Sublimation - What is it?
I am sure you have heard the term sublimation, but I bet you have questions as I did. Let's start with what is sublimation and the difference between Cricut Infusible ink system and printed sublimation.
Infusible Ink is a system created by Cricut in their DIY product line. Infusible Ink transfer is different from HTV vinyl application. Infusible ink becomes liquid and becomes one with the material it is applied to. The final result after applying is very bright, very smooth, and never flakes, wrinkles, peels, or cracks. You can purchase the Infusible Ink products as transfer sheets, available in many colors, both solids, and prints. Infusible Ink pens and markers are also available for drawing onto a transfer sheet.
This is very similar to Cricut Infusible Ink but requires a printer, special ink, and special paper.
Sublimation printing is a specific process of printing onto a special sheet of paper, then transferring that image onto another material, (usually polyester or a polyester mix). The ink is then heated until it disintegrates into the fabric. Becoming "one with the fabric"
Basically, the ink (dye) is transferred to the fabric using very high heat. The result is a more breathable, soft feel, unlike vinyl or screen printing.
So, we know that sublimation is the printing of ink on special paper. What printer is used for this?
Printers like Epson Eco Tank, Sawgrass, and Roland work well. They have the type of printer head that can accommodate the ink used for sublimation. There are other printer brands that have the appropriate printer heads but there is no ink made for them.
The important issue when using these printers is to NOT put the ink that comes with the printers in the printer. YOU NEED TO USE SUBLIMATION INK THAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR PRINTER BRAND.
I would recommend you start with a new printer. Using a printer that has already had regular ink in it is a hit or miss to convert it. There is a flushing process that does not always work. So, start with a new printer for the best results. I chose the Epson Eco Tank ET-2803 for my printer.
I also chose sublimation ink made specifically for the Epson Eco Tank for sublimation. The brand is L&C Sublimation Refill Ink.
I chose this because I have a regular Epson eco tank printer and refilling the ink is a breeze. Some ink brands require you to use a syringe to transfer the ink from the bottle to the printer. The L&C ink refill bottles are just like the regular ink bottles. Simple and easy to fill the printer. This is what the regular ink bottle looks like for refills
And this is what the sublimation Ink bottle looks like. They are pretty much the same for filling the Eco Tank.
This is what they look like together. You can see the tops of the bottles are very similar for filling the Eco Tank.
The sublimation paper I chose is the A-SUB Sublimation Paper 8.5x11.
I just felt that if the Ink was specifically for the Eco Tank to be used for sublimation, the process would be simpler.
The blanks that you use must be sublimation coated or at least 50% polyester in content. The more polyester a blank has the better the result. The best is 100% polyester. Other blended materials will work up to 50% polyester, but will not be as vibrant. A 50/50 cotton T-shirt will look faded because of the low polyester content. Other good options would be nylon, spandex, and lycra.
There are sprays that can be applied to cotton fabric, but my research so far suggests they don't work as well as you might like.