What is Sublimation?
In simple terms, it’s a method of printing that transfers a printed design into a material or fabric using ink and heat.
On which materials can I sublimate?
When a heat of above 180 degrees Celsius is applied to the ink, it immediately turns into a gas without first turning into a liquid. This is referred to as the process of sublimation.If a material with a very high percentage polymer content is in close proximity to the gas, the ink particles collate in the newly formed cavities in the polymer substrate and are locked in place when the cavities close as the heat is removed from the material/substrate.
The effects are permanent and less prone to fading, as the ink is embedded in the fabric or substrate rather than simply laying on top like a normal print.
Can I sublimate on cotton?
The short answer is NO.The reason for this is that when the heat is applied to the ink and cotton, the cotton fibers do not produce open cavities as the polymer material does and the ink simply attaches as a solid on the smooth surface of the cotton fibers.
This is why the ink washes off and also does not produce a vivid image.
SO WHERE DO I START?
What is the minimum equipment needed to start a sublimation business?
If you are just starting out in sublimation the main equipment you will need is a good heat press, a sublimation printer, and a computer and program for designing.Smaller items you must have are often bundled with your printer, heat press, or kit. They include:
- heat transfer tape
- sublimation paper
- sublimation ink
- standard A4 paper
- teflon sheets
- various blanks
What are the different options available to start a sublimation business?
Which factors will determine what to buy?
There are various factors that ultimately determine what you buy and are listed below:
Your budget restrictions will limit which system you ultimately invest in.
- Space constraints
If you have a limited floor space available, you might rather invest in a kit that includes a space saving stand.
- Product range
Do you only want to do round products, flat products, cotton products or all of them?
- Production or Hobby?
Do you want to start small and build up a production environment, or do you only do it as a hobby?
- Heat transfer printing on cotton.
Heat transfer is different from sublimation in that the image is printed onto an inkjet compatible substate and is transferred through heat onto your garment.
These factors combined will ultimately challenge you and determine which machines you invest in.
We will dive into the selection criteria below:
PRODUCTION vs HOBBY
If your ultimate goal is to do production of larger quantities of the same products (for instance hundreds of mugs), you have to invest in the separate machines right from the get-go.
Changing to a production environment if you already have a combo kit means that you will have to invest in multiple controllers, if available to purchase as separate items, or you have to sell the combo kit at a loss to make the change.
If your ultimate goal is to be able to do a large variety of items at low quantities of products, it will be better to invest in a 10-in-1 combo press.
Remember that should you need to change to a production environment at a later stage will be costly.
So choose wisely at this stage.
PRODUCT RANGE, BUDGET and SPACE CONSTRAINTS
To do round products, you either have to:
- Buy a sublimation printer and a standard mug heat press.
- Buy a sublimation printer and a Pro mug heat press which comes with 5 attachments included.
- Buy a Pro mug kit, which includes the press and printer.
- Buy a 10-in-1 combo heat press kit which comes with the sublimation printer and pro mug press included.
To do flat products, you either have to:
- Buy a sublimation printer and a 38cmx38cm flat press.
- Buy a Starter heat press kit that includes the printer and the flat press.
- Buy a 10-in-1 combo heat press kit which comes with the printer and flat press included.
T-shirts and Clothing
To do T-shirts and clothing, you have to:
- Buy a sublimation printer, an inkjet printer, a cutter and a 38cmx38cm flat press.
- Buy an inkjet printer, a cutter and a 10-in-1 combo heat press kit which comes with the printer and flat press included.
- Buy a T-shirt kit which comes with the two printers and the cutter.