The Wayback Machine: Let’s Revisit Some Posts

One of the things that’s both weird and fun about writing a blog for a number of years is the fact that, over time,  you forget some of what you’ve written.  The focus is more on the next post to be written,  not on the ones that are already done.   Since the SubliStuff blog has been around since 2010,  there are now eight years of posts,  and today I wanted to point out a few that I thought were worth reading again.

In 2010 I wrote a post entitled “5 Reasons Not To Buy a Sublimation System“.  The intent was to do a tongue in cheek post that would really highlight reasons why a sublimation system would make a good addition to a shop.   In 2017,   I updated the post from 2010.   If you’re on the fence about adding sublimation to your shop, for whatever reason,  either of these posts may be helpful.

One of the topics I write about often is finding your market for sublimated goods.   In May of 2017,  I offered 5 tips for finding your sublimation market.   I think my favorite tip from that post was about showcasing what you love.  Hobbies are a great place to find a new sublimation market.

Another tips post,  this one titled “Six Tips for Successfully Sublimating Several Substrates” (yes, I do like alliteration,  why do you ask) gave tips on how to get the most from your sublimation blanks.  As with many posts about sublimation,  this one dealt with the idea that you will screw up and that’s part of the process.  Make your peace with mistakes, everyone encounters them at some point.

In 2014,  the tips I gave had to do with customer service and how to provide the best to your customers.   One of the things I’ve learned over the years, and shared in that post,  was the fact that sometimes customers just need to vent.   It’s never fun to be yelled at,  but sometimes that’s what needs to happen to get the customer to a place where they can talk calmly about the situation.

At EnMart,  we’ve always been dedicated to education,  and try to share our knowledge on this blog and at the trade shows we attend.  We’re always willing to teach others about sublimation and how to be successful with sublimated goods,  but there are some things we can’t teach.   In 2016,  I wrote a post that touched on those things.

Finally,  in 2012,  I wrote a post on decoration intimidation.  It’s something we’ve seen again and again over the years,  a customer either buys a sublimation system and is too scared to use it,  or finds the whole process so intimidating,  they can’t even buy a system at all.   The post was an effort to soothe some fears and perhaps help people to see that trying a new decoration technique isn’t as intimidating as it may seem.  Getting past the fear can open up a whole new world of possibilities.

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.

5 Useful Sublimation Resources

5 reasons filmEvery once in a while I like to do a sort of list or round-up post where I compile some information or industry resources I think are helpful.   On the Embroidery Talk Blog,  it’s called the Friday Blog Round-Up.    I’m not sure if the same sort of post will be as regular here, or will get its own name,  but I thought it might be useful to include some links to helpful information I’ve found.

First up,  for those who are interested in sublimation for schools,  you may want to download Sawgrass Ink’s “Making Money in the School Market“.    This marketing plan can give you tips on how to grow your school sales.  Schools can be a fertile ground for all kinds of decoration,  so it’s definitely worth downloading this book.

Second on the docket is a video,  also from Sawgrass,  about how to download and use Unisub templates.   For those who don’t know,  Unisub makes a number of products for sublimation,  and the templates they provide are very useful.    If you just want access to the templates themselves,  you can find them on Unisub’s website.

Third on the docket,  we have what we call the “Dye Sublimators Bible“,   which can be downloaded from EnMart’s website.   This comprehensive guide covers all aspects of sublimation,  and gives you information on sublimating various kinds of materials and products.   It’s a very useful basic primer on the art of sublimation.

Fourth at bat,  if you’ve ever purchased any of our Mates products – you may find this helpful.   It’s some sublimation tips from Rowmark,  the maker of the Mates products.     You can download basic sublimation tips for Mates or troubleshooting Mates printing.

Fifth,  some tips for startup sublimation from Printwear Magazine.  I have to confess I wrote these,  and my favorite is the first one,  since it addresses a concern I hear often.    The reality is that you will screw up while sublimating at some point.   Make your peace with that and don’t let it put you off trying sublimation entirely.


Six Tips for Successfully Sublimating Several Substrates*

six tipsOne 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?

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.

Sublimation 101: A Complete Guide

Whenever I write about helpful websites or useful information for those who sublimate,  one of the companies and sites I often mention is Sawgrass Ink.   I tend to mention Sawgrass because (1) EnMart is a distributor of the sublimation and ChromaBlast ink they make and (2)  they know what they’re doing when it comes to sublimation and ChromaBlast.   They also put out great educational materials.  One of their latest offerings is Sublimation 101:  The Complete Guide to Sublimation Printing.

Now, when Sawgrass says a complete guide,  they aren’t kidding.   They cover everything from the history of sublimation, to color management to working with graphics to the sublimation process.  They also include an extensive section on how to sublimate many of the most popular sublimatible goods.    This is a terrific resource,  and well worth downloading.

One of the best sections, in my opinion anyway,  is Chapter 9.  This is the section that walks you, step by step,  through the process of sublimating some of the most popular sublimatible items.   If you’re interested in sublimating performance wear,  coated metal,  mousepads or ceramic tiles,  you’ll find this section very helpful.   Actually, if you want to sublimate anything, you’ll find this section very helpful,  as there is a helpful dye sublimation quick reference guide at the end of the chapter.

To download your own copy of Sublimation 101,  simply visit the Sawgrass website.  You will be asked to register with the site before you proceed with your download but, in my opinion anyway,  the registration is a minor price to pay for the information you are being offered.    If you’re just starting out in sublimation, this guidebook will be invaluable.   If you’re experienced with sublimation,  you will also find tips and tricks that will help make your sublimated goods that much better.    This guidebook is definitely worth a look and a download.

