August '17

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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62 || P R I N T W E A R A U G U S T 2 0 1 7 S ublimation printing is a fun and easy way to decorate all sorts of items. The process has been around for some time and is one of the main ways to decorate polyester. With the advent of small, desktop sublimation printers, the ability to use sublimation as a decorating process for the craft market has never been easier. You can decorate everything from polyester fabric to coated mugs and plaques. THE BASICS A common use for sublimation involves heat transfer materials. Because sublimation can only be done on polyester, whatever you decorate needs to be made from polyester or have a polyester coat- ing. To start sublimating, you will need a sublimation printer, sub- limation transfer paper, a heat press, and something to decorate. Many wide-format eco-solvent printers can be adapted to print sublimation ink, although once you make a choice of ink to use, you are generally locked into that printing method. There are also desktop model sublimation printers, which are responsible for the current resurgence in sublimation printing. These printers require much less maintenance and use to stay functional. The only draw- back is the size limitation of 8.5" X 11" and 11" X 17" sheets, which are fine for most crafting purposes. More complex garment designs might require larger prints or multiple sheets. To start, just print your design in mirror image on the sub- limation paper. After it prints, position your design where you want to place it on your blank. This can be a little tricky, as the opaque paper makes it impossible to see your design during placement. A good tip is to print your sublimation paper with registration marks so that you can contour cut your design using a sticky mat and a vinyl cutter. Do- ing so allows you to place your design without issue. Heat transfer tape can help hold your design in place during pressing as well, as it can take the heat and peels off easily without leaving any residue. Next, just press the de- sign, allow it to cool, then peel off the sublimation paper. Your design is now on the item and ready to go. SUBLIMATION AND HEAT TRANSFERS Combining sublimation with heat transfer is a way to decorate non-poly- ester fabrics. Most heat transfer vinyl is either polyurethane or PVC. Poly- urethane can be coated with polyes- ter to make it work for sublimation, however, the temperatures involved are too high for PVC. SublimationPrinting Sublimation Printing and Heat Transfer Vinyls B Y D A V I D W E B E R David Weber has been in the tech industry for more than 15 years and joined Specialty Materials in the fall of 2009. He is a heat-applied graphics expert and has travelled the United States teaching people how to best use the prod- ucts for the benefit of their businesses. For more informa- tion, contact Coated sublimation transfers have a heavier hand. To combat this, designs can be broken down to small squares or circles. (All images courtesy Specialty Materials)

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