Dye sublimation is a popular form of digital decoration partly because it produces vivid color and very soft transfers. No other form of garment decoration produces an image that feels softer than a sublimated transfer. But occasionally, that very softness can turn against you and make your normally vivid transfers look pale and lifeless.
When this happens, you can check all the boxes–certify the correct temperature, press time and pressure—to no avail. Customers are waiting and orders are piling up.
Before we reveal the solution, it’s important that you understand the process.
Dye sublimation is done by sublimating ink causing it to become a gaseous dye that permanently stains polyester molecules. Sublimation is the change from a solid or liquid to a gaseous state. It happens in nature every day, even to rocks. That’s how we smell things. We detect the vapors given off by solid or liquid objects. Dye sublimation printing harnesses this process. When the ink and paper reach 400°F, the ink sublimates and becomes a dye that permanently bonds to polymers.
The amount of time required varies depending on the item being dyed. While polyester apparel can by sublimated in 35 seconds, it can take four minutes to dye a ceramic tile. So for something like Champion Performance Wear, you’ll generally get a vivid transfer on white shirts with the standard 400° at 35 – 40 seconds. So what’s going on when the same process produces faded prints? Most are tempted to blame the printer, the ink, or the heat press. But the answer lies elsewhere.
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