January '19

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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7 0 P R I N T W E A R J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 9 Color Me Delighted SUBLIMATING TO COLORED SHIRTS D A V I D G R O S S New colored blanks specifically designed for sublimation have expanded possible of- ferings. (All images courtesy Vapor Apparel) H enry Ford made a famous statement in 1909 when he said, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black!" Having been around this industry for many years, I can honestly say that many sublimators have a similar attitude towards their shirt offer- ings. Any customer can have any colored shirt so long as it is white! Why limit variation in your products when you could provide a variety of light-colored fab- rics with gorgeous results? A QUICK HISTORY OF SUBLIMATION Sublimation (more correctly called dye-diffusion) was first documented in England in the late 1930s. It started when someone accidentally ob- served special dyes that, when heated, turned into a gas and "dyed" acetate film. For later commer- cial purposes, these special dyes were screen print- ed onto paper and then transferred onto white polyester fabric. The process became a hit because it did not change the feel of the fabric, produced beautiful vibrant colors, and wouldn't wash out. Spring forward to today and sublimation has gone completely viral. Dye-sub transfers produce vivid colors and are incredibly affordable due to the low cost of equipment, inks, paper, and sub- strates. Sublimation is also flexible and scalable from small desktop printers all the way up to wide-format printers. In addition to fabrics, there are now thousands of substrates to decorate rang- ing from useful ceramic coffee mugs to dazzling metal photo panels. HOW DOES SUBLIMATION WORK? Nowadays, we use inkjet printers to print our transfers using sublimation inks. These inkjet printers use a piezo print head to vibrate the sub- limation ink onto release paper. Release paper is designed to "carry the ink" and then do a good job of "releasing the ink" onto the substrate as the ink turns from a solid to a gas during the heat- ing process. To transfer, the printed image/paper is secured to the substrate and placed in a heat press where it is pressed at (usually) 400 degrees F for a dwell time and pressure that is dependent

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