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.

Advertisements

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.

Common Mistakes When Using Sublimation

Many users have had great success with sublimation; they have achieved consistent results every time.  The images are bright, vivid, and match the colors that they have desired.   A few users have had some problems with their images and here are some of the most common mistakes made when using sublimation.  We have duplicated mistakes purposely so that you can compare with our results!

Nozzle Check problems
If the color of your image is off.  For example, if your image has a red tint, or other color tints, there’s a high chance that it is because your nozzles are not firing properly in your sublimation printer.

At the beginning of the day, I always print a nozzle check before I start any jobs as this will ensure that all nozzles are firing.  We suggest daily nozzle checks to prevent virtually all clogs.

Here’s a comparison between a perfect nozzle check and one that isn’t.

Here is a comparison between a print with a perfect nozzle check and one that has a nozzle check problem.

Nozzle print Comparison
The top picture resembles the colors of the original photograph and the bottom one is no where near the original colors

Fixing this problem is very simple.  If your nozzle check isn’t perfect, just clean your nozzle head through your OEM printer driver or through the power driver that you downloaded. And then, perform another nozzle check.  Sometimes it may require more than one head clean to clear the clog.

Check to make sure you are using sublimation paper.

Sublimation requires special sublimation paper for the sublimation inks to release properly when heated.  It is easy to mix up sublimation paper with normal paper as they are both white and feel very similar to one another.  Most standard sublimation papers are only coated on one side (however there are some that are coated on both sides).  You can compare the two sides of the paper to tell sublimation paper and plain paper apart.  The coated side is usually brighter than the uncoated side.  With plain papers, both sides will be the same brightness.


Here is an image of a mug sublimated with normal plain paper.

Printing on the wrong side of the paper

You may be printing on the wrong side of the paper.  As stated above, the coated side of the sublimation paper is brighter than the uncoated side. So be sure to print on the brighter side

If you are printing on the wrong side of the paper, you will get the same result as when you use plain paper.

 

Follow the instructions for your product

Most imprintable blanks will come with their own instructions.  Please follow them carefully.  Each type of blank may have a different set of instructions.  If unsure, please confirm the instructions with your vendor.

   
Here is a comparison between using just the right amount of heat, too much heat, and not enough heat,

As you can see images using too much heat turns the image a bit brown and in some cases the image and text on it will appear pixilated.  And images with insufficient heat will appear faded.

Using the wrong inks


If you accidentally installed the OEM inks that came with your printer instead of sublimation inks, this is what you will get.

Sublimation is an easy to learn method to print onto a variety of substrates including 100% polyester clothing, bags, ceramic mugs, tiles, plaques, etc.  But the instructions have to be followed accurately to achieve consistent results.  Also the setup of your sublimation printer has to be correct.  Sawgrass (A Manufacturer of sublimation inks) has posted excellent videos of how to setup your sublimation printers.  Here are some useful links below for your reference.

Sawgrass Sublijet-R Technical Support
Sawgrass Sublijet-IQ Technical Support

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!