Transferring Designs to Fabric: Using the Sublimation Printer + Heat Presses
Whole Garment Printing
Collection from Sublimation Printed Fabrics
Sublimation process is a method of printing that transfers a design into a material or fabric using ink and heat. First, a design is printed onto special paper. The inks that are used turn into gas when brought under heat, then combine with the fabric and permanently print onto the fabric. The effects are permanent, flexible and less prone to fading, as the ink is embedded in the fabric rather than a pigment applied as a layer only on the surface (as in a screen print).
In the world of apparel, it's a game changer in that it allows for whole garment prints — designs that go seam-to-seam. Regular fabric patterns are created through rotary or flatbed screen printing that required individual screens for every color used and large yardage minimums. Sublimation printing uses 95% less water in the production process, 75% less energy and much less fabric goes to waste since you can print the exact number of meters you will need. Using recycled instead of virgin polyester materials is even more sustainable.
DESIGN + FILE SETUP
HEAT TRANSFER VINYL
For vinyl transfers using the Cricut Maker machine, prepare your design files using any graphic program, then convert the designs using the online Cricut Design Space program. Here is a PDF guide to the Cricut Design Space for your reference.
For sublimation printing, prepare your design file using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or Kaledo Print.
The printer outputs in linear feet at a maximum width of 44 inch paper sizes. Please utilize the paper space ( layout) as efficiently as possible.
TEST STRIP TEMPLATE: Print a free test strip . Create a 6 inch (L) x 44 inch (W) test strip prior to the final print file. Use this to calibrate the heat settings for your material and test your file/color settings before going to print the full-size print.
PRINT FILE TEMPLATE: Use the print file template to setup your final print artwork. The MAX width is 44" and length is indefinite (depends on your artwork). You will be charged $0.25 per linear inch (length of the file) for printing your final print file, so make sure that you format your document correctly, double check it, and lay it out efficiently across the 40" allowable width. Pricing list can be found on the Services page
Use this link to download Digital Fabric Printer template files from Google Drive
Lab staff will print sublimation files. Printing order will be first come first serve. Contact a lab staff member if you need printing done. Fridays are best. Any completed prints will be left for student pick up in 6461 before 4 pm. The TIL cannot intake large print volumes (more than 3 yards of paper per person.
You are responsible for transferring the print from the paper to your fabric using the heat press or heat calendar.
Lab staff is not responsible for the quality or outcome of your final fabric. Calibration of your own heat settings and running print tests and appropriate preparation of your fabric and design for your final print transfer is a good practice to ensure best outcomes.
Your print file images MUST BE INDEXED to 256 colors or less (In Photoshop: Image > Mode> Indexed Color. In Kaledo Print > Use the Color Reduction Studio.
Save design files as a PDF or TIFF file format onto a flash drive. Bring your flash drive to the Textiles lab during open print hours. DON'T FORGET YOUR THUMB DRIVE once printing is complete.
TRANSFERRING YOUR DESIGN TO FABRIC
Students must have completed training in order to use the heat press and heat calendar equipment. Sublimation printing only becomes permanently set when using materials made from polyester fibers ONLY.
The digital printer uses a dye sublimation process, meaning that the ink can ONLY bind permanently onto polyester or PVA blended fabric/materials. Other synthetic or natural materials will not work with our printer- ONLY Polyester. Students are responsible for providing their own materials.
Preparation: Materials should be prepared for print (cut to a maximum width of 44 inches, labelled and pressed).
Heat transfer materials (like iron-on vinyl) can be used with the heat press on other types of fabric substrates like cotton, rayon, nylon or other materials with varying fiber content. Please consult lab monitor or faculty for advice on specific materials. Heat press settings for those materials can be calibrated based on the suggestions from the material manufacturer (look on the package!).
Do not EVER use any adhesives (spray adhesives, tape, glue, screenprinting inks, etc) in the heat press or heat calendar. DO NOT put materials with existing screenprinted designs, vinyl transfers or other thermoplastic materials that are already applied in the press or calendar. The equipment is very hot, and those items will melt (not in a good way) and cause the surface of the press or calendar rollers to be contaminated. Please consult with lab team member if you have questions about this.
If you need to adjust the heat and time settings (increase/decrease heat or time) you may do so, but please make sure to reset the press at the standard settings once you are finished. If you notice any burning, ghosting or irregular transfer marks, please ask the lab monitor or a professor to help with troubleshooting.
Transfer your printed design from the paper to your material using the heat press or heat calendar equipment as follows:
The heat press should be set to 375 degrees for 1:30 as a standard for Sublimation Printing and for Heat Press Vinyl transfers. You may adjust time and temp as needed, but please return the press to these settings when you are finished.
Heat Press’s temp and time can be adjusted according to manufacturer standards for vinyl transfers. CHECK THE MANUFACTURERS SETTINGS ON THE PRODUCT SAFETY DATA SHEET FIRST!!!!
DO NOT CHANGE THE PRESSURE SETTINGS USING THE BLACK CRANK ON THE BACK OF THE MACHINE- THIS SHOULD NEVER BE ADJUSTED.
INDUSTRIAL HEAT CALENDAR
The Heat Calendar should be set to 400 degrees and a speed of 15 as a standard for sublimation printing. You may adjust time and temp as needed, but please return the press to these settings when you are finished.
Heat Calendar temp and time should be adjusted according to manufacturer standards for vinyl transfers.
If you are the last to use the heat calendar, turn the heat dial off, but DO NOT TURN OFF THE CYLINDER ROTATION ON THE HEAT CALENDAR. LET IT CONTINUE TO TURN AT LOW SPEED UNTIL THE MACHINE COOLS DOWN COMPLETELY.
For best print results
press your fabric perfectly before you run it through the press or calendar for print transfer
If you are printing edge to edge fabric yardage, roll your fabric and paper onto a tube and set the tube onto the front bar of the heat calendar so that you can evenly feed it into the machine. IF THE FABRIC or PAPER is not fed into the machine perfectly parallel to the rollers, then you may encounter errors. Be careful, and have a friend come and help you!
Below you can find some standard heat and time settings for many of the Cricut brand materials that can be used.