SubliStuff - All the stuff about sublimation that's fit to print
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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16th May 14

5 reasons filmEvery once in a while I like to do a sort of list or round-up post where I compile some information or industry resources I think are helpful.   On the Embroidery Talk Blog,  it’s called the Friday Blog Round-Up.    I’m not sure if the same sort of post will be as regular here, or will get its own name,  but I thought it might be useful to include some links to helpful information I’ve found.

First up,  for those who are interested in sublimation for schools,  you may want to download Sawgrass Ink’s “Making Money in the School Market“.    This marketing plan can give you tips on how to grow your school sales.  Schools can be a fertile ground for all kinds of decoration,  so it’s definitely worth downloading this book.

Second on the docket is a video,  also from Sawgrass,  about how to download and use Unisub templates.   For those who don’t know,  Unisub makes a number of products for sublimation,  and the templates they provide are very useful.    If you just want access to the templates themselves,  you can find them on Unisub’s website.

Third on the docket,  we have what we call the “Dye Sublimators Bible“,   which can be downloaded from EnMart’s website.   This comprehensive guide covers all aspects of sublimation,  and gives you information on sublimating various kinds of materials and products.   It’s a very useful basic primer on the art of sublimation.

Fourth at bat,  if you’ve ever purchased any of our Mates products – you may find this helpful.   It’s some sublimation tips from Rowmark,  the maker of the Mates products.     You can download basic sublimation tips for Mates or troubleshooting Mates printing.

Fifth,  some tips for startup sublimation from Printwear Magazine.  I have to confess I wrote these,  and my favorite is the first one,  since it addresses a concern I hear often.    The reality is that you will screw up while sublimating at some point.   Make your peace with that and don’t let it put you off trying sublimation entirely.


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10th Jul 13

As many of you may already know,  EnMart presented a webinar yesterday in association with Sawgrass Ink.   I want to say thank you to all of you who attended the webinar.   I hope it was informative and helpful.

For those of you who were not able to attend the webinar yesterday,  we have uploaded the entire webinar to EnMart’s YouTube page.   I am also making it available here on the blog for those who are interested.

If you were not previously aware of this webinar,  it deals with the following topic:

Adding Sublimation To An Embroidery Business

Sublimation is an ideal fit for any embroidery business as it allows you to expand your market reach with a wide range of new products, such as full-color t-shirts. However, the processes are quite different when it comes to implementation. From art to setup to production to pricing, digital decoration lives in a unique world all of its own.  Spend some time with Embroidery Professionals who will show you everything you need to know to add sublimation to your embroidery business.

EnMart is considering doing some more webinars with Sawgrass Ink in the future.  If you have any suggestions for topics we ought to cover,  please do share them with us.

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7th Jun 13

learnAlmost anyone who sublimates is probably familiar with the webinars offered by Sawgrass Ink.     These webinars are great little education sessions, offered online and each deals with a specific topic that is of interest and help to people working with sublimation.

EnMart has always been dedicated to helping our customers get the most from their sublimation equipment and supplies,  and part of doing that is providing information and opportunities for education.   We are proud to announce that we will be offering a webinar,  in cooperation with Sawgrass Ink, on June 25.  It is scheduled for 4pm EDT / 3pm CDT.

Because a great many of our customers are embroiderers,  it made sense that our first webinar would deal with adding sublimation to an existing embroidery business.    We’ve talked several times on this blog and in other places about how well sublimation and embroidery mesh,  and how the options for a business expand when both decorating disciplines are available.   Now,  through this webinar,  you can learn from embroidery professionals who already do sublimation,  and get tips and information on how to successfully add sublimation to your business and increase your profits.

The webinar content is as follows:

Adding Sublimation To An Embroidery Business

Sublimation is an ideal fit for any embroidery business as it allows you to expand your market reach with a wide range of new products, such as full-color t-shirts. However, the processes are quite different when it comes to implementation. From art to setup to production to pricing, digital decoration lives in a unique world all of its own.  Spend some time with Embroidery Professionals who will show you everything you need to know to add sublimation to your embroidery business.

