Sublimation printing is a creative and profitable industry. However, sometimes it can get complicated and frustrating.
After knowing the basics of sublimation printing, the next logical step is to understand how to create more efficient processes that will result in better outputs.
This article will discuss several ways to make sublimation prints brighter and more vibrant and the reasons behind dull and faded sublimation prints.
Whether you are a budding hobbyist or a business owner who still hasn’t fully grasped the tricks and techniques in sublimation printing, this article will surely help you.
Why is my sublimation not bright?
If you are just starting out on sublimation printing, at one point, you probably wondered why your sublimation print looks dull or faded on sublimation paper.
This is understandable because the sublimation print outputs have bold colors. You might think that the vibrance of the colors has to be obvious once the ink is printed on sublimation paper, but that is not the case.
Unlike inkjet or laser printers that print in full color, sublimation printers print dull-colored ink on sublimation paper. This is totally normal.
The sublimation ink will turn vibrant once heated and pressed onto the substrate.
But what if the print on your sublimation paper is really more dull than the usual dullness? Then, you might have missed a few important steps in the printing process.
The first thing you want to do is make sure that you are using the designated software of your sublimation printer to print the softcopy of your design.
For example, if you use a Sawgrass sublimation printer, make sure you use the Sawgrass Print Manager.
If you are working from a Mac, do not print the design directly from Silhouette Studio. Take the extra step of using the designated print manager before printing your design.
Simply import the softcopy of your design onto the designated print manager.
From there, you may adjust the quality of your prints before printing. The print manager will ask what type of ink you will be using, what kind of substrate will you be working on, and what type of sublimation paper will the design be printed on.
After adjusting these settings, click print and expect better and bolder colors on the sublimation paper.
If you are using a Sawgrass printer and want a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the Sawgrass Print Manager, check this out.
How to make sublimation ink brighter?
Essentially, you cannot make sublimation ink brighter. If you are not satisfied with the results of your prints, you may want to buy better, higher-quality inks.
Only use ink cartridges that are compatible with your printer. Ensure that these cartridges are not clogged or blocked.
Also, consider the possibility that maybe the ink is not the problem. If that is the case, try changing sublimation papers instead.
Why does my sublimation look so faded?
Dull sublimation prints on sublimation paper are normal. But if you transfer the print to the substrate and it still comes out faded, then there might be a problem.
Faded images usually occur when you heat press the print with the wrong amount of heat or pressure. However, you may have the right temperature and pressure, but you might have pressed it for the wrong amount of time.
If you heat press with inadequate amounts of heat, pressure, and time, the ink may not sublimate entirely. Therefore, resulting in a faded output.
But if you go a little over the required amount of heat, pressure, and time, you risk the chance of burning or destroying your materials.
To solve this issue, consider double-checking whether you follow the prescribed settings for your sublimation blanks.
Depending on the materials they are made of, each type of sublimation blanks requires a specific amount of pressure, temperature, and duration under the heat press.
As soon as you know the recommended settings, try it again and see if you get better results.
How do I make my colors more vibrant when printing sublimation?
Aside from making adjustments in the temperature, pressure, and duration of your heat press, you might be wondering, are there other measures on how to make my sublimation prints brighter?
Here’s a list on how to make sublimation prints brighter that do not involve adjusting the settings of your heat press.
1. Check your printer.
Before everything else, ensure that your printer is in the proper condition for printing. See to it that your print heads and ink cartridges are not blocked.
Usually, a printer gives off faint colors because dried ink particles block the ink cartridge. This happens when the printer is not used for a long time. If this is your case, you can prevent this from happening again by using your printer more often.
2. Adjust your design’s softcopy.
Using photo manipulation software or designing software, you may adjust the hues, brightness, and opacity of your designs.
A subtle change in the color contrast of the softcopy can hugely affect the final output. You may also want to consider experimenting with color combinations that complement each other well.
You may check out this tutorial for manual color manipulation to know how to get the best colors for your prints.
Additionally, make sure that your design is at least 300 dpi. This helps prevent pixelation or blurriness in the final output.
