How to Make Sublimation Prints Brighter Like a Pro
Whether you’re printing on a shirt, mug, tumbler and other sublimation blanks, you want to make sure all your prints come out with bright and vivid colors. But the question is, how to make sublimation prints brighter? There are several factors to achieve the best and brightest print.
From the printer, ink, print settings, heat press time & temperature, the sublimation blank and of course the sublimation paper you use, all these factors will affect the outcome and quality of your sublimation print. In short, you want the best products and follow the recommended sublimation settings. All of which you will learn as you read along.
10 Tips on How to Make Sublimation Prints Brighter
Whether you’re in the t-shirt business or want to print crafts as your hobby, sublimation printing is a printing technique you should master. In order to deliver the best printing results using the sublimation technique, you should master the tips and tricks on how to make the prints brighter.
You don’t want to deliver faded-looking products, right? As a crafter, you always want to deliver quality first and foremost. A way to do that is to ensure the best print quality and produce vibrant colors. Here are tips you need to remember.
Invest a High Quality Sublimation Printer
If this is your first time entering the sublimation printing world, you have to know that investing in a high quality sublimation printer is a must. But what printer unit tops the list? Here’s a checklist on what to look for on a sublimation printer:
The More Ink Tank Colors, the Better
As you know, printers vary in the number of color tanks, with a minimum of four, and maximum of eight tanks. As a general rule, printers with more ink tanks are better. Why?
Four-colored printers have a limited color tone you can print. For instance, colors like teal will appear as blue, or magenta will print as red.
Don’t get this wrong, four-colored (CMYK printers) can also produce high quality prints. However, six or eight-colored printers deliver the best quality. Sure, eight-colored printers are more pricey, but it will be worth it.
Most especially if you’ll get orders with complicated color tones. Most printers in the business would use eight-colored printers.
Choose an Inkjet Printer
As you know, there are inkjet and laser printers. Inkjet printers use ink, while lasers use laser and heat in powdered form toner. Since sublimation inks come in liquid refillable inks, then an inkjet printer is a must! No substitutions.
Here are the best sublimation printers in the market as of date:
- Epson SureColor F170 (A4 paper)
- Sawgrass SG500 (A4 paper)
- Epson SureColor F570 Pro (print size up to 24-inch roll)
- Mimaki TS100-1600 (for large format printing)
- HP Stitch S500 (for large format printing)
Consider the Format
Printers are available in different formats, or in other words, how big you want your prints to be. To give you an idea, there are:
- Narrow Format: The usual home and office printers that can print short, long and A4-size papers. Sublimation papers usually come in A4 sizes. The right sublimation printer for small-format printing and beginners.
- A3 printers: If you want bigger print sizes in A3 (297 mm x 420 mm, 29.7 cm x 42 cm or 11.7 in x 16.5 in), then invest in an A3 printer. If you want to maximize print on a garment, then you should have this.
- Large or Wide Format: If you want bigger prints or want to venture the world of full sublimation printing, then you should have a large format printer. It can print up to 74" wide images.
If you already have a sublimation printer and have no funds to invest on a new one, that’s okay. Work with the sublimation equipment you have! You can still make sublimation brighter with the other tips you’ll learn below.
Regular Printer Maintenance Is a Must!
In any setting, if you have a printer, it's the golden rule that regular printer maintenance is a must! It's a given fact that you want your printers to last long and avoid mechanical failures.
In addition to that, you need proper care and maintenance so they can print like brand new at all times. How do you perform regular maintenance on sublimation printers? Here are tips you need to remember:
- Use the printer frequently so the ink cartridge doesn't dry up
- Download and install the latest updates for your printer
- Run a nozzle check, align print heads, and perform print head cleaning if needed
- Clean the paper feeder rollers regularly
- Empty the waste tank regularly
- Replacing cartridges as needed
- Refill the ink when half of the tank is consumed
- Use cleaning solutions
Keeping your printer in tip-top shape ensures bright sublimation print and of course your printer to last for years! Before printing on a sublimation printer, it is best to run a nozzle check first and test print your image. If the design prints well, then you’re good to go!
Use High Quality Sublimation Ink
Even the sublimation ink brand you use matters! When searching for the best sublimation ink brand, read first hand user reviews when it comes to its fading and print output.
Nothing beats first hand experience and nothing beats a solid ink that’ll print bright colors! So far, the top 5 sublimation inks in the market now are:
- Printers Jack Sublimation Ink Refill
- Hiipoo Sublimation Ink
- MERRYWORK Sublimation Ink
- Tonha Sublimation Ink Refill
- E-Z Ink Autofill Sublimation Ink
Take Note: Do Not Combine Other Kinds of Ink With Sublimation Ink
Here’s a mistake many crafters make — mixing different kinds of ink in one printer. For instance if you want to use an old printer with pigment ink used on it before and convert it into a sublimation printer, don’t!
Never combine different kinds of ink. Sublimation printer is for sublimation ink alone. Do not mix up the inks as this will affect the print output.
Sublimate on 100% Polyester Garments
When it comes to dye sublimation printing on fabrics, if you want a colorful and vibrant finished garment, use 100% polyester white shirts. Traditionally, sublimation printing is recommended on light-colored fabrics made of 100% polyester. If you follow this rule, you can expect garment prints to come out colorful.
If you can convince your client to resort to 100% polyester shirts rather than cotton shirts, better! Sublimation colors will pop brightly on white polyester shirts. But what if they insist on using cotton shirts? Then that will lead us to the next tip: the use of sublimation coating spray.
