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Sublimation Printing - Glossary of Terms


Accucutter: The company that makes shears, corner cutters and rollers for the awards and sublimation industry.

Acrylic: A thermoplastic material that when properly coated and of a specific type, can be sublimated. Adobe: The manufacturer of PhotoShop, Illustrator and PhotoShop Essentials.

All-Over Print: Usually refers to garments with an imprint that covers the entire garment. Also referred to as “Cut & Sew” meaning the garment is sublimated before it is sewn together.

Aluminum: A relatively soft, silver metal commonly coated and used with sublimation. Multiple grades of coatings are available which can add vibrancy, UV protection or a texture finish to the product.

ArTainium Ink: An alternative ink from Epson to compete with Sawgrass ink for those who run printers 42” or wider.

Backgrounding: Usually only seen with laser sublimation. It is the presence of tiny specks of toner that have sublimated into a substrate. This may vary from light to heavy and cannot be removed. Usually doesn’t show up on satin gold or silver metal but common on white substrates.

Banding: The presence of thin white lines across a sublimation image. Caused by a non-functioning nozzle in a printhead.

Beveler: A mechanical device designed for placing a bevel on thin plastics, wood or FRP when creating your own products from sheet stock.

Bison: A company that coats ceramic tile for the purpose of sublimation.

Bitmap Software: Software intended for working with photographs including PhotoShop and PhotoPaint and PhotoShop Essentials.

Brass: A metal alloy made up of copper and zinc. Commonly used in the engraving industry and can be sublimated if properly coated.

Bulk Ink Supply: A means to add large pouches of ink to a printer that is designed to accept only small cartridges. This greatly reduces the cost of printing. The idea came with many issues and except for a few Epson printers, is no longer available.

Carrier Sheet: Another term for the “transfer sheet” used in sublimation.

Cast Acrylic: A type of acrylic obtained by pouring liquid acrylic into a mold. Used in laser engraving and when properly coated, some high temp acrylics can be sublimated.

Ceramic: An inorganic nonmetallic solid material. Ceramic is typically the baked surface of a tile, cup or other product. When coated properly, it can be sublimated but the sublimation dyes only penetrate the surface coating of the product and do not go into the substrate itself.

ChromaLuxe®: A product from UNISUB. Highest quality photo-ready surface on a variety of metals, wood, MDF, FRP and Phenolic. Matte, gloss and texture finishes are available as well as dry erase.

Clamshell Press: A type of heat press where the heating element lifts up at an angle to allow loading of the stage. This type of press is commonly used for making T-shirts and can also make thin items such as metal or FRP but is not recommended for thicker items because the heating element closes at an angle presenting more pressure to the back than the front and thus, distorting the image colors.

CMYK: Stands for CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW, BLACK. The four primary colors used in a printer to produce a color image.

Cockling: A small wave pattern that the paper makes when it is too humid or there is too much saturation on the paper. Resembles rolling hills.

Color Chart: A series of color swatches applied to a sheet of metal, FRP or other material to show the actual end result of selecting a specific color in a software program.

Color-Filling: A process of adding color to a substrate that has been laser engraved. Typically used for adding metallic gold or silver to a name badge.

ColorSure®: Sublimation production printers by Epson. Intended to use Epson’s own sublimation inks. Available in 44” and 64”.

Computer Graphics: Graphic designs created using a computer.

CondéTV: A free service of Condé Systems available on YouTube. These short educational videos demonstrate how to make various products, service printers, etc.

CorelDRAW™: A graphics program for working with vector images with some ability to manipulate bitmaps. Used by most people in the sublimation industry. Available for purchase.

CornerMate: A mechanical device intended to notch or round corners on thin plastics or metal.

Cover Paper: Can be newsprint, butcher paper or copy paper. Must be an uncoated paper that is applied over the top of a substrate and its transfer when placed in a heat press. The purpose is to ensure stray ink does not find its way to the platen of the heat press.

Cut & Sew: Usually refers to garments with an imprint that covers the entire garment. This is accomplished by sublimating the garment before it is sewn together.

Designs 4 U: Discontinued product. Was once sold by UNISUB dealers and contained hundreds of templates, layouts and images that could be used for making showroom samples or altered and used as actual products. Several CDs were available. Now available from the Condé website.

Desktop Printer: Typically refers to small printers that can sit on a desk. This sometimes refers to printers that are under 24”. This includes most of the Epson and Ricoh printers currently being used for sublimation.

Disks: Disks are commonly used in the awards industry and can be sublimated when properly coated. These include 1” and 2” metal disks and can include disks used for specialty products that include 1.625” and .9375” disks. Disks are commonly available in white, gold and silver. Disks can also refer to tokens (poker chips) made from a sublimatable compound.

