Sublimation printing, as per the true nature of the word, is when you transfer a dye or ink from solid to gas without it going through the liquid phase. This is useful when you want to print designs on surfaces without risking smudging; in this case, the surface is nylon.
Considering that more people are getting into the printing industry, having all your facts right is best, as the learning curve is steep in sublimation. That said, this post will discuss everything you need to know about sublimating on nylon.
Is It Possible to Sublimate on Nylon?
There are conflicting opinions on the internet about whether you can sublimate on nylon; some people are for it, and some are against the idea. While both sides have valid concerns and opinions, the final answer is that you can indeed sublimate on nylon. However, this can only be done at low temperatures because nylon burns when subjected to very high temperatures.
Also, you can’t just use any nylon to sublimate a design. If the nylon you have at hand is blended with other natural fibers such as wool or cotton, chances are it won’t hold well regarding sublimation.
Also, remember that some nylons are pre-heated with dye absorption additives while manufacturing. This way, the said additives help it absorb and hold on to the sublimation dye when it comes around to it. Finally, the printer and heat press you plan to use must be specifically designed to support the task at hand.
What Do I Require to Sublimate on Nylon
Part of why sublimation printing isn’t as popular as other printing methods is because it requires you to have specific equipment. Aside from that, you also need to employ specific temperature and pressure for your prints to come out ideally.
That said, here are a few requirements that you should possess to ensure you have the best results when you sublimate on nylon.
The most crucial part of sublimation printing on nylon is having a printer designed to perform the task. This especially applies if you are looking to print a large number of nylon blanks in a short amount of time. However, if you want to print the said blanks for personal use, you can get away with temporarily transforming your inkjet printer into a sublimation printer.
For context, sublimation printers can accommodate the sublimation ink needed to print on sublimation paper. If you use a different printer, the ink won’t transfer as it should. Worst case scenario, your printer’s ink gauges will get spoilt.
The sublimation paper is also another critical part of this whole process. You must invest in quality sublimation paper designed with nylon substrates in mind for the best results. The substrate paper is tasked with holding the image and transferring it to the nylon substrate. Therefore, investing in quality is better so the image is as good as possible.
Sublimation requires you to have a heat press that will facilitate the image transfer to the nylon. To be on the safe side, you should purchase a heat press with the ability to deliver very low temperatures. Alternatively, you can buy a circuit press because some are designed with nylon sublimation in mind.
Since sublimation involves much movement, purchasing heat tapes is in your best interest. Heat tapes, as the name suggests, can withstand heat and are designed to not interfere with the printing process.
Lastly, you will need the nylon blanks onto which you intend to sublimate the image/print. While making this purchase, ensure you choose the nylon blanks designed to be sublimated. As mentioned earlier, only some types of nylon can withstand the sublimation process.
Step by Step Guide on How to Sublimate on Nylon
Once you have all your necessary equipment, it’s time to start the sublimation process. Please note that some steps may differ depending on your printer and software; here is an overview of what you need to do.
1. Prep the Nylon
If you want a clean design without water bubbles or bumps, it’s imperative to prep the nylon blank thoroughly before you begin the sublimation process. Start by heating it with an iron press or anything similar to remove any moisture or fiber coating that might be present. From there, soak a clean cloth in alcohol or fabric cleaner and wipe out any dust or dirt on the surface of the nylon. Give the garment enough time to dry before moving on to the next step.
2. Prepare the Design
Use professional graphic software such as Adobe, Canva, Illustrator, etc., to design your image/ print. This way, you are assured that the final product will be of excellent quality, and it will also be easy to adjust the size according to your preference. Alternatively, you could commission someone to make the image for you.
3. Print the Design.
Turn on the printer and place the sublimation paper onto the tray as per the instructions on the paper. Also, ensure your printer properties are set to deliver the best quality images by tweaking the properties and turning off the fast printing mode, as it gives sub-par results.
To be safe, try printing the image on standard paper to ensure nothing is amiss. This way, you get to avoid costly mistakes.
4. Cut Out the Design.
Often, sublimation papers come in big sizes, which may be significantly larger than you need. To make it easier to work with, trim the unwanted parts with a specialized tool to avoid uneven cuts. You can also work with the whole printout despite the difficulty level.
5. Pre-Heat the Heat Press.
Turn on the heat press and pre-heat it to the right temperature, pressure, and time. Sometimes, the required temperature will be included in the manufacturer’s guide in the nylon blanks package. If yours doesn’t come with instructions, you must scour the internet for suggestions and then go on a trial-and-error run until you find the right ones.
6. Load Up the Heat Press.
Though it’s not mandatory, placing butcher paper down first on your heat press is best. It will help protect your nylon and ensure the image comes out better. Follow up by placing the nylon blank; for the best results, ensure you smooth out any wrinkles or creases for a smooth image.