Use Sublimation Poly Coating Spray on Fabrics
If the client insists on using cotton garments, don’t turn the project just yet. Use a sublimation coating spray instead. A sublimation polyester coating spray provides a base layer to hold the sublimation ink in place in light-colored cotton shirts, poly-cotton blends or canvas.
Other than holding the ink in place, the print output is brighter, more vibrant and guaranteed long-lasting.
But what if you received an order of dark-colored shirts with complicated colors? Using a heat transfer vinyl may be tedious work and sublimation process is your best option. What do you do? Here’s a bonus tip for you — use heat transfer vinyl as your base layer then sublimate. For a step-by-step guide for this printing process, make sure to read How to Sublimate on Dark Shirts.
Image from Katsa Atbp Iloilo by MUJI FILMS
Print High Resolution Images
Of course you have to print high resolution images ALL THE TIME! Printing pixelated or poorly-colored designs on the sublimation paper will affect your final print output. Faded prints are what you’ll most likely get. You don’t want that! How do you ensure high resolution printing?
Here are several tips:
- Understand how dots per inch and pixels per inch works
- Apply sharpening to the design
- Download high-resolution digital source file (PNG or vector images)
- Create your original design
- Print using the highest quality printer settings
- Reduce the speed, and increase the print quality
Basically you’ll need to learn basic photo editing and graphic designing skills, as a printer should have. By printing high resolution images, you won’t be worried of dull-looking and faded print output.
Only Use Products Labeled as ‘Sublimation Blanks’
You can’t just grab a random product and sublimate a print on it. It doesn’t work that way. Sublimation products have a special polyester coating on it, making it compatible for sublimation printing.
For instance, you can’t just sublimate on regular mugs. You have to use sublimation mugs. Regular mugs are not heat-resistant. When you heat press sublimation paper on it, the ink might transfer, but it will not be as vivid and the print won’t last that long.
So make sure to only sublimate on products tagged as ‘sublimation blanks’ like mugs, tumblers, ref magnets and many more. As for garments, polyester shirts are recommended for direct sublimation printing.
However you can use poly spray coating on cotton garments and still expect vibrant colors on the finished t-shirt.
Sublimation ref magnets
Image from Katsa Atbp Iloilo by Lynsel de la Banda
Follow the Recommended Heat Press Settings
If you’ve noticed, printing products usually come with recommended heat time and settings. They’re there for a reason. First of all, you don’t want to overdo it as this may cause scorching and discoloration of the product. Secondly, you don’t want to underdo it as this may cause the final product to look faded.
Always follow the recommended heat press settings regardless of the product you’re using. Whether it be a mug, shirt, umbrella or tumbler, when it comes to sublimation prints the combination of right time, right heat and right pressure always matters.
To make it clear, yes, heat pressing is a factor that will make sublimation brighter. A tip to remember when buying sublimation products is to check the production description or instruction sheet that comes with the product.
Some heat presses also come with recommended settings for each product type and printing technique so you may want to check that out too.
If a product does not come with printing instructions, searching it on Google always works. Basically, with sublimation, in order to achieve a bright color, medium pressure is recommended.
The basic principle to remember is, the higher the time, the lower the temperature and vice versa. Of course, practice makes perfect too. So you may want to try a trial and error approach when sublimating.
Avoid ‘Ghost Sublimation Printing’
If you’ve tried sublimation printing already, you may have encountered having a final product that looks faded, but has a ghost print in it. A ghost print looks like a shadow that surrounds the actual print. When you look from afar, the print will appear faded and not as vibrant as it should be.
That’s why with sublimation printing, you need to avoid ghosting by using a heat-resistant tape to secure the sublimation paper before printing. Also it is best to place butcher paper above the sublimation paper before pressing it.
Both steps ensure that the sublimation paper won’t move as you open and close the heat press machine.
Just take a look at the image below, there are no ghost prints found. Plus the all color hues are so bright, even the brightest royal blue is clear as day.
This is what a bright sublimation print should look like. Even though the pouch is made of canvas material, a poly coating was not used but it still looks vibrant.
Sublimation print on a canvas pouch
Image from Katsa Atbp Iloilo by Lynsel de la Banda
Print on the Teckwrap Craft’s Sublimation Transfer Paper
Not many printers know this, but not all sublimation papers were designed the same. In other words, there are low quality and high quality sublimation papers. If you want the best and brightest sublimation prints, then you have to use a high quality sublimation paper.
What do you look for in a sublimation paper? It should be:
- High transfer rate
- Ink-saving performance
- No fading, smudging or cracking
All product qualities you can expect in TeckWrap Craft’s sublimation paper. Why? What happens if you use sub-standard sublimation papers? Here’s what likely would happen:
- If it’s not fast-drying, as the sublimation paper prints, the printer’s roller will leave a line mark on the design.
- If it doesn’t have a high transfer rate, the final output will look faded.
- If it’s not ink-saving, you’ll end up consuming more inks.
- Of course it has to be affordable so as not to overcharge your clients with the overhead cost. Most high quality sublimation printers cost between $14-$15 per 100 sheets, and that is a good deal!
For Brighter Sublimation Prints, Choose TeckWrap!
With the 10 tips you just learned above, expect all your sublimation prints to be brighter, vivid and of course long-lasting. As you see, making sublimation prints brighter is a combination of different factors. One factor you’ll miss out on would affect the whole project.
But most importantly, only choose TeckWrap Craft’s sublimation paper. Whether you’re printing on shirts, canvas tote bags, mugs, ref magnets, and other sublimation blanks, TeckWrap Craft’s sublimation paper will never fail you.
Get yours now at TeckWrap Craft’s website and have it delivered right to your doorstep. US and worldwide shipping is available.