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Getting Started With Dye Sublimation

Introduction to Vinyl Cutting


We have put together this section for those who are just starting out in this exciting area to ease the learning curve and to assist in getting you up and running a little quicker. The information supplied here is however just a guide and further research and testing may be required.


What will you need


A new unused ink jet printer

Dye sublimation inks and refillable ink cartridges

Dye sublimation transfer paper

Dye sublimation ready blank products

A computer with some graphics packages, like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw or other equivalent packages.

A heat press appropriate for the products you intend to use.


What you need to know


Dye Sublimations is the transfer of a dye ink in solid form to a sublimation ready product by heating the dye under pressure which then turns to gas (bypassing the liquid state) and adheres to the product. Note that not all heat transfer processes are dye sublimation based. While the sublimation process is a simple one, there are many factors that influence the outcome and so it can at times be frustrating.


The first step will be to decide on and create a design for your chosen product, using a computer and one of the many graphics packages available on the market today. Most popular are products like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw to mention a few. Once your design is complete, you will print it out mirror image on a dedicated ink jet printer loaded with dye sublimation ink onto dye sublimation paper. Before transferring the print it should be dry but use it within a few hours. Place the print face in contact with the surface of a dye sublimation ready product and secured it in place with heat resistant tape or temporary adhesive spray (Do not spray over the areas to be decorated). Place the product in the heat press at the specified temperature and pressure for the specified time. (Times and temperatures vary depending on the  products used). Take the product out of the heat press with protective gloves, remove the transfer paper and allow to cool.


Simple enough, however it is important to note that each element in the process can affect the outcome, changing one may require adjusting another. Work out a formula that works for you and stick to it. By formula we mean, always use the same dye, paper and sublimation ready products. Changing suppliers may mean that you are using different brands of products made by different manufacturers that work differently together affecting the time and or temperature and therefore the final result of the product. You may even find that the difference in ambient temperature between summer and winter may require that you adjust the time slightly. Times and temperatures supplied by manufacturers are guidelines only and you will need to test these and adjust if necessary.


Best to google/youtube the process and products, this can save you time and money in that you can learn what other people are doing and what they found went wrong.


Things to keep in mind


Changing any of the products used in the production can affect the outcome and adjustments may need to be made.

Time and temperature can vary greatly depending on the type of product used.

Temperatures usually range between 170°C-200°C.

Times can range from 10 secs for fabric based products to 9 minutes for glass or ceramic based products.

Most product require medium pressure, between 30-40 psi on pneumatic presses.

Longer times usually result in darker images, but keeping products in the press to long may result in a heat damaged or discolouring.

Matching colours of the products to what you see on screen or paper may not be possible depending on the type of product.

Unsecured transfer paper, insufficient pressure and fumbling paper when removing it from the product can lead to ghost or blurry images.

You can only use products that are sublimation ready. These products have been specifically treated to allow the sublimation process to take place. The dye adhere to polyester.