What is Considered a Light Colored Fabric?

“For use with White, or Light Colored fabrics.”  You often see this in the instructions of light heat transfer papers.  What does this mean?  Where is the boundary between light colored shirts and dark colored shirts?

The answer isn’t that simple.  It really is a case by case basis.  When determining whether your colored shirt will work with your light transfer papers, you need to determine the type of image it is.

All Black Images
If your image only has black in it such as simple black text or simple line graphics, etc.  It is likely to work on a darker colored shirt such as red and blue shirts.  For most light transfer papers, you will still have to trim around your image to reduce the polymer background.

Photographs/Graphics with solid, non-neutral colors such as reds, deep or dark blues, and greens.
These images can be printed onto colored shirts like pink, beige, or light blue.  But keep in mind that there may be a bit of color distortion depending on the image and the shirt color.

Photographs/Graphics with gradients, drop shadows, light or neutral colors such as grey, light blues, and some yellows.  
These images should only be printed on white fabric only.  This is because colors will distort significantly due to the large amount of white used in the graphic.  Wherever white is used (in gradients, drop shadows, and to produce light colors such light blue), the shirt color will show through and mix with the image.

Black Only Image
Examples of a Black Colored Image on white, pink, and a dark colored fabric.
Black Colored images work well with the colored fabrics shown above
Colored Image
Examples of a Colored Image on white, pink and red fabrics
This colored image works well with both white and pink colored fabrics. On the red fabric, the yellow mixes with the red and the image cannot be printed well on a dark colored fabric.
Photo comparison
Examples of a Light Colored Image on white, pink, and red fabric.
This image only works with a white colored fabric. This image will not print well with most colored fabrics

On light transfer papers, keep in mind that any white areas of any image will become the color of the shirt, as most laser and inkjet printers do not use white ink.  The white comes from the paper.  When using light transfer papers, the white base paper is peeled off leaving the ink and a transparent coating on the shirt.

If unsure whether your image will work on a colored shirt, it is a safer bet to use a dark heat transfer paper instead of a light one.  Dark heat transfer papers will work on any colored fabric.  However, dark transfer papers tend to be a little bit thicker and costs a little more than light transfer papers.

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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!

Advantages of Sublimation Printing

Sublimation is a digital printing method for a variety of hard surface products and also includes printing onto polyester t-shirts. Because there is such a huge selection of items that can be printed with sublimation, it is a very attractive printing option.

What Do You Need To Get Started In Sublimation?
You will need an inkjet printer (Ricoh or Epson), sublimation inks, sublimation paper, and a heat press. In addition, you will need a white or light colored substrate that is either coated with a polyester coating or made of polyester fabric for sublimation to work.

Inkjet printers that are compatible with Sawgrass (a major distributor of sublimation ink) inks include: Ricoh GX7000, Ricoh GX3300, Epson 1900, Epson 4880, Epson 1800, and many older models that are discontinued.

If you are just getting started on sublimation, it is recommended that you buy a complete packaged system as that will save you a little bit of money compared to buying the components separately.

What Can You Print With Sublimation?
Anything that is flat, white or light colored and is either polyester coated or made of polyester fabric. You can also print on mugs, shot glasses, etc if you use a mug press or a mug wrap with an oven. Here is a small list of popular items that sublimation can be used:

Ceramic mugs | Water bottles | Coasters | Metals | Magnetic sheets | Plaques | Name badges | License plates | Car flags | Mouse pads | Fabric puzzles | Ceramic tiles | Glass tiles | Poker chips | 100% polyester shirts and more!

The Unisub catalog has a huge selection of high quality polyester coated items for you to choose from as well.

Why Choose Sublimation?
Here is a list of the advantages that come with sublimation printing

  • Sublimation is one of the very few methods you can print full colored images onto hard surfaces.
  • It has a relatively low learning curve compared with screen printing.
  • Almost unlimited colors to choose from. Thousands of colors can be produced with sublimation (even if you choose a 4 color printer). And it doesn’t cost extra to add additional colors to your design.
  • Same cost to print one item or 1000 items. So no need for minimum orders, and perfect for 1-up items and promotional items for small businesses, schools, charities, sports teams, parties, reunions, and many more!
  • Complete customization! The advantage of digital sublimation printing is that no plates are required, so it is ideal for customizing designs with changing elements such as names, numbers, etc.
  • Sublimation is quick and easy to produce, allowing for same day or same hour printing, as well as on demand printing that reduces risk and wastage.

Disadvantages
With every printing method there will be disadvantages and so here are a few…

  • Substrates need to be polyester coated or made of polyester fabric.
  • Substrates need to be white or light colored. You cannot print onto dark or black colored items.
  • Printers tend to clog if not used for extended periods of time. With the introduction of Ricoh printers, the clogging risk has been significantly reduced. However we still recommend doing a nozzle check once a week.
  • Sublimation inks are relatively expensive compared with OEM inks. This will need to be factored in when pricing your products.
  • Color Management issues. With the installation of the PowerDriver, color management problems have been significantly reduced. As with all printers, color management issues will vary depending on the graphic/photograph.

With all the advantages of sublimation, it’s obvious why sublimation has become a very popular method with digital decorators!