SubliStuff - All the stuff about sublimation that's fit to print
17th Jul 15

four_previewPeople who are not currently sublimating often ask why they need to add dye sublimation (often just referred to as sublimation for brevity’s sake)  to the decoration processes their shop offers.   Now,  let me say up front,  no one needs to add sublimation to their shop.    If you choose not to offer sublimation services,  the world will not spin off its axis,  a meteor will not hit your shop,  and things will go along as they normally do without any horrific consequences.   The only bad thing that will happen is that someone else in your market will be making a profit on sublimated goods and your shop will not.   So, really the question is not why do you need to add sublimation to the decoration techniques your shop offers,  but why you should want to add sublimation.     Here are a few reasons why we think most shops would want to add sublimation.

1.  It’s a new profit center –  In order to stay profitable,  shops need to diversify.   While there are shops out there that do only one thing and make a living that way,  most decorators have learned to offer a variety of decoration techniques.   Sublimation is simply another decoration technique to have in your arsenal.

2.  Sublimation opens up new products – If you’ve primarily decorated clothes,  adding sublimation to your shop allows you to add hard goods,  mugs,  plaques and the like.  There are a wide variety of sublimation blanks available for decoration and an equal variety of markets to which those goods can be sold.   Adding sublimation gives your shop the ability to offer additional categories of goods,  and to capture additional dollars when a client places a clothing order.

3. Financial barriers to entry are comparatively low – We’re not saying that sublimation is inexpensive,  larger printer packages can be in the $1500 to $2000 range,  and a quality heat press can add another few thousand dollars to that total,   plus the price of blanks.   Still,  when comparing that cost to the cost of a new DTG printer or screen printing press,  sublimation is a relatively economical way to get started in a new business.

4. The learning curve is fairly low – Yes,  sublimation is a decoration discipline and, as such,  it has its own quirks and tricks that need to be learned and understood.    That said,  if you can use graphics software,  know how to print to an inkjet printer and understand how to use a heat press,  you can sublimate.   There are a number of resources out there to help you get started,  and learning to produce a usable print should not be that difficult.

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9th Jul 15

Woman with question marks on a blackboardOne of the most common questions about sublimation that we get asked is “what can I sublimate?”.   It’s a common question because people either assume you can sublimate anything  or they assume you can only sublimate items that are in some super secret special category to which not everyone has access.    The truth is somewhere in the middle.   Not every item is suitable for sublimation, as with most decoration disciplines,   there are items that cannot be sublimated because of how they’re made,  what they’re made of,  or because they won’t fit properly into the  heat presses or other heating methods available.     On the other side of the coin,  items suitable for sublimation are not some magically coated items that only a select few can use or buy.   In reality,  sublimation is really a fairly easy decoration discipline to enter and master.  If you are thinking of starting a sublimation business or wondering what you can and can’t sublimate,  here are a few pieces of information that should help you understand what you can sublimate and what may not be an ideal choice when it comes to sublimating a product.

The first thing you need to know is that hard goods suitable for sublimation need to be poly coated.   This means,  as I said in my last post,   that you can’t go to the dollar store and buy a mug and sublimate it.   Yes,  there are sprays that can be used to coat items for sublimation,  and going that route may be a viable choice for some people.   For most people, however,   the easiest route is to buy sublimation blanks already coated.  This will ensure that you get a quality blank with a smooth coating that is designed to stand up to the temperatures needed to get a good sublimated print.

When it comes to sublimating fabric,   100% polyester fabric will always give you the best result.   There are several t-shirt brands,  among them Vapor Apparel,  that make 100% polyester shirts that are comfortable to wear and have a nice feel.  These shirts are designed especially for sublimation and come in an array of colors that are suitable for this decoration discipline.

People often ask if it is possible to sublimate a polyester blend,  and the answer to that question is yes,  with a qualification.   Yes,  you an sublimate a poly blend but,  because it is a blend,   the sublimation ink will only dye the poly fibers.   This results in a more distressed look for your print.   Some people find this sort of look attractive and desirable.   Others do not.   If you want a full color print,  your best bet is to start with a garment that is 100% polyester.   This will always produce your best and most colorful result.