You may register for the webinar here:


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7th Mar 13

series listOver on the EmbroideryTalk Blog,  I just did a post where I collected all the links to my series posts in one place.  For those who don’t know,  a series post is when I deal with one subject over several posts,  talking about a different aspect of the topic in each post.   I’ve also done some series posts here on the SubliStuff blog,  so it seemed like a good idea to collect links to those posts all in one place so people can more easily find them.

Subject:  Getting Started with Sublimation

Target Markets for Sublimated Products 

Sublimation: It’s (Not) Complicated 

Create, Print, Press! Is It Really that Easy?

Choosing a Heat Press

Choosing a Printer 

Target Market 

Sublimation Reality Check

Subject: How to Sublimate a Specific Item

How to Sublimate a Shot Glass

What Exactly Can You Sublimate 

How to Sublimate Tiles 

Subject:  Sublimation Paper

Mpres Paper 

The Quest for Fire… Sublimation Paper, pt 1

The Quest for Fire… Sublimation Paper, pt 2

Subject:  ChromaBlast Ink

ChromaBlast:  A Comparison 

ChromaBlast for Cotton

ChromaBlast Printing for Dark T-Shirts

Please keep in mind that this blog has been around since 2010, so some of the printers mentioned may no longer be offered.   I do think the information contained in these posts is still helpful, however, and hopefully you will as well.

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5th Feb 13

reality checkI post on a couple of decoration forums and on one of them,  the ADF,  we’ve been having a discussion about sublimation.  Now,  if you search sublimation on a decoration forum,  you’ll find lots that’s positive,  as there are many people out there who are doing very well with sublimation and having thriving businesses built around sublimating clothing or other goods.   You will also, however,  find people who don’t like the printers,  don’t like the ink and don’t think sublimation works well at all.   Everyone is, of course,  entitled to their own opinion,  and certainly an individual’s own experiences will form that opinion,  but I have to wonder if part of the disillusion when it comes to sublimation is because of poor information at the start.   Since I figure that might be the case,  at least in part,  I thought today might be a good day to post a sublimation reality check and discuss a few things that everyone should know before they start sublimating.

Reality Check #1:  Learning Curve –  The learning curve for sublimation may be smaller than for other decorating techniques,  but there is a learning curve.   You need to expect to make some mistakes and ruin some blanks.   You need to plan on spending some time watching videos or reading blogs to learn how to sublimate correctly.   Compared to some other decoration techniques,  sublimation is fairly simple,  but it still takes time to learn how to sublimate properly.

Reality Check #2:  Printers and Ink – Yes,  sublimation ink is different from regular printer ink.  Yes, printers used with sublimation ink,  regardless of brand,  can have clogs and sometimes do.   No,  this does not mean that sublimation ink is terrible and the printers are crap.    It means you have to learn how to use your system properly, and you have to pay attention to the conditions around your printer and stay on a regular printing schedule to avoid problems. It also means sometimes you can do everything you know to do and clogs happen.  The law of averages says some printers will have problems,  but that doesn’t mean every printer and every cartridge of ink is flawed.

Reality Check #3:  Sublimation is a money pit/ gold mine –  It costs money to get started in sublimation,  although start up costs are lower than with some other decoration disciplines.  It’s also possible to make a good living with sublimation,  although that takes work and some selling.   Customers won’t drop into your lap,  but they are out there,  and sublimation also makes a nice compliment to other decoration disciplines,  like embroidery.

The main thing to remember is that building a sublimation business is like building any type of business – it takes time and dedication and a certain amount of making mistakes before you reach success.   If you are dedicated to buying a good sublimation system,  willing to spend the time to learn how to use it properly,  and realistic enough to understand that there will be bumps in the road,  you will most likely be able to develop a profitable and satisfying sublimation business.

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2nd Jan 13

stepsEnMart’s parent company,  Ensign Emblem, has been working with inkjet sublimation practically as long as inkjet sublimation has existed.   We know the benefits of adding sublimation to a business because we’ve helped a great many businesses  do just that.    If you’re looking for a new profit center in 2013,  or searching for a relatively inexpensive way to start a business of your own,  sublimation may be just the thing for which you’ve been looking.    Make 2013 your most profitable year ever by following EnMart’s 5 steps to sublimation success.

