There are many things to consider when making digital transfers with a wide-format sublimation printer. What are the do’s and the don’ts? Here’s a list of tips and tricks, both technical and practical, that everyone using a wide-format sublimation printer should know.
1. Use light-colored polyester substrates
Because sublimation ink effectively becomes part of the substrate, it requires a white or light-colored substrate to be bright, colorful, and clear. Sublimation ink is heated and turned into a gas, which then dyes the polyester fiber. 100 percent polyester apparel will give you the most vivid color because every fiber will accept the dye-sublimation ink. When working with a shirt that has less polyester, you will see less ink. You may or may not notice this on a shirt that is 95 percent polyester. However, once you drop down to the 90 to 75 percent range, you will start to get a more vintage look.
2. Watch your heat/time/pressure
For those of you who have already sublimated onto a polyester shirt, you may have noticed a melted area around your transfer. If this happens, you probably have too much of one or more of these settings: heat, time, pressure. Every shirt is made differently, so there is no right way. You need to work with the garment to find the settings that work best. Purchase an extra shirt or two, then run some preliminary prints. Test to find the lowest settings for all three of these so you can still get a good transfer. It’s also a good idea to invest in a foam pillow for heat transfer applications, but not one with Teflon in it.
3. ALWAYS run a nozzle check before printing
Running a quick and easy nozzle check can save you time, ink, and a headache. You don’t want to print a 54″ X 35″ blanket only to find that your print is missing an entire color or is unexpectedly faint. To avoid this, run a nozzle check. It’s recommended to do this before your first print of the day. If the nozzle check shows potential clogs or problems, perform a cleaning cycle and then run another nozzle check to verify the issue is resolved.
4. Keep a climate-controlled area
Maintain a humidity level of around 40 percent. Humidity plays a very important role in both the maintenance of your wide-format printer and the printing itself. When there’s too little humidity, your printer will struggle to keep its print heads clean. However, when there’s too much, you can run into uneven transfers and loss of color accuracy.
5. Print beyond your substrate
This is also known as a bleed area. Allow for extra print to go beyond the substrate. This will save you in the long run on misprints and time aligning your image. If possible, add a marker at the top-center of your transfer. This simple marker will assist you when you are aligning your transfer to the substrate.
6. Keep a log
Recording a log of all the time, temperature, and pressure settings for various substrates is beneficial, especially if you are printing onto many different substrates. You’ll quickly learn that keeping a log and notes on the items onto which you are sublimating will save you both time and money in the long run.
7. Give yourself some room
Physical room, that is. In your workspace, you need elbow room to work with the larger sheets. When printing and laying out designs, many choose to consolidate the images to be as close together as possible. It’s okay to spread your images out as this gives you an easier transfer to work with.
8. Don’t sell yourself short
Pricing yourself below the competition isn’t the best way to do business. In the end, you will end up doing double the work to make the same profit as your competition. Consider value-based pricing, which is the idea of setting your prices based on consumers’ perceived value of your products and services. You provide them with a valuable service, and you should be compensated appropriately.