Getting Great Results: Overcoming Dye-Sublimation Issues

Getting Great Results: Overcoming Dye-Sublimation Issues

Dye-sublimation allows for stunning, custom-printed fabric and other goods. However, with any endeavor, there is learning curve when starting out. As you work to hone your skills, you may face obstacles like fuzzy or faded prints, images not adhering properly, ink bleeds, and more. Understanding potential dye-sublimation issues can help troubleshoot them if they arise in your in-house production.

Check out this list of common dye-sublimation issues so you can quickly diagnose, fix the problem, and get back to making money with sublimation!


Why Colors May Lack Vibrancy

Vibrant colors and sharp image definition make dye-sublimation prints eye-catching. So what if your transfers look dull or washed out? Start by checking if you’re printing on the correct side of sublimation paper – this is typically a bright white side not an off-white backside. Next, ensure you have the right color correction software or mode set in your printer – Sawgrass printers for instance print face down with this engaged. Also check if your substrate is 100% coated polyester which best accepts sublimation ink, versus say, 100% cotton which cannot uptake the ink effectively.


How To Prevent Ghosting

“Ghosting” means your image looks duplicated with a faded second version that can detract from desired results. This is caused by the transfer paper shifting during pressing before ink fully gasses into the substrate. Taping down hard goods with thermal tape helps avoid movement. For softer items like fabrics, use an adhesive spray. Auto-opening presses that pop up too quickly are prone to inducing ghosting as well. Taping down or carefully positioned manual pressing is best.


Why Images Don't Adhere

For vibrant photorealistic transfers, your substrate item must have a coated polyester surface or be high-polyester composite to absorb sublimation inks. 100% cotton won't bond ink in a wash-proof manner for instance. Polyester mugs would accept dye-sublimation well but not uncoated wood, ceramic or glass which lack a polymeric layer. Consider the substrate and if it readily bonds with gassed sublimation inks. You can use blended fabrics, but may give more a vintage faded look depending on the fabric composition.


Where Is Unwanted Ink Coming From?

If other inks adversely appear on new transfers, residue can originate from your press platens. Sublimation ink can stain these heated surfaces. Safeguard platens with nonstick release sheets that prevent platen staining like Teflon sheets that are easily wiped clean after presses. You want to avoid ink re-deposition on new print jobs while also keeping your equipment spotless.


What Causes Ink "Dots"?

Tiny dots marring transfers originate from ambient moisture in substrates. "Pre-pressing" items first removes moisture before final pressing with transfers applied. Let goods fully cool after pre-pressing too to avoid moisture reintroduction. Then apply transfers for a dot-free outcome. High humidity areas will make this more of an issue.


Fixing Blurry Transfers

Too much heat and dwell time when pressing can cause bleeding outward of sublimation inks leading to fuzzy indistinct image edges. If you're noticing blurring, lower your time and temperature parameters as per manufacturer guidance. Re-press with adjusted lower settings. Unfortunately, this can be a back and forth process as you adjust the time and/or temperature until you find the perfect "recipe." Be sure to write it down so you'll have it for the next time you need to overcome this dye-sublimation issue.


Preventing Faded Prints

Just like blurring, image fading arises from excessive time or temperatures when heat pressing. In addition, over-compression of goods can squeeze out inks leading to washed out appearances. Verify the recommended settings from your substrate blank supplier (remember, these are just suggested settings - you may need to tweak them some) and check your press is heating to its set temperature using instruments like heat strips. Adjust to the suggested parameters for vibrant non-faded images.

Overcoming Common Dye-Sublimation Printing Issues

As you can see, there are a variety of potential issues that can arise with dye-sublimation printing. However, most problems have straightforward solutions once you know what to look for. Key things to check are that you're using the correct materials, your heat press settings align with recommendations, substrates are prepped properly, and any shifting of paper is prevented during pressing.

While no process is foolproof, awareness of what may go wrong arms you to quickly diagnose and address problems. Rather than viewing any printing issues as failures, look at them as learning experiences on your journey to master dye-sublimation. With consistent practice using quality equipment and the right techniques, stunning, vibrant printed apparel and gifts are within your reach. The satisfaction of seeing your beautiful designs come out right is worth working through a few early bumps in the road.

Stay positive through the trial period, focus on precision in your process, and enjoy watching your sublimation skills and outcomes steadily improve. If problems still persist, always reach out to experienced sublimators or companies providing blanks and supplies for personalized troubleshooting advice. With dedication to the craft, dye-sublimation can be a fun, rewarding way to build an apparel business or make customized gifts for loved ones.

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