How to Choose a Sublimation Paper

Way back in 2010 we did a 2 part series detailing everything you needed to know about choosing a sublimation paper.   Eight years later (doesn’t time just fly) it seemed like a good idea to summarize some of what was in that series in an effort to help a new group of sublimation printers make their paper choices.   The original posts are still very relevant and worth reading in full, so if you’re inclined,  please take a moment to read Part 1 and Part 2.    If you’re short on time,  this summary will give you the basics.

To begin,  let’s talk about the three categories into which we at EnMart divide sublimation paper.  Our categories may be different than those other suppliers use,  but our experience has shown these category designations to be accurate, so they’re the ones we use.   In our experience, sublimation paper is either

  • High release
  • Low or Standard Release
  • Hybrid (combines properties of both)

High Release paper typically requires less time to press to release the majority of the ink onto the substrate.  This type of paper tends to work well for soft goods and may provide slightly superior color transfer.   One of the main issues with this paper may be smearing,  as high release paper tends not to dry quickly.   You may also experience “blow out” on hard goods like ceramic tiles of FRP key chains,  as the dye may be released so quickly that the harder materials can’t absorb it fast enough.    High release paper may also be more prone to curling, printer jams,  humidity and other environmental issues.

Low or standard release paper is pretty much the opposite of high release paper.   It dries quickly,  so smearing issues are minimal.   This type of paper works very well with hard goods and has little instance of “blow out”.   A potential drawback of low release paper is that it takes far more time in a press to draw the dye out.   Extensive time in a heat press can cause damage to or yellowing of coatings or fabrics,  but shortening the press time could result in colors that are less vibrant than desired.   On the positive side,  low release paper does tend to be resistant to jams and other environmental factors.

Hybrid paper,  as the name implies,  combines the qualities of both high and low release papers.   Some hybrid papers are more on the high release send of the spectrum while other are similar to low release paper.   The goal with this type of paper is to capitalize on the good points of both the other types of paper while minimizing the down side.   Based on our experience,  hybrid papers tend to be the best for all around use on all substrates.

If you’re wondering what type of paper Mpres Paper,  the sublimation paper that EnMart sells is,  it’s a hybrid paper.  The time required in a heat press is closer to the high release end of the spectrum,   but it mimics the low release papers in it’s capacity for quick drying to eliminate smearing, and the excellent release of color.   This is the paper that our parent company,  Ensign Emblem uses to create sublimated patches every day.     It’s been battle tested and proven worthy and we highly recommend 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.

White Paper and What You Make of It

I have to admit,  I’m long past the days of sitting in front of  a blank piece of paper with a pen waiting for inspiration to strike.  Nowdays I sit in front of a computer screen looking at a blank white square with a blinking cursor,  both waiting to be used to create a blog post, or a piece of collateral material or whatever else I may want to create.   My mind conceives,  my hands do the work, and the end product is something more than the white space, whether paper or programmed, where everything started.

While it’s true that everything combines to create something bigger than the sum of the parts,   that doesn’t make the parts inconsequential.  The right ingredients matter.  Your white paper,  whether computer generated or an actual piece of paper,  needs to be quality stuff,  which will work well for the purpose to which you are to put it.   You have to have experience and knowledge of how to use the supplies you are given,  whether those supplies are things like words and ideas,  or ink and printers. Finally,  you have to have the courage to take the leap between where you are and where you envision you could be.   After all blank paper and unused supplies don’t really amount to anything.  It’s what you do with those things that gives them meaning.

Sublimation starts with a piece of blank paper,  or a blank white surface of a mug or a mousepad,  and an idea.  The idea may be an abstract design,  a photograph,  or simply a logo or name.   When these things are combined,  the end result is a product that can be sold,  which might become a sign for someone’s shop or a keepsake on someone’s mantel.  The magic ingredient that changes the blank white space into something special is your imagination,  your knowledge and your willingness to try something new.

If you’re starting out,  looking at the white paper or the white sublimation blank may seem a little overwhelming,  but really all you’re looking at is a blank slate that is waiting for you to leave your mark.  We know that leaving your mark can seem like an intimidating thing to do,  or that you may think you need more knowledge before you make an attempt, and that’s why we’re here to help.  Whether it’s guiding you to the right resource,  or sharing with you some of our own knowledge and expertise,  we’ll be happy to help you find the assistance  and knowledge you need.

