Top 10 Back to School Products For Every Occasion

Summer is almost over and the back to school frenzy is in full blast. Stock up on these great products – they are a must for the new school year! From backpacks to socks, we have you covered.

1. Backpacks

These hot items can be personalized for any age and fashion sense and are highly functional during the school year. Our unisex sublimation backpacks (pictured on left below) come with a full white flap cover for either partial or full sublimation. Already have a backpack that you bought from a store but can’t sublimate on? Heat Transfer Vinyl may be what you are looking for, which is perfect for lettering, logos and school mascots (pictured on right below).

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2. Drawstring Bags

Our drawstring bags provide a different option besides a backpack and are fully dye-sublimation friendly made from 100% white polyester (both one sided and two sided bags are available). These would be a cool accessory for sports teams and after school activities, but can be used to make a fashion statement too! They are ideal for middle school students and older as they are somewhat large for a small child.

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3. Vinyl

We can’t forget our vinyl which can be applied to cotton, polyester and blends along with other fabrics that can withstand heat of up to 320F. Our vinyl comes in many colors and textures, from standard matte to specialized glitter and flock materials. Add letters, school mascots, quotes and logos to any shirt that can match and even outshine the school spirit clothes offered at the school bookstore. Go a step further and create designs inspired by current trends: animals, motivational quotes, and personal hobbies!

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(Vinyl used in photo: Easyweed Silver)

4. Water Bottles

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Pick from two styles of waterbottles: stainless steel straw-top and regular removable cap, available in a natural silver/steel finish and glossy white to achieve your desired look. These are ideal for sublimation in a mug press or an oven with a silicone wrap. They are easy to carry from one classroom to another or to any after school program.

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5. Socks

100% white polyester socks for front and back sublimation are perfect for youth and adults alike. These come in different sizes as well as lengths. Crew socks, tube socks, knee high socks: we got all the socks for you! For better results, we recommend using a straight jig or a hockey jig, which stretches the sock and allows for sublimation ink to dye maximum surface area, however that is not necessary with the black interior socks (pictured below).

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6. Bookmarks

Never lose another page with our custom bookmarks! These are a must, and they are made from durable aluminum and come in a longer 1.5 x 5 in. size (pictured below) as well as 2×3 in. size. The ultra white glossy side is made for quality sublimation results. The days of dog-eared book corners are over!

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7. Compact Mirrors

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Pretty AND useful: our beautiful mirrors are truly compact at only 2.25 inches and can fit in purses and even smaller pockets. There is a regular mirror on one side and a magnifying mirror on the other and the top cover comes with a separate glossy white sublimation insert that is easy to attach. Square and round shapes are available. Middle school to high school girls would love this great addition to their makeup kit for a midday touch-up or getting ready for a school event.

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8. Headbands

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Headbands have become a must-have accessory for everyday use to keep those stray hairs away. Our headbands have a satin white finish and a black velvet interior for comfort and slip resistance.The satin finish results in excellent image clarity and vibrancy. The adjustable elastic back allows them to fit most ages from elementary all the way to college. To sublimate, simply unclip the back and lay them flat on the press. Easy and beautiful!

9. Cuff Bracelets

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Add the finishing touches to any outfit with custom bracelet cuffs! These Chromaluxe bracelets promise a vibrancy that is equivalent to the gallery worthy photo aluminum panels made by the same company. This year, we have added many more styles and finishes to the list. Now there is a choice between white, gold and silver finishes and multiple shapes and thicknesses.

The bracelet cuffs arrive flat for perfect sublimation and then are curved using our form tool.

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10. Arm Sleeves

Vapor’s arm sleeves are still fairly popular, especially among students who play sports but with the right design, these can be worn by just about anybody, regardless of age. They are available in a range of youth and adult sizes for the perfect fit.  Their dual function of protection and fashion placed this item on our top 10 list.

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7 Tips for Sublimation Success


If you are just starting out in sublimation or already have a running business, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your business is running smoothly and avoid potential problems.

