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How to sublimate
a ceramic mug.
    

Dictionary Definition
sublimate

sub·li·mate
v. sub·li·mat·ed, sub·li·mat·ing, sub·li·mates.
1. Chemistry To cause (a solid or gas) to change state without becoming a liquid.

v.intr. Chemistry
To transform directly from the solid to the gaseous state or from the gaseous to the solid state without becoming a liquid.
[Latin sublmre, sublmt]

            

 Understanding
 color shift issues

Telephone at 406-333-0330
 
Email at


 

What is Sublimation Transfer, and how does it work?

Sublimation Transfer is simply printing any image from your computer (scanned photo, digital photo, image graphic created by  software) to an Epson printer using Sublimation ink, onto a piece of sublimation paper. This paper is then placed on any suitable blank item that has a polyester coating and pressed in a heat press to about 400 degrees for a predetermined time ranging from 30 second to 8 minutes. During this heating and pressing process, the ink, which is a solid on the sublimation paper, turns to a gas. The gas leaves the paper and migrates into the polyester where it molecularly becomes a part of the polyester and, when cooled, again turns into a solid, now becoming one with the polyester. There are certain prerequisites to make sublimation successful.

1 -
When using sublimation inks designed for inkjet printers, the printers capable of printing this ink are limited to certain Epson printers. The Piezo print head designed by Epson will work very well with Sublimation inks. If you try to use these inks in a Lexmark, HP, or Canon, failure is almost guaranteed.

2 - Any blank item you sublimate onto must have a polyester film coating on the surface or, in the use of fabrics, must be a minimum of 80% or more polyester, preferably 100%.

3 - Because of the nature of Sublimation, the blank to which you sublimate onto must be either white or almost white to have the best effect in creating true colors. If you sublimate onto a black shirt, your inks will simply disappear into the the black fabric and not be visible. There are literally hundreds of items today on the sublimation market available to use for this process and only your imagination will limit you from taking this process to great lengths.

Just a small example of some of the blanks for sublimation would be. Coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, baby blankets, ties, light switch covers, baseball caps, t-shirts, aprons, pillow cases, flags, banners, signs, sailboat sails, hot air balloons, purses, wallets, mouse pads, ceramic tiles, glass tiles, cutting boards, FRP, metals, license plates, jewelry, plates, carpet squares. This is just the tip of the iceberg of all that can be sublimated.

It is our hope that we can make your sublimation experience both pleasant as well as profitable.

Wishing you all the success in your new venture.

Steve


How to Sublimate an 11 oz. coffee mug

To sublimate to other substrates is very similar in principal. The differences will be in the type of heat press used, time and temperature.
 
  Sublimation software
 
   
Create the image that you would like to place on a mug using any
number of software programs such as Print Master, Novelty Pro, Corel                    
Draw, Photo Shop, Micrografx, etc.

Print your image to a piece of sublimation paper.
Be sure to allow the image to dry on the transfer paper. If need be,
place the paper into a warm oven for 3-5 minutes or use a blow dryer.
 

 





 

Geo Knight mug press
 
   
Preheat the mug press to 400 degrees and set the timer to 4
minutes 30 seconds. Cut the sublimation paper to slightly larger than
the mug and tape it to the mug using high temperature heat tape.
Be sure you get the sublimation paper tightly wrapped around the mug
otherwise the paper will wrinkle when you clamp the mug down in
the press and leave a flawed image on the mug.

If there is more than 1/16" difference between the top and bottom of
the mug in outside diameter, place the mug into the press and only
apply moderate pressure without closing the press completely for 3-5
seconds. You have now preheated the sublimation paper expanding it
slightly, so that you can now remove the tape from the paper on one
side of the mug and snug it even tighter to the mug than before.
 
 
 
Sublimation Paper, dye sublimation paper, sublimation transfer paper
 
   
Now place the mug with sublimation paper and regular paper into the
press and lock down the handle with firm pressure.

