We’ve all been there – you’ve put in hours of work designing your perfect sublimation project, prepping your blank items, printing your images, and getting your heat press ready to go.
You gently lift your print from the heat press, filled with excitement to see the final product…only to find hardly any ink transferred at all!
Or maybe it’s just random splotches and uneven coloring. Sigh What a letdown.
But don’t worry! With a few troubleshooting tips, you can get your sublimation prints transferring perfectly in no time.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the common causes of sublimation transfer issues, as well as solutions to save your prints. Let’s dive in!
Why Is My Sublimation Not Transferring? (Causes & Solutions)
Here are some common problems that might be preventing your sublimation transfer
1. Temperature and Pressure
One of the most frequent culprits behind poor ink transfer is incorrect temperature or pressure settings on your heat press.
Sublimation requires very specific temperatures – typically between 380°F and 400°F – in order to turn the ink into a gas and bond it with the polymer coating on your substrate.
Similarly, you need firm, even pressure across the entire transfer area so that the ink can properly soak into the material. If either the temp or pressure is off, you’ll likely just get a faint, uneven print.
- Check your heat press temp with an external thermometer. The readings can become inaccurate over time. Recalibrate if needed.
- Pre-heat your heat press for 10-15 minutes before pressing to ensure an accurate, stable temp.
- It is recommended to use sublimation protective paper or blowout paper to prevent ink from reaching the heat press or other surfaces
- Follow your substrate’s recommended time, temp, and pressure settings. Don’t deviate without testing first!
2. Wrong Ink and Paper
Another issue preventing proper ink transfer is using the wrong supplies for sublimation printing. This includes:
- Regular ink instead of specially formulated sublimation ink
- Regular printer paper instead of sublimation transfer paper
- Ink and paper combos that aren’t compatible
If you use even one incorrect component, you likely won’t get vivid, lasting prints.
- Verify you have sublimation ink designed specifically for your printer. Check manufacturer guidelines.
- Use sublimation transfer paper with high reviews. TexPrint and BlueGrid offer quality papers.
- Print a test sheet first to ensure vivid prints before pressing onto a final product.
- Check paper and printer compatibility specs before purchase to avoid mismatches.
3. Wrong Blank
No matter how perfect your print, if you try sublimating onto a material that isn’t dye-sublimation friendly, don’t expect good results!
Polyester and poly-blends are ideal blank substrates since the ink easily bonds to the plastic polymers. 100% natural fabrics like cotton lack these polymers, so the print will wash off over time.
- Verify your blank item is at least 70% polyester (100% is recommended for better results). Check material tags before purchase.
This is what RoddyVictory says on this Reddit thread.
- Use a poly spray coating on natural fiber blanks to create a polymer coating for sublimation.
- When in doubt, test on a fabric swatch first before attempting large prints.
4. Clogged Printhead
A clogged or dirty printhead can cause uneven ink flow, resulting in faded colors or lines/dots missing from your prints.
This happens over time as sediment builds up or ink dries inside the printhead nozzles. It’s easily fixed with printer maintenance.
- Run the printer’s Cleaning Cycle according to manufacturer guidelines
- For persistent clogs, gently clean the printhead manually with swabs and cleaning fluid
- Print a Nozzle Check page to verify consistent ink flow from all nozzles
- Give your printer regular cleanings/maintenance to prevent future clogs
5. Wrong Printer Settings
Your printer software includes tons of adjustable settings that can make or break your sublimation prints if configured incorrectly.
Common culprits are incorrect print quality, color profiles, page orientation, and not having mirror image selected.
- Select the highest Print Quality setting
- Enable any special Color Profiles for Sublimation
- Mirror the image so it prints correctly onto transfer paper
- Print landscape orientation to maximize print area
- Check your printer’s user guide for recommended sublimation settings
Tips and Tricks For Best Prints
Follow these handy tips and tricks for getting the most vivid, lasting sublimation transfers every time:
- Print onto smooth, flat surfaces when transferring onto fabric. Unevenness can cause patchiness.
- Perform test transfers first until your temps, times, and pressures are perfected.
- Use thermal tape or a heat glove when pressing small items to secure the paper placement.
- Invest in a heat press with digital controls for perfect temp precision
- Be extremely careful about accurate colors in your print files to get the desired final hues.
- Give fabric items a pre-press to remove moisture and wrinkles from the substrate.
- Waiting until prints are fully cooled and dry before handling can prevent smearing transfers.
FAQ: Troubleshooting Sublimation Printing
Still struggling to get flawless prints after trying general troubleshooting tips? Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about solving common sublimation issues:
Why is my sublimation not transferring bright?
Faded or dull prints often come from incorrect press times. Ensure you are pressing for the full recommended duration – normally 40 to 60 seconds at 400°F. Under-pressing causes weak transfers.
What temperature is needed for sublimation?
For most sublimation blanks, you’ll need a consistent heat press temperature between 375°F and 400°F. Ensure your press can maintain temps in this range. Polyester typically needs the full 400° while mugs may only need 375°F.
How long does it take to transfer sublimation?
Standard transfer times fall between 40 and 60 seconds when using a heat press set to 400°F. Allowing the full 60 seconds ensures vivid transfers onto fabric. Hard goods like mugs require less time – around 40 seconds.
What causes ghosting on sublimation blanks?
Ghosting refers to faded “double images” on prints and happens when paper slips during pressing. To prevent slippage, use a cover sheet, thermal tape, or a heat glove when pressing smaller items. Pre-pressing textiles also helps them better hold the paper in place.
With a little diligent troubleshooting to pinpoint what’s going wrong, you can rescue your sublimation prints and get gorgeous transfers in no time.
Remember to carefully check your substrates, inks, transfer papers, printer maintenance, and heat press settings against manufacturer guidelines. Testing out changes on small sample prints is also hugely helpful before attempting large transfers.
Here’s to many brightly-colored, creative sublimation projects in your future! Never hesitate to drop a comment below if you have any other questions come up along your fun sublimation journey.