Sublimation is a computer printing method that utilizes heat to transfer dye to materials such as cards, plastic, clothes, fabric, or paper.
Sublimation printing involves three basic steps:
1. Creating artwork with product design software
2. Use a sublimation printer to generate a transfer paper
3. Use the heat press to print then graphic on the product
How sublimation printing works
Sublimation printing uses ink made of solid dye particles. With the sublimation printer, the ink will be printed on the transfer paper.
The next step is to put the transfer paper on the product of your choice and then apply the heat-press on it. This will start the chemical process of sublimation where the ink embedded on the transfer papers is moved onto the product.
There are four important substances that you will need to be able to successfully conduct sublimation printing. They include the following:
• Sublimation ink
• Sublimation printer
• Transfer paper
• Heat press machine
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to perform sublimation printing:
1. Creating a design
Assuming that you already have an online store and you are considering incorporating a product customization feature into your store.
This means that you will have to find a product design software that will allow customers to select products and create designs for it.
Once a customer has placed an order, will get an order together with a print file containing all the info about the design produced by the product design software.
One major advantage of sublimation printing is that it produces high-quality images. But how do you ensure that all the images produced are clear and of high quality?
Although a product design software can generate different image formats such as PNG, JPG, EPS, TIF among others, PNG is the most preferred because it comes with 300 dpi resolution.
2. Print design on a product of your choice
Before starting the sublimation printing process, you must select the product that is best fit for it.
Sublimation printing makes use of ink with dye particles, that’s why it is sometimes referred to as dye-sublimation printing. The dye particles work best with polymers.
The more the dye will blend with the chosen material, the clear the images you will get.
It is also important to note that the type of sublimation printer used also determines the quality of the images produced. HP, Epson, Roland, and Mimaki are some of the popular brands known to make quality sublimation printers.
Another important thing to consider is the sublimation transfer paper. It serves as an intermediary between the heat press machine and the product. A low-quality transfer paper will obviously lead to dull images.
3. Using the heat press sublimation printer
Sublimation printing is not all about having a quality machine and heat press paper. This is despite the fact that different heat press machines may often give different prints in terms of quality.
Other than the model of the machine, there are three main factors that affect the quality of images in sublimation printing. They include the following:
If the product you are using is something hard such as a mug or glass, then the sublimation printing time should also be longer.
For example, it may only require 30 to 60 seconds to print a t-shirt but you will need at least 12 minutes to decorate products such as tiles
Another important factor to consider is the temperature you are using to heat the press item. It is always recommended to set the temperature at 200 degrees Celsius.
However, some manufacturers of thin sublimation films suggest setting temperatures at 15 degrees Celsius.
The pressure is determined by how tight a heat press machine is pressed on the product. It is usually recommended that you apply medium to low pressure – based on a product’s breaking point.
Sublimation printing can be cost-saving and exciting at the same time. All you need is to ensure that you have all the material and a high-quality sublimation printing machine.