3. Use the recommended print manager.
As mentioned earlier, using your printer’s recommended print manager helps improve the quality of your prints.
The print manager asks you about the type of ink, paper, and substrate you will be working on. These pieces of information will help the printer adjust to your needs.
If you print directly from other software without the print manager, the printer is essentially just “guessing” the type of output it will produce.
This results in getting subpar prints, sometimes with unnecessary horizontal lines and faded hues, which wastes ink and materials.
So, using the print manager is definitely worth it, even if it is an extra step in the printing process.
Check this video for a more comprehensive explanation and tutorial of how print managers work and how to use them.
4. Replace your sublimation ink or sublimation paper.
If you are using third-party ink because it is cheaper than original ones, then it is time to rethink that decision.
For vibrant-colored prints, make sure you use the printer’s recommended ink cartridge. Do not use low-quality ink that is not compatible with your printer.
Even if those kinds of inks are cheaper, they will cost you more in the long run.
Also, make sure you are printing on the right side of the sublimation paper.
A sublimation paper has two sides: one that is slightly sticky, bright white, and another that is slightly off-white. Print on the sticky, bright white side only.
You might also consider upgrading your sublimation paper. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if it looks great on sublimation paper, it will look better on the substrate. So choose the sublimation paper where your designs look best.
5. Prepare your substrate.
Pre-press your substrate. This helps the substrate absorb more ink during the sublimation process. Press it again one more time after the process to seal the print and prevent bleeding and fading.
See to it that you are using the right sublimation paper for the right substrate. For example, if you want to print on a dark-colored shirt, you might want to use a different sublimation paper for that.
How do you get your sublimation brighter on specific substrates?
But then again, different materials require different techniques. So, how do you get your sublimation brighter on specific substrates?
Here is a list of how you can improve your prints depending on specific materials.
How to make sublimation brighter on tumbler
Tumblers are usually non-problematic substrates. So, if you follow all the steps mentioned above, you are good to go.
Briefly, check whether you are using the right materials for your substrate. Only use tumblers that are qualified for sublimation. Optimize your printer’s print manager. Use the heat press properly.
Printing on a tumbler can be a little tricky because of its shape. Make sure the print is held tightly in place using thermal tape before heating. Adjust the heat press to the required temperature and pressure.
How to make sublimation brighter on mugs
Similar to tumblers, mugs do not require special steps to get the right amount of vibrance on the output. As long as you follow all the steps mentioned in this article, your sublimation prints should be bright and vivid.
Not all mugs are suitable for sublimation printing. Ensure that your mugs are coated with polyester for better absorption of ink.
A helpful general rule in mug printing: if the color black turns brown in the output, you are over-pressing the mug. If the color black turns green in the output, you are under-pressing it.
Watch this video for an in-depth discussion about the most common mug printing problems and how to solve them.
How do I make sublimation brighter on a cotton shirt?
By now, you should know that sublimation prints best stick to polyester. The more polyester content your fabric has, the easier it is to print on via sublimation.
Unlike the tumblers and mugs, cotton shirts need a polyester coating before it becomes suitable for sublimation printing.
The vibrance of the colors highly depends on the kind of polyester coating that you will be using. Among the options are liquid and powdered polyester coating.
Most people in the sublimation industry prefer sublimation sprays instead of powdered ones. Sublimation coating powders are a hassle to apply and require a special kind of transfer paper that is more expensive than regular ones.
On the other hand, liquid sublimation coating often comes in spray bottles. This makes them very easy to apply to the fabric.
Just make sure you buy tried and tested brands of sublimation sprays to get the best results.
Watch this video for a quick tutorial on what sublimation sprays to use and which to avoid.
Cheers to bright and vibrant prints!
In the world of arts and crafts, the trial and error process is inevitable in the arts and crafts world. At first, it might look like you are wasting materials. But remember that each mistake is a step closer to perfection.
However, you do not need to go through that tedious journey to perfection alone, which is why we are here to help you. This article condensed all the tips and tricks we know to help you have brighter sublimation prints.
We hope this article helped you in your business or hobbies.