Troubleshooting FAQ

We’ve all been there. You might have lost your handy notebook which contained all your working sublimation settings, your ideas and inspiration – or you may simply have forgotten how to press or print a certain product. It happens to the best of us.

It is during that moment of utter sheer panic that you realize suddenly things don’t work out as they are supposed to.


Don’t worry though!

We’ve compiled the following list with some common troubleshooting questions that could guide you to finding a workable solution. Let’s have a look at some things that we can try and test on our own, before contacting West Rand Sublimation Supplies’ technical support team.

TROUBLESHOOTING COMMON ISSUES

Colors are Not Correct

Symptoms:
Colors are not reproducing the way you expect when pressed.

Reason:
Color management profiles or software was not used during printing.

Solution:
Check that you are using the correct ICC profile when printing. We’ve created a handy video found in our online Learning centre, showing you step-by-step how to install and print with the correct ICC profile.

 

Image is Dull or Faint When Pressed

Symptoms:
The colors are not as vibrant as expected; image is faint in one or more areas.

Reason:
Time, temperature or pressure is too low.

Solution:
Increase time, temperature and/or pressure.

 

Image is Vibrant when Pressed, But Blurred

Symptoms:
The colors are vibrant, but the image is soft or blurred.

Reason:
Oversaturation of ink in the print or too much time in the press.

Solution:
Choose a different print speed and/or color mode in Print Manager to address saturation. Alternatively reduce saturation in your design software. Reduce press time.

 

Image has a Brown Cast

Symptoms:
Colors, especially black and red, have a brown tinge.

Reason:
Overheating of the ink.

Solution:
Reduce temperature.

 

Blurring During Transfer

Symptoms:
Blurring of all or just specific areas of the image.

Reason:
Transfer paper is not tightly wrapped around the substrate.

Solution:
Use heat tape to more securely wrap the paper to the substrate.

 

Gassing Out

Symptoms:
Areas of distinct blurring.

Reason:
Transfer paper has creases or wrinkles.

Solution:
Careful and consistent application of the transfer paper. Keep your transfer paper
away from moisture, and as flat as possible at all times.

 

Blurring After Transfer

Symptoms:
Blurring at the edges of the image or ink rising/creeping upwards away from parts of
the image after transfer paper is removed.

Reason:
Substrates retain heat so ink may continue to “gas” for several minutes after transfer.

Solution:
Swift removal of transfer paper after imaging, and/or increase speed of cooling; use a
fan if air cooling. Do not stack hot substrates as the sublimation process may continue which will reduce image quality.

 

Inconsistent Image Quality across the Substrate

Symptoms:
Image quality is inconsistent across the substrate resulting in blurring/light or dark
patches.

Reason:
The substrate is not in the center of the press. The pressure applied needs to be
increased. The press is faulty or has uneven temperature distribution.

Solution:
Ensure the substrate is centered and pressure applied is even. Increase pressure
(incrementally) until you reach the desired result.

 


Blue Flecks on a White Surface

Symptoms:
After pressing a white substrate, small blue threads and speckles appear on the white
areas.

Reason:
Dust, particle fibers were on the surface of the substrate or the print during pressing

Solution:
Use a lint roller to thoroughly clean the substrate before affixing the transfer. Use
compressed air to blow away particles from the transfer before affixing to the
substrate.

 

SUBLIMATION FAQs


Can dye sublimation be used on ceramics, glass, wood and metal?


Sublimation need polymers to bond with for color transfer and permanent coloration. All of these products need a polymer coating for sublimation to take place first. So, as long as your substrate has been treated with this special polymer coating, it can be used for dye sublimation.


Can I sublimate plastics?


Yes and no. You cannot sublimate onto just any piece of plastic. Many polymers cannot withstand the amount of heat needed to achieve effective sublimation. Even if they could stand the heat, the added pressure and press time will deform them. Many of them melt and shrink. Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) is the plastic of choice for sublimation.

Can I sublimate onto cotton?


