Sublimation is a digital print technology that allows the reproduction of full color images on a variety of surfaces. Instead of printing images directly on a surface, which may scratch easily, the image is infused into a special coating that protects and preserves images for generations.
Usually, trapped moisture causes wavy prints. Any moisture held inside the product during the heat press process becomes steam that tries to escape and leaves the final print with a “wavy” appearance.
Avoid wavy prints by using Poly Fabric to prevent moisture. Start by using a Nomex pad, blowout paper, blank product (face up), printed transfer (face down and taped to product), blowout paper and Poly Fabric to top it off.
On some occasions, you may need to preheat the panel to get rid of extra moisture. Try it two ways:
We call this problem “ghosting.” When a shift in the transfer paper takes place while the panel is still very hot from the heat press it results in a duplicate or “ghost” image behind the original image. Here are the easiest ways to prevent duplicate images or text.
Often colored dots come from small strands of cloth or fabric from clothes or microfiber cleaning cloths that fall in between the surface and the transfer paper before pressing.
Take extra care to wipe down and inspect your panel immediately before pressing it to prevent colored dots.
You’ll find white dots when something blocks dyes from transferring to the surface. Usually, dust is the culprit. To prevent white dots, take these precautions:
Make sure to add a bleed to your printed image. (Adding a bleed ensures that the printed transfer is larger than the panel so the image completely covers the panel). A bleed will leave about a .25 inch space around the panel on smaller products.
For example, if you’re sublimating an 8”x10” ChromaLuxe panel, you should print your image at a size of 8.25”x10.25”. Most products will have an online downloadable template that will already include the appropriate amount of bleed. (You can download templates at Unisub.com, by searching for the product number or name.) If you choose to use a template, make sure that text and all other important aspects of your image stay within your “live” area and do not extend into the bleed.)
If you are pressing large ChromaLuxe panels (larger than a 16”x20”) you will need to extend the bleed to compensate for the panel’s expansion in the heat press. For larger metal prints, MDF photo panels or plaques, we generally add up to a .5 inch bleed to the original size of the transfer image.
For Natural Wood Prints or Natural Wood Picture Frames, the bleed will need to be much smaller to keep the dyes from appearing on the sides of the product. For these items, add only a .1″ bleed around all sides, and use a neutral wood color around the outline of the image. Wrap and tape the transfer paper around the edges when pressing.
When removing the protective film from your panels, make sure you’re not using any hard or sharp tools that could possibly damage the surface or edges and that you’re actually removing the film without digging into the sublimatable surface.
You may be able to save an aluminum panel with a chipped edge by sanding the edge until it becomes smooth, which also prevents future chipping. We recommend using 220 grit sandpaper and a sanding block (available at any general hardware store). Sand in one consistent direction along the edge, holding your sanding block at a 45° angle to the face of the aluminum in order to bevel the edge at a 45° angle.
If you experience chipping on small aluminum shapes (some keychains, keepsakes etc.), you can lightly sand the edge before sublimating to prevent chipping. We suggest sanding in a different location than where your heat press is located to prevent dust that may cause other sublimation issues.
Allow your panel to completely cool off before removing the transfer paper.
Handle hot aluminum panels with extra care, especially around the edges.
Never lean panels against the wall. When leaning against a wall, panels can develop a slight bow that will cause them to bow when they are displayed. We recommend storing larger panels on a flat surface before displaying them.
Look at the used transfer paper to identify any issues, instead of just looking at the sublimated surface. Here are some things transfer paper can reveal: