One of the beauties of sublimation is that it isn’t limited to one type of item. You don’t have to just embellish garments, or just work with fabric, or just work with hard goods and never work with fabric. Sublimation allows you to decorate a wide variety of items, some fabric, some hard goods and some in the spectrum in between. While each specific item will have its own unique characteristics, there are some things that are fairly universal. Here are six tips that can help you in sublimating almost any substrate, from poly t-shirts to puzzles and mousepads to mugs.
Tip 1: Each item is different, read the instructions and then test – It’s easy to think that a ceramic tile is a ceramic tile or a polyester shirt is the same regardless of manufacturer, but that isn’t always the case. Make sure you read the instructions specific to the item you are pressing and then do a test run before you start your production run. Each heat press, batch of ink and substrate will react a little differently. Purchasing one extra item to test can save you a ton of money in ruined items down the line.
Tip 2: Too much moisture is a bad thing – If the room where you’re sublimating is too humid, it can cause problems with your paper and with the items you’re sublimating. Make sure your sublimation paper is stored in a cool dry place. If you suspect your paper is too moist put it on your press for several seconds to to evaporate the moisture. You can also press garments for 10 seconds if they’re retaining more moisture than they should. It may also be a good idea to use an absorbent cloth or a non textured paper towel behind your transfer to absorb excess moisture.
Tip 3: Don’t leave the transfer on too long – This tip may be especially relevant when it comes to ceramics, like tiles or mugs. Removing the transfer quickly helps prevent ghosting of the image and prevents the paper from sticking. Once the paper has been removed, cooling the ceramic in a bucket of water is recommended.
Tip 4: Make sure your pressing time is just right – Press your item for too few seconds and you won’t get a good print, in the case of garments, you may even get a print that washes out too quickly, as the ink hasn’t had time to dye the fibers. Press the item for too long and you could get image fade on fabric, or ghosting on ceramic items. Check the instructions for the item you’re pressing to be sure you’re sublimating at the right time and temperature.
Tip 5: You will make a mistake. Deal with it – In my opinion, one of the biggest problems novice sublimators have is the fear that they’ll make a mistake and ruin an expensive blank. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that will happen. Plan for it to happen, deal with it when it does happen and move on. Don’t let fear of making a mistake stop you from ever trying at all.
Tip 6: Information is your friend – The more you know, the better you can sublimate. Sawgrass has a whole host of videos and webinars that can help you learn to sublimate specific items. Blogs like this one will give you tips and provide advice and encouragement. Forums like T-shirt Forums or the ADF Forum have whole sections devoted to sublimation. Google and read and study and learn and then practice, that’s the best way to get better at sublimation.
*Yes, I like a bit of alliteration on occasion. Why do you ask?