Press to Mpres

by Tom Chambers

Sublimation paper can be the bane of the sublimation decorator’s existence if it doesn’t work right and fails in some manner.  Having a good quality paper is critical.  But the most expensive papers don’t always give you the best results, and the cheapest papers can leave you wanting something better.  Other issues can arise if your trusted paper brand suddenly and inexplicably changes their formulas, or wink, wink 😉 gets the paper from a different, i.e. cheaper, upstream supplier.

Here at EnMart, we know what it’s like when that happens; it’s happened to us in the past, and I’ve had to go on a quest for a new paper on more than one occasion.  I’ll spare you the long detailed stories and just tell you that one of the most important things you need in a sublimation paper is “stability”.  In other words, the paper you buy next year needs to have the same properties as the one you like to use today.

EnMart only uses and sells sublimation paper with the brand name of MPRÉS-II.  You know, kind of like “iMPRESs” which can mean “iMPRESsing” your artwork onto something, or maybe you’ll be “iMPRESsed” with how it works, and “iMPRESs” your customers with the quality of your finished products.  At any rate, we thought it was a clever name for a product that we were impressed with.  (Also, the “M” is a nod to our Merlin sublimation system that is used by rental uniform companies to create their own sublimated emblems for uniforms.)

MPRÉS-II is our brand name, but we don’t make it – and it is sold elsewhere under various other names for a variety of prices.  We try to sell it for a fair price relative to its cost though, even though we could probably package it in fancy boxes with full color labels and sell it for more money.  Instead, we’d rather pass along the savings to our customers, and even though our packaging is rather generic looking, it doesn’t mean the paper is generic at all.

So what’s with the “II” (2) in the name?  Well, years ago, the paper we called MPRÉS stopped working the way it was supposed to because the manufacturer changed something.  Remember those paper quests and long stories I mentioned earlier?  At any rate, about a decade or so ago upon finding our current paper, one which closely mimicked the best properties of the original MPRÉS, we named it MPRÉS-II.  And that paper is the same today as it was last year, and the year before, and the years before that, all the way back to when our parent company, Ensign Emblem, began using it for making thousands of sublimated patches every day (which they still do).

What I’m saying is that MPRÉS has that required stability, and if someday it changes (which is VERY unlikely with the current manufacturer), then we’ll either find or make a paper that has similar properties and call it MPRÉS-III.  In other words, you don’t have to worry about sublimation paper stability when you buy MPRÉS from EnMart.

Ok, stability schma-bility you say, but what about quality, and how does it perform?  That’s a fair question, so let me tell you.

MPRÉS-II is what we call a hybrid sublimation paper, with some properties of a high release paper and some of the best properties of a quick drying (low release) paper. Because it is a hybrid, it isn’t quite as fast at releasing the sublimation dye as high release papers, where you have to worry about the ink remaining wet, smudging, curling, or even blow-out due to too much dye on the surface of the paper having nowhere to go when it releases so quickly.  At the same time, it still dries quickly and gives you a quicker release than low release, fast drying papers that take longer in the heat press, which can affect image quality.

MPRÉS-II is really the best of both worlds.  And that makes it a great choice for the only paper you ever need to use for sublimation – whether it’s fabrics, ceramics, glass, or metal.

For more in-depth reading on MPRÉS-II and sublimation paper in general, check out these two Sublistuff articles I wrote on this very subject all the way back in early 2010:

The Quest for Fire… er… Sublimation Paper, Part 1

The Quest for Fire… er… Sublimation Paper, Part 2

If you would like to try a sample few pages of MPRÉS-II paper, email us at and include your name, complete address, phone number, and mention this article.  We can’t send it to you without an address, and while this may seem like stating the obvious, you’d be amazed at just how many people just send an email saying “I’d like your sample pack” and nothing else.  We’d love for you to try our paper, but we aren’t psychic, so unless you tell us what to send and exactly where to send it, we have no idea.  After you try it, we’d appreciate it if you drop us a note letting us know what you think of it too.

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.

Dye Sublimation for the Holidays

christmas_snow_trees-wideIt’s the holiday season and a great many decorators are currently hip deep in one of kind gifts they’re creating for holiday giving.   For those who offer sublimation,  the holiday season is a perfect time to offer current and new customers some great sublimated gift suggestions that are sure to wow any recipient.   If you’re out of ideas for what to suggest,  we can help.   Here are some of our favorite sublimated holiday gifts.

