There is nothing more enjoyable than having a nice, hot morning coffee. It seems to be what starts the day off on the right foot. If you’re like most of us, you have a favorite mug that you use every single time. It probably has a special image on it that you love looking at every morning. It just makes you smile. Wouldn’t it be great to offer customers the ability to put their favorite image on a mug?
Out of the hundreds of sublimation products on the market today, mugs seem to be some of the most popular time and time again. They are easy to do, yet still allow for full personalization while keeping costs to a minimum. With so many different options out there, it can get a little confusing as to which mug is best for you. This article will explain some general differences, so you too can “drink” in their profits!
There are many different styles of mugs on the market today. We are going to focus on the bread and butter of the mug line—the standard ceramic mug. There are three big differences in the mugs that can make or break the profit that you end up making from all your hard work. They are the coating, the ceramic quality, and the shape of the mug.
Standard ceramic coffee mugs come in a variety of styles, including the 11oz and 15oz options.
Mugs are a great personalized item that allow for maximum profit.
The sublimation coating on the mug makes a huge difference in how the mug turns out. Coatings are applied one of two ways. They are either sprayed or dipped. Mugs that are sprayed tend to have a more even, uniform coating. Dipped mugs are just that; they are dipped into the liquid coating. So the coating may come out heavy in some spots and lighter in others. What this means in your sublimation is that your image may have dark areas where there is an abundance of coating and lighter areas where the coating is a little thin.
The ceramic quality also plays a big role. Mugs are made from a ceramic material and fired at high temperatures to harden. Higher-quality ceramics are fired twice. This pulls out a lot of the moisture, lending it a more consistent shape and strength. Standard-quality mugs are only fired once. This means there is more moisture left in the mug, making the ceramic a bit weaker.
The shape of the mug also plays a role. You may be saying to yourself, “A mug is a mug!” Well, if you look carefully at the mug, you’ll see that actually some “barrel” out in the middle. The higher-quality mugs are a lot flatter than the lower-quality ones. With too much “barreling” in the middle, your paper may crinkle, and you’ll end up having a bad transfer.
Mugs are done one of two ways. They are either made on a mug press, or they are made with mug wraps. Both ways are equally effective but just done a bit different. Let’s start by looking at the mug press. Mug presses were designed to press one mug at a time with a press time of between three and four minutes. This is a great way for production-type applications, because while you are waiting for one mug to be done, you are able to stage your next mug; when the timer is up, you can take the finished mug out and replace it with a new mug.
It is fairly easy, and there is not really a lot to figure out. You just set the time and temp and go from there. The biggest downfalls to this process are that you are limited in the type and size of mug you can press and the startup cost for this. Mug presses typically range in cost from around $500 to $1,000 for a good unit. This is a very high cost for newcomers into the mug world who are not sure if there is a market there yet.
That leads us right into the other option to do mugs—the mug wrap. This is a low-cost entry into the mug world that many use to test the waters of the mug market. A Kevlar-reinforced wrap is placed around the mug and a clamp is tightened with a bolt to give the mug the pressure it needs to sublimate.
The other major part of this process is a convection oven. These differ from your average household conventional ovens in that the convection oven circulates the air around the item in it; in this case, it is mugs. This is critical because the mugs need to be heated evenly in order to work completely.
This process takes a bit longer than pressing it in a mug press. For an average 11oz mug, this process takes roughly 12 minutes or so. Though the time is longer, wraps allow you to do multiple mugs at one time. Wraps cost around $25, and a convection oven can cost anywhere from $75 to $100.
Creating a mug in your graphics program is very simple. You are going to first create a rectangle that is roughly 3.25”x8”. This is the biggest you can get away with without losing some of your image to the lack of size of heating element. Once you have your design sized correctly, you can delete your template so you do not end up with the black box around your image on the mug.
Place the image on the mug followed by a similar-size piece of copy paper to catch any spare ink transfer. Place the mug in either the press or the wrap and heat it to the desired time. Once finished, slowly dip the mug into a bucket of warm water, cooling it to the touch. Once cool, remove the transfer and blow out paper and wipe dry.
Mugs can be a great add-on to any sublimation business as well as a great product to start with and get your toes wet in sublimation. Both mugs have their own perfect niche; it’s just up to you to figure out which one is the best option for you!