New to TShirt Decorating? Try Sublimation Transfers

New to TShirt Decorating? Try Sublimation Transfers

If you are new to t-shirt decorating, it's important to familiarize yourself with the various types of heat transfers available in the market. One of the primary methods we'll discuss is sublimation heat transfers.

Sublimation transfers, also known as sublimation printing or dye-sublimation transfers, are a popular method used to apply high-quality, full-color designs onto various materials, particularly fabrics. Sublimation is a process in which solid dye particles are converted into a gas through heat and pressure, bypassing the liquid stage. This gas then permeates the surface of the material and bonds with its fibers, resulting in a vibrant, permanent, and durable print.

The sublimation transfer process involves several steps. First, a design is created digitally using specialized software and printers. This design can include intricate patterns, photographs, logos, or any other desired artwork. Next, the design is printed onto a specific type of paper known as sublimation transfer paper using sublimation inks.

The sublimation transfer paper with the printed design is then placed face-down on the material to be printed, such as polyester fabric or polymer-coated items like mugs or phone cases. The paper and material are carefully positioned in a heat press machine, which applies heat and pressure. The heat causes the sublimation inks on the paper to convert into a gas, and the pressure helps the gas penetrate the material's surface.

As the gas cools, it solidifies and becomes permanently embedded within the material's fibers, resulting in a vivid and long-lasting print. The transferred design does not sit on top of the material, like traditional printing methods, but rather becomes an integrated part of it. This allows for excellent color vibrancy, sharpness, and durability, as the print is resistant to fading, cracking, or peeling.

Sublimation transfers are commonly used for creating custom apparel, such as T-shirts, jerseys, activewear, and other polyester-based garments. They are also popular for producing promotional products, personalized gifts, signage, and home decor items. The versatility of sublimation printing makes it a preferred choice for many businesses and individuals seeking high-quality, full-color prints with a professional finish.

Converting an inkjet printer to a sublimation printer requires specific steps and materials. Here is a general guide on how to convert an inkjet printer to sublimation:

Research and Compatibility:
Start by researching if your specific inkjet printer model can be converted to sublimation. Not all printers are compatible due to various factors such as printhead technology, ink compatibility, and firmware limitations. Check the manufacturer's website, forums, or consult with sublimation suppliers to ensure your printer can be converted.

Printhead Considerations:
Sublimation ink is formulated differently from regular inkjet ink, so it is important to ensure that your printer's printhead can handle sublimation ink without clogging or damage. Some printers may require a dedicated printhead for sublimation, while others may need cleaning or modifications to work effectively.

Empty and Clean the Ink System:
Before converting to sublimation, it's crucial to remove all existing ink from the printer's system. Use the printer's utility software or menus to perform a thorough ink purge. Clean the ink cartridges, printhead, and any ink pathways to prevent cross-contamination between regular ink and sublimation ink. For newcomers, removing ink from an inkjet printer can be challenging. In such cases, it is advisable to conduct thorough research and consider purchasing a new printer specifically designed for sublimation printing or an inkjet printer that is compatible with sublimation ink. By opting for a new printer, you can avoid the need to clean out an existing inkjet printer. Simply acquire the new printer and start using sublimation ink right away, bypassing the need to remove the original ink that came with the printer.

Sublimation Ink and Cartridges:
Purchase sublimation ink and compatible cartridges or a continuous ink supply system (CISS) designed for your printer model. Sublimation ink is heat-activated and has different color profiles compared to regular ink. Fill the cartridges or CISS with sublimation ink according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Software and Color Profiles:
Sublimation printing requires color profiles specifically designed for sublimation ink. Check if your printer manufacturer provides sublimation-specific software or drivers. Alternatively, third-party software or RIP (raster image processor) programs can be used to achieve accurate color reproduction and ink control.

Sublimation Paper:
Sublimation paper is a crucial component for transferring the ink onto the desired material. Purchase high-quality sublimation paper designed for inkjet printers. The paper's coating allows the ink to release from the paper and bond with the material during the heat press process. Its important to purchase quality sublimation paper to avoid paper jams and get the most colorful designs when decorating your tshirts.

Printer Settings and Calibration:
Adjust the printer settings to accommodate the sublimation ink and paper. Set the paper type to sublimation paper and select the appropriate color profile in the printer driver settings. Perform test prints and make necessary calibration adjustments to achieve accurate color reproduction.

Heat Press and Sublimation Process:
To transfer the sublimation ink onto the material, you will need a heat press machine. Follow the specific instructions for temperature, pressure, and pressing duration based on the type of material being printed. Place the sublimation paper with the printed design facing down on the material, then apply heat and pressure as recommended.

If you find the aforementioned instructions challenging, you may want to consider purchasing ready-to-press sublimation transfers instead. We recommend visiting, where you can browse and purchase from their collection of in-house designs, or even upload your own custom artwork. It's important to note that sublimation transfers are most suitable for 100% white polyester materials and should not be applied to cotton fabrics. The lower the polyester content in the fabric, the less vibrant the image will appear once heat pressed onto the item.

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