How To Make Sublimation Brighter [Improve Quality In 8 Steps]

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    Creating a fantastic and eye-catching print requires a superb sublimation printer and a good knowledge of sublimation settings.

    Several factors contribute to a good print. You’ll need to know about sublimation prints and sublimation inks for the desired results. But there are other factors to consider too!

    Key Takeaways

    Sublimation paper weight

    Noticing track marks on the back of 125g sublimation paper? Then switch over to 120g. The difference in paper weight appears to rectify the problem. This will consequently improve the vibrancy of the colors.

    Ink maintenance & hacks

    If you do not make use of your printer, the ink can settle. This may create track marks on your print where the ink hasn’t saturated.
    Make sure you do a print head clean. After that, print a test page to see if the issue has been fixed.

    Moisture is the enemy

    Moisture interferes with the ink’s ability to bond to the fabric. Removing this moisture with a heat press will prevent bleeding or running. This improves print quality & color vibrancy.

    Best fabric for bright colors sublimation

    For sublimation, 100% polyester fabric will produce the best results for vibrant and bright colors. If a vintage look is your goal, go for fabrics that are 50% polyester & 50% cotton.

    But wait! If you are here because the print looks dull on the sublimation paper (before transferring it on your substrate), you may have jumped the gun!

    It is common for the print to look dull on sublimation paper. But it brightens up once you transfer it onto the substrate thanks to the heat and pressure created by the heat press.

    Therefore make sure you continue reading this article if your design is still dull after transferring it.

    In this article we discuss how to make sublimation brighter and create higher-quality prints.

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      How To Make Sublimation Brighter On Prints?

      High-quality prints are key to achieving brightness and clarity to your designs. It is one way a creating and attracting the attention of others.

      Making your sublimation brighter is not easy. You will need to have not only all the right sublimation equipment, but a skill set. This skill set comes with practice through trail & error!

      Having said that, with just a few adjustments, your print can look brighter and clearer.

      Sublimation print of woman's portrait with bright vivid colors.
      Bright vibrant colors are possible with sublimation provided you follow the right recommendations

      There are several things to pay attention to. So make sure you are not rushing anything and follow the advice provided. This will reduce mistakes and improve color vibrancy and clarity.

      Factors that can affect the desired brightness on your substrate:

      • Heat press pressure & temperature
      • Ink type
      • Low ink cartridge levels
      • Transfer paper type
      • Printer settings
      • Screen brightness settings

      Knowing how to control every part of these will help achieve the desired result.

      Steps To Follow For Stunning, Vibrant & Bright Colors

      • Navigate printer temperature and time settings
      • Use high-quality sublimation inks: Hiipoo Ink is a good choice
      • Purchase high-quality sublimation paper: A-Sub 120g works great
      • Experiment with different heat press pressures: gentle pressure works best
      • Adjust screen brightness
      • Find the correct sublimation printer: Epson Expression XP-15000 is good value
      • Use high-quality images: File type is important

      Choosing Good Sublimation Ink

      You can’t expect outstanding results with inadequate equipment. The same applies to ink. You must invest in high-quality sublimation ink to achieve something. If you are looking for vibrant colors, the quality of sublimation ink makes a difference.

      Sublimation ink inside plastic bottles ready to be used as refills.
      Ink quality is a major factor in achieving bright colors during dye sublimation printing

      Make sure the type of sublimation ink is compatible with your printer. Not all printers work with all inks.

      Quality ink cartridges may not work well with your printer. To make sublimation brighter, you need to check the compatibility too.

      Sometimes not even compatible inks will give you the desired results. So you may need to experiment a little to see the best option for you.

      Check your ink cartridge levels

      Check the level of your ink cartridge. It is common for colors to lose brightness and vibrancy the closer the ink gets to empty.

      522 ink cartridge tank with level gauge for Epson Ecotank.
      Epson Ecotank printers make it easy to see ink levels for refilling

      However, there is an other reason for checking the ink levels. Running out of ink during a print (ink starvation) can damage the print head! Once the print heads are damaged, there is a good chance your printer will never work the same again!

      Choosing The Right Paper

      As already mentioned, you can’t expect outstanding results without high-quality tools and materials. How your sublimation colors look depends on the quality and type of sublimation paper.

      It is important to print the designs on the right side. A quick test is to moisten your finger and whichever side sticks to it, is the side that you print on. Having said this, sublimation papers usually come with indicators showing what side to print on. Print on the wrong side and expect muted and dull colors.