Fabric Sheets and Sublimation

Some of you may already know that EnMart sells the material we use to make our blank patches in sheets as well.   These fabric sheets are 12 x 17 pieces of material,  available in 20 + colors and sold with either heat seal or sew on backing.    We know that people often buy the sheets to make their own patches  but we’ve never really thought about other uses.  Luckily,  we have customers and friends who do.

One of the forums that I visit on a regular basis is the Apparel Decorators Forum.  This is a terrific forum and I highly recommend it to anyone who works with any sort of garment or product decoration.   Some of the members of the forum have also become EnMart customers,   and they, on occasion,  make suggestions for new ways to use our products.    This is how a new use for fabric sheets was discovered.

Ken,  Cochise on the forum,  bought some fabric sheets are decided to try and create some sublimated decals for a customer of his.    As he puts it:

Imagine being able to create a full color patch with no restrictions on size or shape. Design it, sublimate it, cut it with a plotter/cutter or scissors and apply it to your garment.

He used a white fabric sheet.  The design was sublimated at 380 degrees for 40 seconds.   His fabric sheet had a heat seal backing, so he then pressed the sublimated fabric onto the garment,   again at 380 degrees, this time for 15 seconds.  He reports that the heat seal backing hold securely.  You can read the entire thread,  including his description of the process,  by joining the forum.  It only takes a minute to register,  and I can tell you it’s totally worth it.

Thanks to Ken for thinking up a new use for an EnMart product, and for sharing his process and the outcome with us.    As always,  we appreciate the support of the ADF members.

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.

Mug Shots: 6 Tips for Sublimating Mugs

Anyone who does sublimation or has done sublimation most likely has contemplated sublimating mugs at some point.  People who are considering sublimation are often considering it because it offers the opportunity to create personalized mugs.   Everyone likes a mug with a design that has meaning,  and creating those mugs can be relatively easy,  if you keep the following tips in mind.

Tip 1:  Buy the right kind of mugs – Any good that is sublimated must be either made of polyester materials or poly coated.   If you’re looking for dishwasher safe mugs,  you will also need to look for mugs that have the ORCA coating.  All the mugs that EnMart sells,  both the 11 oz.  mugs and the 15 oz. mugs,  have this coating.   Our frosted glass beer mugs also have this coating.

Tip 2:  Find the optimum image area on your mug – Mug size and design can vary slightly from batch to batch.  It is always a good idea to create a test mug.  This will allow you to find the proper placement for your design and will help ensure that placement will be correct on future mugs.

Tip 3:  Make sure your transfer is secure –   Sublimation heat tape is always a great way to secure your design to the mug.   The tape will ensure that your transfer doesn’t slip or slide during the pressing process.

Tip 4:  If you use a press,  take into account every type of mug you want to sublimate –  Some mug presses are designed only to handle the smaller types of mugs, or conventionally shaped mugs, which leaves out options like latte mugs or travel mugs.   To get the most out of your press, you need one that is versatile,  like the DK3 Mug Press from George Knight.

Tip 5:  Wraps are a viable option too –  If you are doing a large number of mugs,  it might be quicker to sublimate the mugs using a mug wrap and an oven.   You can use anything from a toaster oven to a conventional oven as long as it can heat up to 400 degrees.   Sublimating and cooking in the same oven is also not recommended.

Tip 6:  Mugs need to cool off after pressing – Once you’ve finished sublimating your mug,  cool it off in a bath of lukewarm water.  This will stop the sublimation process.   Make sure the water is not too cold, or you may crack your mug.

Helpful Hints and Timely Tips from Sawgrass

When you’re first starting out with sublimation or ChromaBlast,  it can seem overwhelming.  There’s so much to learn that it’s hard to know where to start.   From simple things like the time and temperature at which certain blanks should be pressed to more difficult issues like sublimating a particular item,   it can be easy to get so lost in the forest that you forget the trees even exist.  If you do find you need a bit of direction,  EnMart is here to be your guide and to point out some items that may be helpful as you find your way.

The first item I wanted to mention is the Sawgrass HTV series.  The How-To Video (HTV) Series features a variety of videos  created by Sawgrass experts in which they sublimate various goods.  From flip flops to signs to photo panels,  these videos provide instructions on sublimating a wide number of goods.  As a side note,  make sure and pay attention to the heat press that is used in the videos.  If you check out the heat press section of our web site,  that press may look familiar.

Another helpful resource,  at least for those who attend trade shows,  is the seminars that Sawgrass presents.   These seminars are in-depth examinations of a particular topic, and topics may range from sublimating goods, to finding a market for your products,  to running a business in general.    Sawgrass maintains a complete list of the seminars they are offering and the shows where the seminars will be offered on their web site.    If you will be attending any of the listed shows,  attending the Sawgrass seminars may be worth your while.

Finally,  I should mention the webinars and that are offered by Sawgrass.   These webinars each deal with a particular topic and are all centered around topics that will be helpful to people who are using sublimation or ChromaBlast Inks.   Best of all,  if you miss a scheduled webinar,  you can view it later as a webcast at your convenience.   Right now, I’m thinking the webinar on innovative products for the holiday season would be a great webcast to watch.   You do need to register to view the webcasts,  but you only need to register one time,  and once you’ve done that,  you can view the webcasts any time and as many times as you wish.