Ornaments – A personalized ornament is a keep sake that the recipient will treasure for years.   Whether you’re commemorating baby’s first Christmas,  or simply creating an ornament with a favorite family photo,  personalized ornaments are a great way to add special memories to the family tree.  Sublimated ceramic ornaments are also durable and full color.

Pet Products – When I was a kid,  and still today,  now that I think about it,  any pets in the family get a present at Christmas.   Usually it’s a chewy bone or a new toy,  but there’s no law that says that the family pet also couldn’t get a new pet tag,  or a personalized bowl.   Pets are generally like small children,  they’re more interested in ripping the paper on the package than they are in what’s inside.

Jewelry/Keepsake Boxes – What kid wouldn’t love a personalized keepsake box,  particularly if it was filled with items like baseball cards or hair accessories.    A personalized jewelry box is also a great way to gift a special piece of jewelry to that special someone.   The box,  along with the jewelry preserves the memory of the special occasion.

Kitchen Accessories – From cutting boards to coasters to drinkware of all types,  accessories for the kitchen or entertaining are always popular gifts.  Create a set of personalized coffee mugs.   Make cuttings boards featuring popular local scenes.   Create a set of coasters for the family room.  The ideas for sublimated kitchen accessories are limitless.

Puzzles – Puzzles have been providing hours of fun for families for years.   A sublimated puzzle is a way to take a treasured family photo and turn it into something that is not only a memory,  but entertainment.

Proper Storage of Sublimation Supplies

Once you’ve purchased your sublimation or ChromaBlast supplies,  you need to make sure they are stored properly so you’ll be able to get the most use from them.   You can often find tips on how to use the supplies you buy,  but finding tips on how to properly store them so they’ll be in the best shape to be used can be a bit harder to find.  Today I thought I’d share a few tips we’ve discovered about how to keep your supplies in the best shape possible.    Proper storage and care can help your ink, paper and other supplies last longer and be much more useful.

ChromaBlast Ink Storage

  • ChromaBlast Ink should not be stored in extreme temperatures.  Anything above 104 degrees F or below 0 degrees F should be avoided.
  • Do not expose ink cartridges or bags to direct light or sunlight for extended periods of time.
  • Make sure the room in which the ink is stored is not too humid.

SubliJet Ink Storage

  • Optimum storage temperature is 70 – 80 degree F
  • Optimum humidity of room is 35% – 65%
  • Do not expose cartridges to direct light or sunlight for extended periods of time
  • Allow SubliJet ink to reach room temperature before installing and printing

Paper Storage

  • Store paper flat
  • Store paper in a cool, dry environment.  Avoid excessive humidity.
  • Once paper has been opened,  store unused paper in ziplock bag

Printer Care

  • Never mix inks.  SubliJet and ChromaBlast inks do not perform well when used in a printer through which other ink has been run.   Even if the lines are purged,  traces of the other ink may still remain and will interfere with the optimum performance of SubliJet and ChromaBlast ink.
  • Keep printer free of lint, dust and other debris that may be in the air of the work space.
  • Run nozzle checks and printer cleanings on a regular basis, particularly if the printer is not in use every day.

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.

Can I Sublimate on Dark Fabric?

Printing on dark fabrics successfully and easily is probably one of the holy grails of garment decoration,  and decorators are always searching for new solutions.   One of the questions we get asked quite often is whether or not sublimation can be done on dark fabrics.    Since sublimation has a lower cost for entry than other forms of printing,  many people are eager to sublimate on light and dark fabrics but,  as of right now,  it doesn’t work that way.   Sublimation can only be done on light colored polyester fabrics or poly coated items.

There are two reasons that sublimation doesn’t work on dark colors.  The first is that sublimation ink dyes the fibers of the garment.   Sublimation is a process by which a solid turns into a gas without going through a liquid state.  Through the use of heat,  the gas bonds with the fibers of the garment,  or the poly fibers in the coating on the sublimation blank,  and dyes those fibers.   There is no coating and no underbase,  the ink literally dyes the fibers and becomes part of the fabric.  Using this process on darker fabrics doesn’t work because,  although you can dye the darker fabrics with the ink,  you won’t be able to see the resulting design.

