Printed in Vibrant Full Color
on Aluminum Panels
Weatherproof - Printed using UV resistant
Inks on UV treated aluminum panels
Makes a beautiful, unique commemorative
keepsake or gift.
Memorials, Graduations, Sports Teams,
Family Photos and Montages.
Full Color photos and text printed on aluminum sublimation panel
Take a look at the literally hundreds of items readily available for personalization by sublimation printing.
Sublimation printing offers
high quality, full color printing
on white or light color 100%
polyester fabrics such as this
The same sublimation process works equally well on ceramics, glass, performance tees, photo slate, aluminum photo sheets, fiberglass reinforced plastic and much more.
The process of dye sublimation printing has been around for a long time, but only in relatively recent times has it jumped to the forefront of techniques used to decorate sportswear like t-shirts and polos, as well as hard goods like trophies and awards, plus many other items offered by the promotional products industries. (That list is almost endless, with more items being introduced daily. See catalog offerings.)
The versatility of the process is evidenced by the hundreds of products that have been, or can be decorated using dye sublimation printing.
At Star Graphics, we regularly decorate t-shirts, white aluminum photo panels, patches, fiber reinforced plastic panels, custom license plates, etc.
Sublimation will work only on man-made cloth materials like 100% polyester, polymer products and on polymer coated hard goods like signage, photo panels, awards, etc.
The coating is done in a factory setting where the substrates are coated with a liquid polymer coating then baked with strict control over environmental conditions like dust control, heating time and temperature, etc. In other words, it's not a do-it-yourself project.
From a decorator's standpoint, it's quite easy to get into sublimation printing. All you need is an inkjet printer that's capable of printing with sublimation inks, the sublimation inks, sublimation transfer paper, a heat press and the sportswear or hard goods designed for sublimation printing and design software.
Let's go over these items one by one:
The Printer - Since this information is aimed mainly at the newcomer or small shop owner who will be using a desktop size printer (as opposed to a specialty shop using wide format printers). I would recommend almost any one of the Epson line of desktops. They are relatively inexpensive and are ready to print with sublimation ink right out of the box. Plus, they are inherently well suited for sublimation because of their piezo printhead technology.
Two main characteristics set Epson's technology apart from other inkjet printing systems. The first is that Micro Piezo printing systems do not use heat to eject the ink droplets. The second is that they precisely control the volume of ink contained in each ink droplet. This is particularly important because sublimation ink is activated by heat and you want the heat to come from your heat press, not your printer.
The end result of the sublimation process is a nearly permanent, high resolution, full color print. Because the dyes are infused into the substrate at the molecular level, rather than applied at a topical level (such as with screen printing and direct to garment printing), the prints will not crack, fade or peel from the substrate under normal conditions.
Sawgrass inks is trying to manipulate the market to Ricoh printers, and many believe this in an effort to keep a strong hold on it's sales of sublimation ink at very high margins.
Their vendors are now saying things like "upgrade" your system to Ricoh printers or "better than Epson". These claims are mainly based on the experiences of new users who have not followed even the minimum maintenance practices required for success.
So, the bottom line here is that if you want to try your hand at sublimation printing, with the least initial expense, buy an Epson desktop inkjet printer, search the web for some inexpensive sublimation ink along with an inexpensive continuous ink supply system (CISS), some sublimation heat transfer paper ( it has to say "for sublimation",) and an inexpensive entry level heat press.
The Ink. - As I said above, Ricoh, Sawgrass and their vendors will try to tell you that if you don't spend and arm and one or more legs, on their products you are doomed to failure in the sublimation effort. NOT TRUE! There are many sources out there selling sublimation ink at reasonable prices. Since no matter what system or inks you use, there will always be a period of experimentation involved in the process. Along with that experimentation, a good deal of self-education is necessary. Fortunately, as sublimation grows in popularity, there is a wealth of good information available on the net. Forums can be useful but you need a very keen BS filter. There is a lot of conflicting information to be had there.
For a desktop printer there are basically two ways to supply ink to the printhead: buy cartridges filled with sublimation ink to fit your printer; or, buy an empty continuous ink supply system (CISS) configured for your printer, buy the sublimation in in bulk containers and fill the system yourself. The picture here shows a typical CISS setup before installation. The set of cartridges snap into your printer, replacing the existing cartridges and the ink bottles are positioned outside the printer with the supply lines going to the cartridges inside the printer. Desktop printers come with 4, 5, or 6 cartridges depending on your model. You'll use a plastic syringe to suck ink into each cartridge through the supply lines. Google searches and YouTube are excellent sources of supplies and information about these systems.
The next consideration is the use of color profiles. Simplified, profiles tell your printer how to distribute the ink on your transfer paper depending on the substrate you will be printing on. Each class of substrate requires a matched setting to yield the best results. For instance if you're printing on a hard surface product like ceramic mugs, the profile would be different than one for a polyester t-shirt or mouse pad.
Cobra Ink (www.cobraink.com) is a good source for supplies and a free download with instructions of color profiles.
Now, having said all that, here's the deal: If you really don't feel up to configuring your own system from scratch, so to speak, you may want to consider a basic "turnkey" system from someone like Conde Systems (www.conde.com) so you can get started right away while learning how the whole thing works, at your own pace.
Whatever you decide, these two sites can be very useful whether you buy from them or not. YouTube is another invaluable resource.
The Transfer Paper -
Paper for dye sublimation printing is offered in cut sheet sizes for desktop printers as well as in rolls for wide format printers. For this conversation, we'll stick to the cut sizes for desktop printers.
For all the years I've been engaged in sublimation printing, making ceramic plates, mugs, t-shirts, aluminum photo panels, etc., I've used many "brands" of paper for my Epson printers. My only rule of thumb has been if it said it was for Epson printers, was reasonably priced and offered in the size I needed, that's what I bought. The paper itself is coated on one side (which is visually whiter than the back side). The coating is to control ink absorption into the paper and the release of the ink as it's going through the heat transfer process. All these different brands bought from many suppliers worked very well on everything that I printed. So it's my position that no matter what brand of sublimation transfer paper you choose, time and temperature are the most important variables in the process. So that means gathering all the time and temp recommendations out there for the various substrates you'll be printing and use these as guidelines as you begin to experiment and keep records of the various results.
The most noticeable differences in the time, temp and pressure equation will be between printing on soft goods like a polyester t-shirt and printing on hard goods like ceramics or aluminum photo panels. And, since these variables are not exact, you'll need to experiment, within the guidelines, to find the right formula for your situation and equipment.
(More to come)
The "Buss Boys" document their turkey hunting skills on
a 12x18 inch aluminum photo panel
Star Graphics, P.O. Box 253, 21861 Hwy 3, Allison, Iowa 50602 Ph. 319-267-9972 or 319-231-2186 - Email email@example.com