Bleeding your images and why it is sometimes useful for sublimation

With sublimation, it is absolutely necessary for the substrate you are printing on to be white or light colored in order to image the substrate.  Sometimes substrates come with just a white patch, which in many cases helps to mask that it is a sublimated item once sublimated.  In some cases, it may be like an iPhone case where the sublimatable piece is an insert and imaging right to the edge of the insert is better.

Most sublimation users will print an image onto the entire white patch to mask the patch after it has been imaged.  There are two reasons why lining up your image with the white patch would be challenging

1.)    It is difficult to measure the exact area of the white patch.  If your measurements are short a millimeter, it will show a thin white  line after sublimating.

2.)    Even if you get the exact measurements, it is difficult to align your image exactly to the white patch

The solution is to bleed your image!

Bleeding also allows you to print all the way to the edge of a sublimatable item!

What is Bleeding?
It is the process of printing your image a little bit larger than the area you plan to print.  This is often used in commercial printing on paper.

How Much Should I Bleed the Image?
Normally a bleed of 0.125 or 0.25 inches for all 4 sides would be enough.  When resizing, be sure to remember to proportionally resize (make sure you increase the size the same amount vertically and horizontally).   Using CorelDraw you can simply add an extra 0.25-0.50 to your vertical or horizontal size.  The reason you have to double the value is because the x or y axis has two sides each.

    

Safe Printing area
When you are bleeding your image to the edge, it is recommended that you print in the safe area to avoid important elements of the image (such as text) being cut off.  The safe area should be about 0.125-.25 inches within the substrate size.  This is to account for tiny differences in size of your printing area and also to account for human error (in case you printed your image more to the right, left, top, or bottom).   Here’s a diagram below:

Black color represents the tile, Red line represents bleed area, Inside Green Line is safe printing area
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Cutting Dark Transfer Papers

Dark Transfer Papers need to be trimmed before applying to fabric.  The reason for this is because areas that are unprinted and untrimmed will appear white on the shirt.  There are a number of ways you can trim dark transfer papers.  You can use a pair of scissors, an exacto knife, a paper cutter (for square images), or a cutter/plotter with an optical eye (recommended method).

Using a cutter/plotter with an optical eye is the best method simply because it is extremely accurate and efficient.

How does the Print and Cut Feature Work On a Cutter/Plotter?
Most of the programs provided to you by the manufacturer to run your cutter will have a print and cut option (CutStudio for Roland GX 24, and GreatCuts for GCC cutters).  You simply turn on the print and cut feature either before or after (CutStudio is before and GreatCuts is after) you have finished laying out your graphic and cut lines.  Although you may have the print and cut option in your program, please ensure that your cutter has an optical eye.  Without an optical eye, the print and cut function will not work.

Once print and cut is activated in your software, you will see 3 or 4 registration marks on the corners of the transfer paper.  From this point, you can print your graphic along with the registration marks out on your printer.  This is how they would look:

  

After printing your graphic with the registration marks, you are ready to load your transfer paper into the cutter.  Once the paper is loaded, simply select cut in the software and the cutter will start cutting.  First the cutter will activate its optical eye system and you will see a red dot moving.  This is the cutter’s way of scanning for the registration marks.  Once it has read all 3 or 4 registration marks, it will cut the graphic out.   You can then weed the excess paper off the sheet.  Peel off the graphic or use tack to keep non-continuous parts together.  Then place on top of your fabric with image face up on your heat press.  Ensure you protect your graphic/image with a silicon or teflon sheet when pressing.

Here is a link to a video of this print and cut feature using CL Dark Premium

Why Do You Need the Print and Cut Registration Marks to Cut with Your Cutter?
The print and cut system is used so that the printer can communicate with the cutter via registration marks.  Simply put, the printer uses registration marks to tell the cutter where it has printed the graphic on the paper.  Without the registration marks and an optical eye, it is near impossible for the cutter to determine where the printer has printed the graphic on the paper.

The Value of a Good Heat Press

The key to successful heat transferred images using transfer paper and vinyl is heat and pressure.  Follow the instructions exactly and ensure enough pressure is applied to your item.  A combination of not enough pressure and incorrect heat will result in incomplete transfers and/or washing problems.

Heat presses can affect heat and pressure when doing transfers.  As a result, one of the most important big ticket items you buy for your digital decoration business will be your heat press.   When you first start out or are looking to upgrade, make sure to ask the right question when purchasing a heat press.

It’s a heat press, how much can they differ?
One of the main differences is the size of the heat platen.  Most standard heat presses come in 16×16 or 16×20 platen sizes.  The platen size determines the maximum image size you can press onto your fabric.  The standard size heat presses are sufficient for the majority of businesses as your desktop printer or cutter probably cannot produce images bigger than that.  Ensure you have the right size for your type of images.

There are also two main types of heat presses.  One is the clamshell model and the other is the swing away model.  The Insta 138 is an example of your standard clamshell model and the Insta 228 is an example of your standard swing away model.   There really isn’t a right type here, it is just personal preference.