1 . Get the right equipment

Sublimation is an attractive opportunity because it can be easy and fairly cheap to set up. The only equipment that is needed includes a printer, sublimation ink, sublimation paper and a good heat press.

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Note: In this blog, we talk about sublimation ink in general but it is important to note that the only ink we offer and support for small format printers is made by Sawgrass, which is the official manufacturer who holds multiple patents for sublimation printing. Ink for wide format printers comes in a wider variety but is not specifically mentioned. 

Currently, the two major competing brands for small format printers are Epson and Sawgrass. Both produce great image results but are different when it comes to the ink they use. The main difference is that Epson inks have higher water content so they are prone to clogging when not in use for a  period of time. However, the ink can come in larger bags (bulk ink system) therefore resulting in a much lower ink cost per page. Epson is a great route for those who will be printing a lot on a daily basis, but not ideal for businesses that don’t print daily.

The Sawgrass Virtuoso system on the other hand is an all around perfect package for those who are brand new to sublimation. This is an easier system to set up, very active customer support all through Sawgrass on both printer and inks, and is good for both small and large volume jobs. The cartridges are larger than most standard cartridges that come with Epson, but there is no bulk system available for those who print hundreds of prints a day. The ink has lower water content and is formulated like a gel to prevent drying and clogging. The printers have automatic self-maintenance as long as they are left on which keeps the nozzles clean at all times.

Click HERE to see more of our Sawgrass packages.

Finally, a good heat press is a must. Consistent pressure and temperature are factors that can make or break your sublimation process. We recommend swing away presses which can accommodate thicker objects  and overall provide more even pressure over time. Clam shell presses are more budget friendly and good choice for thinner objects and garments but not as good for thicker glass or ceramic items.

2 . Stock Up On Accessories

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To get the workflow going, we recommend the following accessories:

Heat gloves– protect your hands from burning when handling items

Thermal tape + tape dispenser– use this heat resistant tape to secure your paper on items and prevent shifting or moving which can ruin the transfer. A tape dispenser cuts down on the production process by always keeping your tape ready for use.

Spray adhesive– another method to keep paper in place. Recommended for garments and fabrics.

Teflon sheets or Teflon covers– protect your lower heat platen with this water proof Teflon that can be easily wiped off and cleaned. A Teflon sheet can also be placed on top of a transfer as extra protection.

Silicone sheets– The thinner and more temporary  alternative of Teflon, these can also be used on the bottom platen as well as placed on top of the transfer, to catch any escaping ink from staining the heat press or prevent dirt from accidentally transferring on the substrate.

Heat transfer pillows– The life savers when it comes to pressing certain hard surface items, garment with seams or zippers,  or raising an area of a t-shirt to prevent the dreaded indentations the paper edge can leave due to the pressure. We always keep a few of these close by.

Sublimation heating pad– A good accessory to have if you are pressing multiple ceramic or metal items. Works like magic by distributing the heat evenly throughout the whole surface area.

 3 . Stock Up On Blanks

Sublimation can be tricky at times. New problems arise, mistakes happen, and items go out of stock last minute. If there is a large order due in a month, always plan ahead and factor in possible time for testing and trial and error, extra blanks that may end up being a waste, ordering as early as possible, etc.  Holidays are especially risky because items can be in stock one day and back ordered for weeks following that.

Click HERE to view all of our available blanks.

4. Know Your Design Software

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Chances are that at least a basic design software is needed to be able to do things like crop and re-size an image to fit a specific item. Further, all of our products come with free downloadable templates, found on each product page in PDF (Photoshop) and EPS (Illustrator or Corel Draw) format. To use these templates successfully, some knowledge on how to use a design software such as Photoshop is a must. To stand out further as a business, creating your own designs from scratch would be ultimately the winning goal. There are a ton of written tutorials and videos online on Adobe Suite programs as well as Corel Draw. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are both available as a 1 month free trial download on the Adobe website.

