Ghosting typically means that you just ruined a blank that could have cost made you you $5, $10, $20 or more. Ghosting mainly occurs in sublimation when the ink is still active even after you have opened the heat press as the transfer paper could have slightly moved during this process. When opening the heat press, the substrate and paper might move slightly, resulting in the image being slightly skewed from where it was intended to be pressed. This will leave a ghost-like image and ruin the blank. Unfortunately, there is no going back from this and you just have to start over.
Here are three ways to help prevent ghosting on your sublimation products:
- Each item you sublimate needs a little different pressure, temperature and time. One thing that many sublimators do when they get going too fast is change from one substrate to another without getting their time and pressure correct for the new item. They close the heat press, or try to, and then realize that they need to make an adjustment. Unfortunately, the ink has already started to activate and when you close the press the again, the transfer has slightly shifted. This will cause a ghost image. The best way to eliminate this from happening is to slow down and plan ahead.
- Make sure you have selected the best method for holding the sublimation transfer sheet to your substrate. Remember, this will depend on the type of substrate. For soft goods, like garments, mouse pads, bags and totes, make sure to use a specifically-designed spray tack adhesive or a tacky sublimation transfer paper. For hard surfaces, like photo panels, coffee mugs, serving trays and mobile device cases, it is best to use a special heat-resistant tape.
- Once the product is done in the press, open the press gently but deliberately, so the item will not shift too much right away. Carefully move the product from the heat press over to your cooling area. Immediately remove the transfer carefully and deliberately so you do not lift the transfer off and then let it fall back on it. Try not to touch the imprinted surface too much as the polyester or polymer coating is still soft and malleable. Keep in mind, when you stretch fabric items, you can permanently change the fabric shape. For soft goods, you can set those to the side to cool as the heat will quickly dissipate. For hard goods, like ceramics, aluminum and hardboard, you will want to put them on a cooling surface like concrete which will suck the heat out of them. Place hardboard items face down so that way the natural warping that occurs during transfer will come out and flatten the items back down. Once the items cool to where you can safely handle them without gloves, the ink is no longer active and you can prepare it for delivery to the customer.
-Aaron Montgomery, 2 Regular Guys, MontCo Consulting