Sublimation printing is a unique process that allows you to produce crisp, vibrant prints on almost every type of material, from fabric and wood to even non-porous materials like ceramics and plastic. But what if your sublimation prints turn out dull?
How do you make sublimation brighter? You should make sure that you’re using the right printer, ink, sublimation transfer paper, and heat press, as well as use the right settings to achieve the best results.
In this article, let’s learn more about the sublimation process and find some ways that you can produce more vibrant results using sublimation printing.
Why Is My Sublimation Dull?
The sublimation printing process is pretty straightforward and quite beginner friendly.
First, you print your design out onto sublimation transfer paper using a special ink called sublimation ink. Then, a heat press is used to press the design onto your substrate.
Under high heat and pressure, the ink will vaporize and form a strong bond with the substrate, and the pressure will seal it into your material to produce a print that looks almost exactly like the crisp design that you see on your computer.
To produce vibrant colors on the substrate, the sublimation printer uses just three shades: blue, yellow, and red (also called B-V-R). These colors are mixed together to produce different hues for the design.
However, if one of these tones is out of balance, the results can become dull or distorted. During the printing and the heat press process, if you’re not using the right settings, you’ll immediately see that one or more of the tones are not transferring correctly, resulting in a dull print.
Having talked about the mechanisms of sublimation printing, let’s take a look at how you can adjust your process to produce brighter, more vibrant prints.
For a beginner’s tutorial on all there is to know about sublimation, take a look at this video from Design Bundles on YouTube.
How To Make Sublimation Brighter
There are various factors at play when producing your sublimation prints. Let’s take a look at some ways to make your sublimation brighter here.
Use The Right Sublimation Printer
Having the right sublimation printer is arguably the most important factor. If you have an old printer that you haven’t used in a while, one or more of the ink cartridges can be blocked, resulting in dull printing.
If you don’t use your printer very often, it’s still good to run the printer at least once or twice a month to make sure that it’s still running smoothly.
Another issue that can happen with your printer is if you try to convert a regular printer into a sublimation printer. Although this can certainly be done, improper conversion can cause the printer to malfunction or produce poor print quality.
Using the right sublimation printer with the right settings will make sure that your print quality will always be excellent. If you are not sure, it doesn’t hurt to create a test print first to see if the printer is working correctly, then move forward with your sublimation printing process.
Adjust Print Setting On Your Computer
Another mistake that can happen when you are printing out your design is if you are not using the correct print setting.
The first mistake that can happen is using the wrong color profile. There are two types of color profiles that you will see in most color images: RGB (red, green, blue) and CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black).
RGB color can help you see colors vibrantly on digital screens, but since most printers use the four CMYK colors to print, adjusting the image’s color mode to CMYK will help the print show up well on the printing page.
You should also avoid printing a design from a PDF file and instead use an image file (like .PNG or .JPG) so that the color profiles can be adjusted.
If you can adjust the design setting, it’s best to save an image in at least 3000 DPI (dots per inch) to produce a crisp image quality on the page. If your image has poor quality, it may look blurry or distorted when you try to print it.
Use Quality Sublimation Paper
A sublimation paper is the transfer medium that allows you to transfer the design from a printed page to your substrate.
If you live in a low-humidity climate, it’s best to work with an 80 GSM (grams per square meter) sublimation paper. This is a thinner paper that won’t be distorted when it’s under high heat and pressure, which will produce a crisper print.
If you live and work in a very humid area, it’s better to use a thicker sublimation paper (at least 110 GSM). Since sublimation paper can easily absorb moisture and become weaker, using a thicker paper will help it maintain the print during the heat press process.
You should also know that sublimation paper is one-sided, which means there’s a right side that you will need to print on in order for the design to show up correctly. The paper will have indicators for which side to print on. If you print on the wrong side, the design won’t be transferred correctly to your substrate.
Use High-Quality Ink
High-quality sublimation ink is everything when it comes to producing vibrant colors, and it will also be more durable and stay on your substrate for longer.
If you’ve converted a regular printer into a sublimation printer, make sure to drain all of the old ink from the printer and clean the print heads to make sure that there’s no residue remaining.
That way, the old ink will be completely gone and won’t make a mess when you print with sublimation ink.
Replace Ink Cartridges
Old ink cartridges can lead to all kinds of blockage issues that cause one or more colors to not show up well on the page.
This is a very common issue if you don’t use your sublimation printer very often, so the old ink cartridges can dry up and have blockage issues. If this is the case, it’s best to replace the ink cartridges with new ones so that the colors will run smoothly.
Clean Print Heads
Another issue that can happen with the printer is if your print heads are clogged up and dirty, which means the ink won’t run smoothly to produce your design on the page.
In most printers, you can clean your print heads by running the “Clean Print Heads” option in the printer’s menu and letting the printer does this job.
However, if you have done this step and the print heads are still clogged, you may have to open up your machine and clean the print heads manually to remove any of the blockages that lead to poor printer performance.
Adjust Printer Setting
Sometimes, producing more vibrant colors is just as simple as turning up the brightness and contrast in your printer setting.
If your test print turns out dull, you can try to dial up the contrast and brightness in the print setting to find the best setting for your particular design. Then, run another test print to see if this simple step will fix the issue.
Adjust Heat Press Setting
Using the wrong heat press setting (wrong temperature, wrong time) is the most common mistake when crafters first experiment with sublimation printing.
You should know that the heat press setting is different for every substrate you are printing on. Many people use the same setting: 400°F, medium pressure, for 60 seconds, and expect the same result when they print on all types of substrates.
This setting may work fine if you are printing on a polyester shirt, but other substrates like wood, ceramics, or metal may require different settings for the print to be transferred properly to the substrate.
If the temperature and the pressure are too low, or you don’t press the print for long enough, the design may not be transferred correctly, and the result will be a dull and even damaged print.
On the other hand, if the temperature and pressure are too high, or if you press for too long, you may risk burning the substrate and the print, scorching the entire thing and turning everything yellow or even brown.
Your heat press usually comes with a handy guide that tells you the correct setting for the most common substrates. If you can’t find it, here’s a handy guide:
|Wood (MDF, plywood)||400°F||Medium||80-90 seconds|
Make sure to use the right setting for the material you are printing on so that the sublimation print will always turn out well.
In most cases, the print that you see on the sublimation paper will look a bit duller than the print on the final substrate. You’ll see the vibrant colors in the final result, so don’t be discouraged if the colors don’t show up when you first get the sublimation paper out of the printer.
Practice and experimentation will help you find the best methods to produce vibrant prints using the tools and materials that you have!