 
 
 
Sublimation mug
 
   
The addition of the extra paper over the transfer paper will protect
the mug press from ink gasses getting onto the heating pad of the
press, preventing staining.

 
 
 
Geo Knight mug press
 
   
When the timer goes off on the press, remove the mug and immediately
remove the sublimation paper form the mug.
 
 
 
Sublimation mug
 
   
Chill the mug in tepid water to lock the colors in place. Dry the mug
with a towel to prevent mineral staining.

 
 
 
Sublimation mug
 
   
Congratulations!  You have now successfully sublimated your mug.
 
 
 
Sublimation mug
Click to enlarge

 

Understanding color shift issues

One of the most common tech support issues we deal with is customers calling and telling us that the printer is printing an image that does not even remotely resemble what the finished blank is supposed to look like.
Please understand, the image on the sublimation paper is similar in principal to the caterpillar and butterfly. This may sound rather simplistic, however, the color change that takes place when you sublimate the mug or other blank can be very dramatic. The colors you see on the sublimation paper are very dull and often so different that a customer will call and say something like, "We have a serious problem with your inks. They look awful. The colors are very muddy and extremely dull."  This is normal, and is the caterpillar stage. After you sublimate the image to the blank, you will see the butterfly. Your project will turn out beautifully.
    Sublimation paper          Sublimation mug
Notice the dull colors of the paper transfer before placement on the mug.              Finished mug has bold, vibrant colors.
Each color with sublimation inks will sublimate at different temperatures. Sublimation starts with magenta at about 225 degrees. Next to follow is yellow, then black and finally cyan, which requires a full 400 degrees to sublimate. One of the best indicators to see if you are fully sublimated is to look at your blues. If the blue has a hint of purple, then the sublimated blank was either not heated long enough, or not hot enough, or both. Look closely at the completed mug just above this text and you will notice that the border at the bottom of the mug has a hint of purple and the top is actually blue. The reason for this is because the mug has a slight taper from top to bottom, the bottom of the mug is just slightly smaller in size than the top, therefore the amount of pressure to the mug is just slightly less than on the top. The slight reduction in pressure reduces the heat going into the mug, therefore causing a lack of necessary heat required to bring out the true colors. If you are doing a large run of the same mug and you consistently have the same condition, simply increase the time by 30 more seconds to get the true blue you want.
Mug Presses
The Phoenix and Mighty mug presses work a little different then most other designs. Both these presses require specific instructions to be followed in order to get great results.
Set the idle temperature at 300*F, set peak temperature at 390*F, set dwell time to 2 seconds.
For most other presses set the press temperature to 400*F. (180*C to 190*C) and bake for 4 min. 30 sec.

If you are using another ink manufacturers software color profile or ICC profile it is imperative you remove it from your computer. Our Sublimation inks will only work with the Epson software supplied with your printer.
If you are using Corel Draw, Adobe Photo Shop or other high end graphics program, turn off all color management and allow the Epson printer drivers to set your colors.
If color corrections are desired they can be done in your Pantone Matching System (PMS) in Corel or Photo Shop.


For optimal settings on your Epson Stylus C66, C84 C86 and C88.
Settings for the C82, C80, Epson Stylus Photo 1280 will be similar.
See settings for the Epson Stylus Color 3000 below
Epson Stylus Photo R1800

Before you click on print, be sure to place a check mark into Mirror Image on your "Page Layout" Tab.
Save your settings before exiting your advanced properties so you will maintain the same settings for your next project.
Change the paper setting to "Premium Presentation Paper Matte" and if the images come out to light increase the Gamma to as high as 2.2
   

Troubleshooting Sublimation Problems.

