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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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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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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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:  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/249395930

 UPDATE:  THIS WEBINAR HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED TO TUESDAY, JULY 9.   THE TIMES REMAIN THE SAME.


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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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