.

Reason 2: Sublimation has relatively low financial barriers to entry –  EnMart offers a basic sublimation package for $419.00 on our website.   Other sublimation supply companies may offer something similar. Granted that basic package has to be augmented with blanks for sublimation and a heat press,  but you can still start out with sublimation for a relatively small initial start-up investment.

Reason 3: Sublimation does not require a lot of extensive training –   If you can use a printer, a heat press and have some knowledge of graphic software,  you’re probably going to find sublimation fairly simple.  While there are manuals and videos and blogs like this one that offer tips and advice,  in general you don’t need extensive training to operate the equipment necessary for sublimation.     Creating designs and printing goods is generally fairly simple as well.  There may be some trial and error at the beginning or when attempting to sublimate a new item but, in general, sublimation is fairly easy to master.

Reason 4:Sublimation is less harmful than the inks and materials used in other decorating disciplines – Sawgrass sublimation ink is considered “green” ink and, as such, is less harmful to the environment or the people that use the ink.    While it is not recommended, simply for common sense reasons, that you sublimate products in the same oven where you cook your family’s dinner,  in general sublimation residue and fumes are considered to be non-toxic.

 

Sublimation Start Up

We recently did some crunching of the numbers for 2011 and discovered that one of the most popular items that we sell at trade shows is our QuickStartR package.   That’s really no surprise,  the package is a great offer and reasonably priced.  What was a surprise, however,  is the number of people we spoke with on follow up calls who, even months after the show was long over,  had not yet set their system up or weren’t printing with it on a regular basis.

Very few people, obviously,  purchase a product for their business with the intention of letting it sit in a corner and gather dust.    The goal behind the purchase is to create a new profit center,  which can’t be done if the system never comes out of the box or is barely used after it’s set up.   If you have a system and haven’t yet done much of anything with it,  here are some places you can look for help in getting started.

One place to turn to for help is the Sawgrass Ink website.   They have how to videos,  webinars,  videos on how to set up your printer and a terrific technical support staff.   Sawgrass also has a blog called How to Sublimate.   The Sawgrass site provides a lot of resources,  so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Another option would be to download the Dye Sublimation Guide from the EnMart website.   This guide was created by Sawgrass and contains a lot of information about how to get started with sublimation.  The guide also contains step by step instructions for sublimating some common items.   The entire guide is 62 pages long,  so it could easily be printed.

EnMart also has a YouTube channel where you can see videos about sublimation and about Knight heat presses.  We’ve put together some videos of our own and also favorited some videos from our suppliers which should be helpful.   Sometimes a picture, or a video is worth a thousand words.

Finally, you can get help here on this blog.  We have an entire category of blog posts devoted to getting started with sublimation.    You can always leave a comment on a post with questions.   You can also visit us on our Twitter feed or Facebook page and ask questions there.

Making Peace with the Mistakes

Since EnMart has been selling sublimation supplies,  we’ve helped start a lot of people start their journey toward creating a viable sublimation business.  It’s always fun to hear the excitement in our customers’ voices when they buy their system,  or to see their faces when they carry a QuickStartR package away from our trade show booth, but it’s also a bit frustrating.   As excited as people can be when they make the initial purchase,  many people can be intimidated by sublimation once they’ve gotten their purchases home and started to set up production.    The initial excitement becomes concern.

 

“What if I don’t format the artwork correctly?”

“What if my color settings are off?”

“What if I don’t secure the transfer properly and the paper moves?”

“What if my time, temperature and pressure settings aren’t correct?”

Sublimation isn’t complicated,  but there are things that need to be understood and done correctly in order for goods to be sublimated properly.    It can seem intimidating.   Sublimation inks are an investment.   Sublimation blanks and paper cost money as well.   No one likes to waste supplies or waste money, and some people are so paralyzed at the thought that they might that it becomes a struggle to even set things up to start sublimating.

The thing is,  sublimation doesn’t have to be intimidating.  All you have to do is realize one simple thing,  at some point you will screw something up,  it’s inevitable.    It could be a temperature variance in your press.   You might miss a setting on your color management software.  You might press something for more time than recommended.   Something, at some point, will happen.  That’s why EnMart includes things like practice fabric with our packages.  Mishaps and mistakes happen to everyone,  beginners and seasoned pros alike, and practice is what helps keep the mistakes to a minimum.

Once you’ve made your peace with the idea that you will,  at some point in your sublimation career,  screw up a transfer, or sublimate something upside down,  or have color issues or whatever the problem may be,   you can move on to the fun part,  the times when you get things right.    For every mistake  there will be hundreds of products you sublimate beautifully which go on to be products you can sell proudly and profitably.    If you focus on that instead of on the idea that you might make a mistake,  you’ll find that sublimation becomes fun  and relatively easy.