Incorrect colors.
1-  Remove all former sublimation profiles from you computer Ex. Sawgrass PowerDriver, Artanium SI-PI profiles etc. If you are a first time user to sublimation then this does not apply to you.
2-  If you are using Corel Draw, Adobe Photo Shop or other high end graphics programs, turn off all color management and allow the Epson printer drivers to set your colors. 98% of all color related problems are because steps 1 and 2 are either ignored or the user is unable to figure out how to prevent Adobe or Corel from introducing it’s own ICC profiles.
3-  Run a nozzle check to make sure you have a perfect nozzle pattern. If it’s not perfect then run 1 cleaning cycle and a nozzle check. If the nozzle check is still not perfect then wait 15 minutes. Again run another nozzle check and if necessary a cleaning cycle and nozzle check. If it still is not perfect then again wait 15 minutes and repeat. If you are unsuccessful after 3 cleaning cycles then install the Epson OEM cartridges to restart your nozzles. Once you have a perfect check with the OEM cartridges reinstall the sublimation cartridges and repeat the steps above until you get a perfect nozzle check. NEVER DO REPEATED BACK TO BACK CLEANING CYCLES. About the only thing you will do is waste a lot of ink as well as destroy the printer. NEVER USE ANYTHING BUT THE EPSON ORIGINAL CARTRIDGES IN CONJUNCTION WITH OUR SUBLIMATION INKS. You can switch back and forth from the OEM cartridges to our cartridges without any harm to the printer. NEVER MIX ANY OTHER SUBLIMATION INKS WITH OUR INKS. If you do you will get coagulation in the print heads which will plug the heads. The competitions inks are color profiled, ours are not and even if you got the inks to mix, the colors would be totally off. If you want to change from 1 sublimation ink to another I recommend you purchase cleaning cartridges.

Blues are purple. Browns drift toward reddish violet.
1-  Press temperatures are too low.
Increase to 400* F. for most blanks except tiles which should be heated to 425* F. Colors sublimate in this order
Magenta 225* F.
Yellow     275* F.
Black      350* F.
Cyan      400* F.
You can see by the temperature difference from color to color that if you do not get the temperature hot enough that the sublimation process would be incomplete and the higher temperature colors such as Cyan would not finish thereby causing blues to appear purple. If you find that browns drift toward reddish violet then increase the time by an additional 10-30 seconds and increase your temperature from 400*F to as much as 420*F.

Images are blurry.

1-  Heating the blank to long causes the gases to move sideways after the gases have impregnated into the polyester creating a blurred image.

Colors are weak and blurred.
1-Insufficient press platen pressure causing the image to appear faded and blurred. The sublimation gases are not able to effectively transfer into the blank.

Colors bleeding.
1-  Insufficient press platen pressure. Increase the press pressure.
2-  Blank coating is not thick enough therefore the gases spread sideways. Back the Gamma setting down from the Default setting of 1.8 to 1.5 on your printer advanced properties. This will reduce the amount of ink gases going into the blank thereby reducing or eliminating the bleeding.

Uneven colors.
1-  Blank is not completely smooth or flat, Some types of FRP have a slightly uneven finish and so the colors do not come out evenly. Tapered mugs will also create this problem if the mug has a slightly larger top diameter than the bottom.
2-  Moisture on the blank. Preheat the blank before you sublimate in the press for 2-5 seconds to drive out any condensate.

Fine lines across the image.
1-  Partially plugged nozzles. Do a nozzle check. Clean if necessary
2-  Running the printer to fast. Set your printer to print in Best Photo setting
3-  Incorrect paper selection in the printer properties. Select Premium Presentation Paper Matte

Black and white photos appear more SEPIA.
1-  Place a checkmark in “Black Ink Only” in your advanced printer properties.

Nozzles plugged when you first print.
1-  You are not using the printer often enough allowing the print heads to dry out and plug. Do a nozzle check every other day to maintain moisture levels at the print head. It is not necessary to turn the printer off. Every time you turn it off in the evening and then back on again in the morning the printer will automatically run a cleaning cycle wasting about 8% of the ink in the cartridge. Cleaning cycles are for dirty plugged print heads. If you do a nozzle check instead you can keep your heads from plugging. You can probably do 20,000 nozzle checks on 1 set of cartridges but only about 10 –12 cleaning cycles before the cartridges are empty.