Step 1:  Buy your equipment and supplies from a dealer who knows sublimation –  I know many of you probably thought I’d say that step one should be buy from EnMart,  and I do think you should buy from us,  but I won’t say we’re the only company out there who sells sublimation supplies knowledgeably and at a reasonable price.   Take your time,  do your research and ask questions of the companies from which you are thinking of buying.  Go with the one that suits you best and provides the information and experience you require.   Personally,  I think if you talk to us,  the company you choose will be EnMart.

Step 2:  Take your purchases out of their boxes – I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me and said they bought a sublimation system at a show months ago and never took it out of the box.   A system that isn’t used can’t generate revenue.  Don’t let your sublimation system gather dust in a corner.  Take it out,  set it up and turn it on.

Step 3:  Make mistakes, lots of them  – Let’s get this out of the way now,  you will screw up.   You’ll sublimate a design upside down.   You’ll leave something on the heat press too long or not long enough.   Learning the graphics software you choose will be more difficult than you anticipated.   You will waste money and time,  completely unintentionally,  but it will happen.  Make peace with that fact and don’t let fear of screwing up keep you from even trying.

Step 4:  Learn –  Sawgrass has a wide variety of videos and webinars which can help you learn various aspects of the sublimation business.    Attending a trade show is always a great way to learn more.    Reading blogs, like this one,  can give you lots of hints and tips.     Download the Dye Sublimation Guide from our website.    Read and watch and ask questions  all with the goal of getting better at sublimation today than you were yesterday.

Step 5:  Sell – Once you’ve got your sublimation system up and running,  it’s time to let people know what you can do and start soliciting orders.   Post pictures of your work on your company Facebook page.   Set up a table at a local market.   Create an intriguing display in a corner of your shop.  Contact your current customers and let them know about your new capabilities.  Network with future customers to find out what sublimated goods they might wish to buy.

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18th Oct 12

The first title for this post was sublimation intimidation,  but I soon realized that the problem doesn’t just lie with sublimation,  it could involve a heat press, or an embroidery machine or a direct to garment printer or almost any piece of equipment that can be used for decoration.    The issue I want to discuss today is the fact that new equipment and new decorating practices can often seem intimidating and that taking the first step and just getting started is often the most difficult part of the whole process.    I think almost all of us have experienced this form of intimidation at one time or another.  The question we need to answer is how to get past the intimidation factor and move on to successfully using your equipment.

The first thing to remember is that your equipment is tougher than you think.   Yes,  it is possible to break a machine or a printer,  but that probably isn’t going to happen if you push a button or send a print job.   Most manufacturers or suppliers will also send printed instructions or direct you to a website which can help you with set up.    There is also always a tech support option if you get really confused.   Before you do anything else,  you have to take the machines out of their boxes or crates and get them running.   A machine you’ve spent good money on that never gets used certainly isn’t going to be a good return on your investment.

The second thing to remember is that you will screw up.   You’ll print something backwards.  You’ll put something on the heat press the wrong way around and get ink on the platen.  You’ll sublimate something for too long or for not long enough and end up ruining a blank.    Mistakes will happen,  but they aren’t the end of the world.   EnMart sends practice fabric with our sublimation systems precisely because errors happen, and it’s always best to  build a mistake fund into your budget,  that way you can make mistakes without impacting your bottom line.  It is also a good idea to not take any rush jobs until you’re familiar with and secure in your ability to operate your equipment.  Nothing screws up a learning curve like deadline pressures.

Third,  remember that there are resources out there to help you learn how to use your equipment and be successful at whatever decorating discipline you choose.   There are blogs like this one.   For sublimation and ChromaBlast system owners,  Sawgrass has a variety of education and technical support information on their website.  Many suppliers will offer videos or instructional downloads for the machines or supplies they sell.   There are also forums and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter which provide a place to ask questions and find help.

What it comes down to in the end is being willing to work past the intimidation to give something new a try.   You did the research,  you decided what decoration discipline you wanted to add to your business,  you purchased the necessary equipment and supplies,  and now you’re too intimidated to take the stuff out of the box.   You’ve already made a monetary investment,  now make an investment in courage and in time.   After all, equipment that’s left in a box only generates revenue for the person who sold it.