The second reason that sublimation won’t work with dark colors is the lack of a white underbase to make the colors stand out.  Any type of printing that is even moderately successful with dark colors, whether it’s screenprint or direct to garment printing,  requires laying down an underbase of white before the colors are applied.   Sublimation ink only works on polyester,  so laying down an undercoat of white would require something that had polyester fibers in it,  which may not even be possible when it comes to ink.

Currently,  sublimation only works with lighter colors.   It is recommended primarily for white,  as white will not interfere with the colors of the ink.   If you do choose to sublimate on a light color,  please understand that the color of the fabric will have an impact on the color of your ink.    Oftentimes the tone on tone color contrasts are attractive,  but the fact that garment color can alter ink color slightly should be kept in mind.

Purchasing Sublimation Blanks Your Way

Some of you, hopefully most of you, who read this blog may already know that we don’t make our customers purchase case lots of sublimated blanks.   If you need one or two of something,  you can buy one or two of something,  as long as your total purchase comes up to the site minimum of $25.00.   Our feeling has always been that trying a new product shouldn’t be difficult.   Many people are hesitant to try a new product because they’re worried it won’t sell and they’ll be stuck with a boxful of product that won’t move.  We take that worry away from you by giving you the choice of how many you buy.   There is no penalty if you want to buy only a few of an item.

By the same token,  we do want to reward those who wish to purchase larger quantities of an item.  Not having to break a case saves us time and labor,  and we like to pass those savings along to our customers when possible.  That’s why we have bulk pricing on a great many of the sublimation products we sell.  Bulk pricing is set up so that the more you purchase of a particular item,  the lower the price that you pay for that item.   You can easily see which products have quantity breaks by looking for the “qty breaks” link by the price in the product description.

Our goal has always been to offer top selling,  quick moving products to our customers.  We work with our suppliers to select the top selling products available.   This allows us to assure you that you’re purchasing the best selling, and best quality, sublimation blanks on the market,  products that should allow you to get the most profit and sales from your business.     Our pricing structure is also designed to ensure that you can purchase the blanks we offer the way you want and need to buy them.    If you’re trying something out and just need a few blanks to start,  we can help.   If you know an item is a top seller and want a lot, we can assist you with those orders as well.   Whether you’re looking for a few or a few cases,  you’ll receive the same top notch EnMart customer service and speedy shipping.

As always,  our goal is to help you get the most for your money,  and to allow you to try new products without committing to a large purchase.    We figure you’re the best judge of what your business needs, and our job is to make sure that you can purchase top quality supplies in the amounts that suit you best.


Save Money on Sublimation Supplies

It’s a well known fact,  among those who know us anyway,  that EnMart doesn’t generally do sales and special offers.  A lot of the reason we don’t tend to do a lot of sales is because we’ve structured our pricing so that our regular prices are reasonable and we also offer quantity discounts so the more you buy, the more you save.    We’re also a bit wary of sales because everyone and their brother already offers sales on a regular basis.   If everyone else is doing something,  it’s usually a better strategy to try and stand out in another way,  so we concentrate on speedy order fulfillment,  responsive and experienced customer service and an easy to use web site.    So far,  near as we can tell anyway,  that seems to work.

Still,  every once in a while a customer says to us that it would be great if we offered free shipping on something,  or a discount on a high dollar item.     We always keep those suggestions in mind and, on occasion,  the stars align and we can satisfy one of those requests.    The proper alignment of the stars happened recently, and we are now offering two specials on sublimation supplies:

Special #1: If you need a heatpress, this is the special for you.  EnMart is offering a DK20S, a 16 x 20 manual swinger heat press, for $1255 + $95 flat rate shipping anywhere in the lower 48.   This is a great press and very durable,  plus Knight has a terrific customer service program.   If you’re looking to upgrade your press, or to buy a new press you can use for years and years,  this special is a great opportunity.

Special #2: – One of the things we get asked about a lot is offering free shipping on our ink products.   We have, for a limited time,  made that happen.  Order any sublimation ink product from EnMart and get free ground shipping on your order.   This offer has a limited duration,  so stock up now!

If you want to keep up with whatever special promotions EnMart is offering,  one way to do that is to read this blog.  Most specials will be announced here.  You can also keep track of what’s happening at EnMart by following us on Twitter or liking our page on Facebook.  While you’re there,  you can also join our mailing list.   Most sales and specials are announced by e-mail as well.