      Owner of Ceramicraft demonstrating with moist fingers how to find the printable side sublimation paper
      Great tip by Ceramicraft for checking the correct side of sublimation paper to print on.

      Always keep the paper on a flat surface to get the right sublimation dye.

      Higher-quality sublimation paper will provide much better results. But you must make sure they work well with your printer and ink.

      Some papers are an excellent option for simple designs. While others are reserved for more complicated creative projects. So pay attention to this too!

      Navigate Temperature, Time & Pressure Settings For Heat Press

      Beginners in the sublimation process rarely handle heat press settings correctly. They can struggle with yellow and orange stains on their projects. This is a consequence of incorrect settings and overheating. This damages the print for good.

      Shocking pink clam shell heat press sublimating a t-shirt
      Achieving vibrant and bright colors can depend on your heat press temperature and the fabric type the print is going on

      Your heat press temperature settings for material types will vary. You can’t use the same settings for polyester as for cotton. So make sure you are navigating these settings all the time. Failure to do so can significantly impact brightness of prints.

      For example, when it comes to polyester prints, you will be good with 380 Fahrenheit. While with other fabrics (or materials for that matter), the settings will be different.

      Use a temperature table chart (similar to the one shown below) as guide. Then practice on a scrap piece of fabric until you tweak things for the desired results.

      SubstrateTemperature (°F)Time (s)Pressure (psi)
      Ceramic mug370-400150-21040 medium
      Metal375-40060-8040 medium
      Ceramic / Glass tile380-400300-72040 medium
      Polyester fabric380-4004540 medium
      Sequin pillow case380-40045-5540 medium
      Soft t-shirts380-40035-4040 medium
      Vapor Apparel380-39045-5540 medium
      UNISUB products380-4006040 medium
      FR plastic380-40045-9040 medium

      A mistake here, and there’s no recovering your design or garment.

      Pre-press all fabrics before sublimation

      Moisture within your fabric should be avoided. Imagine trying to print on a damp piece of paper, the ink will not bond well to the paper and cause bleeding or running. The same issue applies to moist fabrics.

      The solution is to pre-press the fabric with your heat press to remove as much of the moisture as possible. The less water content there is, the less it will interfere with the ink bonding to the fabric.

      Ghosting & gassing out issues

      Ghosting and gassing out prints certainly do not come out bright and vibrant. It is therefore important to avoid these phenomena from happing during the ink transfer process.

      Ghosting: This happens when your print looks blurry. Often there is a faint version of the print along side the edges of the actual print.

      Gassing Out: When ink spreads over the area more than it should.

      Both these issues can be a result of the transfer paper shifting while applying pressure with the heat press. As a result of it moving, it smudges the ink and causes this issue. It is not always the case where you need to secure your fabric in place. But for smaller items, heat resistant tape can hold your substrate in place to prevent this issue.

      Find The Right Sublimation Printer

      The choice of printer is what determines the whole sublimation printing process. Whether dealing with a sublimation printer or a converted inkjet printer can make difference. Many converted inkjet printers do not achieve the desired results.

      If you have problems with the quality and brightness of your prints, consider getting a better one. This should be a last resort. Try the above mentioned troubleshooting tips first to see if you can achieve the brightness you are looking for.

      Older printers, whether they are converted or original sublimation printers, tend to hold on to a lot of dust. If they aren’t cleaned well, they won’t be able to provide you with a bright sublimation no matter how much you try.

      One of the most important things is to find a printer with refillable cartridges or whose ink tanks can be changed. This allows more control by helping you change parts that are diminishing your experience.

      We recommend getting one of the newer sublimation printers. Old printers can have minor defects. These seem small but are cumulative and will show up on your prints all the time. There’s not much you can do about it!

      It is much easier to take care of a newer printer. You should take the time every month to clean it up and set the right sublimation printer settings.

      Always select high-quality print from printer settings

      A logical point, but one many miss. Just before starting your print, you must ALWAYS select high-quality print. Most printers are defaulted to print on “draft” or “medium”, as this is the perfect balance between a decent quality, while saving on ink.

      However, for sublimation printing, this won’t cut it! A decent amount of ink is required. Lacking sufficient quantities of ink, means a duller design when transferred. You need to tell the printer to deposit more ink for vibrancy.

      How to set high print quality using sublimation software.
      A simple, but often forgotten task, is to set your print-quality on “high”.

      One last thing, also make sure you have mirrored the design (if applicable).

