Making Your Own Templates for Sublimation or Laser Transfers

Templates are excellent tools for imaging onto small items.  They guide you on how to resize your image to fit the substrate as well as allow you to see a mock-up of the final imaged product.   In some instances, you can see what parts of the picture is cut-off by holes in the substrate (such as an iPhone cover camera hole).

While most vendors will provide you with templates for your imprintable blanks, not all blank items will have their own template.  So it is useful to know how to make your own templates.

Here’s how to make your own template:

Cylindrical Objects
cylindrical objects such as mugs and water bottles are especially challenging when making your template as the surface is not flat.  But you can always wrap a piece of paper around the surface and mark critical boundaries on the paper.  Once the critical points are marked, you can easily measure out the dimension as the printable area is likely to be a rectangle.

Here’s an example of making a template from a travel mug white patch.

I have marked the corners with a pencil.  Once marked, I can easily connect the crop marks to make a rectangular shape that I can measure with my ruler and input the template size in my graphics software.

Irregular shaped items
Ceramic ornaments with irregular shapes such as a star, heart, snowflake, etc. are items that you cannot measure with your ruler.  However they can easily be traced or scanned in your copier.  One method is to use a pencil and carefully trace the edges of the object.  After tracing is complete, you can scan it into your computer.

It is recommended to use a scanner and not a camera.  Scanners are more accurate because it keeps the sizing of the template consistent, whereas a camera doesn’t do a good job as taking pictures from different distances will change/affect the size of the template.  It’s best to trace your object on paper and then scan it.  Try to avoid placing the object directly on your scanner to scan as ceramic items may scratch the glass on your scanner.  Once scanned use the pen tool or outline trace tool in your graphics design program to make your template.

Here are some examples below.


In this example, I have traced the heart ornament on a piece of paper.


Here is a scan of the iPhone cover with a black background from our scanner.

Tips and hints on making your own templates
Remember when you are finished scanning or measuring your template, make sure to add a bleed border to your template and to consider safe print areas.  This will account for any tiny difference between the size of the substrate and the size of your template.

And finally here is a link to all of Joto’s imprintable blank templates.

www.jotopaper.com (click on the product to get the template)
Unisub blanks templates

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Centering Your Image on One or Multiple Small Items

Centering your image is easy to do when you are doing a full bleed image.  But what if you are doing an image with just a white background?  It’s difficult to see your image as the substrate or the paper will be blocking the image.

Centering your image on small items such as name tags is quite simple and is similar to bleeding your image on a substrate.  All you need is a border around your image.

Putting a border around your image helps to center the image especially if you plan to have white as your background.  Simply scan in or get the dimensions of your substrate.  Remember when making a border; always make it 0.25-0.50 inches bigger than the actual printing size of the substrate.  This way, you will not accidentally print the border onto your substrate but you will still be able to use it for centering purposes.  Once the border is made, you can center align your image to the border and print!  See picture below.

Here is an example of a name tag (1” x 3”).  I have created a 1.25” x 3.25” border and have centered my image in the middle of the border.   Once printed, simply place the substrate within the borders with roughly equal space between the substrate and the border on all 4 sides.  Then place a blank sheet on top and press.

For items that require the paper to be put on top of substrate, simply tape the substrate onto the paper after alignment and flip over to press.

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

The Importance of Image Resolution


Why is Resolution Important to Your Digital Decorating Business?
Ever have a customer come into your shop and ask you to print a photo they downloaded off the web?  When you print the image, it looks pixelated and out of focus?

This isn’t something that you did wrong, but it is because the image was not at the right resolution.

Normally Web graphics are 72 dots per inch (dpi) and printed graphics are 300 dpi.  Why the difference?  The reason is because web graphics need to be small in size so that it can be downloaded and viewed quickly.  On your computer screen, 72 dpi is enough resolution, however when you print the images/graphics on paper or any other substrate, it will require approximately 300 dpi (more than 3 times the acceptable screen resolution).     This all has to do with the way the images are produced on your screen and on paper.  As a result, what may look good on the computer screen, may not look good when printed.

When a customer sends a file, ensure you check the resolution before printing it.  This will prevent you from wasting paper on poor resolution graphics and images.  In Photoshop, you can click image -> image size.  This will tell you the size of the graphic and its resolution.  In Corel Draw, you can check the resolution by selecting your image and then checking the bottom bar for the resolution, and the top left corner for the size of the image.

You can change the resolution of an image by shrinking it.  If you shrink the image by 10%, the resolution will increase by 10% and vice versa (ensure that resample image is off in Photoshop).  However, if you want to increase a 72dpi image to a 300dpi image, you would have to shrink it by more than 300%!  Example:  6” x 6” image at 72dpi = 1.44” x 1.44” image at 300dpi

Tips/Hints on Resolution
You are more likely to get away with low resolution images if you are printing onto a t-shirt.  It is harder to get away with low resolution images when printing onto a hard substrate as the smoothness of the surface will show the pixilation more.  In addition, photographs can hide low resolution much better than graphics, text, or solid color images.

If a customer sends you a vector file, you won’t have to worry about resolution because most vector graphics are resolution independent and they do not display dpi in your graphics program.  This is because vector graphics are not images but a series of formulas and numbers that can be scaled with very little problems.  Editable text in a graphic design program are normally vector graphics.

Some images may seem like 300dpi because it says it in your program, but someone may have forced a 72dpi image to a 300dpi, saved it and sent it to you.  If this is the case, it may still not print correctly.

As the old saying goes “garbage in, garbage out” sometimes if your customer sends you an image with low resolution, you simply have to set his/her expectations or flat out reject the image!