Tag: sublimation ink

Think Ink

Cobra Ink.   No name ink from China.  Sawgrass Ink.   When it comes to sublimation,  it seems like there are a lot of choices for the ink that can be used,  but that’s a bit misleading.  Yes,  there are a number of inks that advertise themselves as sublimation ink,  but not all of them work the same way in your printer.   An ink that isn’t high quality can cause nozzles to clog,  print heads to break and designs to print with reds that aren’t red and blacks that look gray.   The quality of the ink you use matters,  for a couple of reasons.

The first is the fact that calling sublimation ink by the name ink is a bit of a misnomer.   Sublimation ink is made up of a carrier fluid that carries dye solids.     Because of this,  sublimation ink has a high viscosity and, at times,  more trouble going through standard inkjet print heads.   Keep in mind,  this is not in all cases.   We have countless examples of customers who have printed successfully for years with their Ricoh 3110 or 7700 printers.  Still,  sublimation ink does have an increased potential to cause problems when used in a standard inkjet printer.  One of the reasons that the Virtuoso Printers were created was so they could be designed specifically to meet the special needs of sublimation ink.

Another issue that can create problems for sublimation printers is refillable cartridges.   When it comes to printer systems,  there are generally two types,  a closed system and an open system.   A closed system is one in which the cartridges are prefilled and installed directly into the printer.   In this type of system,  there is no opportunity for dust or other contaminants to mix with the ink.    By contrast,  an open system,  one where ink from bottles or bags is poured into refillable cartridges offers the opportunity for air bubbles or contaminants to mix in with the ink.   The result can, at worst,  be damage to the print head.

Those of you reading this,  after even a cursory glance at the sublimation section of our website,   will probably notice that we carry Sublijet Ink and Virtuoso Printers and may,  as a result,  conclude everything we’ve said up to now is biased,  but you’d be wrong.    EnMart,  or EnMart’s parent company, Ensign Emblem,  has been working with inkjet sublimation practically since the process existed.    We were instrumental in bringing inkjet sublimation to the industrial laundry and rental uniform community.   After years,  even decades,  of sublimating emblems,  and occasionally making mugs and mousepads and shirts,  we understand how sublimation works,  and we know that the products we sell will provide the best finished goods,  because we use them too.

What Can I Sublimate?

Woman with question marks on a blackboardOne of the most common questions about sublimation that we get asked is “what can I sublimate?”.   It’s a common question because people either assume you can sublimate anything  or they assume you can only sublimate items that are in some super secret special category to which not everyone has access.    The truth is somewhere in the middle.   Not every item is suitable for sublimation, as with most decoration disciplines,   there are items that cannot be sublimated because of how they’re made,  what they’re made of,  or because they won’t fit properly into the  heat presses or other heating methods available.     On the other side of the coin,  items suitable for sublimation are not some magically coated items that only a select few can use or buy.   In reality,  sublimation is really a fairly easy decoration discipline to enter and master.  If you are thinking of starting a sublimation business or wondering what you can and can’t sublimate,  here are a few pieces of information that should help you understand what you can sublimate and what may not be an ideal choice when it comes to sublimating a product.

The first thing you need to know is that hard goods suitable for sublimation need to be poly coated.   This means,  as I said in my last post,   that you can’t go to the dollar store and buy a mug and sublimate it.   Yes,  there are sprays that can be used to coat items for sublimation,  and going that route may be a viable choice for some people.   For most people, however,   the easiest route is to buy sublimation blanks already coated.  This will ensure that you get a quality blank with a smooth coating that is designed to stand up to the temperatures needed to get a good sublimated print.

When it comes to sublimating fabric,   100% polyester fabric will always give you the best result.   There are several t-shirt brands,  among them Vapor Apparel,  that make 100% polyester shirts that are comfortable to wear and have a nice feel.  These shirts are designed especially for sublimation and come in an array of colors that are suitable for this decoration discipline.

People often ask if it is possible to sublimate a polyester blend,  and the answer to that question is yes,  with a qualification.   Yes,  you an sublimate a poly blend but,  because it is a blend,   the sublimation ink will only dye the poly fibers.   This results in a more distressed look for your print.   Some people find this sort of look attractive and desirable.   Others do not.   If you want a full color print,  your best bet is to start with a garment that is 100% polyester.   This will always produce your best and most colorful result.

Sublimation is actually fairly simple when you get right down to it.   You need sublimation ink and sublimation paper and a blank suitable for sublimation.     You need a heat source that can reach 400 degrees,  either a heat press that can accommodate the blank you want to sublimate,  or  a wrap that can hold your transfer in place while the item is in an oven.  Finally you need a blank that is suitable for sublimation and some graphic software to create the graphic you want to print.   If you have all those things,  you’re ready to sublimate.

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.

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.

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.

