Sublimation printing at home has made it much easier for small businesses, creators, makers, entrepreneurs, and even beginners to build a personalization business. Irrespective of whether you have a small budget or a little space, you easily get started with sublimation printing with a few pieces of equipment and a computer. Selling high-quality custom products with lots of varieties at an affordable investment and viable skills makes sublimation printing stand apart from DTG and screen printing.
There are many amazing places to start your sublimation printing business at homes such as loft, utility room, guest room, living room, and garage if you have enough space left. Moreover, you don’t need a special setup. You can easily get started with a dining table.
6 Things to Get Started With Sublimation Printing at Home:
To start a sublimation printing business at home, you need the following equipment and accessories:
1. Dining Table:
A six to eight seated dining table is enough for placing the sublimation printing equipment. The most important ones include a computer(PC/Mac), a sublimation printer, and a heat press machine. Besides, you also need transfer papers & ink, which can be adjusted in a little space.
A four to five-tier rack is more than enough to place sublimation blanks such as mugs, t-shirts, tumblers, cups, ceramic tiles, etc. The rack shall cost you around $25 to $30. Even lesser if you’re getting it from a local market.
3. Desktop(PC or Mac):
You need a computer installed with any of the software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Draw. As sublimation or any custom product is a graphic inclined business. The product design software makes it easy to draw or edit graphics to is taken as a printout using a sublimation printer that we discuss below.
4. Sublimation Printer & Transfer paper:
A sublimation printer is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the sublimation printing industry. When you want graphics printed on paper(transfer paper), you need a sublimation printer. For home use, get a small-sized and compact sublimation printer like Epson SureColor F170. It has an overall dimension of 13.7″ x 13.7″ x 7.4″ and weighs.
Transfer paper is different from plain paper. It is coated with wax and pigment. You easily get it from any local market. It is covered with a simple plastic sleeve.
Transfer paper is used with an ordinary inkjet printer. The image/graphic printed on paper gets transferred onto the substrate under the application temperature and pressure using a heat press machine. Before that, the transfer paper gets an image onto it with a sublimation printer. Just similar to a printer print on normal paper.
Most importantly, unlike ordinary prints, you need to print on a transfer paper with the mirror mode. The reason it will become apparent upon printing on a substrate. Moreover, you must be able to print your image in reverse. But if you have got a text, you must print it in the mirror.
5. Heat Press for Sublimation Printing at Home:
You have got a printed transfer paper, and you turn it into a business by transferring the print onto a substrate using a heat press. You can also get a mug press if you have a personalization focus on the drinkware. At the same time, a home iron is an alternative, but you wouldn’t have high-quality and vibrant production-level prints.
Now, there is a lot of heat press available in the market. However, being a beginner, you can start with a platen size clamp heat press. The smaller ones come within a range of 11” x 15” in dimension. It takes really a small place. You can easily use it on a kitchen table. Moreover, it is not particularly heavy. You can move it to your kitchen, office, or storage and place it back when needed.
While if you decorate larger products, go with 16” x 20” or larger heat press machines. Of course, you can’t use domestic iron if you get into a professional business to make money as you have to do with many orders, and iron takes time and compromises quality. However, if you are learning for self go with a domestic iron.
On the other hand, heat press on drinkware, coffee mugs, tumblers, water bottles, and those with a curved surface needs a mug press. If you can press a selection of a large number of mugs or tumblers, go with a 5-in-1 mug press.
6. Additional Requirements:
In addition to the above, you must have a couple of other items to start with sublimation printing. They are thermal gloves, thermal tape or spray adhesive and Teflon sheets.’
Thermal gloves: Sublimation printing involves the application of a heat press. Any form of mishandling may cause burn. Therefore thermal goes are necessary to protect against injuries.
Thermal tape: The printed transfer paper is likely to shift from the substrate during heat press. As a result, it causes the ghosting of prints. Therefore, we use thermal tape to temporarily fix the transfer paper with the substrate to prevent shifting.