Sublimation is actually fairly simple when you get right down to it.   You need sublimation ink and sublimation paper and a blank suitable for sublimation.     You need a heat source that can reach 400 degrees,  either a heat press that can accommodate the blank you want to sublimate,  or  a wrap that can hold your transfer in place while the item is in an oven.  Finally you need a blank that is suitable for sublimation and some graphic software to create the graphic you want to print.   If you have all those things,  you’re ready to sublimate.

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30th Jun 15

Advice-2We just started a series called Actual Advice,  in which we answer questions from customers,  on SubliStuff’s sister blog, EmbroideryTalk,  and I thought it would be fun to have the same series over here.    Often the best indication of what people need and want to know is in the questions they ask,  and I figured it would be helpful to share the questions and answers here on this blog so more people can benefit.    So,  without further ado,  here are a few questions we’ve been asked.

Question 1:  Can you buy mugs from the dollar store and sublimate them?   The first thing to say here is nothing is impossible.  Yes,  theoretically,  you could buy mugs from the dollar store,  buy a coating spray designed for sublimation, coat the mugs yourself and sublimate them.   In practice, however,  that’s a dicey proposition.  Coating items for sublimation yourself is difficult,  and getting the coating evenly applied can be problematic.   Dollar store mugs may also be less sturdy and less able to stand up to the heat and pressure of a mug press.   There’s also the fact that sublimating mugs this way won’t save you much.   The cost of buying a dollar store mug,  purchasing coating and the implements to apply that coating and then spending the time necessary to apply the coating would probably far outstrip the cost of buying drinkware for sublimation that is already professionally coated and prepared.

Question 2:  Do you do sublimation tutorials at your EnMart locations?  We do set up sublimation tutorials upon request, provided we have the necessary equipment and personnel available.   We do keep printers set up in the R&D lab,  but they are sold as demos after a certain period of time.    The R & D heat press also tends to get sold at trade shows,  as it doubles as our trade show press.   On the plus side,  this allows us to ensure that we have the latest equipment in the lab.   On the minus side,  it sometimes means that we don’t have the necessary equipment available.   The other half of the equation is that our sublimation lab and our sublimation experts are at the company headquarters in Michigan,  which is the only location that offers tutorials.     If you are interested in a tutorial,  and are able to come to the Michigan location,  you can always contact us to see if we can set one up.

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19th Jun 15

creative studioAs some of you already know,  Sawgrass has released a new line of sublimation printers,  the Virtuoso line.   There is a smaller printer,  which can do up to 8.5 x 14 out of the box,  and  a larger printer,  which prints 11 x 17 out of the box or larger sizes with the additional of  a bypass tray.   Along with the printers,  they have also released sublimation design software,  available online,  called CreativeStudio.

If you have purchased a printer,  or are considering purchasing a printer,  you may have questions about this software.   Here are some quick instructions for getting started with the software.

1.   Download,  install and register CS Print and Color Manager for Windows

2.   You will receive an account activation e-mail.  Once you have that,  log in to CreativeStudio.   Once you have logged in,  it is recommended that you complete the training exercises in the Tutorials.

Once you’ve followed these two steps,  you are ready to start creating.

Please keep in mind,  once you register for the CS Print and Color Manager,  you will receive two e-mails.   One is a Registration Code E-mail,  and the other is an Account Activation E-mail.   The Account Activation e-mail should arrive within two business days.   You will not have access to CreativeStudio until you receive the second e-mail.

You may also wish to register for a CreativeStudio orientation webinar or a CreativeStudio Q&A session.   Q & A sessions are happening at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. EST on Monday, June 24,  Monday July 8,  Monday, July 22, Monday August 5, and Monday, August 19.   When registering for a Q&A session,  click on “Show my Time Zone” to choose the correct webinar for your location.

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20th Jan 15

EnMart is starting out 2015 by slashing prices on our inventory of sublimation and ChromaBlast packages.   If your New Year’s Resolution was to add an additional profit center to your business,  there’s no better time than now.   Take advantage of these great deals and be sublimating or printing ChromaBlast transfers by the weekend.

