This week’s New Product Spotlight introduces polymer-coated dye sublimation mugs. If you are producing dye sublimated shirts you already know the basics of how sublimation works. Here are a few essential tips on how to add custom imprinted mugs to your product offering.
Design & Print
The creative process is the same as that for shirts. Create your graphic, and print to the Sawgrass PowerDriver. Make sure you send a mirror version of the image and print to dye sublimation transfer paper. The Power Driver SoftLink setting is designed specifically for shirts and may not work as well with these items. Use the Silver Metal setting for stainless steel travel mugs and the UniSub Products setting for white ceramic mugs.
For best results, make sure the mug surface is clean and dust-free. The dye will not penetrate dust particles, so if they’re not removed before printing, you will have white unprinted spots on the final product.
Trim It, Tape It, Wrap It
Before applying the transfer to the mug, trim it so that the paper fits in the optimal print area. It’s a good idea to leave a 1/8″ to 3/16″ unprinted border at the top and a 1/4″ to 3/8″ margin at the bottom. It’s important to make sure you don’t have wrinkles in the transfer paper. Wrinkles will result in the dye leaving unwanted streaks on the mug. To ensure a tight seal around the upper edge of the mug, try wetting the transfer paper to “melt” it to the mug’s surface. This produces a crisp transfer with no fuzzy edges.
Once the printed transfer is fitted to the mug, use a piece of Heat Resistant Tape to secure it tightly to the surface. Then wrap it in a Teflon Sheet (cut to the proper width).
To wrap, or not to wrap? Even if you’re not a “50 Cent” fan, you may have heard of wraps that enable you to seal the mug and place it in an oven to be sublimated. Although this may be a less expensive option, it’s not ideal for commercial production. Typically, mug wraps require 20 minutes in an oven to achieve full transfer. A Knight Digital Combo or DK3 mug press completes the job in five minutes or less, so a traditional heat press is much more efficient and productive. If you’re using a Knight Press, set the temperature at 400°F and press for 5 minutes at heavy pressure.
Peel & Splash
The Sawgrass Dye Sublimation Guide advises placing the mug in water as soon as you’ve removed it from the press and peeled the transfer paper. The mug is still extremely hot and, if allowed to ‘air cool’, ink will continue to sublimate. This may result in blurring at the edges of the imprint rising upwards from the imprinted area. Once the mug is cooled, dry it, admire your handiwork, and present to your customer.