This is my personal journey on how I got started in Sublimation Printing.
How I Started Sublimation Printing
Now I am not going to claim to be any sort of expert, nor have I compared different printers or inks. I am putting this together to try and help other people, but also I read that having a blog can create extra traffic to your website, so we all win I guess. What I am going to do is share my personal experience in sublimation printing with some links that can maybe help some other people get started. It may not be the right route for you due to a variety of reasons, but hopefully, it can help you in some way on your Sublimation Printing Journey.
I only try and produce high-quality goods for my customer, I also sell sublimation prints. These are available in Mug Size, A4 or A3 sized paper. This allows you to try for yourself before you make the jump and purchase your own equipment, or maybe you don’t want the equipment and just want to use us for your own prints. Sometimes outsourcing is the way forward.
Research, Research and More Research
I started out with vinyl, but I wanted to do mugs – putting vinyl on mugs just wasn’t a viable option for me. I drink a lot of coffee (3 cups before 9 am usually – which is waaaay too much) so I need my cups to go into the dishwasher. This is was led me to sublimation printing (which I used to call subliminal printing lol)
I joined quite a few Facebook groups, didn’t really post, just read the existing posts about common problems, issues people faced and things like that. Being in these groups and reading other peoples issues really helped me out in the beginning, I didn’t want any of these problems. I wanted to hit the ground running and be able to produce quality items with as few problems as possible.
A few groups I would suggest are listed below. Some of these are based in the UK, however, there are good people on them
If anyone would like me to add their group to the list, leave a comment below and I will get it added if it’s beneficial to the readers.
Buying the Equipment
So my research led me to the fact that I wanted an Epson printer, A3 size (I went for A3 as most people said once they got A4, they wish they had just got A3) – I then had the choice of going for an Eco-Tank or using a CISS (Continuous Ink Supply System) kit on an inkjet printer. Having read all the problems with a CISS that people were having, I decided to go for the Eco-Tank Printer instead. I Settled for the Epson ET-7750 – From my research, this one printed photos the best for a desktop printer
I’ve not had any issues with the printer and at the time of printing, I’ve had it for over a year. The Ink is really easy to fill up and I even made £100 selling the original inks that came with it.
If you get a printer for sublimation, don’t fill it up with the inks provided (unless its a specific sublimation printer) – The good thing about the ET-7500 is that the bottles of ink that come with it as really good for filling with sublimation ink and then using to fill the printer, however, I went with syringes which I will explain more in the next section
This is a big part of the research. Something key I found out was that I would need an ICC Profile (International Colour Consortium) – at the time I didn’t have a clue what this was, as I’ve moved into different ways of printing (solvent printing) I’ve started to understand it quite a bit more and the need for it when producing different prints
I initially joined the Facebook Group Sublimation and Vinyl Support Group I found that the people in there were quite helpful, so it made sense to go with the team that run the group for my ink. They had persuaded me to go with the ET-7500, so why not give their inks a try. I ordered the Full CMYK Set from inkforinkjet.co.uk – don’t be put off by the website (as it isn’t the easiest to navigate), the guys in the Facebook Group will sort you out with whereabouts you need to go and what inks you need for your printer. I also ordered syringes and needles – this is so I can extract the ink from their bottles and put it into my printer.
Make sure when you fill up the tanks with sublimation ink you take your time, you don’t want the ink going everywhere. Needles and syringes are easiest or use the bottles the original ink came in (once you empty them)
On the ET-7500 there is Black, Cyan, Magenta and Photo Black tanks. You just add the normal colours of ink into each and also add Black into the Photo Black. You need to have Black in the Photo Black tanks or it could damage the printer.
Inkforinkjet will sort you out with a default profile for your printer, paper and inks when you buy ink from them, however, they will do a fully custom one if you follow the instructions on their announcements in the Facebook group – basically, you are printing and pressing on to substrates and then posting the items, they will then analyse the inks and colours (or do some sort of hocus pocus) and create a custom profile based on what you sent them. It can sometimes be some trial and error with different profiles and settings until it works for you, so be prepared to waste some blank items.
Initially, for a Heat Press, I had a clamshell Pixmax 30x40cm – where I found that this worked ok for me, it actually wasn’t the best as I had to amend my temperatures and timings for each item by quite a considerable amount – this was a pain and wasn’t always consistent.
I upgraded quickly to a Stahls clam 40×50 press – immediately I found this 100 times better than the Pixmax – don’t get me wrong, the Pixmax done a job and helped me get started, but the Stahls press was a game-changer. I do T-Shirts, Facemasks, Slates, Umbrellas, Hoodies, Socks and many many more items in this press.
I started out with what was called the Daddy of cheaper presses – the Freesub ST-210 – This is a twin press with changeable elements. This was a brilliant press for me. I done hundreds of mugs and bottles in it. The only reason I changed from the press was due to the smaller 6oz element not having enough coverage.
We use 10 oz mugs mainly and depending on ink we do them at
180º and 130 seconds for black only
180º and 150 seconds for colour
180º and 180 seconds for full colour
ICC Profile and Printing
As mentions above – an ICC profile will help you get better colours with the equipment and inks you have. I have read that some people don’t bother and are happy, for me, using an ICC really improved my colours. I have one for hard items and one for soft. I select them within my design programs (I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop) – Your ink provider should be able to give you instructions on how to install these and some will even dial in and help out (inkforinkjet does this) – I’m not going to even pretend I know the technical stuff behind an ICC, but when I was getting yellow lines coming from my black, I spoke to my ink provider, they created a new ICC which released less yellow when making the black, after that it was perfect. Its something I would keep using as I have always seen better results with it than without.
When you actually get around to printing, be aware that the print will be dull initially until pressed, the ink turns into a gas when heated and then combines with the substrate/garment and becomes a permanent print.
Working out your temperature and timings is a bit of an art – most websites will give you some guidelines, but these can depend on what inks, ICC profile used, what type of press you have, what paper you are using. When testing a new product, I usually print multiple versions of the same print, but with different times and temperatures on them. I then press to determine which works best for me.
Sublimation on Cotton
So, one big question all the time is ‘How do I print on Cotton?’
I guess the easy answer is that you don’t. This was something I really wanted to do as my customers wanted dark clothing. I tried Sublimation Papers, I tried Inkjet Vinyl Papers, I read about sprays. None of it gave a professional finish that I was looking for. So what next?
I outsourced. Outsourcing my requirements for dark clothing allowed me to eventually buy my own Solvent Machine, this has now allowed me to print on HTV and expand my offerings hugely.
I now offer outsourcing of Custom Vinyl Printing – I already have a number of customers who use me on a regular basis as well as doing prints for my own customers. We don’t share any of your stuff on social media, this helps you grow and stops your customers coming direct to us.
Outsourcing isn’t really cost effective for 1 or 2 small prints, by the time we work on the design and set up cut lines it can be pricey for a couple of breast logos, however if you are looking for 10, 20, 50 or even more, then its certainly something you should maybe think about
Nip over to our Custom Vinyl Printing page and you can select the different types of vinyl that we offer and price up any work you may need to outsource.
Our new logo on a couple of our Imperial Style round neck t-shirts.
Sometimes just a little bit of colour really makes something pop
I hope this post of my experience into the world of sublimation helps, or at least provides some links or something for anyone reading it. Even though I print on vinyl, I still do sublimation and it is a big part of my business.
If you want to get in touch, feel free to drop us a message via the contact form on the front page of the website