Dye sublimation is a tried and true garment decoration method. But like most technologies, it has its limitations. Dye sublimation produces decorated garments with an exceptionally soft hand and rich color, but only on white or pastel polyester. No cotton, no black shirts. This limitation frustrates some decorators because the general public wants custom graphics on cotton and on dark shirts. This can’t be done with a direct transfer using sublimation ink, but there is a solution.
The dark garment sublimation solution is a new product called Logical Color SubliDark Print. Now with SubliDark Print transfer film, you can use your desktop sublimation printer and ink to decorate shirts of any color. Your favorite customer wants black cotton shirts for a poker run? No problem. Drop some SubliDark Print into your Virtuoso printer and make it happen. What is SubliDark Print and how does it work?
Logical Color SubliDark Print features and benefits
Logical Color SubliDark Print is a unique new printable polyester heat transfer film. SubliDark Print gives you a heat applied film you can print with your dye sublimation inks, then plotter cut or contour-cut and heat apply just like team graphics. Since it has a polyester face film, it can be sublimated with standard sublimation inks including Sawgrass SubliJet HD Inks. Since it’s an adhesive thermal transfer film, it can be heat applied to cotton, polyester, cotton-poly blends, and other standard fabrics. The heat press application simultaneously sublimates the face film and seals the transfer to the fabric. The resulting appliqué isn’t as soft as sublimating directly to polyester, but it does have great opacity, vivid color, and wonderful versatility.
SubliDark Print comes in letter size (8.5″ x 11″) sheets. This makes it ideal for use in most desktop sublimation printers like the Ricoh SG3110, Sawgrass Virtuoso SG400 and SG500. The sheets are available in packages of 10, 25, or 50 for as little as $19.00. The material has a textured matte surface and is laminated to a clear liner with a heat activated adhesive. The clear liner makes it easy to cut and weed.
How to use Logical Color SubliDark Print: Print, Cut, and Press
The print and cut application process for SubliDark Print is similar to that of EnduraTex DarkJet, which is used to expand the envelope for Sawgrass ChromaBlast ink. You can read more about that option in our DarkJet ChromaBlast article.
For best results and stunning designs like the Just One More Book sample above, you’ll need your Virtuoso printer and a good vinyl cutter. There are two ways to use SubliDark Print with a printer and vinyl cutter. If you have a photographic element like a corporate logo, you’ll need to use a vinyl cutter and software that support registration marks and contour cutting. If however, you just want to create colorful graphics with abstract, gradient, or pattern fills, you can simply print and cut, without having to scan registration marks or align the raster and vector elements.
Simple Print & Cut with Fills
To create abstract designs with full color fills, just print a full sheet or large area of your design on a sheet of SubliDark Print (Fig 1). Then place the sheet in your vinyl cutter, cut out your vector design, and weed it, just as you would with a standard cutter and heat transfer vinyl. Weed the excess, cover it with heat transfer tape or a Teflon sheet, and heat press it to a shirt of any color. If your graphic is complex, you should use a low-tack heat transfer tape to transfer the weeded film to the shirt. Cover with a Teflon sheet, press it, and peel the heat transfer tape warm. Voila, you have a stunning full color, sublimated transfer on a black cotton tee.
Contour-Cut Transfers with SubliDark Print
For corporate logos and other transfers that require precisely cutting around raster images, you’ll need to follow the established print and cut process familiar to sign and graphics pros. The print and cut process requires some specific hardware and software. The ideal combination is a vinyl cutter with a registration mark sensor and LXI Master, or Master Plus software. The software adds cut paths and registration marks to your image so the vinyl cutter can cut around the print, creating a contour-cut decal. We have videos and detailed instructions on our support blog. Here’s a quick summary.
- Design your graphic in Vinyl Master Plus or import it from your preferred graphic design platform. Use the Contour Cut and Contour Cut Mark features to add the cut path and registration marks.
- Print the image from your RICOH, Epson, or Sawgrass Virtuoso printer using SubliJET ink and the appropriate settings.
- Print “right reading” not a mirror image. Print on the matte textured side. The clear gloss side is the release liner.
- Place the print in your vinyl cutter, position the blade over the lower right registration mark, and set that as the cutter’s origin point.
- Send the cut file from LXi to the cutter using the File/CutContour function. LXi will drive the cutter’s registration mark sensor and automatically find the marks, then begin cutting the contour path around the print.
- Remove the print from the vinyl cutter and ‘weed’ away the excess material leaving only the decal. Remove that from the clear glossy liner and place it on the garment (This step may require low-tack heat transfer tape).
- Cover with copy paper and press for 30 seconds with medium pressure at 320°F. Voila! You have a vivid sublimated appliqué on the fabric and color of your choice.
That may sound intimidating, but it’s not as complex as it looks in a bulleted list. Not sure which settings to use on your printer, heat press, or vinyl cutter? No worries. Just click here to download a complete SubliDark Print user guide. The user guide includes recommended Virtual Print Manager settings, time, temperature, and cutting guidelines, as well as troubleshooting tips. For a video demonstration of the print and cut process, please click here to watch part 9 of our Rogue setup video. This video shows you how to do this with a Vinyl Express Rogue, Rogue Plus, or Rogue Pro vinyl cutter. A Rogue with LXI Master Plus software is a great compliment to a Sawgrass Virtuoso desktop printer.
Whether your designs are simple shapes or ornate appliqués, Logical Color SubliDark Print Heat Transfer Film can dramatically increase potential sales for your sublimated apparel. You can use your existing ink and printer without limiting yourself to white polyester shirts. Click here to pick up a box of 10, 25, or 50 sheets of SubliDark Print. Prices start at just $19.00 for a pack of ten. Say YES to more customers, including those who want your designs on cotton and colors.