Dithering: The presence of squares in a monitor image or dots in a printed image. These squares or dots are individual pixels. They appear when the image is of too low resolution to produce a smooth edge on an image.

DPI: Dots per Inch. DPI refers to the number of ink droplets a printer can place on a substrate. Commonly used interchangeably with pixels per inch which is the number of pixels a monitor can display per inch. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution of an image and the larger it can be printed without pixilating.

Dwell Time: The length of time a heat press is closed.

Dye Sublimation: A process of transferring a full-color image from a transfer to a substrate using heat, pressure and special inks. A process where dye changes from a solid to a gas without going through a liquid state.

DyeFlex®: A very thin plastic-like material brought to market by Condé Systems for sublimation. It is a single-sided, 1/64” thick, high flexible plastic.

DyeTrans: A brand name for many Condé products.

DynaSub: A type of sublimation metal available in white, silver and gold. This high quality, high resolution metal is a cheaper alternative to the UNISUB metal but does not contain UNISUB’S UV protective agents.

Epson: The brand name for many sublimation printers, present and past. These printers are somewhat unique in the marketplace because they use Piezo printheads which are suitable for sublimation inks. Until the introduction of the Ricoh printers, Epson was the only brand used in the desktop format.

FRP: Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic: A UNISUB product that appears to be plastic but is actually fiberglass with the UNISUB coating applied to one or both sides. This material is 3/32” thick and is available in both sheet stock and a wide variety of premade products.

Full-Bleed Printing: When the background or photograph extends beyond the edges of the finished product.

Ghosting: Usually caused by moving a transfer too quickly after opening the heat press. Can also be caused by opening a heat press too quickly and thus moving the transfer while it is still at 400° F. Ghosting is also called “shadowing” and is a shadow image making a sublimated image appear to be repeated on the same substrate.

Glass: Tempered glass is a commonly used sublimation substrate when properly coated. It is commonly used for tile and cutting boards.

Gloss: Highly reflective.

Graphic Design: The process of creating an image suitable for printing or sublimating on a substrate using a computer graphics program.

Green Heat Conductive Pad: A special rubber pad (usually green and usually 1/8” thick) used to disperse heat across uneven surfaces in a heat press.

Hardboard: A common material in hardware stores but also used as a sublimation substrate. Usually 1/8” thick, it can also be ¼”. Hardboard can be coated with a sublimation receptive coating for use as a clipboard, picture frame or any number of other products.

Harvey Head Cleaner: A software program that automatically runs a nozzle check on sublimation printers.

Heat Press: An electric-mechanical device intended for heating sublimation transfers and their substrates to 400° F using a consistent temperature and pressure.

Heat Tape: A special single-sided tape used to hold sublimation products in place while pressing. These tapes will withstand over 500° F without failing. Tapes come in several thicknesses and colors.

Heat Transfer: Although it is commonly mistaken for sublimation, it is not. A heat transfer is an image that melts into fabric or lays on top of fabric much like screen printing. Sublimation dyes the fabric permanently rather than clings to the face of it. Heat transfers are commonly used on cotton while sublimation is always used on Polyester.

Heating Element: Usually the upper portion of a heat press. Also referred to as a Platen. Some heat presses have multiple platens that allow both the top and bottom of a substrate to be heated equally and simultaneously. Other have side by side platens to allow one stage to be loaded while the other is being pressed.

ICC Profile: A color management tool (software) promulgated by the International Color Consortium (ICC).

Illustrator: A graphics software program by Adobe intended for working with vector images. A direct alternative to CorelDRAW. Not available for purchase. This program is Cloud based and must be rented monthly.

Image Resolution: Also referred to as DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). Used to determine the quality of a bitmap image and how much that image can be enlarged before pixilation occurs.

Jig: A device designed to hold multiple products so they can all be sublimated at once. Most jigs on the market today are made by UNISUB and intended for UNISUB products.

KoolPlate™: A device that uses multiple fans and thermodynamics to accelerate the cooling of sublimated products. Sold exclusively by Condé Systems.

KrinkleSub®: The name given to a type of aluminum that is both coated for sublimation and given a texture to make it more interesting. This metal can also be laser engraved.

Large Format Printer: Although there is no fast rule about this, most people agree anything larger than 44” wide is considered wide-format. Some, consider the 24” printers to also be wide-format.

Laser Cutting: The ability to use a laser engraver to vector cut your own products from hardboard, rubber, leather, Neoprene, wood or FRP.

Laser Sublimation: A type of sublimation that uses a b/w or color laser printer to produce sublimation transfers. Very popular at one time, it is rarely used today because of problems obtaining suitable printers and backgrounding.

