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Sublimation Printing for New Beginners

What is sublimation printing?
We can briefly define sublimation printing as a printing method for transferring images onto a substrate. The most distinctive feature of the sublimation printing compared to other analogue methods is the printing at true photo quality and it is quite easy to get this photo quality. Fabric, transfer paper and dye are just three things you need.

The basic working principle of printing is completely based on a process referred as “sublime”. The sublimation is a process of a solid transitioning directly into a gas, without going through the liquid phase. Then, micro-particulate dye solids are found in solid state and it is transferred on coated transfer paper through special transfer printing machine. Solid particles turn directly into gas under the influence of heat and inks are transferred onto fabric. Heat and press should be applied together using roll calender or a special transfer paper. Sublimation only works on polyester garments. Thus, it will not work for fabrics such as 100% cotton. That is to say, sublimation printing is only suitable for polyester-based textiles.

Transfer printing machines
Print machine is just one of the steps of sublimation printing process. After printing, heat and press machine must be used to transfer image onto fabric. As known, you can find various types of transfer printing machines with different features and advantages. Yet, the key point here is to invest in a machine according to your print requirements. To set an example, while small format print machines perfectly suits the needs of small production runs and garment printing, large format printers are generally considered a much better option for upholstery fabric  , wide format ads and promotional display products or high-volume productions.

It is very important for users to pay attention to high-tech machine suppliers to choose the right printer. Such high technology covers following features: the printer software must keep color consumption at an optimum level, the software must deliver the best color management methods to achieve the right colors, roll-to-roll printers must provide additional control for preventing slipping in rprinting, the machine must be equipped with automatic settings thereby minimizing the need for a machine operator, it must deliver advanced features to automatically minimize adverse effects in quality caused by user error.

Heat presses
Selecting the right heat presses is as important as printer. If the heat press is wider than maximum print size, it has benefits for users. When you prefer wide-format print depending on higher demand and orders for future delivery, the use of heat press available will be more profitable in the long term.

Apart from the size of heat press, quality is of course a crucial matter. The quality of sublimation printing is directly related to dwell time, ideal temperature and pressure settings. It is certainly significant to get consistent and high quality results when pressing on fabric. Immediately after the machine is installed, it is highly recommended to manage test printing with the most suitable press and heat values before printing the full production. You can thus save your time and money. You also can boost product efficiency by minimizing waste.

Transfer printing paper
As previously mentioned, the quality of the transfer paper is one of the crucial factors impacting image quality of the product. Using specifically coated papers enables you to get high quality prints on all of the types of fabric.

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The key point here is features of coated transfer paper. Due to high ink prices, print suppliers face serious  challenges. When printing on any kind of uncoated paper available in the market, more than 50% of the ink will not be absorbed into paper. On the other hand, when specifically coated paper is proffered, it will firmly hold the ink (90%), yielding high quality outputs.

Another significant factor is absorption of ink particles on the substrate. Under normal circumstances, when ink is printed on paper, ink dries and the paper absorbs ink. After absorption process is completed on the paper surface, the ink cannot be transferred to fabric and wasted. On the other hand, coated papers typically dry faster than uncoated papers without wasting the ink. Surely, coated papers offer more advantageous in terms of productivity.

A dye sublimation is superior to more common inkjets. Many of them are stored in cartridges or big bottles. For the best machine performance, you must use color palette offered by your machine supplier or high quality colors suitable for your printer heads. Paper printing machine, RIP software and color values must be properly used to achieve the true benefits of dye-sublimation inks.

The first condition for sublimation printing is that dye sublimation ink must be suitable for print heads. Secondly, easy flow sublimation ink system preventing clogged head nozzles is required. It is also necessary to ensure that the particle size is appropriate. Therefore, we can avoid ghosting or sublimation overflow. On the other hand, key features such as rapid drying, large color gamut as well as having no harmful effects on human health and being environment-friendly are critically significant in this respect.

Dye-sublimation inks deliver stunning colors, unlike pigment inks and it is compatible with all kinds of surfaces. They are not only safe to use, but also environmentally-friendly and have no adverse health effects on human.

RIP and Color Management
As compared to analogue printing methods, the biggest advantage of sublimation printing is its large color gamut and its possibility to use any kind of design for printing onto fabric. However, printing suppliers prefer to focus primarily on dye and paper products before sublimation printing, whilst choosing the right software is generally neglected. Yet, like all other digital printing technologies, only after the right color management is ensured, a perfect color management and color consistency can be fully achieved.

In digital printing, the color of an image on monitor may not match what comes out of the printer, depending on printer or monitor. At this point, the right color management is often of vital importance. Hence, the right printer and suitable color should be chosen to conduct right color management in digital printing. However, we need to look for features and settings available in the software package for selecting the right RIP software.

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