XT PRO Ricoh 7100 System – 13″ x 19″
sublimation xt pro package

Everything you need for production sublimation printing – the largest size Ricoh 7100 printer plus bypass tray for maximum size 13″ x 19″ prints, eXTended size ink cartridges, various sizes of Mpres paper, a spare waste ink tank – and more!
20% off full price – now only $1769

Standard Ricoh 7100 System – 11″ x 19″
proprintr3 sublimation or chromablast system

Print 11″ x 17″ images with this Ricoh 7100 system. Comes with paper, a standard set of ink, and more!
Available in either Sublimation or Chromablast package configurations.  Or get one of each!

Entry Ricoh 3110 System – 8.5″ x 11″
quickstartr2 sublimation chromablast system

Need to print smaller items? Just starting out? This wildly popular Ricoh 3110 system comes with paper, a complete set of ink, and more!
Available in either Sublimation or Chromablast package configurations. Or get one of each!

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31st Dec 14

happy new year 3EnMart will be closed Thursday, January 1 in honor of the New Year’s Holiday.

We will return to work on Friday, January 2, 2015. 

All orders placed on Thursday, January 1 will be shipped when we return on Friday, January 2.

Happy New Year and here’s to a prosperous and creative 2015!

26th Dec 14

startWe all know that the beginning of the year is a time when many people embark on new adventures.   If you’ve been thinking that 2015 is the year you should start that sublimation business you’ve been contemplating,  EnMart can help.

The first place to start is in the sublimation category on the EnMart website.  There you can see the printers available,  a selection of the blanks that can be sublimated,  and get an idea how much things like ink and paper will cost.     You can also download the 2011 edition of the Dye Sublimation Bible.   Although this book is now a few years old,   it still provides a good basic overview of sublimation and how to sublimate various blank items.

Another helpful resource is this blog.   From time to time,  I write a series of posts that deal with a particular aspect of sublimation.  It might be how to get started with sublimation,  it might be how to sublimate a particular item,  or it could be a discussion about paper or ink.     The posts are designed to help you gain more knowledge about sublimation and how to successfully make it part of your business.

There are also a variety of magazines and trade organizations that deal with sublimation.  Most magazines will have archives of back issues so you can find sublimation related articles you may have missed.    The organizations all deal with sublimation in some form.   In addition to those mentioned,  you may also want to check out the Advertising Specialties Institute,  which may be a useful resource when you’re working to find markets for your sublimated goods.

Sawgrass Technologies,  the manufacturer of sublimation ink,  provides a wide variety of helpful resources on their website.   They offer webinarsvideos and a library of articles about sublimation.    They also offer technical support and advice should you have issues getting started with sublimation.

Keep in mind,  the biggest resource for sublimation is the willingness to try something new and a comfort with the idea that you’ll probably mess things up once or twice.   Sublimation is not hard to learn,  but there are tricks and tips that can help you successfully sublimate almost any substrate suitable for sublimation.   The resources listed above will help you learn what you need to know to make your sublimation business a success.

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23rd Dec 14

merry christmas 3We wish you all a happy and safe Christmas.

EnMart will be closed on Wednesday, December 24 and Thursday, December 25, 2014 for the Christmas holiday.   We will reopen on Friday, December 26, 2014.

All orders placed on 12/24 – 12/25 will ship on Friday, 12/26 when we resume normal operations.

18th Dec 14

christmasNote: I first wrote this parody of The Night Before Christmas in 2011. It amused me, and some other people, so I thought it was worth making it a Christmas tradition.  I guess it does count as a tradition now as this is the third year it’s been posted. 

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the shop
All the printers were printing and going non-stop
The pressers were pressing with all of their might
For presents, for Christmas, were needed that night

The t-shirts were folded up neatly and boxed
And dreaming of sublimation transfers that rocked
And mamma in her apron and I in the same
Were printing sports jerseys with numbers and names

When out front of the shop there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my work to see what was the matter
Away to the entrance I stumbled pell-mell
Threw open the door and screamed out “What the … bell?”

I clung to the doorframe, exhausted and drawn
Wondering where all the daylight had gone
A miniature sleigh, and Santa, plus eight
Reminded me quickly that orders were late.

