Sublimation Printing – getting started

Most of our products use a process known as sublimation printing.  There are plenty of resources and information on the great WWW but we thought we would put a quick post together to highlight some of the basics and what we would suggest if anybody was looking to get started either as a hobby or possibly a business.

First off sublimation is a process where ink is “pressed” at high temperature and pressure onto a substrate.  The ink turns into a gas and is transferred to the substrate forming a permanent copy.  The print is now part of the substrate not just sat onto of it.  Sound simple?

The ink used is not your standard inkjet type this is a special rather expensive ink.  The paper used to print onto again is a special format that allows quick release from it of the ink.  And of course the substrate needs a special coating with which to receive the gaseous ink.  Some materials or products can receive the print without any additional effort.  Items such as polyester t shirts, and some woods.  But in most instances a specialist product is required.  You can’t just pick a mug up from Asda and hope to press to it!  There is a whole world of products available and more being produced all the time.  There are many suppliers available and a simple search will bring up a list.  Different suppliers will carry differing products (and differing prices!) and most will charge both VAT and postage – something to bare in mind when pricing.  Others will also carry a minimum order.  As much as this looks like a conn at first glance it stops many hobbiests flooding the market with sublimated products and reducing the value for full time traders.

So what do you need?  This is our recommendations that come with no guarantee just what we think is a good start up kit when on a budget.

Printer – Epson 7110, this is an a3 printer (might as well start off with a bigger size).  It is has wifi, lan or standard usb.  These can be picked up for under £100 from Amazon, ebay etc.

Printer cartridges – to get the ink into the printer you will need some sort of generic cartridge.  We would suggest NOT using a CISS unit as these can be a nightmare.  Refill cartridges are much easier to work with and are normally supplied with long needle syringes for easier filling.  Ebay is the best place and InkGirl supplies a very good unit for around £13

Ink – the specialist ink that is required can be a make or break with sublimation.  There are a few suppliers of this and a lot available is very poor (especially the black).  We have only one recommendation for this www.inkforinkjet.co.uk .  Ink is fabulous, knowledge and experience outstanding and customer service that you would expect.

Paper – this is again an area that has so much variation, cost and quality.  You can pay upto £20 per ream for a4 paper and it is very good quality.  At the other end is the cheap crap on ebay that will give you hours of headaches. We like a product in the middle – the F4 brand.  Available from Coralgraph in both A4 and A3 size.   But you may want to try other brands as well.

Heat Press – if you are buying an a3 printer you need to buy a suitable size press.  These are sold based on the plate size and you will need at least a 40cm x 30 cm size.  The range is staggering alongside the quality.  We would though on a basic setup (many other won’t) suggest signzworld of ebay.  If you are on a tight budget then you can get a reasonable press for under £200.  Beware though as we have seen reports of problems with some machines though we have never experienced any.

Mug Press – you may be interested in producing just mugs in that case you will need a mug press.  (See Heat Press as well for details) however be aware that the size and shape of the mug varies (10oz, 11oz, 15oz, latte etc) and so do the mug presses.  A cheap £50 mug press though can last up to 600/700 mugs before being replaced and if starting out these are a good option.

Other stuff – copper heat tape (for attaching print to substrate)

So for a basic kit your costs are around the following:

Printer        £100
Cartridges  £13
Ink              £70
Paper          £10
Press           £200
Sundry       £10
Total          £403

Or with just a mug press around £250

You are of course going to need a computer and software for producing your designs but will look at that on another post.

So with this kit you are now ready?  Lots more to do and we will cover those in future posts

Posted in Hints and tips.

2 Comments

  1. I have a new 7110 and ink4inkjet inks and I can’t get it to work. I’m on my second set of refillable carts, the first didn’t work (incidentally from inkgirl) the ink is just not going through the printer properly. I’m about to give up to be honest

    • Quick “how we set ours up” guide

      Install printer as per instructions provided (normally install drivers before plugging in). DO NOT UPDATE DRIVERS FROM WEB and turn off automatic updates.
      Follow the set up guide using the OEM carts that are supplied with the printer. This will put some pigment ink in the system however it is not the end of the world. This makes sure the printer is working and happy.
      Once carts installed and printer ready perform a test print. This then shows that the printer works – yay!

      Using the control panel on the printer choose change carts.
      Your refill carts should now be filled and the air vent bung removed (read and follow all instructions provided).
      Make sure you install all four colours (they wont work otherwise) and they “click” into their slots.
      Close the cover. Printer will detect them as new and start to draw some ink.

      Once completed again do a test print. What you have now is a printer with a small amount of pigment in it.
      We then run some full page/full colour prints to get the subby ink flowing through. After a few pages you are ready to go.
      Yes there is a small amount of wastage but only a one off but you are ready to subby print.

      Never had a dud cart yet.

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