Sublimation success

Road to Sublimation Success: New sublimation tech and tips

David Gross is president of Condé Systems Inc., of Mobile, Ala. For the past 24 years, he has devoted to advancing sublimation technology. He can be reached by email at dgross@conde.com.

I enjoy teaching my class at each of the NBM trade shows. Titled “Road to Sublimation Success,” the presentation focuses on doing things right using proven best practices and keeping folks up to date on exciting advances within the sublimation transfer industry. Whether during a class or on the show floor, I always have fun discussing how the sublimation industry is continually expanding and, in some cases, breaking the rules. So what’s new in the world of sublimation? 

REVEAL-S VERSION 4.0 (Image 1)

This self-weeding product from Vivid Chemical allows folks with sublimation printers to decorate white- or light-colored cotton and blended fabrics using medium- to bold-colored graphics. Unlike sublimating to polyester, which actually dyes the fabric, Reveal-S makes sublimating to cotton a surface decorating technology similar to screen printing or DTG printing.

Released just a few months ago, Reveal-S film has gone through significant enhancements including: 1) the introduction of the all-important 13-by-19-inch film size for desktop sublimation printers; 2) the introduction of 15-inch roll media for wide-format printers such as Epson, Mutoh RJ900X, and Sawgrass VJ628; and 3) a significant improvement to the printing and release properties of the film.

As I write this article, version 4 is shipping and provides a larger window of success in regards to time and temperature. One result of these changes has been the successful decoration of cotton products such as tote bags, aprons, pillowcases, and items made of duck cloth.

Our experience with Reveal-S has confirmed that most heat presses are significantly out of calibration—meaning that the measured temperature is not the same as the temperature on the display of the heat press. I strongly recommend that you manually check your heat press temperature with a contact pyrometer or metal candy thermometer before using Reveal-S film.

NEW INK SETS: SAWGRASS VIRTUOSO VJ 628 PRINTER (Image 2)

Introduced late last year, the Sawgrass VJ 628 is the ideal printer for taking your sublimation business to the next level. The VJ 628, made by Mutoh for Sawgrass, provides high-volume printing on 8.5-, 11-, 17-, 24-, and 24.8-inch roll media and full bleed prints up to 24.4 inches wide for producing larger products such as ChromaLuxe metal, wood, MDF, car mats and more.

For me, the real magic of this printer is the flexibility of having eight inks slots. Sawgrass has responded to the needs of high-value niche markets by offering an array of unique and exciting ink configurations. These configurations now include:

  • Dual CMYK: For traditional sublimators, a dual CMYK ink configuration capable of up to 548,000 colors is the ideal balance of speed and quality, whether producing hard or soft substrates.
  • Eight-Color with New XF Blacks: Delivering up to 659,327 colors, the K, Lk, Llk cartridges provide extended lightfastness for ChromaLuxe panels, professional photos and décor. According to Henry Wilhelm’s testing with ChromaLuxe, the XF black’s extended image permanence delivers the photo industry three times the life of silver halide prints. 
  • Eight-Color with Expanded Gamut: Adding Orange and Blue colors to C, M, Y, K, LC, LM will add pop to vector graphics and spot colors by providing the greatest dynamic color range. To get the most out of this ink set, you must design in an extended color gamut workspace like AdobeRGB1998.
  • Six-Color with Spot Color Fluorescents: Adding Fluorescent Pink and Fluorescent Yellow to C, M, Y, K, LC, LM allows digital decorators to create graphics with a completely new dimension. Note that the addition of the two fluorescent inks does not affect normal sublimation printing. The two new inks are spot colors and are only used when you select them in your designs. Some of my favorite products to add fluorescent colors to include socks, sleeves, shirts and cheer bows. (Image 3)

SUBLIMATION KIOSK v2.0

Need a no-brainer way to get photos from your client so you can create personalized products? Whether you have a storefront or want to set up at an event, this software makes it a snap to get a photo from your client’s smartphone to your computer. No apps are needed, and any smartphone with Wi-Fi and a browser will work.

Using your computer and a wireless router (I recommend an Apple brand router for ease of configuration) along with the kiosk software will provide a quick and easy way for your clients to send you hi-resolution versions of their photos. No internet access is needed since the Wi-Fi network connects the smart phone to your laptop. With the Sublimation Kiosk, you can really accelerate your sales of personalized products.

INTRODUCING COLORLYTE GLASS (Image 4)

When I first saw ColorLyte glass, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The imaged glass seems to violate the sublimation laws of physics! Imagine a flat piece of glass that is almost clear before sublimation but once pressed, the image is viewable from both sides. In areas of the photo that should be clear, you see what clearly looks like white ink. Available in a variety of sizes, ColorLyte glass has the potential to change sublimation in ways like ChromaLuxe HD metal has. 

UPDATE: SAWGRASS CREATIVESTUDIO (Image 5)

Lastly, I’d like to highlight CreativeStudio. CreativeStudio is a cloud-based online designer that comes free with Sawgrass’s Virtuoso HD Product Decorating Systems (four-color SG400 and SG800 desktop printers and the new eight-color VJ 628 medium-format printer). It eliminates the cost and learning curve associated with desktop design software like Corel and Adobe, as well as the costs associated with purchasing stock designs.

CreativeStudio is not as powerful as desktop design applications such as Adobe or Corel products. However, there are numerous productivity features from which experienced graphic designers can benefit. CreativeStudio includes an ever-expanding selection of product templates (800+ as of press time) direct from the manufacturers, which significantly streamlines production. It also offers a carefully curated and growing selection of over 6,000 art templates, graphics and photos (a $3,000+ value), with themes ranging from mascots, awards, sports, personalized and photo gifts, holidays, travel, and more. If you have ever searched for product templates or tried to purchase specific images, you’ll immediately understand what a time and cost-saver this is.

One new feature CreativeStudio offers is the ability to link to your sublimation supplier’s catalog of blank products. CreativeStudio has also recently added RIP-like productivity features, including step-and-repeat and nesting, to further streamline production and save transfer media costs.  

Productivity Tip: Kool Plate (Image 6)

If you are constantly waiting for your sublimated products to cool, then consider getting a Kool Plate. This cooling box will increase your productivity by cooling your 400-degree F products in just a few seconds. I think the Kool Plate is a must for double-sided products like FRP bag tags as you can press one side and quickly cool to allow you to press the second side.