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25th Sep 12

One of the questions we often get asked when someone is first discovering dye sublimation is why, if a business owner already screen prints or embroiders,  adding sublimation is necessary.   There are a lot of reasons why adding sublimation could be advantageous to the owner of a decoration business,  and I thought I would cover a few of them today in this post.

Reason #1:  Reasonably low cost –  Adding a new decoration discipline to your shop can be expensive.  Embroidery machines, vinyl cutters and direct to garment printers generally aren’t cheap and can represent a significant cost outlay for a business.    A sublimation system, on the other hand,  including a heat press,  can generally be purchased and set up for significantly less than $5,000,  which in business terms is not that big an investment.

Reason #2:  Reasonably high profit margin – People love personalization and they’re willing to pay for it.  Most sublimation blanks are fairly inexpensive,  and the cost to make an item will of course, also include paper and ink and labor costs, but many personalized, sublimated items can often be sold for double or triple their cost.

 Reason #3:  Lots of support – EnMart has been doing sublimation for many years,  and our techs have encountered pretty much every sublimation problem.   We can advise you on the best ways to get started and help you solve any problems you may have.    Sawgrass Ink also offers a wide variety of education and events,  from videos to seminars,  which can be useful to those running a sublimation business.

Reason 4:  Relatively small learning curve – We’re not going to tell you sublimation is easy because,  like any discipline,  it has it’s own quirks that need to be solved and techniques that need to be learned.   Sublimation may, however,  be easier to learn than some other decorating disciplines.   The printers are inkjet printers that most people are already familiar with,   the graphics software used can be the software you’re comfortable with and already know.  There are plenty of webinars,  seminars and articles out there  to help you get started.   If you understand how to use graphic software,  can run a computer and printer and are familiar with a heat press,  you shouldn’t have a huge difficulty in learning to sublimate.

Reason 5:  Wider variety of products – Most decoration disciplines are centered on garments which isn’t a bad thing – but doesn’t leave room for a lot of diversity.  Sublimation, on the other hand,  does allow you to decorate mugs and mousepads,  puzzles and tote bags,  a wide variety of hard and soft goods that other decorating disciplines can’t accommodate.   A wider variety of products either allows you to upsell your current customers or to have products to entice new customers and either will be a benefit.

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6th Sep 12

I was looking for blog post ideas on the Internet today and I came across an article on eHow called “How do I Start a Sublimation Business?”  For the most part the article was a standard article about starting any sort of business.  It gave advice like you need to get a business license,  and you need to decide whether you’re going to have a brick and mortar business or sell online.   Where it was a bit lacking,  in my opinion,  was in the advice that was given about what equipment you needed to start a sublimation business.   Since we sell sublimation supplies and have helped many people start sublimation businesses,  I thought I could clarify a few things.

First, one thing I do agree with,  researching your potential market is key.   It is never wise to start a new business without knowing who might buy and what they might buy.   Spending a few hours figuring out where and who your potential customers are can save you a lot of headaches in the future.

Now, as to what you’ll need.   I disagree with the article’s recommendation about a heat press.  We always recommend purchasing the biggest heat press you think you will ever need.   You should also take into account what you might want to do.   If you want to do mugs,  you should either buy a mug press or a press with a mug attachment.   If you think you’re only going to do garments,  a flat press may be fill your needs.   Spend some time looking at the options for sublimatable items before you buy your press, so you’ll be fully aware of all your options.

I’m also not in agreement with the article’s recommendation of cutters and hole punchers and notchers.  Most sublimation blanks are already cut or rounded or punched if that sort of thing is necessary.   If you are thinking of purchasing sheets of FRP and cutting your own shapes,  then a cutter or a corner rounder may be necessary.  If you just plan to use existing sublimation blanks, however,  I don’t see that those particular items need to be first on your list to purchase.

Finally when choosing  sublimation blanks,  make sure the items that you are purchasing are items that are meant for sublimation.  For hard goods,  that means poly coated items.  For soft goods, 100% polyester works best.

Additional Note:  It was pointed out to me that if you buy sheets of sublimatable aluminum, you will most likely want a shearer, punch, and corner cutter for those various shapes.  Those types of equipment don’t work on FRP material at all though; you need a at minimum a drill and router (or table saw) to cut those sheets into shapes.  Best to buy the shapes already cut out with the FRP unless you are doing signage.

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