FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Most asked questions about sublimation printing
What do I need to start a sublimation business? What is the average cost of printing with sublimation ink?
First you need to identify what sort of production you will be engaged in. Will you print on garment fabrics or will you cut and sew? Will you manufacture sportswear or home textile outputs? Are there any space allocated for printer and heat press? Have you estimated the potential costs except than capital expenditures and materials to be used? The answers to these questions will play a key role in deciding your preferences.
Before you invest in printer and heat press at the first stage, consider your production volume. You must decide the size and capacity of the printer depending on the your daily or monthly production volume and workflow. If you will include cutting and sewing process into your production, you need to make additional investment in your machine. When you buy an equipment, you need to calculate return of investment. In case of any possible technical problem that your printer may experience, you should take a number of factors into consideration like maintenance service and supply of replacement parts and you need to spend your time not only for researching opportunities your printer offer but also for supplier / manufacturer company.
Afterwards, you might continue estimating the costs for ink consumption, transfer paper and the amount of fabric to be used. Apart from the capital expenditure, you need to calculate additional daily costs when you start sublimation business. Alongside general operating expenses, keep in mind that there will be always such expenses as salaries of printer operators, electricity, air conditioning and heating.
Lastly, another key component is your printer software. It will not only help bring your designs into life but also helps you manage the whole printing and manufacturing process. A robust software and true color management will make your job easier, providing the highest productivity at a reduced cost as well as saving your time.
The biggest advantage of sublimation printing is its permanent feature. It also offers wide color gamut. Sublimation printing allows the ink to permenate the surface of the item being printed and correspondingly the ink is not adhered on the surface of the fabric. Thus, images on fabric won’t crack, fade or peel. The colors will stay vibrant even after multiple washings.
As it is known, you can only sublimate on polyester fabrics (at least 60% polyester). Many people still think polyesters are useless and unhealthy. However, there has been remarkable progress in polyester fabrics. Today’s polyester fabrics are more elastic, have better moisture wicking and anti-microbial features. To overcome common prejudice, contact with your customers and present your printing samples one-to-one and ask them to try these samples. Secondly, share the wide range of sublimation designs and decoration techniques with your customers. What is important is to analyze your customers’ needs. Talk to your customers and allow them to explore infinite opportunities that sublimation offers for any design they wish to create.
Unfortunately no. Printing dye sublimation inks onto darker fabrics is still an issue. You cannot sublimate on dark fabrics because these materials are already colored. If you want to sublimate on any colorful fabric other than black, you can use a darker ink like black and make your printing visible.
The right transfer paper is unconditionally a necessity and it helps you reduce both ink consumption and production costs. The right transfer paper you should be chosen depends on the type of application, printer, and ink that you will use as well as transfer rate of paper, drying time, transfer productivity and coating chemistry. Depending on your application type and printing modes, coating features of the paper and grammage of the paper will vary. If you use high-density sublimation ink, you can prefer thicker transfer papers, whereas you can go for thinner papers for high-speed printing needs. The type of printer becomes significant when you choose the paper. Your transfer paper must be designed in a way that perfectly works with the printer brand and model. Similarly, your transfer paper must harmonize with the ink because it is one of the most key factors in terms of print production.
When choosing the right transfer paper, get information about technical features of the paper. A high-quality transfer paper provides higher transfer productivity, fast ink absorption, and drying. The coating formulation of your transfer paper is another vital issue. A fine coating formulation is the most significant part of a transfer paper production and it is the core of the business for many manufacturing companies. A transfer paper with high-quality coating will help you reduce ink consumption and costs, yielding high-quality dye transfer.
There are two types of paper in the market now: the Non-tacky Transfer Papers and Tacky Transfer Papers. You can use regular coated transfer paper for standard fabrics. But make sure that you use tacky transfer paper for more elastic fabrics like sportswear products. During heat transfer process, the paper will firmly adhere to the fabric and it will prevent the paper from moving and yields high-quality prints.
Drying speed of a sublimation paper depends on its coating surface. The amount of the coating on the surface of the base paper and its content has an impact on drying time. A high-quality tacky transfer paper should feature fast drying speed and high ink transfer with reliable productivity. So, choose the right tacky transfer papers according to your printing requirements. When you prefer a tacky paper, be careful about the humidity level of fabric, paper and printing/heat-press environment.
If you’ve invested in a high-quality sublimation print, you will need a heat press which helps you run high-volume production simultaneously. A good heat press can work for many years and can continue operating in line with the increased production capacity in your business. Before you add a heat press to your production line, make sure you are well aware of your production requirements.
Heat press plays a vital role by allowing the ink to permeate the fabric appropriately. However, if the heating temperature fluctuates too much or the correct pressure value is not maintained, you can get low quality or inconsistent results. As a result, the color of some areas seems light, while some areas result in darker colors. To eliminate such problems, you need to invest in a high quality heat press. Otherwise, you will end up with higher costs and waste of time.
It absolutely depends on the requirements of your printer. Some printers automatically make daily cleaning, whereas you sometimes need to start cleaning process manually. When your printer initiates cleaning automatically, don’t forget to leave the printer powered up. If you have to do it manually, you need to either print every day or make your printer’s daily maintenance by using additional software. The amount of ink required for circulation in such a maintenance process is very small. So, the best option is to run your printer a few times in a week to avoid clogged heads.
Moisture can cause negative effects on the sublimation process and yield unwanted results such as color shifting; colors lose accuracy, bleeding of the image, and uneven transfer of solid filled areas of a design. When you do not adopt high-quality transfer paper, the sublimation transfer paper curls because of high humidity and scratches the print heads and damages the heads. To minimize the effects of moisture, the first thing you need to do is to keep the printing room and storing space at the stable moisture. Make sure that you store your transfer paper in a dry place. The 50-60% indoor humidity will be ideal for sublimation printing.
If your transfer paper has excess moisture, you may encounter unwanted problems during pressing. To avoid it, it is important to prevent the paper from moisture absorption. A number of methods can be applied. First, you can leave the printed paper in heat press room or nearby area so that the moisture will evaporate. Additionally, you can opt to press garment to remove the excess moisture caused by printing.
The first thing is to run your printer regularly and don’t turn off your printer. It is necessary in terms of providing regular ink circulation in print heads. If your printer automatically activates cleaning process, turn your machine on and run it a few times in a week. A small amount of ink will be enough to do this process.
When you do not use the right transfer paper, the paper will absorb a huge amount of ink than required and a large amount of the ink will stay on the paper without transferring. So, using high quality coated paper is crucial for efficient ink consumption. Thus, the paper absorbs the ink at the optimal level and ink will be transferred to the fabric at the highest rate possible.
Many setup programs of sublimation software ensure high quality at optimum ink consumption. But, you can reduce ink consumption with the ink-saving mode. If the result of the print satisfies you, go ahead. If you want to have the highest print quality, change your software’s settings.