Image is Mirror Reversed on the sublimation Blank.
1-  Go into your Page Layout tab in your Epson properties and place a checkmark into “Mirror Image”

Epson Stylus C84 and C86 will only allow the printer, 1 printed image and then you must reboot the computer.

1-  This happens when you place a checkmark into the “Mirror Image” box. It is a conflict with Windows Service Pack II. The remedy is simply. Uninstall your printer drivers in the “Add and Remove Programs”. Shut the computer and printer down. Go to www.epson.com and click on “Drivers and Support” choose your printer model and download the latest Epson drivers for your printer. Be sure the printer is turned off when unzipping the file. Only turn the printer on when installer asks you. When the process is complete restart the computer. Problem solved.

Recommendations.
1-  If you are using a Teflon sheet, throw it in the garbage. It's worthless and good for nothing but giving you poor images. Buy a package of the cheapest thinnest inkjet paper you can find and use that in place of the Teflon sheet. You'll thank me later when you see the improved results.
2-  Whenever and wherever possible always place the sublimation paper on the heat platen side and the sublimation blank on the press base for best results. Tiles would be an exception to this rule.
3-  As soon as you have completed an item on your press, immediately remove the sublimation paper. If you leave the paper on the blank as it cools the sublimation gases will start to move around between the paper and the blank and blur your image. After removing the paper take the blank off the press and allow to cool face up or chill in tepid distilled water to avoid water mineral stains.



Epson Stylus Color 3000 settings.
Open properties on the driver. On the color management tab on the top click to make sure the listed profile that is highlighted is the Epson profile, delete any others. Click back to the General tab and at the bottom of that section click Printing preferences, then click more settings. Make sure DPI is set to 720 or better yet 1440. In paper choice choose “Photo Quality Inkjet Paper”
The halftone setting is important for getting solid color, right click on this icon and choose “course dithering” then click the “super” box by micro weave, for even more resolution. For blacker “black” increase the contrast setting but adjusting this too much can lead to other color issues so do a few test prints to see this optimal setting. If necessary to intensify colors use Premium high release paper.
Outside driver interference.
Print in the BLACK ONLY mode to make absolutely sure there is no outside driver interference.

Epson Stylus Photo 1280 settings.
Because the Epson 1280 uses 2 additional colors (Lite Cyan and Lite Magenta) over the C model Epson printers, you will not be able to get colors that are as bright and intense. The Epson 1280 also uses older print head technology and so the finished sublimation blank will not have quite the color punch that the Epson C84, C86, or C88 will have. It is therefore even more important that everything is working perfect. Always start with a perfect nozzle check, set the printer to run at Best Photo (2880 dpi.) and high speed unchecked. Use Matte Paper Heavy Weight setting and in "Color Management" place a check mark in "Color Controls". If you need stronger colors then it would be recommended you use our Premium High Release paper. You can also achieve bolder colors by using your software program. Reduce brightness by 1 point, increase the contrast by 1 point and sharpen the image by 2 points. You can also increase the temperature from 400* F. to 425* F. however do not increase the time because you will loose image sharpness.

High end software adjustments.
If color corrections are desired they can be done in your Pantone Matching System (PMS) in Corel or Photo Shop.

Switching from the competition to our inks.
Because our ink formulation is chemically different from our competitors, we advise that you purchase a set of cleaning cartridges to purge the print head before making the switch. We cannot be held responsible if you transition from one manufacturer to another and the ink coagulates in the print head. It is for this reason that cleaning cartridges are highly recommended.

Freckling on the finished Sublimation Blank.
Most of the C Model printers will leave an extremely fine overspray that is not noticeable on the sublimation paper but later appears on high gloss white sublimation blanks and is most noticeable on the non printed area of the blank. It will become more noticeable as the print heads get dirty. Even if all the nozzles are firing but the nozzle pattern is not as sharp as it could be, the problem can be somewhat reduced with a nozzle cleaning but rarely completely illuminated. On sublimation blanks such as T-shirts it is rarely if ever noticeable. Unfortunately it is one of the bugs in sublimation that you will have to live with.