Sublimation can only take place with polymers. Using regular sublimation paper to transfer a design to cotton may result in some coloration. However, this will wash out because the dyes have not bonded to the natural fabric. There are some films and transfers on the market that will enable you to transfer a sublimated design to cotton. Fabric enhancers, preparation sheets and sprays are also used to add a layer of polyester to non-polyester fabrics so you can sublimate onto these fabrics.


Can I sublimate onto cotton/poly blend?


You can, however the dyes will only affix to the polyester fibers. The inks that attach to the cotton fibers will eventually wash out. Your colors will not be as vibrant as they would be with 100% polyester material. You can use this to your benefit! A cotton/poly blend can create beautiful distressed looking artworks, and they are all the fashion now, aren’t they?

Can I use any printer with sublimation inks?


Not all printers can work with sublimation inks. Some printers produce heat internally, which can cause early gassing of your sublimation inks, and this can cause damage to the hardware and leave you with unreliable prints.

Why are my colors washed out on the transfer when it comes out of the printer?


This is perfectly normal! The heat and pressure of your heat press will activate the sublimation process, which allows the true colors of the design to imprint onto your substrate.

Where do I go for support?


At West Rand Sublimation Supplies we firmly believe in empowering you to be become the best sublimator that you can be. In line with that goal, we’ve developed several support platforms to assist you on your journey.

What images can I use for sublimation?


You can use any image that you can import to or create on your computer with such popular programs as CorelDRAW and Adobe Photoshop. Any images that are of high-resolution (min of 200 dpi) is suitable for sublimation reproduction.


Why are my colors not coming out right, especially reds and blacks?


Check that you are always using the correct ICC profiles and design software to manage your colors. Make sure you are using inks that are not past the use-by date. Make sure you are using high-quality transfer paper. Experiment with times, temperatures and pressures as all of this has an effect on the eventual outcome of your prints.

If you complete all of these steps and are still having trouble, contact our friendly support to assist.

Why are there little blue flecks on my shirt after I sublimate onto it?


These are dust and fiber particles that were on the shirt before it was pressed. To avoid this in the future, make sure to heavily wipe the fabric with a sticky lint roller before pre-press and your final pres. You can also use pressurized air to clear the transfer of any fibers you can’t see.

Why does my design look smudged or like there’s another copy on my substrate after pressing?


This is called ghosting. Sometime during the sublimation process, the transfer shifted in its contact with the substrate. This causes smudging and additional imprinting in areas that were not intended to be decorated. Use some heat tape to secure transfers which can help prevent this in the future. Remember that flat heat presses can also cause a vacuum effect with some substrates. The substrate will stick to the top platen when you open the press and fall down once the vacuum seal is broken. This movement can also cause ghosting.

Open your heat press slowly to check for vacuum sealing. If it’s happening, close the press only enough for the substrate to meet the bottom platen. Wait for the seal to break, which should only take a few seconds. Once it does, then open the press and remove your substrate.

Do I need color management software or ICC profiles to print?


Yes. One or the other is needed to convert the colors you see on your screen into similar colors on paper. Sublimation takes this a step further, in that the colors printed on your transfer paper have to become the colors you chose on screen, and variables, such as the paper, ink, substrate and press time/temperature/pressure, all affect the end colors.

ICC profiles are essential for the correct color management.

 

Why can’t I sublimate onto dark-colored substrates?


Sublimation inks are semi-transparent, and the color of the substrate will have some effect on the color of your image once pressed. For example, if you press a blue heart onto a pink shirt, the heart will have a slightly purple hue to it, as the pink mixes with the blue.

White substrates result in the most vibrant prints, but prints can also be vibrant and colorful on light-colored substrates, such as fabrics. A very dark color, like black, can be used to imprint on a darker blue or red substrate and still be visible.

I’ve seen lots of sublimated products with white in the designs. How is that accomplished?


The designer works white into the design where it’s needed. The printer does not apply ink to those portions of the design. It is blank space on the transfer paper. When the design is pressed onto a white substrate, the natural color of the substrate is seen in the places of the design that are supposed to be white.

If you include white in a design and press onto a colored substrate, the color of the substrate will show up where the white is supposed to be.

 

In conclusion


We have various different resources on our website, from the community forum to the learning centre – all aimed at helping you become the best at sublimation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, do research and keep on practicing.