Another major difference in a heat press is how it is operated.  There are heat presses that are Air Automatic, Auto Release and Manual Heat Presses.  An air automatic press (Insta 728) is basically a heat press that is automatic in almost every way.  It automatically closes and opens the press using air pressure.  You simply dial the pressure in and press a button and it will close and open after the pressing is done.  An Auto Release Press (STX AutoClam) is one that requires the user to set the pressure and manually close the press, but when the pressing is done, the heat press will automatically open.  This is handy because there is no risk of it overcooking your items.  The last one is a manual heat press (Insta 138) which require the user to manually close and manually open the press when it is done.

Other Heat Press Functions
Modern day heat presses are normally digital ones which display temperature and time on a LED screen.  There are older models that will display temperature on a gauge and some require the user to use a separate stop watch for the press time.  We recommend using a digital press because it is much more accurate and consistent in measuring temperature and time.

Quality of Heat Press
Aside from the differences of a heat press, you should also consider the quality of the heat press.  Ensure the heat press is well built and that it gives you consistent pressure and temperature.  Your vendor should be able to give you a recommendation for a good heat press.  Also quality brands will have warranties which will ensure that if it breaks during the period of the warranty, that the manufacturer will fix the problem for you.
Not only should you ensure the heat press is in good working order at the time of purchase, you should consistently check that the heat press is in good order over time.  It is recommended that you buy a heat gun to check for cold spots that may occur over time.

Color Management for Sublimation in a Nut Shell

What is Color Management?
To sum up, color management is the process of managing colors so that they come out the way you expect them to and to make this consistent every time.  There are many variables in the process of printing.  This includes the inks, the printer and the canvas that have to be considered.  Color Management uses a color profile to profile the inks, the printer, and the canvas in order to achieve predictable color.  When we use the color profile, we keep all three of these variables consistent so that the final color output is consistent as well.  With color profiles, you are able to achieve more predictable results.  Most of the time, color management is used to match – as closely as possible – the colors that are printed out compared with what is shown on your screen.

What is a Color Profile?
A color profile is something that we create to convert colors more accurately.  When converting colors without a color profile a lot of inaccurate guessing is done by the computer.  By providing a profile, we eliminate much of the guesswork and if some guessing is required, the profile gives the computer more information to make a better informed guess than without a profile.  For instance if your third party inks tend to print colors a tiny bit more red, this information is given to the computer to adjust for the red tint when using a color profile.  In sublimation, when you buy sublimation inks from your supplier, they will normally provide you with either an ICC profile or a Power Driver (embedded color profiles are in the Power Driver).

Why is Color Management Necessary?
Without some form of color management, it would be very difficult to print anything that has color as you wouldn’t know the final result.  Without color management, it’s anyone’s guess how your image would come out on paper compared to the screen.   Color Management basically takes out the guess work in printing.  With a profile, you know that the color you are seeing on the screen is more likely to be the same color that comes out on paper or on your substrate.

How Come We Don’t Need to do This With Our OEM inks?
OEM stands for “Original Equipment Manufacturer”.  This is the standard inks that come with your printer (if you bought an Epson, the OEM inks would be the Epson brand inks).  OEM inks also require a color profile for them to print properly.  All printers with OEM inks will need a color profile and they are normally embeded in the printer driver you have to install before being able to print from your printer.  So there’s no need for a color profile for your OEM inks as your printer driver is already using one.

If you bought a sublimation package, your vendor may have taken out of the box, the OEM inks and replaced them with sublimation inks to prevent users from accidentally loading the OEM inks for their sublimation printer.

When using inks other than OEM inks such as sublimation inks, you will need a different color profile.  When you buy sublimation inks, your supplier will supply you with either a Power Driver (with embedded profiles for individual substrates) or an ICC profile.  It is recommended to use the profiles provided by your sublimation vendor to achieve predictable color results.

Other factors that affect Color
Because sublimation isn’t just printing to paper, it gets a little bit more complicated than just color profiles.  And the following factors below can also affect your color.

Heat Press Temperature and Press Time – Be sure to follow your vendors recommended settings when printing to your substrate as different variations of press time and temperature will also affect how your colors will turn out as well as the sharpness of your image.  If you are unsure, call your supplier.

Nozzle checks – If you are finding color shifts but you know that your color profile, press time and temperature settings were correct; it may be that your printer’s nozzles are not firing correctly.  With sublimation inks, we recommend doing daily nozzle checks to ensure your printer is performing normally.  And clean your printer heads if your nozzle check fails.

Choosing The Correct Color Profile – Use the correct profile!  Don’t use a profile specifically designed for a different printer than the one you are using.  For example, don’t use an Epson 1400 color profile for your Ricoh 7000 sublimation printer.

Last but not least, be sure that your color settings in your design software are correct when using your profile.  Sawgrass has very good instructions on how to set up your Power Driver or your ICC profile for your Ricoh GX7000/3300 sublimation printers.  You can download the instructions/ICC Profiles/Power Drivers here.