The little old driver, that lively St. Nick
Cried, “Bring me those orders, and move them out quick!”
Bring mousepads, bring mugs and t-shirts galore
Bring bookmarks and puzzles and tote bags and more!

Now Printer, you know this, stop looking so ill
There’s children, world over, with stockings to fill
Bring jerseys; bring car flags, and maybe a plaque
But hurry, please hurry and fill up my sack!

I’d never made claim to being an elf,
But found, by St. Nick, I could not help myself
The printers sprayed color, the heat presses pressed
And presents were finished for Santa’s great quest

The last transfer was printed, the last item dyed
When I turned to find Santa smiling by my side
“Printer you’ve done it!” he said with a grin
And his sack started bulging as the last gift went in

Whether mugs for a latte, plain coffee or tea
A puzzle, a clipboard, a box for jewelry
A key chain or shirt with a logo so bright
There’ll be happy children with gifts made this night

How Santa’s eyes twinkled, his belly it shook
As he gave me the kindest and nicest of looks
His laughter was merry, his praise much desired
My gifts had passed muster and were much admired

As I stood in my shop, all the gifts finally made
The stress of the holidays started to fade
Personalized gifts, sublimated, jolly and fun
Would delight gift recipients, every last one

With a wink and a nod Santa sprang to his sleigh
Gave a flip of the reins and was flying away
His bag bulging with presents, his sleigh loaded down
He set off to being joy to every city and town

I laughed as I saw him, that jolly old elf
Flying off with gifts made by my very own self
With his bag full of pet tags and beer mugs and all
I waved as he flew off and then heard him call

Hey Printer, keep working, there’s always next year
And I’ll be returning now never you fear
Until then, keep printing, with colors so bright
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

3rd Sep 14

Stop you can't do thatMost times, when people write about sublimation,  they write about what you can make.  It makes sense,  that’s a broader topic, and the goal is to sell you on sublimation and all the wonderful things that can be sublimated.   The problem with this approach is that there is a lot of misinformation regarding sublimation out there, and some of that misinformation centers around what can and can’t be sublimated.    Since it can be difficult to know what is suitable for sublimation and what is not,  I thought it might be helpful to discuss what can’t be sublimated and why.

The first and broadest category of items that can’t be sublimated is anything that isn’t polyester or poly coated.   Yes,  some people will tell you that garments that are a 50/50 poly blend can be sublimated, and they’re right,  they can,  if you’re willing to accept a distressed look and that only some fibers in the garment will be dyed.   There are also those who will tell you that DIY coating options are available and, they are,  but they require meticulous coating and often such coating is best done by machine if it’s going to be even.   The hard fact of the matter is that 100% poly garments,  and hard goods that are professionally poly coated are the items that work best in most instances.

Another group of items on the list of things that can’t be sublimated is dark clothing.  There is no white ink option for sublimation,  so there is no base covering over the dark fabric on which you could put an image.   You can sublimate darker images onto lighter dark colors,  a black design on a brown shirt for example,  but the designs most likely won’t pop as they would on a lighter color.    The reality is that any color will interfere with the color and visibility of a sublimated design,  lighter colors just tend to cause less of a problem.   If you are planning to sublimate a color,  be sure you take into account the color of the item being sublimated and how that might impact the color and visibility of your design.

Sublimation is also not possible on cotton garments.   This fact can be a barrier for some people who tend to think of polyester clothing as the leisure suit their Dad wore in the 70s or the awful pantsuit Great Aunt Millie wore at Thanksgiving.   There has been a lot of work done in the area of polyester garments,  and some companies,  like Vapor Apparel have created performance wear that is both stylish and comfortable to wear.   If you are hoping to sublimate on cotton, however,  your hopes are destined to be dashed.   The best option for cotton is ChromaBlast which produces a colorful design with very little hand,  but is still a transfer as opposed to sublimation.

Sublimation can be a very profitable decoration technique for your business and can allow you to offer a wide array of new products,  but you must be aware of what can and can’t be sublimated and why.   Managing your and your customers’ expectations will help you create great sublimated items that meet the needs of your customers and help fatten your wallet.


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