Responsibility Goes Both Ways

When you first look into purchasing a sublimation system,  when you visit someone at a trade show,  or stop at a site online looking for more information,  you’re trusting that the person who is giving you advice knows something about what they are saying.    All you have is their word that they’re going to steer you toward what’s best for you,  not what’s best for them.   You’re relying on their knowledge and expertise to get you where you need to be.

The problem is that, in today’s world,  it can be easy to call yourself an expert.  You learn a few buzzwords,  read up on some of the information that’s out there,  parrot a few pet theories from someone else’s site or blog and boom, you’re an expert.   It’s easy to make the claim with nothing to back it up and, sadly,  there are always people who buy that claim, and sometimes are hurt as a result.

When it comes to sublimation, I don’t claim to be an expert.    I work with people who are very knowledgeable,  people who have been working with sublimation ink and printers for years,  people who were instrumental in introducing sublimation to a entire industry,  but I’m not even sure that they would make the claim to be sublimation experts.  I make that claim for them, on occasion,  but only because I believe it’s warranted.  They’ve put in the time and they learned what they know through hard work and trial and error.  No one handed them the knowledge they have.  They earned it.

Even given what I’ve told you, though,  the question still remains.  How do you know that EnMart’s sublimation experts are giving you good advice?   Who do you trust when you don’t really know much of anything about any of the companies that are offering you products and advice.   How do you choose?

The answer sounds a lot like work,  but it will benefit you a great deal, so it’s worthwhile work.  Do your homework.  Read and study and know what questions you need to ask.   Don’t buy a system just because everyone else has a system or because sublimation is the latest and coolest thing.  Have a plan for how you’ll use the system.   Have an idea of where you’ll sell what you make.  Understand what the costs and benefits are and make an informed decision about whether those costs and benefits balance out for your business.

Once you’ve done all that,  research the companies.  Visit their sites.  Check to see whether they have a blog or a Facebook page or Twitter feed.  Google the company and see if their customers are talking about them anywhere and whether that talk is positive or negatives.   Call the company and ask to speak to their “experts” and pick their brains for what they know that you don’t know.  Once you’ve gotten a feel for the company, spend some time learning the who,what, when, where, why and how from people who know the answers because they’ve done the work.   Learn what they know so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your business.

In the end you can talk to all the experts in the world,  but the one who really knows your business best is you.  It’s your responsibility to figure out if sublimation (or Chromablast or embroidery or whatever garment decoration technique) is right for your business.  It’s our responsibility to provide you with the information and the advice you need to make that decision.

Working with Mates

Some of you may already know that EnMart carries the Rowmark MATES product.  We offer MATES in 8.5 x 11 sheets and in 12 inch x 50 foot rolls.    The MATES line is very versatile and can be used for a variety of applications.   Basically, MATES are sublimatable pre-adhesive flexible plastic.    The product is ideal for signage, name plates, award plaques, packaging and many other uses.

If you  aren’t familiar with MATES  or have not worked with the product before you might be a bit wary of giving it a try,  but you shouldn’t be nervous about it.  Working with MATES is very like working with any other sublimation product.   For the white MATES product, which is what EnMart sells,   it is recommended you do the following to achieve optimum print quality:

  • heat your press to 400 degrees
  • press for 60 to 70 seconds
  • medium to heavy pressure

Rowmark also notes that White MATES can be pressed with the backing down between two pieces of sacrificial paper.

While MATES are generally very easy to work with,  there may be occasions when issues crop up.  Fortunately, Rowmark has provided solutions for the common problems that may occur.

  • If you have poor color saturation or your colors have a pastel appearance  it may indicate insufficient pressure, time and/or temperature.  Try increasing each of these items one at a time to see if that corrects the problem.   If you are using the Power Driver software,  you could also try setting the Vector Color Management to “none”.
  • If you are getting a double image when pressing,  it could indicate that the transfer is moving after the press is open and before the dyes have cooled.   Make sure the transfer is attached securely to the MATES product and be sure to open your press slowly and smoothly.
  • If you get a bubbling appearance when pressing the white MATES,  your time, temperature and/or pressure may be too high.   Try reduce the time, temperature and pressure to see if that eliminates the issue.   You may also want to consider purchasing and using a digital pyrometer to make sure that your press temperature gauge is accurate.
  • To find more MATES troubleshooting tips,  visit the Rowmark website.