5 Tips for Speedy Holiday Ordering

While, for some people,  it has been the holiday season for quite some time already,  the official countdown to Christmas starts on the Friday after Thanksgiving.   If you’ve been making your gift lists and checking them twice,  you may have already purchased the supplies you need.   If not,  here are a few tips for planning your sublimation supply orders from EnMart.  These tips will help ensure that your supplies arrive on time and you can have your gifts completed, wrapped and under the tree long before Christmas morning.

Tip # 1:  All sublimation supplies currently come from Michigan –  Although we do have four locations across the United States,   all sublimation papers, inks, printers and blanks are currently shipped from Michigan.  Please factor shipping time from Michigan to your location into estimated delivery time when you place your order.

Tip 2:  Most orders turn same day if placed early enough – At EnMart we pride ourselves on same day shipment of almost all orders.  The only exceptions are orders for which items need to be created i.e. blank patches,  or orders which come in too late to make our shipment pick-up.    To ensure your order ships the same day you place it,  make sure it is placed early enough in the day to be pulled, packaged and picked-up.

Tip 3:  Sublimation blanks can be bought by the piece –  If you just need one piece of one of our sublimation blanks for a gift,  you can buy just one.   The only requirement is that your order meets the $25 minimum purchase requirement.   As long as your order is $25 or more,  you can buy one of any of the sublimation blanks we offer.

Tip 4:  Combo packages make great gifts – If you know someone who might want to get started with sublimation, one of EnMart’s sublimation combo packages makes a great gift.    We’ll even box everything up and ship it to the intended recipient’s address.    Please do keep in mind that combo packages supply everything needed to print a sublimation transfer.  If you want to sublimate an item,  you’ll need an item suitable for sublimation and a heat press as well.

Tip 5:   Ink prices will rise in 2012, so stock up on ink now – Ink prices are scheduled to rise in 2012,  so now is the time to stock up on sublimation ink.  As always,  EnMart offers free Ground shipping on all sublimation ink,  so now is the time to replenish your supply at 2011 prices and get free shipping.

Health, Safety and Sublimation

One of the questions about sublimation I see popping up with relative frequency on forums deals with how safe the inks are to use.   Anyone who has worked with garment or promo product decoration knows that some of the chemicals used be breathing hazards,  have warnings against contact with skin,   or may become volatile when combined with other chemicals.  It pays to be careful and prudent when working with any dye, ink or chemical,  but how do you know what level of safety and care is necessary?

One way to know what precautions you may need to take is to read the MSDS sheets for the products you are using.   MSDS sheets for Sawgrass products are available on their website and listed in the technical support section.  The MSDS sheets will give you information on the chemicals involved,   what to do if the ink makes contact with the skin or gets in your eyes,   and how to handle the ink properly.    These documents may also be required by some of your customers, so it is always wise to keep copies on hand.

Another way to make sure you are using your ink and equipment properly and safely is to watch the videos about setting up your printer that Sawgrass has created.    These videos will help ensure that your system is set up correctly which means set up to be used safely.     You can also find troubleshooting tips which will provide assistance if your printer is having issues.

Finally,  if you’re concerned about health, safety and the environment,  you should know about Sawgrass’ Green Ink Statement.   Sawgrass sublimation inks qualify as “green” inks,  as they are water based,  and are thus better for the environment and, because they are VOC free,  better for the health of those who use them.    To learn more about why Sawgrass Ink qualifies as “green” ink,  you can download their white paper on the subject.

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!

 

SubliJet and ArTainium UV Ink: A Comparison

Anyone who has visited the EnMart website knows that we sell Sublijet ink.  What you may not know is that we have access to and can sell ArTainium UV Ink,  which is also manufactured by Sawgrass and is also suitable for sublimation.  Both inks can be used in the same types of printers and with the same sorts of substrates.  If you’re wondering which ink you should be using,  here’s a breakdown of some of the key features of each ink.

ArTainium Ink is only available for Epson printer models.    This ink delivers vibrant color and is perfect for professional photographers or anyone who needs precision and fine detail in the images they produce.   This ink is designed to interface with a variety of ICC profiles,  so it can work well in any production environment.  ArTainium Ink is a great solution for those who are familiar with and comfortable using design programs like Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator,  since ICC profiles must be used through one of these programs.   If you prefer to rely on your own color management rather than a print interface that manages color,  this ink is the one for you.  While EnMart currently does not stock this ink,  we do sell it and can stock it at customer request.  If you are interested in purchasing ArTainium Ink from EnMart,  simply contact us for more information.

Sublijet Inks are the inks that EnMart currently has in stock.  These inks come with Sawgrass’ PowerDriver Software, which guides users through the color management process.   Sublijet inks are a great choice for those who want a little more assistance with their color management, or perhaps aren’t as familiar with graphic software.    Epson printer users can purchase Sublijet IQ ink,  while Ricoh printer users can purchase Sublijet R.    Both inks are currently available on the EnMart website.

For more information on ArTainium UV inks and the SubliJet Inks,  please visit the following links:

SubliJet IQ

SubliJet R

ArTainium UV

Technical Support

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.