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Sublimation Tips

1. Most hard substrates have a protective film coating, this must be peeled off before printing. Product descriptions on our website should indicate which products have this. The film can be carefully picked off from the corner with a finger nail.

2. When you are first starting out in sublimation you will almost certainly make a few mistakes. The cost of blanks vary, so try to make your early mistakes using less expensive blanks. Better to waste a cheap Keyring rather than a rock slate or tote bag.

3. Although we have suggested using cheaper items to practise on, you should still source high quality blanks from a reputable supplier. If things go wrong you can be sure that any problems are due to something you have done wrong, rather than the issue being due to faulty or defective blanks. You are then able to make adjustments and learn from your mistakes.

4. The first time you print a design from your sublimation printer, you may be disappointed. The colours will be dull and muted, unlike the colours on your computer screen. Don’t despair this is actually normal as the true colours of your sublimation ink will not develop properly until heated in your heat press.

5. MDF products can have a slight ‘off white’ tinge, this can become more pronounced turning yellowish if overheated. For best results try to aim for a design with all over coverage, rather than letting the raw MDF show.

6. Always use a fast drying paper as this can be used almost straight out of the printer. If the ink on the paper is not properly dry this can lead to smudging/ghosting when the paper is positioned on the substrate. We recommend S-Race paper    

7. Sublimation paper has a right and wrong side to print on, some paper has writing to indicate which side not to print on i.e. S-Race has it’s logo on the reverse side and Sublisure Paper has the word ‘Back’ printed on the reverse. This is immensely helpful.

8. In most cases you will need to reverse your image. This can be done either at the design stage or within the printer settings. The exception to this rule is Glass coasters. With glass coasters the image is not reversed and is printed onto the white side, showing through the glass.

9. Buying bottled ink is much more cost effective than buying pre-filled cartridges. One of the most highly regarded sublimation inks on the market is Sublinova Smart Ink (For Epson printers) You will need to use blunt needle syringes to fill your printer.

10. When pressing very thin aluminium sheets such as inserts for keyrings or compact mirrors, place the aluminium sheet on top of an old placemat or coaster to raise up the sheet in the heat press. This will maintain firm pressure rather than constantly having to adjust the pressure of the heat press.

11. More problems are caused by not enough pressure than too much pressure. If in doubt opt for very firm pressure.

12. Textiles such as tote bags can shrink slightly when heated, leading to ghosting as the bag shifts against the transfer paper. Pre-pressing for 20 seconds or so, will avoid this.

13. When using heat proof tape, where possible avoid applying the tape directly to the substrate (This can leave marks) Attempt to fold the sublimation paper around the back of the substrate and tape paper to paper.

14. For best results firm, even pressure needs to be applied to the whole of the substrate. When printing notebook covers where the spine is thinner than the covers, a thin carboard strip can be used as a ‘jig’ to ensure that the whole of the cover including the spine lays completely flat, maintaining the same pressure across the whole surface. This also applies to objects that may have seems, zips or ridges.

15. When pressing makeup bags with zips, hang the zip out of the press, so that the zip does not prevent the platen from making an even connection with the fabric.

16. If you struggle to create templates for irregular shaped objects try popping your blank product into a scanner to scan the exact shape and size of your blank onto your computer screen.

17. If you are having difficulty choosing image manipulation software. Download GIMP it is FREE and unlike many other similar types of software GIMP does support ICC profiles. If you find this kind of software challenging, there are plenty of beginners tutorials on YouTube. Start by creating a new A4 template with 300ppi and begin by learning the functions of all the tools. The ‘Move’ & ‘Scale’ tools being the most useful. If you prefer you can design in an alternative software of your choice such as Procreate for iPad Pro, or Canva then export your image as a jpeg or png  Finally use GIMP as a vehicle to print your image taking advantage of it’s ability to utilise your ICC profile.

18. Large MDF objects such as placemats can bow when heated, to stop this happening place them under a very heavy object immediately after pressing. Then allow to cool down completely before removing the weight.

19. To prevent ink seeping through the paper and contaminating your heat plate, you should use some form of barrier layer to protect your press, such as Teflon sheet. Some people use butcher’s paper, chip shop paper or greaseproof paper.

20. If your printer is left inactive for a while the inks can dry up causing blockages or partial blockages to your printheads. This can be avoided by regularly running your printer.

21. Your blanks should be kept clean and free from dust. Dust can be baked onto mugs leaving tiny marks. Larger particles can mask substrates preventing ink from making contact, resulting in small white specs on your prints. You should avoid wearing woolly jumpers as these can drop small particles of wool onto your work.

22. When printing mugs use a guillotine to cut paper transfers with accurate straight edges. You can get three transfers from one sheet of A4 paper. Then line up the edge of your paper with the bottom of your mug. This is easier than trying to line up your design through the paper.

21. The temperature on the digital display of your heat press may not be entirely accurate. This is why we state in our product instructions that heat presses may vary. In the first instance follow our instructions. If you are not happy with the results you may want to vary the times slightly. Products that are overcooked can look less crisp and black inks can burn showing up as browns. If your substrate is undercooked the print will appear faint. If you want to check the accuracy of your press you can use an infrared digital thermometer.

22. If your colours are very different to what you see on your computer screen, this is unlikely to be due to times or temperatures. No amount of fiddling with temperatures will change this. The problem is more likely to be one of the following; Blocked nozzles, incorrect printer settings, no ICC profile, ICC profile not installed correctly. Paper/ink/ICC not compatible.

23. Conduct regular nozzle checks to make sure you don’t have any blockages before printing.

24. Rock Slates can occasionally look as though they have not printed correctly, sometimes this is just a residue that can be removed from the surface using a soft brush and warm soapy water. Once washed a perfect slate will be revealed.

25. When choosing a heat press the most important factor is consistent heat across the whole of the platen. Cheaper heat presses are notorious for having inconsistent heat plates.  Small items placed in the middle of the press maybe fine, however a larger item or items placed towards the edge of the press may turn out patchy. If you notice this problem you may wish to upgrade to a more reliable ‘branded’ press. Try to obtain a 12 month warranty.

26. If you are using a regular Epson printer with sublimation inks. The inks reproduce colour differently to genuine Epson Ink, so embedded ICC colour profiles will not work correctly. You need to have an ICC colour profile for your sublimation ink installed on your computer. The profile is then selected using your image manipulation software. Not all software allows this. Examples of the software that you should be using are GIMP, Adobe Photoshop, or Affinity Designer.

27. When you install your ICC profile on a Windows laptop or PC it will be stored in the following location: C:\windows\system32\spool\drivers\color  If it does not appear here automatically it can be dragged and dropped into place. When you first install your profile do not expect anything to happen! It will later appear as part of the drop down menu within your image manipulation software.

28. You may have to install the latest printer drivers to access the advanced settings required for sublimation printing. You need to ensure that your software is handling the colour management and your printer’s ability to do so has been disabled. To do this go to ‘more options’ and under the advanced settings select ‘no colour adjustment’ If you would like to watch a detailed video showing how to do this in GIMP Click Here. If you wish to watch a video showing how to select the correct settings for Photoshop and Affinity Click Here