Product FAQs

We are living in an age of “fast food”. When we try to make marketing videos within 3 mins, even we have a lot more want to say, because we know audients only have limited patience. I can hardly find my favorite breakfast in my hood, only because there is another kind that can serve faster. People don’t even bother reading the instruction menu when we buy electronics. People build products easier and easier to access. But, this kind of attitude is not helpful when doing your own sublimation business. Because every time you making mistakes, you will lose money on blanks. Most of the good vendors should give you very detailed instructions. But, just in case they didn’t, or you forgot to ask the right question. I’ll show you how to make a quick test on blanks without any instruction. Or at least ask your vendor the right questions.

Questions should be asked before you buy blanks.

We decided to buy sublimation blanks when we feel like it. But there are things you need to know before you make the purchase.

Do I have the right equipment to print it?

Heat press and printer are the most fundamental equipment in sublimation. Mugs have different shapes and sizes, you can’t print shot glasses without a shot glass attachment. The flat press has swung away and clamshell 2 kinds. Swing away can provide even and firm pressure, but it open and close slowly. Clamshell works fast, but it mostly just for fabric products, when you print Plaques or tiles, it might give you unexpected defects. Printers also carry different paper sizes and inks. So, be wise to choose a blank that your equipment can handle.

Do I have the skill set to print the blanks?

Shot glass is one of the trickiest products to print. If you want to print a good full-bleed image, need to wrap the image, cut the paper right, wet the paper, and wrap it right…. The bottom line is there is some products, just not for beginners. Be aware of that, when you decide to start a new product line.

Content should be included in the instructions.

Your vendor will offer you instructions by writing some bullet points or simple videos. There are always some insights that they missed. So, let’s get on with it.

Mockup or template

A good mockup will help you place transfer paper on blanks easily and correctly. You should check if it on the correct size if the images are mirrored, does it have crop marks, does it leave enough bleed area. What we usually do is make a good mockup for every single SKU, and keep it in an archive. It will take some time, but it will make your life a lot easier. On products that can print multiple images on one single sheet, you can always record action in Photoshop. Btw, it saved me A LOT of times when running mass production.

Printer setting

Some really advanced sublimation printer brand, like Sawgrass, Epson, Roland, Mimaki, they offer different color profile, printing options or papers for the different substrate. For printing fabrics, your printer needs to lay a lot more inks on transfer paper than printing on ceramic to achieve a vivid image. On FRP the ink should be concentrated into a small pixel because it will expand. Color profiles that use on metal and ceramics are different because sublimation ink color will different when you transfer in different times and temp., and print ceramic takes a lot longer time. Trust me, if you dedicated to excellence, you need to know.

Time, temperature, pressure

Time and temperature are various depend on your ink, paper, and what heat press you using. Some paper and ink release ink fast some are slow. Some heavy-duty heat press can heat up your blanks a lot faster than light-duty ones. Some heat presses start timer soon as you close the press, some start timer after it reaches the temperature you preset. Stoneware we usually do 185 Celsius, in two and a half mins or 25 seconds depending on different kind of timer.  If transfer side is away from heating pad, then just add another 20 degree, and few mins. We usually apply firm pressure on ceramic. Glassware are basic same as stoneware, only different is pay attention to how is thick is your glass, how many pressure it can handle. Remember never put a just finish glass into water to cool down. Btw, you do need a fast cold down for almost all sublimation products. Sublimation start and stop at around 150 degree.  It needs to cool down to below 150 degree. The best way to cool down for almost all of sublimation product is using a fan. Just blow for a few mins, then let room temperature take care rest the work. Metal is what you need to pay extra attention to, because it heats up so fast. Pressure differences, 10 degree or few seconds different will make very big different. For metal products, depend on the thickness of the metal, I recommend 15 to 25 seconds. No matter which kind of timer you have. Fabric that works for sublimation is Neoprene and Canvas and others that contents high percentage of polyester. There are not much different if it’s same kind of fabric. 185 degree, 30 to 60 seconds, more or less. You can’t get too bad printing result on fabrics. What you need to pay attention to is pressure and time. Of course we prefer firm pressure and short time, but too much pressure or too long time will make fabric expend too much or loss fabric’s resiliency or even melt. MDF & FRP is basically all the same if it’s from same manufacturer. You can’t really make a bad print by apply more pressure and times, unless it’s way too much. So, use firm pressure and add a few seconds can help you lower the defect rate.

Accessories

Common accessories are heat tape and heat gloves. There are few others that you might need. Rubber pad comes very handy when you print hard flat surface products. Purpose to use it is make press and heat more even. It will also extend pressing time quite a bit. We use it on print tile, slates. Teflon is your best friend and worst enemy. It protects your heat press from all kinds of residue. But it absorbs sublimation ink. The 1st press is always fine, but 2nd and following press sublimation ink left on Teflon might transfer back to the new blank you want to print. We can always remove sublimation inks left on Teflon by pressing it on paper or fabrics. Mug wraps can provide pressure when you print mugs in oven or vacuum press. Some really expensive wraps are more than $45, really cheap one are like $10. This huge difference is due to how the wrap is designed, the quality of metal and rubber. You will find out after you use it for a while. Another tips on mug wraps is, same as Teflon, it absorb inks, so when you printing a new batch of mug, leave your mug wraps in oven for a good half hour, just weary out ink residues.

Technique

The devil is in the details. Technique is a combination of what I just mentioned and more. Like how to cool down your blanks, how to tape it, what tape you use, how to remove paper…. You will learn it from others or mistakes.

Last and most important tips

One of the most preciseness rules, FAA rule, is based on a fact that everybody will make mistakes. Sometime take actions only based memory is prohibited. When pilot do ground check, co-pilot have a check list on hand to make sure pilot is doing it right. Same rule also applies when you run production. Some time you forgot, some time you have new employee, mistakes will happen. So, please make yourself a check list and stick on the wall next your heat press.       Enjoy sublimation
For mug printing, you can choose mug press, multi-function press, vacuum press, etc., depending on what kind of mug you're printing.
You can sublimate wood products that have a special coating for sublimation printing. Photo USA provides a wide range of high-quality sublimatable wood products that are coated with our well-known ORCA Coatings.
Sublimation onto cotton, light and dark, is now possible. Take this chance to expand your portfolio with our high-quality cotton products.
Yes, you can sublimate on plastic. Photo USA provides a wide range of plastic products for you to sublimate.
You can sublimate PVC and it holds the color really well. Similar to Corian, you need to use lower temps and longer dwell times than with most substrates.
You can sublimate the mug any times you want. It won't damage the mug, but remember that the existing image will ghost when it's reheated. It is great if you want to use the mug for testing printing effect or practicing on sublimation printing.
Keep in mind you must use mugs that have a special coating for sublimation printing. These mugs are specially coated in a factory. You cannot coat them yourself.
Sublimation mugs coated with our ORCA Coatings® are microwave safe, except those with metal material, like plated mugs and the glitter mugs with slightly metallic surface.
First, choose an image that has been created digitally either by scanning a photograph or downloading a picture taken with your digital camera or an image created in a piece of imaging software like Adobe Photoshop or CorelDRAW. Then, print the image onto the transfer paper with a printer like Epson printer using special inks called sublimation inks. Once the image is on the paper, wrap the paper around the mug and secure it in sublimation heat tape; then put the combo into a mug press. Finally, heat the mug until the image has been transferred onto the mug according to the corresponding heating instructions on the mug.