Next up, place the sublimation paper face down onto the nylon blank. Please ensure the image is well-positioned to avoid any disappointments. Finally, secure the image with heat tapes to prevent any movements during heating.
7. Start the Heating Process.
If you have parchment paper on hand, place it on top of all the other things loaded on the heat press and start the heating process. Once the timer beeps, remove the parchment and sublimation paper while the nylon is still hot. However, you need to be extra careful lest the image/print will smudge.
Give the garment enough time to cool, and afterward, wash it with mild detergent to remove any excess ink.
Tips To Help You Make Your Sublimation Prints on Nylon Brighter
Considering how expensive and time-consuming the process of sublimating on nylon is, it’s only fitting that you expect bright images. Here are some tips that could help you with the same.
1. Invest in a Quality Printer
Assuming you have already perused the sublimation printing market, you might have realized that there are different machines for each budget point. Keeping that in mind, if you want the best results, you need to invest in a high-quality printer.
Most of the time, the price difference comes because high-quality machines have more color gradients, making the images brighter than cheap ones with fewer color gradients.
2. Find Proper Sublimation Ink
There are specific ink brands manufactured exclusively to print on nylons. To be safe, it’s imperative to find the correct type of ink that complies with the design you have in mind. Thankfully, you can tell the validity and quality of ink simply by studying the reviews.
3. Master the Proper Time, Temperature, and Pressure
For sublimation, you need a heat press to transform the substrate from one state of matter to another. While this process is seemingly straightforward, you must put in extra effort when dealing with nylon. Unlike other materials, nylon can only be sublimated in low temperatures over a shorter time than most.
Therefore, to ensure you get bright prints, you will need a lot of practice to help you determine the appropriate temperature and timing for the specific nylon you are working with.
Another essential factor you need to consider is how much pressure you apply to the heat press. When it comes to nylon, gentle pressure is best. Please avoid overexposing the image on the intended surface; thus, it will appear botched.
4. Use Images With High Contrast
As you may imagine, you can’t use low-quality images and expect them to look any different once printed on the nylon. Therefore, ensure that your image has high contrast and high resolution.
To be safe, try making the image sharper than you would want because it will be toned down once it gets to the printing surface. If possible, avoid images or prints with white parts because sublimation printers can’t print white, and often it ruins the final outlook of the image.
The Pros and Cons of Sublimating on Nylon
The sublimation technique is quickly becoming a fan favorite. However, it’s essential to do your research to determine whether it will suit your needs. Here are a few pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.
Below are some outstanding benefits of sublimating on nylon.
- Bright Images: Sublimating is quite popular because every dot can be a different color. Thus, your images won’t appear foggy but will be pretty bright.
- Seam-to-Seam Printing: Since sublimation is precise, you can print complicated shapes and intricate designs anywhere on the garment. Also, the fact that you can’t be able to feel the design on the garment physically makes it look more natural.
- Small Batch Friendly: The way the sublimation process is structured, coupled with the required raw materials, makes it easy for you to make small batches of clothing without waste.
- Durable: Albeit a bit expensive, sublimation makes up for it because the results are long-lasting. If done well, the print/image will hardly fade, leaving you with vibrant images despite regular cleaning. Also, most nylons are high quality and hold up for extended periods. All in all, the results will last you a long time without any necessary touch-ups.
- Minimal Cleaning Needed: Most of the time, sublimation is mess-free because the ink hardly smudges. Also, you can get by with cleaning your printer after extended periods because the ink hardly corrodes or destroys the parts.
- The process is Environmental friendly: The dyes and inks used during the sublimation process are all friendly to the environment as they don’t release toxic chemicals when burned. That said, the print handlers won’t need to invest in expensive protective gear to protect them against the toxic chemicals, which is a win too.
Below are some disadvantages of sublimating on nylon.
Highly Sensitive: It’s easy to mess up a nylon garment when sublimating. The temperature, pressure exerted, and timing of the heat press must be pretty specific, leaving little room for error.
Expensive: For your final image to be good after sublimating, you need a specialized printer, specialized ink, and high-quality sublimation paper. Also, nylon blanks tend to be more expensive than other types of materials. Overall, this procedure is more expensive than using different techniques with different materials.
Pre and Post-Treatment Requirements: Before you begin the process, you must perform pre-treatment procedures such as ironing out any moisture, removing any debris with alcohol, and so forth. The same is required after the procedure as you will need to wash out any excess ink for the final image to look its best. That said, if you have a large order, the additional steps will be time-consuming.
Thanks to advancements in the printing industry, you can now sublimate on nylon. However, you need to be particular about the type of nylon you intend to use because not all of them are designed for the said task at hand. All in all, the process is relatively straightforward and delivers great results.