One of our favorite websites Tutsplus offers a ton of tutorials on Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop as well as wider topics on graphic design, photography and even business. Another popular site among schools is Lynda which requires a sign up but also offers a free trial.  A simple Youtube “How-to” search is an alternative way to find many instructional videos on various design programs.

Check out the following videos from our Channel on how to use our templates with the corresponding design program:

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Illustrator

Corel Draw

5. Watch How Other People Do ItLDS_Art_Home

 

It is no secret that people have the tendency to come up with their own way to sublimate an item, but it is also a good idea to keep up with current videos and blogs on what is new in sublimation or how to press an item. You may catch something in that process that is easier or results in a better transfer than what you might be used to doing. Or if you are brand new, then a little bit of research goes a long way.

Visit our Youtube channel to see a full list of our sublimation videos on various topics.

6. Heat, Pressure and Moisture

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If you are running into problems with the final transfer being faded, burned, too light or spotty, check the three most important things: heat, pressure or moisture.

Too much or too little heat are usually problematic and result in over pressing or under pressing of the substrate. Uneven heating on the press is also an issue and results in spottiness where parts of the substrate sublimate properly but other parts don’t. It is a good idea to invest in temperature strips or a thermal gun, both of which map out the temperature of the heat platen. If there are any inconsistencies or cold spots, it is best to call the manufacturer of the press.

Pressure is equally important and sometimes, uneven transfers can be resolved by simply increasing the pressure. It is possible for the press to be providing uneven pressure however and generally, the manufacturer would do a phone walk through on how to calibrate the press and provide additional assistance to resolve that problem.

If everything checks out, moisture may play a role in spotty transfers. Moisture can warp flat items and can act as a barrier between the surface and the sublimation ink trying to penetrate it. This step is not always listed on the instructions, but it is good practice to pre-press items for 5-10 seconds at high heat and light-medium pressure to let moisture escape and flatten out the substrate. For warped items, such as MDF boards, pre-pressing both sides may be necessary.

Check out our more detailed blog on moisture HERE 

7. Test, Test, Test

No matter how long you have been in the sublimation business, variables change all the time and sometimes overnight. A heat press may suddenly not heat up to the temperature it shows or apply even pressure even though it has worked for 2 years without an issue. An item may be slightly changed in manufacturing requiring a heat/time adjustment which usually happens without warning, or it could be a brand new item you have never used before.

Luckily, you don’t need a ton of extra items to do testing. All blanks can be pressed multiple times for testing purposes. Anything that is previously sublimated will fade out, but the coating itself can take on multiple presses and would not be affected.  The easiest way to test is with small black strips (maybe throw in a few primary colors). Black looks brown when over pressed and grey when under pressed, so that is a pretty good way to figure out what combination of temperature, time and pressure produce the deepest black with sharpest edges. It is generally bad practice to test a full image on a final item and just hope it works right off the bat. That often leads to a wasted item with no extra white space that can be re-used for testing.

IMG_20150717_105559Once the perfect black is achieved with the right combination of settings, we recommend printing out an RGB color chart and pressing that onto the item(s) that will be big sellers.

That way, you will know exactly what the colors will look like on the final product. Remember that light can produce more color combinations (what you see on screen) than what a physical pigment can create (what you see on the final product).

 

 

 

 

 

Tips and Tricks For Wide Format Sublimation on Photo Panels

To ensure that your large Chromaluxe photo panels come out looking perfect, we have compiled a few key tips and tricks for wide format sublimation production that will make the process for you easier and significantly reduce errors!

The following tips are suited for sublimation on any wide format press, however for this blog we pressed our sample panels using the new Hix Single Platen Air-Automatic Heat Press which is designed for superior edge to edge pressing and may be upgraded to two heat platens for maximum production efficiency.

Temperature, Time and Pressure

Temperature

Always ensure that the press is evenly heated at 400F. Heat test strips are a great product to use for testing the temperature throughout the heating element. When pressing a cool item, there may be a drop in temperature. If that drop is more than 15 degrees F. and takes more than 15-20 seconds to recover, set the pressing temperature to 410F to compensate for the heat loss.