Spray adhesive: It has a similar function of temporarily fixing the transfer paper onto a substrate to prevent shifting if you are not using thermal tape.
Teflon sheets: We don’t apply heat directly onto the paper for the print transfer. Instead, we cover it with a Teflon sheet to prevent ink from staining and sticking to the plate.
Finally, you are done with the sublimation printing setup in your home. Let us get starting with the custom printing procedure.
Step by Step Procedure for Sublimation printing at home:
We will start with sublimating a t-shirt:
The best reason for sublimating a t-shirt is that you get photo quality image with vibrant colors. Not only that, since you are dyeing the shirt, the transfer doesn’t feel like it’s there at all. Also, making it very light to wear. Lastly, sublimation is a permanent solution and has fantastic washability. If you are new to sublimating or doing research on it, here’s a quick look a what you need to sublimate a t-shirt.
1. Sublimation Printer: It is a specialized printer, ink, and paper made especially for sublimation. Mostly called transfer paper, as we discussed above. It takes a printout of the graphic/image on the transfer paper, which we will be using for the heat press.
2. Heat Press: A 15 x 15-inch heat press is ideal for sublimating adult t-shirts.
3. T-shirt: Of course, you need a substrate, and we have chosen to start with a tee shirt. Remember, you need a 100% polyester t-shirt. Because of the nature of the sublimation process, you can’t use organic materials like cotton. The dye will not stick to it. For the best, most clear, and vibrant results, go with 100% polyester.
Let us start:
Step 1: First, center your shirt on the lower platen of the heat press and pre-press for about three seconds. Pre-pressing the shirt helps eliminate moisture in the shirt and gives us a smooth flat surface to work.
Step 2: Place the sublimation transfer print side down on the tshirt. To place it in a correct position. You can use an alignment tool like a T-square to get more professional results when placing your transfers. Most importantly, fix the transfer paper in place using a heat-resistant/thermal tape/adhesive spray. It is done to avoid shifting of transfer paper during the application of heat press.
Step 3: Before pressing, cover the transfer paper with a piece of parchment paper or Teflon sheet to protect the heating element from any out gas, dye, or bleeding. If you are using a thinner t-shirt, you may need to slip a piece of parchment paper inside the shirt to block any bleed through to the back or onto your pressing pillow.
Step 4: Slide the lower platen back, lower the upper platen, and press for 50 seconds at 385 degrees Fahrenheit at medium pressure. The recommended temperature and pressure for sublimating garments are:
Temperature: 385 – 400°F
Time – 45 – 60 seconds
Pressure – Medium
Moreover, depending on your heat-press, t-shirt ink system, and local climate, you may need to use more heat and time. It is recommended to perform several test presses with different settings to see what works best for you.
Step 5: Next, release the upper platen of a heat press and let them cool. If the ink on the transfer paper is still hot, it may release onto the shirt. So, if it shifts, it may leave us imprint on the shirt. This would result in a blurred look that’s commonly referred to as ghosting.
Step 6: After it gets cool, remove the parchment paper carefully. Next, pull off the transfer paper from the t-shirt carefully like a Band-Aid up and away from the tee. And there, get a dazzling sublimated t-shirt that feels super soft. This transfer is soft, vibrant, high-resolution, and permanent print.
You can easily start your sublimation printing business at home within $600 to $700, including the cost of a sublimation printer, heat press, ink, transfer papers(set of 10), and sublimation blanks.
Custom printing is profitable and trending over traditional products sold in e-commerce or offline stores. And if you decide to get into this business, there is no other method than to start with sublimation printing.
Which side to print on transfer paper?
You have a transfer paper with a red line making a grid formation that obviously tells not to print. The other side of the transfer paper, which is completely white, is the printing surface. Once you have an image, and it can be photographs, graphics, logos, or anything of your imagination, you can easily print.
Which is the best sublimation paper for dark shirts?
PPD transfer paper is the best for sublimation printing on dark or black color t-shirts. As an alternative to heat press, you can iron to sublimate t-shirts. Therefore, it is possible to sublimate on dark cotton.