      Match your sublimation paper to your printer

      You sublimation printer needs to know what paper type, weight and size you are using. Without this information it won’t accurately deposit the required ink quantities specific for sublimation transfers. Failure to do this can interfere with how bright your sublimations turn out.

      Setting the correct paper type and weight for sublimation
      Unless you tell your printer, it won’t know the type and weight of sublimation paper being used!

      Choosing vibrant deep colors

      All sublimation printers come with several settings. Vibrant colors are one of them that allows you to get the solid ink trace even with the craziest colors.

      Selecting deep colors using sublimation software
      Applying deep color for solid in trace.

      If you couldn’t get the required results, then this was probably the problem. You need to choose “vivid colors”, “vibrant colors” or “deep colors” on your device settings.

      Use High-Quality Images For Your Artwork

      If you had to choose between printing jpg or png, then go for png. Jpgs are usually compressed to save on file space, whereas png uses lossless compression.

      Ultimately though, the best file format to use is vector graphics such as svg. These files can also be converted into pdfs, where there is no loss of quality when you enlarge the image.

      The difference in quality between jpg and vector graphics file format.
      The potential difference in sublimation print quality between jpg and vector graphics.

      Sublimation Coating Spray Sealant

      The idea behind spray sublimation is for the coating to bond with the fabrics’ fibers. With the ink already in place, this allows the ink to bond with the threads once sprayed on.

      Owner of Design Bundles using poly-t spray as a protective layer on a sublimation design.
      The folks from Design Bundles testing poly-t spray on cotton dye sublimation

      Generally, you would not need sublimation spray on polyester. It is mostly used for fabrics that sublimation dye doesn’t not adhere to well (like cotton).

      This is not a permeant solution as the spray content does eventually wash out. However, it is still a good primary protective layer for the ink.

      Why My Sublimation Isn’t Bright?

      We have discussed above the reasons why your sublimation probably isn’t bright enough as you want it to be, and you should be are that sometimes a mix of all of these things can lead to a terrible result.

      The best thing you can do to ensure that you will always get the bright sublimation project you want is to keep working with new printers and materials and to constantly check out the settings to make sure everything will flow smoothly.

      One of the things you also need to have is some experience in sublimation printing so that you will be able to realize whether the problem with your printouts is in the printer or because of lousy ink and paper.

      So many people have no idea how to make sublimation brighter by choosing a bright color or dark color modes on their devices, so you need to spend some time exploring the sublimation printers and techniques before you get your hands on a DIY project.

      I recommend trying out several techniques and then sticking with the one that gives you the best results because if you don’t try, you will never know what works for you.

      Watch this video: Make Your Sublimation Colors Pop! [22 mins 29 secs]

      skip to timeline 01:16!

      How Do I Make Sublimation Brighter On Cotton?

      Sublimation printing on cotton T-shirts is a challenge for many. But the truth is, you only need to know a few tips and tricks to succeed at it.

      There are several options to sublimate on cotton quickly and easily. So choose your favorite option.

      Sublimation with vinyl

      People mostly avoid using heat transfer vinyl. But that is the best method when sublimating on cotton. So don’t be afraid to follow our short guide and get your hands on this tool.

      It is an excellent surface for cotton. You’ll be able to transfer any sort of digital design, even complicated designs.

      You will need just a little bit of it, and all your designs will be impeccable, no matter how many colors they have.

      Sublimation with glitter HTV

      Glitter HTV may seem like a pretty uncommon choice for sublimation. But it works perfectly even on the highest temperatures. Paired with a good heat press, it will give you the desired result within seconds.

      All the glitter will transfer on garments and even a mug. So it is an excellent addition to your creative process.

      Sublimation with fabric sheets

      Fabric sheets are cheap. They are easy to find and will provide you with a wrinkle-free design quickly.

      Since it comes in different sizes, you can transfer designs to pieces and materials with great precision and keep them just where you wish them to be.

      This technique works well not only for cotton but also for other sturdy elements. This makes it an excellent and affordable way to handle the sublimation printing process with ease.

      All these techniques are highly efficient. You can be sure to get the desired results even if you don’t have much experience with them. Make sure you try them out and see which one will give you the best result.

      Conclusion

      It’s interesting with sublimation you can follow all the correct steps of transferring print on fabric. However, get one (or several) steps off, and your print looks dull and lifeless.

      Unless your design is specifically made to look aged, rugged or worn, you are going to fail grabbing the attention of others.

      Whether you want people to notice your custom design, or are running a business where you sell fabric with sublimation prints, you need to have the colors look vibrant and full… Miss this step, and you will fail to make your mark!

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