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How Your Sublimation Business Can Offer Photo Panels

How Your Sublimation Business Can Offer Photo Panels


In expanding your selection of blanks to customize for your sublimation business, you may have not considered sublimation photo panels yet. Now these are easy items to offer that are available in both aluminum and hardboard forms. They’re typically customized as a solid alternative to paper prints, allowing them to be readily mounted to a home or office wall without a frame. While this is the most practical way to sell custom photo panels to customers, there are definitely other ways to offer them as additional options.

First off, if rectangular photo panels aren’t enough, it’s definitely worth finding any that are cut in unique shapes. ChromaLuxe has surely covered this with their line of Creative Borders aluminum photo panels. Taking from familiar shapes found in Unisub ornaments, these ChromaLuxe photo panels are offered with the most popular border styles. As with all their aluminum photo panels, ChromaLuxe’s Creative Borders line is cut with high-quality sheet stock, with a white gloss surface readily coated for detailed images to display with the best vibrancy. If you haven’t customized a sublimation photo panel before, let’s cover how these can easily be customized with your own images.

First up is to scale your image down to the imprint area of the photo panel itself. You can refer to the imprint dimensions provided at the item’s page at HeatPressNation.com, but using the PDF template there with graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator is the most convenient option. Just set the template’s imprint and safety layers to 50% opacity, then bring your image over and organize it below the bleed layer. Select it and the image together and make the bleed layer into a clipping mask, then you can make any further adjustments to fit your image and any additional elements within the photo panel’s imprint area.

Now keep in mind that some certain items like the ChromaLuxe Benelux photo panel will require at least 8.5" x 14" paper to print an image fully covering its size. But as soon as it's ready, you may print it through your sublimation printer. For Sawgrass printers, send it to Sawgrass Print Manager and use these settings: Substrate set to Metal, Paper to your paper’s profile, leave Mirror checked, and in the Color tab, set the Color Mode to Photographic or Vivid depending on your image’s level of detail. But with your settings in, go ahead and click the Print button. As soon as your transfer’s been printed, you’re now ready to apply it to your photo panel.

For ChromaLuxe aluminum photo panels, heat presses are best set to 45-60 seconds  at 385 degrees Fahrenheit with medium pressure. Once your machine reaches temperature, cover its lower platen with a sheet of parchment paper and place your transfer on top. As you bring your photo panel in, remove any protective film on its white surface, which will then be placed facing towards the printed image. Attach the item to the transfer with heat tape, cover it with another parchment paper sheet and press. When your machine reaches time, open it and let your items cool down for a moment.

Afterwards, quickly peel your transfer off and your image is now part of a ChromaLuxe Creative Borders photo panel! To carefully peel it off, we recommend wearing heat resistant gloves prior to touching it. While we’ve demonstrated the more practical use case with our photo panel, there’s nothing stopping you from considering more creative ways to utilize these items. They can be used as specially designed dry erase boards for a shop or special event, vintage-style gallery prints for a museum or art installation, and other similar applications that are guaranteed to catch others' eyes with your imagery.

Speaking of gallery prints, did you know that it’s possible to gather a set of photo panels to stitch together a wide, tall, or generally large wall piece? As long as you have a way of evenly dividing the image’s pieces to each photo panel, this can make for a valuable option for clients that are looking to set up a large scale version of their images without the need to create a wallpaper. As we’ve shown how to customize a ChromaLuxe Creative Borders photo panel, customizing any others — like these ChromaLuxe wood panels we’ll be using for this next process — follow much of the same procedures as with that item.

Other than dividing your image to individual pieces for an even set of photo panels, the key difference will lie with heat press settings depending on the kind of photo panel you’re customizing. Let’s first show how a panoramic image can be evenly divided into two 8 by 8 inch ChromaLuxe wood photo panels. The easiest way to pull this off is of course by using the PDF template for the item available at its HeatPressNation-dot-com page. As we’re working with larger scale items here, we’ll need to copy and paste the template over twice to at least an 11"x17" document. Place the two templates next to each other, move them to the document’s center, then import your image.

Scale the image to where it covers both templates, then copy and paste the image in place. Organize the images below the bleed layers of each template, then select one image and the bleed layer directly above it to make a clipping mask. Do this with the second copies of your image and bleed layer, and you’ll see that it’s now been cleanly divided. Move the pieces away and recenter them to allow for easier trimming, hide the imprint and safety layers of these templates, then you’re ready to print. Since this is a 11 by 17 inch document, we’ll be printing it through our Sawgrass SG1000 printer. If you own this printer, send your document to Sawgrass Print Manager with these settings: Substrate to MDF Board, Paper to your paper’s profile, leave Mirror checked, and set the Color Mode to Photographic or Vivid depending on your image’s level of detail. With these settings in, you may click the Print button.

With the transfer printed, trim at the center with scissors to divide the image out. Now let’s get right into setting up our heat press. Before turning it on, this would be a good time to test for medium pressure on a ChromaLuxe wood panel before pressing it. Once you’ve done so, take your blank panel out and turn your machine, setting it to 120 seconds at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As we’ve previously covered how to customize ChromaLuxe wood photo panels, we recommend watching our tutorial video linked below for a closer look at how they’re pressed.

But once you’ve set up your heat press and items for application, it’ll just be a matter of making sure that your photo panels have been centered well to the printed image before pressing them. After you’ve pressed both your photo panels, they’re now ready to be placed together on a wall! While this might not be a particularly large scale piece, this should still give you an idea on how to create a stitched set of photo panels. Just be sure to keep all the copies of your templates and images close together on a large document, then you can print each copy on new documents that match the size of your sublimation paper.

And with these different methods to customize photo panels, it’s clear that these items don’t just have to be photographic prints. Whether you want to offer them in a special shape, or divide them into a larger wall piece, having extra options for clients can surely increase the versatility of your sublimation business. If you’re interested in sharing how you customize your sublimation photo panels with us and a large community of heat transfer enthusiasts, feel free to join our HeatPressNation Creators Facebook group at heat.press/FBgroup. To learn more about sublimation photo panels and other tools and supplies, please visit us at HeatPressNation.com.

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