Sublimation as a process can be somewhat interpretive and there are at times many ways you can get from point A to point B and still make a product that could be salable But just because you can do it one way, does not mean that ultimately that is the best way to do it and in the long run you want to find your set of best practices to sustain your business. I have been in many shops and have talked to tons of sublimation professions and in my travels, I have found there are certain themes that seem to be common. Below are 5 best practices of a good sublimation professional:
- Ganging Substrates – Hold onto your orders for as long as possible and put all the orders for each kind of substrate together. When it is time to do production, you can get things set-up and going and reproduce items quickly and with fewer issues, if you are pressing the same way over and over. This also keeps you from having to switch the heat press setting as often as we all know who have sublimated, it is getting things dialed in on the first few that will eat through valuable substrates.
- Documentation – You should be absolutely over the top about documenting in details your correct time and temperature and other settings for each substrate and having that easily accessible for everyone in your business. You should also document those same things on each work order so you can determine when problems might occur and quickly fix them and get back to production as normal.
- Color Management – Each day when you begin production you should check that all nozzles are firing and then make sure that you have color management done for each substrate you run. Colors are going to look different from one substrate to the next, so it is important to make this a regular part of your process so you get consistent color from one item to the next. You should also go through dialing in your colors when you change paper, inks of substrate vendors regardless if they say their product is “drop-in” or not.
- Ghosting Prevention – Always tape or use a tack paper or spray tack adhesive. Even if you think you can just lay it on the transfer paper and get it off without it, you will ruin more blanks then the money you will save by not using tape or tack. Make sure to use a small amount of spray tack adhesive on soft good and one or 2 pieces of tape on hard surface items. Just enough to keep it form ghosting when you are removing the substrate from the heat press.
- Cost vs Value – Do not confuse cost with value especially when it comes to the tools you are buying to run your business. Take a heat press for example. Maybe the initial investment of $1,000 or more seems high, but this is the centerpiece of your professional business and they are made to last. I can not tell you how many people I have talked to who asked why they had such a hard time getting a consistent quality product only to find out their heat press cost them $150 and they have no idea what the actual heat or pressure that their heat press gives from press to press. The same thing can go for your inks, papers, and substrates. If you got into sublimation to be the cheapest person in town, you will have a very hard time being successful.