It all starts with a blank sheet of paper.  Where it ends is up to you.

Knowledge = Power (and a Good Supplier)

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that I often talk about the fact that EnMart’s parent company, Ensign Emblem,  was instrumental in bringing inkjet sublimation to industrial laundries.    In fact,  Ensign has been involved with sublimation in some form since the early 1990’s.    Later this week, I will be writing a post about Ensign’s history with sublimation, but today I wanted to talk about why that history matters and what it means for EnMart customers today.

First of all, for those who are not aware,  EnMart is part of the Ensign Group,  which was created by Ensign Emblem.   The Ensign Group was formed so that Ensign Emblem could create subsidiary companies and bring quality products and the benefits of the knowledge Ensign had accumulated to new markets.   EnMart is the first company in the Ensign Group and sells machine embroidery and sublimation supplies.

When EnMart was created,  it automatically had access to all the knowledge Ensign Emblem had accumulated over the years.    We could speak knowledgeably about the best paper for sublimation because we’d tested many types of paper until we found what we felt was the best.    EnMart’s sublimation experts could give advice on sublimation ink because we’ve worked with Sawgrass for years and had seen the development of sublimation ink.  We know how to get the best sublimation prints possible because we’ve created tons of sublimated emblems, and we’ve developed systems that allow Ensign’s industrial laundry customers to do the same.

In the end,  what all this means is that EnMart customers have access to a large database of sublimation knowledge.  Whether it’s a consultation about  which printer or heat press to buy,   or tips on how to get the most from your sublimation ink,  or advice that helps you figure out a problem,  we’re very likely to have the knowledge you need.  Best of all, becoming an EnMart customer gives you access to that knowledge, any time you need it,  every time you need it.

What We Use, What We Sell

Those of you of a certain age, what age I won’t say,  probably remember Victor Kiam.  Mr. Kiam was the owner of several things, one of them being Remington Products.  He was, for a time, the spokesperson for the company, and the slogan he used was “I liked it so much I bought the company.”  In its time, this slogan and advertising concept was quite popular, and it has been used since when companies want to signal that they really believe in the products and services they offer.

In the case of EnMart, we can’t say we bought the companies that design and manufacture the products that we sell.  Some, like Hilos Iris, or Sawgrass Ink, are companies with whom we work closely.  Other companies for whom we distribute products are simply that, companies who make the products which we sell.  Given that, we can’t really use the old slogan ourselves, since  it wouldn’t be strictly accurate to say we liked the products so much we bought the companies.  It would, however,  be strictly accurate to say we like the products so much, our company uses them.  It may not be as catchy a slogan, but it does have the benefit of being the truth.

Ensign Emblem, our parent company, creates sublimated emblems using Sawgrass Ink.  We work with the printers and sublimation paper we sell.  Were you to look, you could find the inks and papers being used by employees in our plants.  We sell the things we sell because we use them ourselves.  We know these products work.  They work for us every day.

As an advertising slogan “We like these products so much we use them every day” probably isn’t going to set the world on fire.   As a rationale for why you should purchase products from EnMart, however, it makes perfect sense.  Ensign Emblem, our parent company, has been creating sublimated emblems for years,  and was the first to bring inkjet sublimation to industrial laundries. In the time we’ve been working with sublimation, we’ve learned a little something about what products work and what products don’t work.  Now, through EnMart, you can make use of our expertise yourself and be confident that you’re getting products that will work well for your business.

After all, they work well for ours.

Why Paper Type is Important

When most people talk about sublimation they generally tend to talk about the inks or the printers or maybe the awesome varieties of sublimation blanks available.   I would guess that most people spare little if any thought for the paper on which the transfers will be printed.    This lack of thought about the paper you choose can be a serious oversight and have major consequences for the cost and quality of your printing.   Given that,  I thought it might be a good idea to discuss why paper matters and what qualities a good sublimation paper should have.

In the spirit of full disclosure,  I wanted to point out that some of the topics I’ll cover here were first mentioned in our post “The Quest for Fire … er… Sublimation Paper”,  which was offered on this blog as Part 1 and Part 2.   Those posts made their debut on the blog back in April,  and I figured some people might have missed them.   Because of that fact,  I feel pretty safe going over some ground we’ve already covered.  I did, however,  want you to know the full posts were there in case you wanted to read them in their entirety.  I do recommend doing that if you haven’t already done so.