Layout: A design, text, image or photograph to be applied by sublimation to a product. Leather: Some light-colored leather can be sublimated.

Lightroom: A software program by Adobe that is excellent for working with bitmaps of all kinds. This is primarily a cataloging program, but it also allows manipulation of a photograph without damaging the original. Allows storage to be done in multiple locations. Makes for easy posting of photos on Facebook or converting to a print book of photos. Available for purchase or grouped with PhotoShop on the Cloud for a monthly fee.

MATES®: A highly flexible self-adhesive film that can be sublimated. Available in white, gold and silver. Matte: Flat or satin finish. Non-reflective.

MDF: Medium Density Fiberboard. This material is actually made of many very thin sheets of paper pressed together to form what appears to be a wood board. It can be cut, routered and painted just like wood. It is strictly for interior use and can be coated to be sublimatable. It is used to produce picture frames, plaques, clocks and other UNISUB products.

Media Street: A paper manufacturer that produces sublimation transfer paper.

Medium Density Fiberboard: Also referred to as MDF. This material is actually made of many very thin sheets of paper pressed together to form what appears to be a wood board. It can be cut, routered and painted just like wood. It is strictly for interior use and can be coated to be sublimatable. It is used to produce picture frames, plaques, clocks and other UNISUB products.

Micro-Fiber: Another name given to synthetic fabrics such as Polyester.

Migration: Migration in sublimation is when the dye (ink) tends to shift or move from where it belongs in a image to either something laying on top of the sublimated piece or to a place where it does not belong in a sublimated image. Usually caused by too much heat or pressure being applied for a long period of time. Can also occur when products are stacked on top of each other too soon after being sublimated.

Mirror Image: For most sublimation (except glass and acrylic) the image must be mirrored on the transfer sheet so it will appear “right” on the substrate. PowerDriver will perform this function or you can do it manually in CorelDRAW or other graphics programs.

MorphMugs®: A type of ceramic coffee cup that changes color when a hot liquid is poured into it. This is commonly a black mug that can be sublimated but the sublimation only shows up when hot liquid is poured into it and turning the surface of the cup white.

Mouse Pad Material: A piece of Polyester fabric glued to a rubber backing. Rubber backing can be various thickness including 1/16”, 1/8”, ¼”, ½” and 1”.

MouseMates®: A product made for Rowmark and distributed through dealers like Condé Systems. It is a mousepad on a rubber 1/8” thick backing with a Mates film over the surface that provides a washable surface that accepts a high-resolution image. Available in white or silver.

Mug Press: A specialized heat press for making 11oz and 15oz ceramic mugs.

Mug Wrap: A flexible rubber wrap that can be applied to a coffee cup so it can be sublimated in an oven. Each wrap must be made for a specific object. These can include an 11oz cup, a 15oz mug, steins of various sizes, shot glasses, drinking glasses, pet bowls, etc.

MugMates®: A product made for Rowmark and distributed through dealers like Condé Systems. It is a coaster on a rubber 1/8” thick backing with a Mates film over the surface that provides a washable surface that accepts a high-resolution image. Available in white or silver.

Multi-Pass Tray: A mechanical device that can be attached to printers like the Ricoh 7000 and 7100 to allow paper up to 13” wide to be fed through a printer that otherwise would only accept 11” paper. Also works with the Sawgrass SG800 and SG1000.

Mutoh: The manufacturer of wide-format printers commonly used for sublimation. Neenah: A paper manufacturer that produces sublimation transfer paper.

Neoprene: The material used to make wetsuits for scuba divers. This material can be sublimated provided it is white in color.

Nomex Pad: A high temperature felt pad designed to protect areas of the substrate that you do not want heated. Heat Insulating Nomex Felt Pads are soft and heat resistant and most commonly used to press ceramic tiles. When pressure is applied the tile sinks into the transfer and the pad, allowing the image to coat beveled edges and provide a better product. This high-temperature resistant material is only needed for ceramic tiles and light switch plates for sublimation printing.

Nozzle Check: A test to determine if the nozzles in a printhead are functioning properly. Usually accessed through the print driver or PowerDriver software.

Nozzle: A single Piezo outlet in a printhead. It is an electro-magnetic device that vibrates when power is sent to it. The vibration causes the nozzle to flex which fires a speck of ink.

Okidata: Manufacturer of printers commonly used for heat transfers and laser sublimation.

Page Layout Software: Layout software can be almost anything from Word to CorelDRAW. In the sublimation industry, it is almost always CorelDRAW but almost any program can be used to create a design that will then be printed and used for sublimation.

Pantone®: The color standard of the industry.

PartnerNet: A special status of Condé customer who is given a pass to material which non-customers cannot access.