Epson Stylus C88
Epson made a slight change to the magenta on the Epson C88 from the former C model printers. The change is very slight. In most instances colors will appear normal, however if you are doing a bold red graphic your reds will have a slight violet tint. You might consider making a slight color correction in your software to offset the violet to get a more true red.

Epson Stylus Photo R1800
Every now and again we have someone ask why we do not supply the sublimation inks for the Epson R1800.
The R1800 is an 8 color printer. When the printer runs a cleaning cycle it vents off about 8% on the first of each of the 2 cleaning cycles. On the third cleaning cycle it vents 12% of the cartridges volume. It doesn't take genius to figure out that with the high cost of the sublimation inks that this can get very expensive fast and makes the cost of sublimation very cost prohibitive. We are here to help you as the customer to become successful with sublimation and want you as return customer and so therefore we will not in good conscience sell inks for a printer that will ultimately force you out of sublimation.

Converting from Epson ink to Sublimation ink and back.
Our sublimation inks are fully compatible with the Epson OEM inks and so if you are using our Premium Signature Sublimation inks you can make the switch by simply doing 1 cleaning cycle and nozzle check after changing to the other ink.

Tips for successful Sublimation.

1 - Maintain your printers nozzles by doing a nozzle check at least every other day. By doing so you maintain nozzle moisture, which aids in keeping your nozzles clean.

2 - Be sure your printer shoots a perfect nozzle check prior to printing. If it doesn't, do the necessary amount of nozzle cleanings with nozzle checks, not to exceed more than 3 cleanings every 4 hours. If necessary, purchase a good nozzle cleaning agent such as "Print Head Clog Buster" available at  www.shopdyesub.com

3 - Be sure that your transfer paper as well as the item being transferred to (Mug, Shirt, Mouse Pad, Tile etc) is completely dry. Any moisture whatsoever will drastically affect the finished product quality. If necessary, use a blow dryer or warming oven to dry the inks on the paper, as well as the completed item. This would be especially important if the relative humidity levels are high. If the paper or the transfer item is in a cold area, this can produce condensation in the heat press, also creating a finished product with a very poor outcome. Remember, moisture is a major obstacle to successful transfers.
 
4 – Use a good quality transfer paper. Don’t expect a quality finished image using standard inkjet paper because the inks are absorbed into standard paper and only about ½ of the ink is released onto the transfer item. If you want to get a maximum amount of ink onto the transfer surface you will need a transfer paper that carries a strong surface sealer. www.shopdyesub.com carries high quality transfer paper. Call us at 406-295-4232.
 
5  - For optimal detailing on your finished product use either 720 or 1440 DPI settings on your printer. Less than 720 and your product will appear grainy or banded. Set the “Gamma Setting” in your printer properties to 1.5 if you find your images coming out too dark.

6 – If your finished product lacks color, depth, and contrast, then either heat longer or hotter in the press to maximize the release of inks from the paper to the finished product.
 
7 – If your transfer paper is hard to remove after pressing, then it was either overheated, heated to long, or it was not removed from the finished product immediately after you were done with the pressing.
 
8 – Use heat transfer tape to secure your transfer paper to your product, to prevent shifting while placing your item in the press.
 
9 – With ceramics it is a good idea to chill the transfer immediately after removal from the press in tepid water to lock the colors in place. Never allow a tile even after chilling to lay face down because if the colors are not set, they can migrate beneath the polyester coat and cause bleeding. Use distilled water to prevent mineral staining on your ceramics.

10 - Sublimation has many variables. The type of ink, printer, paper, item receiving transfer, heat press, ambient air temperature, and relative humidity. Because of all these factors, it would be wise for a person with no experience with transfers to do some practicing on samples before tackling a serious job. It is not a difficult process to learn. By using some of the tips above it will make your transfer experience a lot more successful.
Telephone at 406-333-0330
Email at
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Neither the seller nor the manufacturer shall be liable for any injury, direct or consequential, arising out of the use of, or inability to use, these products. You as the purchaser take full responsibility for the use of the purchased product.
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