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

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.