Everything You Need To Know About Sublimation 2022
Customizing and personalizing products such as mugs, awards plaques, photo panels and apparel has quickly become a popular and profitable industry, all thanks to the process of sublimation.
If you’re new to this industry, chances are you’ve never heard the word ‘sublimation’. But if you stick around to the end, you’ll not only know what it is, you'll have a good understanding of how it can make you money. It is an easy and cost-effective way to add product personalization as part of your business.
So, sublimation…what is it? The technical definition of sublimation is the change of a solid particle directly into a gaseous state. In the case of dye sublimation, the specially formulated inks or dyes are printed with a printer onto a single sheet of paper and will turn from the solid form of a printed image into a gas state. This allows the dye to penetrate the microscopic pores of the item that you are transferring onto. The way to get it into that gaseous state is by applying very high heat to it at a high pressure. That is done only by using a heat press. Once the sublimation ink has penetrated into the pores of the item it will then turn back into a solid to create a permanent image onto it. Let’s stop here for a second. An item customized with sublimation will have the ink permanently infused onto it. You can’t feel it. It won’t wash away. It won't fade; it’s there forever.
This whole process is different from what you’ll see possible with a standard inkjet or laser printer. Standard printer ink and toner technologies do not have the ability to go into a gas state and are restricted to a solid or liquid form only. Long story short; sublimation requires a special printer, ink and paper. The technology of dye sublimation sounds complicated but the process itself is actually quite simple. The very first thing you’ll need is a heat press. For an in depth look at heat presses and which is the best for you, check out our heat press buyers guide. But if you already have a heat press you’ll want to purchase a Sawgrass sublimation printer kit.
Sublimation printers work like standard inkjet printers, but are specifically designed to work with sublimation inks and papers. A Sawgrass printer kit will include the following: a Sawgrass SG500 or SG1000 sublimation printer, a set of Sublijet UHD sublimation inks and a pack of 8.5” x 11” sublimation paper. A very important factor to consider when choosing the printer in your kit is the print size you’ll need it to print. The Sawgrass SG500 can print onto 8.5x11 and 8.5x14 sized paper. The Sawgrass SG1000 can print onto, 8.5x11, 8.5x14, 11x17, and even 13x19.
Speaking of paper, the two most popular sublimation papers are TexPrint DT Heavy and Light. Each of these papers work best with a specific type of ink but both are safe to use on any sublimation printer kit regardless of ink type. We’ve found that of the two inks, TexPrint DT Light releases more of the gas dyes onto an item. The DT Heavy paper offers more natural tones ideal for photographs, DT Light further enhances the contrast and saturation of its images, making it great for graphic designs in particular. Ultimately your choice, but we’ll put a link to our video comparing the TexPrint DT Heavy and Light papers down in the description.
Now Sawgrass does manufacture one other sublimation printer called the Virtuoso VJ 628, and the VJ 628 is a large format printer. This thing is a beast and is used in very high production environments. It uses Sawgrass Sublijet inks but does not print onto sheets of paper. It prints onto huge rolls of paper, sometimes up to 24" wide and 393 in length. But chances are if you’re watching this video you’re not going to need anything like the VJ 628, at least not yet.
Ok so there’s an elephant in the room that I need to address. If you were to search the internet you’re going to find cheaper sublimation solutions other than what I’ve just showed you. It’s no secret. Most of what you’ll find are “hacked” inkjet printers. While select inkjet printers can be “hacked” with 3rd party sublimation ink kits, they will require more careful setup and extra equipment. This also voids the printer’s warranty, requires daily maintenance, and often lacks support down the road should you encounter any issues. At Heat Press Nation, we wholeheartedly recommend purchasing equipment specifically designed and manufactured for sublimation. It’s clearly the better investment, with a more efficient and hassle-free experience. In addition, these hacked printers do not come with any print management software. The Sawgrass Sublimation Printer Kits on the other hand, come with their own software like a print manager. Print managers include many printing profiles and settings for different substrates and papers. Just send the image to the print manager, select the appropriate paper and substrate, and choose to mirror the image or not. This makes finding the right appearance, color vibrancy, and clarity pretty much automatic.
Let's talk about the various sublimation blanks that you have available to you. I’ll put it out there right now, you’re not able to sublimate everything. We sell a wide variety of sublimation blanks. Sublimation blanks are just blank items. Some blanks are made of ceramic, porcelain, metal, glass and heat resistant plastic. And they come in so many different forms like drinkware, ornaments, apparel, photo panels, gaming pads and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sublimation blanks are specially coated with a polymer coating. Remember we went over the microscopic pores opening and receiving the inks in their gaseous state? The pores are actually on this special coating. And without that coating there is nothing there to accept the ink. That’s why sublimation will not work on just any item. I’d really encourage you to check out our whole selection of sublimation blanks. You’ll be amazed at how much you’re able to customize.
We know this is tons of information but we’re almost done. I just want to tell you about a few sublimation supplies that are necessities. We recommend two essential supplies for any sublimation setup: an adhesive of some sort. . . either heat tape or adhesive spray and parchment paper. Heat tape is a practical way to attach sublimation transfers onto hard items like photo panels and coffee mugs. Adhesive spray is much more practical for softer items like apparel or mouse pads. Both adhesive solutions won’t melt at the high temperatures of sublimation, and will help prevent transfers from shifting and blurring, also known as ghosting, when pressing them onto substrates. Parchment paper is a great way to protect any heat press from sublimation dye stains. Just place one sheet on the lower platen, then when you’ve prepared your transfer, cover it with another sheet. Our pro-grade parchment paper comes in rolls and can be cut down to any size. We recommend using only parchment paper and not teflon or similar non-stick sheets for sublimation transfers.
Now you know everything about Sublimation. But as you can see, there is a lot to think about when it comes to the whole process. We would love to help you make sublimation customization a sustainable and profitable part of your business. If you have any questions regarding the sublimation process or heat transferring in general please feel free to reach out to us at support.heatpressnation.com