Tips for Optimal results in sublimation

by Inkraz Store on February 16, 2021

Custom sublimation cushions Achieving optimal results in sublimation printing requires a deep understanding of the technique and a lot of practice. And like any technique, it also has its tricks. Here are several tips, which do not usually appear in official manuals. We hope they are useful to you.

Choose the correct side of the printed paper
Place the printed paper as close to the hot plate of the plate and make sure that the printed side is in contact with the surface to be printed. It's a typical beginner's glitch, but not that uncommon.

Preheat the material, sometimes ...
The ambient temperature in the workshop varies greatly depending on the location and time of year. You must take this into account when calculating the operating times of the transfer iron, and you should add a few more seconds when your workplace has low temperatures.

Dry the paper for sublimation
Depending on the environmental conditions and where the sublimation paper is stored, it may have accumulated some moisture. To eliminate this moisture, you must preheat the printed paper by placing it on the transfer plate without closing it completely, and about 5-10 cm from the hot plate for 20 to 40 seconds. Colors on sublimation paper may appear faded. Don't worry, this is normal and the necessary color adjustment will occur during the heat transfer process.

Prepare the material
On some occasions, the sublimable support has a transparent plastic film on the sublimable side. If so, you must remove this film before sublimation, and you must check that the surface is clean. Be careful when removing the protective film because you could damage the edge of the sublimable product by scratching it with your fingernail or a sharp instrument. The best method to remove the film without damaging the support is to use the sticky side of another protective film that you have previously removed. Drag the sticky side of the film across the top surface of the product starting from one corner and working your way towards the center. If you don't have another piece of film, you can rub in the same way with your fingertip to remove the edge.

Prepare the design
Add a "bleed" or margin to your graphic design so you can align it correctly. To generate the bleed, we recommend extending the background of your design so that it is between 3 and 6 mm larger than the sublimable product. Place the sublimation product face down on the printed sublimation paper. The sublimable product and the printed paper are correctly aligned when you see a homogeneous amount of ink around the entire edge. Fold the two ends of the paper over the back of the product, and stick them to the back of the product with thermal adhesive tape to hold their position.

Avoid the shadows
To avoid that when opening the transfer plate or when removing the hot paper from appearing shadows or double images, you must use a sheet of paper larger than the surface of the product, to be able to fix the paper with thermal adhesive tape on the back of the material to to print. Whenever possible, wait until the product has cooled slightly before removing the sublimation paper and tape.

Temperatures and times
A temperature of 200ºC is recommended for all products.

The pressure of the iron should be set to medium or strong, so that you have to exert some force to close the iron.

The times vary considerably for each material and should be consulted in the supplier's technical sheet. Times can be increased or decreased by 5-10 seconds to find the right one.

These are the guide times for sublimable products:

Plastic (decorations, nameplates) 60-70 seconds

Outdoor plastic (license plates) 80-90 seconds

Wood veneer (note holder, cup holder.) 60-70 seconds

Wood (puzzles, magnet, canvas) 80-90 seconds

Aluminum (bookmarks, photo holders, key rings) 60-70 seconds

Larger products require a longer time on the transfer plate to achieve optimal color. For those products whose size is greater than 22 x 30 cm, we recommend increasing the time by 15 seconds above the indicated value. If necessary, increase the time in 10-second intervals until the optimal color is achieved. Be careful, excessive times can worsen the result.

Care that burns
Always wear heated gloves to remove finished items from the iron.

To prevent large flat surfaces (be they metal, wood or plastic) from sagging, it is recommended to cool them upside down in a flat place and placing a heavy object on them. Never try to bend an object hot, it will damage the surface and the print.

If areas of the image appear faded or with uneven colors, it could be due to: uneven distribution of heat on the hot plate of the plate, excessive time, or lack or excess of pressure. We recommend using a Teflon pad or sheet on the iron because they allow a stable temperature to be maintained over the entire surface of the iron.

Similar to what sometimes happens in photocopiers, ink residue from previous prints can stain subsequent ones. To avoid this, it is recommended to keep the hot plate clean using cleaning products or, better yet, using a Teflon sheet. Of course, we always recommend using protective paper on both the lower plate of the plate and the upper plate, in this way the plate will be kept clean and stains on the next product that we customize will be avoided.

Double-sided stamping
Although it is possible to sublimate a product on two sides at the same time, it is not recommended for any product except aluminum. It is best to first sublimate one side, let it cool, and then proceed to the second side. When stamping this, fold the paper from behind and use masking tape.

How to store the finished products
If the sublimated surfaces come into direct contact while the material is still hot, the inks may migrate to the other material over time. For this reason, it is not advisable to stack finished products, it is better to place a sheet of paper between them. Do not wrap sublimated products in plastic wrap and do not put them in plastic bags for shipping. We recommend that you wrap each product with paper before shipping.

Durability outside?
Although some sublimable products contain UV protectors to extend the life of the print, they are not designed for permanent outdoor use. The print will lose color over time depending on the ink used.

Giving more time to printing has been shown to improve its durability outdoors. However, print quality may deteriorate.

We hope you find all these tips useful! And we would love to receive your input as well. What advice can you give us to achieve an optimal result in sublimation?