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Sublimation Basics

what is sublimation

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Let’s talk about SUBLIMATION!!!

Sublimation has been around forever but it’s starting to gain popularity again.

WHAT IS IT AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Sublimation printers use a special ink that, when heated, turns into a gas. Similarly, when heated, polyester fibers open up and allow the gas to enter into the fibers and dye those fibers permanently.

Sublimation works on polyester fabrics or other specially coated substrates. You can use a polyester BLEND of fabric, but any fiber that is not polyester, will not accept the ink the same way. Meaning if you have a poly/cotton blend shirt, any fibers that are cotton will not dye. You can do this, but the lower the polyester content, the more vintage the look. Which is sometimes a cool look! Just depends on what you want!

Can it ever work on cotton? Yep! There are a couple ways to accomplish this!

-You can sublimate your design on white glitter HTV. (You can use the print and cut technique with your cutter to get the edges exact or you can hand cut around the design)
-You can purchase a product called Dyepress that will coat the cotton fibers of the shirt to work better with poly/cotton blends
-You can use Chromoblast inks and paper rather than sublimation inks. (But it tends to leave a residue sometimes. You will want to be ready to practice the technique a bit to have the best results)

Sublimation does NOT work on dark garments because it is a transparent ink. Whatever color is behind it will come through your image. So if you have a pink shirt, the pink will tint the image a bit. You can do the sublimation on white glitter HTV technique above if you want to put it on dark garments.

PRINTERS:

You need a sublimation printer such as the Sawgrass 400 ($600 ish) or Sawgrass 800 ($1600 ish). The difference between these two, other than price, is that the 400 will print a max size of 8.5×11 and the 800 will print up to 11×17 or 13×19 with the bypass tray ($200ish)

You CAN also use a regular designated printer with a sublimation ink conversion kit. This is a much cheaper alternative because you can get a printer like the the Epson 7210 that prints up to 13×19 for $150 on Amazon (Afil Link: https://amzn.to/2LT8JnD)

Then you can get the conversion kit from Cobraink.com for $269. HOWEVER, if you are using a printer that is not MADE to use sublimation inks, and you don’t use it constantly, your tubes can clog and you will either 1. ruin your entire printer or 2. waste a LOT of ink flushing out the clog. So that’s just something to keep in mind.

Cobraink.com has a list of printers that they have conversion kits for as well if you want to browse!

INKS:

Sublijet Inks run about $77-$131 each color (CMYK – so 4 colors) depending on if you get the “enhanced” one or not. In my experience so far, I can get about 200 ish 11×17 images on the $77 ink. But it all just depends on how ink dense and saturated your design is.

There are other brands (and generics) that are cheaper inks. But Sublijet is the “standard” for quality.

REMEMBER THAT SUBLIMATION PRINTERS ARE NOT WHITE TONER PRINTERS. So if there is any white in the design, there will be NO ink! When white color is present in a design, the color of the SHIRT (or item) will be the color that shows in these places.

PAPER:

I use TexPrint-R paper. Which again, is the quality standard. It runs about $17 for a pack of 100 8.5×11 or $35ish for a pack of 100 11×17.

There are other papers on Amazon that many people use and have no trouble with. But since I am selling transfers, I personally will not use anything less than the TexPrint-R.

HEAT PRESS:

You also HAVE to have a heat press. And I hate to say it, but your press may make or break you. A GOOD press will really make a difference in how your design looks on your image. You don’t have to invest in a beast mode one up fromt, but keep that in mind if you’re subbing and you don’t feel like your colors or lines look just right…the issue may be in your press. I have the Hotronix Fusion and love it if you’re looking for recommendations on a beast mode one!

BLANKS:

Sublimation blank providers are few and far between. But a couple of good ones are: Conde.com (which is where I bought my Sawgrass) and kidsblanks.com

Check out some of the fun new printables from HoopMama!