The first thing you need to know is that EnMart divides sublimation paper into three categories.  We recognize that our categories may only be valid to us,  but they work for our purposes and may work for yours.   Those categories are:

  1. High Release
  2. Low or Standard Release
  3. Hybrid (combines properties of both)

High Release sublimation papers typically require lower press times  to release the majority of their sublimation dye into the substrate.  This decreased press time can also decreas your production time, and may  increase your  margins.  High release papers work very well for lower DPI prints of artwork on fabrics or other “soft goods”, and may also provide slightly superior color transfer. One thing you should be aware of is that high release papers typically don’t dry as fast.   If you are printing large numbers of sheets and allow the sheets to stack up, you may experience some smearing of the ink as one sheet feeds out on top of another.  There is also the potential for “tracking” where the feed wheels on your printer function pick up and deposit “tracks” of ink.  There is also the potential for  instances of “blow out” on hard goods like ceramics and FRP, if the dye is released so quickly that the coating cannot absorb it at the same rate.  High release paper may also be more susceptible to curling, printer jams, humidity, and other environmental issues.

Low or Standard Release papers usually have just the opposite qualities from high release papers.  They dry very quickly, so there are rarely any smearing issues.  They also work very very well on all hard goods like ceramics and FRP with little, if any, “blow out”.  Unlike high release papers, however, they require much more time in the heat press to get the dye out.  Reducing the press time even a little can cause colors to be less vibrant.  Long amounts of time in the heat press can also cause yellowing or other damage to coatings and fabrics.  This class of paper, however,  is virtually immune to paper jams or other environmental issues, and works equally well in a variety of printers and environments.

Hybrid papers, as you may have already figured out,  combine the best properties of both of the previous types of paper.   After testing a wide variety of papers over the years,  EnMart has settled exclusively on a hybrid paper.  We call the paper Mpres and it is the only paper we use internally and the only paper we sell.    If you want to know more about why we chose Mpres and why we think it’s a good option for our customers,  you can read this post, written back in May, that covers the subject.

As you can see,  the type of sublimation paper you choose can have a large bearing on the success and cost of your sublimation printing.   All sublimation papers are not created equal,  and the cheapest option may not always be the best.   Before you settle on one paper,  take the time to test a few and see which one works best for you and your business.  If you are interested in testing EnMart’s Mpres paper,   simply contact us and ask for a sample pack.  We’re confident in our paper,  and we believe,  once you’ve tested a sample,  you will be as well.

Top 7 Reasons (and 1 Bonus Reason) to Try Mpres Paper

1. Hybrid high release paper. Mprés releases more dye in less time onto the printable substrate than most other papers of this type for richer, deeper colors and better clarity.

2. Fast drying. Mprés dries almost instantly, eliminating any quality issues like tracking or smudging.

3. Universal sublimation paper. This paper works perfectly with any sublimation printing system including Ricoh and Epson, and any sublimatible material.

4. Print at multiple DPI levels.  This paper allows you to print at higher DPI levels (for use with ceramics, UNISUB materials, etc) and at lower DPI levels (emblems, mousepads, etc) allowing you to save ink.

5. Increased Productivity.  Mprés Paper requires less press time and dries faster than many other papers, and printing at lower DPI levels may also increase printing speeds.

6. First-Hand Product Knowledge.  We not only sell Mprés Paper, we use it ourselves every day.  We have the first hand product knowledge necessary to help our customers successfully use the product.

7.  New Lower Pricing. Bulk purchases and economies of scale have allowed us to lower the price on our 8 1/2 x 11 Mprés Paper.   The new pricing, effective 5/10/10, will save you money on every pack of paper you buy.  Quantity breaks will also ensure that the more you buy, the more you save.  The new pricing is as follows:

1-4 packs   $13.99
5-9 packs  $12.99
10-19 packs  $12.59
20-49 packs  $11.89
50-99 packs  $11.39
100+  packs  $11.19

and one bonus reason…

8. We’ll Send You a Sample of Paper Free! –  We’re so confident that you’ll love Mprés as much as we do, that we want to introduce you to it by offering you a free 10 sheet sample pack of 8 1/2 x 11.   To request your 10 sample sheets, contact us at 866-516-1300 or e-mail us at mpres@myenmart.com.