Time

The pressing time varies depending on the panel size but the general guidelines are:

Aluminum/ Steel Panels

  • 24″ x 24″ – 90-120 seconds
  • 36″ x 36″- 120-150 seconds
  • Over 36″ x 36″- 150-180 seconds, raising temperature accordingly with increased panel size

FRP/Hardboard Panels

  • 24″ x 24″- 120-150 seconds
  • 36″ x 36″- 150-180 seconds
  • Over 36″ x 36″- 180-200 seconds
  • For panels smaller than 24″ x 24″, decrease the total time by 15 seconds

Pressure

Pressure should be set at a minimum of 60 p.s.i to ensure an even press and will aid in flattening out large items that are prone to warping.

Important Accessories

There are a few items that are highly recommended if not necessary for great results.

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High-temp felt/rubber pad (Ie: Nomex felt)

Place a 1/4″- 1/2″ thick Nomex felt or rubber pad on the bottom platen to keep the heat from escaping through the bottom platen.

 

 

 

 

AAA_4826Polyester cloth
Large polyester cloth, such as the Endura brand offered by Unisub,  that covers the entire heat platen helps to wick away moisture from the paper and substrate while pressing. It is best to stretch the cloth over the heat platen as much as possible to avoid wrinkles.

 

 

 

AAA_4802Newsprint paper
If polyester cloth is not available, you may place 2 sheets of newsprint paper over the substrate. We also use a few sheets underneath the substrate to protect the lower platen from getting stained from sublimation ink. It is a quick and easy way to keep everything clean!

 

 

Correct Paper Type

Wide format sublimation papers are not all made equal. There are some paper brands made for amazing transfers onto fabric but don’t always work as good on hard surfaces. The two main differences to look for are clay coated papers which are ideal for photo panels and cellulose coated papers that are better for fabric – fabric papers also tend to be semi-adhesive, for easy tacking to the fabric that reduces ghosting and blurry transfers. Electrostatic sublimation transfers are not compatible with Unisub coatings.

Troubleshooting Problems

Image appears blotchy, striped/wavy, or colors are running into each other (watercolor effect)

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Moisture is most likely the problem. Chromaluxe panels hold a lot of moisture, especially large panels. Make sure all moisture sources are eliminated by pre-pressing all panels for at least half of their normal pressing time and using either polyester cloth or newsprint over the substrate. Sometimes there is moisture on the paper from the inks themselves. Drying the paper can be sped up by placing it inside the press ensuring that the top and bottom platen are 4″ to 5″ inches apart and let the paper sit for 2-3 minutes (do not close the press).

 Image appears blown out/blurry/yellow

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This is due to over-pressing the image. Decrease the total pressing time by 15 seconds. You may have to test a few images and keep decreasing in intervals of 15 seconds until you get a perfect result.

Image appears faded/grainy

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This is due to under-pressing the image. Increase the total pressing time by 15 seconds and keep increasing at the 15 second interval until a perfect result is achieved.

Image looks perfect but there is a random spot which didn’t sublimate

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If there is an area which appears to have not sublimated, increase the pressure. Double check that your pressure is at least 60 PSI.

Substrate is warping

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Warping occurs due to moisture which we have established is a common problem among photo panels and other flat hard surface substrates. To best solve this problem, remove the substrate after pressing and place under pressure for 24 hours to allow it to regain flatness. If stacking two items together, place a protective sheet in between to avoid dye migration or image distortion.

 

Additional Tips

  • Do not use temperature lower than 385F when pressing Chromaluxe panels and other Unisub products
  • Do not change more than one variable at a time. For example, when doing testing to achieve the most perfect result, change only the time in intervals for each press but do not change the temperature or pressure at the same time.
  • Some items may be pressed “face-down” but we suggest trying “face-up” first to give more room for moisture to escape.