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The Basics of Sublimation

The Basics of Sublimation

Before you start sublimating, is it important to know the basics of the process. Prior to adding sublimation to your job queue, you must first consider the cost, the practicality, and the complexity of the process. Sublimation is not just printing and applying - there are more factors to play a role in obtaining a perfect print. Before we get in to the technical factors of sublimation, let's start with the basics.

What you Need

  • Sublimation Ink Compatible Printer such as Epson and Ricoh printers.
  • Sublimation Paper such as Image Right or TexPrint.
  • Sublimation Ink available in cartridges, bulk bags and bottles.
  • ICC Color Correction Profile to ensure that your colors come out perfect.
  • Heat resistant tape if you are doing mugs, tiles, or caps, to keep your image from moving during the transfer process.
  • Sublimatable Items - products that are compatible with sublimation. *note: not all mugs, tiles, t-shirts, and other imprintable items, are sublimation compatible*
  • Heat press for bonding the image to the item. If you are doing mugs or caps, you need a mug or cap press, or attachments that can be bought for compatible presses.
  • An ICC Profile compatible program, such as Photoshop, or CorelDraw. (Currently, the ICC Profiles cannot be managed in any other programs.)

    What is sublimation?

    Sublimation is a transfer process in which the image becomes a part of the actual item. Sublimation needs special ink, paper and specific substrates with polyester coating to work.

    When heated to high temperatures, sublimation ink turns into a gas. Pores of the polyester coated item open up and allow the gas to enter. Then, once removed from the heat, the pores of the polyester substrate close up, trapping the ink inside. The entire image will be smooth to the touch. 

    What sublimation can and can't do

  • Imprint cotton shirts. As mentioned before, sublimation needs polyester in order to complete the process of transfer. Sublimation will turn out best with only 100% polyester shirts. Cotton shirts should be completed with heat transfer paper.
  • Imprint 65/35 and 50/50 shirts with bright colors. Since a percentage of the shirt is still cotton, the sublimation ink does not have enough polyester to create a vivid transfer. The image will end up with dull colors, especially after washing. Again, using heat transfers for cotton shirts is really the best option.
  • Imprint colored shirts. Any colored background drastically alters the imprint colors. Since sublimation will become part of the shirt, any color already on the garment will overwhelm the transferred image.
  • Imprint non-polymer-coated items. Remember that sublimation is printing into the coating, not the item.
  • Imprint gold/silver metal used by award companies. This is another instance where the background color of the substrate will interfere with the image.

    ICC Color Correction Profile/Power Driver - why you need it

    To obtain consistently accurate colors from any dye sublimation ink, some form of color correction must be used. There are many different approaches taken by ink suppliers to obtain decent colors. However, for optimum results, we use the internationally recognized ICC color profiles method for Artainium inks and a Power Driver for SubliJet inks.

    These color management programs are basically custom-designed files that are loaded onto the computer. The program will take into account the characteristics of the specific ink, paper, printer and program being used. Every time you print from Illustrator, Corel or Photoshop, your printer will use this file to print the sublimation inks correctly to get the most vibrant, true colors.

    Without a profile, your printer would think it is printing with regular Epson inks, which are vastly different from sublimation inks.

    Currently, color profiles can not be managed in any program other than Photoshop, Illustrator or Corel Draw. Some programs, such as CorelDraw 8 and down, Photoshop LE, Elements, 2.0 version 4 and down, or any version that comes with a printer, may not work correctly. These programs do not allow you to manage the color profile. Power Drivers do not NEED a design program, but it is highly suggested that one be used.

    For instructions on setting up your ICC Profile in Photoshop, click your operating system below:


    Which printers, inks and profiles work together

    Profiles for ArTainium inks are offered for many Epson printers. You can check to see if your model has a corresponding ICC profile here. The ICC profiles allow you to print predictable colors, without color replacement. By using one of the printer/graphics possibilities listed above, even a novice can expect to easily get excellent (and saleable) printed images on their products.

    Power Drivers are offered for many Ricoh and Epson printers. Check here to see which printers are available for use with
    SubliJet Power Drivers.

    How do I install my ICC Color Profile?

    For Mac OSX and higher, there is very little in the way of installation. Simply put the disk in the computer and view the profile. Then, proceed to the hard drive, click on system, then Library, then ColorSync, then Profiles and drop the corresponding printer profile in that folder. Your Photoshop, Illustrator and CorelDraw will recognize the profile if it is in the folder. There is no loading necessary. Keep in mind that design programs will always print using a default color profile, unless you specifically choose the Artainium color profile.

    For PC Windows you simply install the disk and a prompt will come up with three options. Click "run and install" and the set up wizard will walk you through the rest.

    Power Drivers can only be used on Windows systems and can be downloaded directly from our website in this location.

    Which paper should I use?

    Choosing a paper should be based on the needs of you and your printer. Our papers have specific needs and outcomes, as listed below.

    TexPrint Sublimation Paper
    TexprintXP high release paper provides consistent performance from the inkjet printer through to the heat press. TexprintXP renders the richest colors and maintains truest tone, print to print, batch to batch & month to month. Soft surface application or hard, TexprintXP gets the job done right. TexprintXP is designed to resist cockelling during inkjet printing, dry quickly to the touch and rewind without wet-transfer. TexprintXP's silicate coating forms a vertical grid. When heated, inks filling the grid outgas, creating a vertical plume of heated dye-gas emanating from the print sheet surface. The directed flow of gaseous dye results in the richest color application to irregular receptor surfaces.

    ImageRight Premium Sublimation Paper
    Image Right premium sublimation paper is finally here! After countless hours of testing we have decided to offer Image Right as our newest sublimation paper. Our tests indicated you can expect equal if not better results than the popular TruePix sublimation papers. Image Right is able to offer superior quality at a discounted price! Image Right delivers true consistent color from digital image to print with photo quality transfers. This paper is sure to get the job done whether the substrate is a soft polyester fabric or hard ceramic tile.