Pennant: As in baseball pennant. These felt shapes can be sublimated to reflect whatever type of pennant a customer might want. Typically used for a child’s room.

Performance Fabric: Another word for Micro-Fiber or Polyester. This specific variant of Polyester allows the fabric to “breathe” and thus keeping its wearer cooler. Commonly used in sports apparel.

Perpetual Plaque: A plaque that holds 12 or more “engraving” plates. Specially made brass or aluminum plates can be sublimated and used to make a perpetual plaque.

Pewter: Pewter is a malleable metal alloy traditionally 85-99% tin with the remainder being copper and trace amounts of other metals. Although not sublimatable itself, it is often used as a frame or holder for sublimated disks, tiles or other products.

Phone Cover: Perhaps the industry’s most popular sublimated products. These specially made plastic or rubber devices hold a flat metal or DyeFlex insert that can be sublimated.

PhotoPaint™: An alternative to PhotoShop. This is a bitmap software program that interacts with CorelDRAW. Available on CD, this program comes free with CorelDRAW. It contains an excellent cut out plug-in for sublimation (formerly called Knock-Out).

PhotoShop Elements™: A bitmap software program by Adobe intended for working with photographs. This program, available for purchase, is an abbreviated version of PhotoShop with some important additional programs. This software contains the best program for enlarging a photograph or increasing the DPI of a photo. A must have for making murals.

PhotoShop™: A bitmap software program by Adobe intended for working with photographs. A direct alternative to PhotoPaint. Not available for purchase. This program is Cloud based and must be rented monthly.

Piezo: A type of nozzle used in a printhead that uses electromagnetism to vibrate and move ink out of the nozzle. A necessary element for ink-jet sublimation.

Pixel: A single dot of light on a computer monitor or TV screen.

Platen: Usually the upper portion of a heat press. Also referred to as a heating element. Some heat presses have multiple platens that allow both the top and bottom of a substrate to be heated equally and simultaneously. Others have side by side platens to allow one stage to be loaded while the other is being pressed.

Polyester: Another word for Micro-Fiber or Performance fabric. This is a synthetic fabric that accepts sublimation dyes.

PolyMug®: An 11oz cup made from an unbreakable material that feels like plastic. PolySub: The manufacturer of the PolyMug product.

Porcelain: A ceramic material baked at 1,200˚ to 1,400° F.

PowerDriver: A special piece of software referred to as a “driver” that is an alternate to using an ICC profile(s) for sublimation.

Pressure: The amount of pressure applied to a substrate in a heat press. Some presses have a gauge to measure relative pressure, but most people use an approximated pressure of light, medium and heavy.

Printhead: The collection of multiple nozzles arranged to produce an image on paper.

Pyrometer: A special type of electronic thermometer. When used with a special contact probe, this allows the measurement of a heat press.

Raster Image: An image made up of dots or pixels. A photograph or type of bitmap such as a jpeg, gif, tiff, etc. This type of image cannot be broken apart like a vector image.

Refillable Cartridges: A type of ink cartridge used in high production, wide format printers to allow additional ink to be inserted while the printer continues to run. This is not recommended unless there is a high production environment since ink exposed to air has a shorter life than ink sealed in a cartridge.

Release Paper: Often called a “transfer”, this is the special paper used to print sublimation inks on. It is a highly engineered paper that is capable of holding a very tight dot gain, accepting ink and then releasing it when heated.

Reveal-S: An experimental paper designed to allow sublimation printers to be used to make heat transfers that can be applied to cotton fabrics. The paper was printed with sublimation ink and then transferred using a heat press. Listed here for informational purposes only.

Ribbon: Sublimatable light colored Polyester ribbon that is generally used as an award ribbon or bookmark. light colored Polyester ribbon can be sublimated.

Ricoh: The brand name of many sublimation printers still being used. The manufacturer of the Sawgrass Virtuoso printers currently being sold for sublimation.

RIP Software: Special color management software used in connection with wide-format printers. Its purpose is to adjust the output to match a printed color standard.

RIP: A raster image processor.

Roller (Metal): A mechanical device used to roll metal into a curved shape. For sublimation, it is used to give a curve to flat sublimatable metal after sublimation. This adds character and allows the product to stand up on its own. Made by Accucutter.

Rowmark: The manufacturer of engraving plastics and distributor of the MATES® product.

Sandstone: A stone-like material used for making coasters that absorbs moisture and when properly coated, can be sublimated.

Satin: Flat or matte finish. Non-reflective.

Sawgrass Technologies: The manufacturer of the Sawgrass sublimation inks and creator of the Creative Studio software.

SG500 & SG1000: As of this printing, these are the current models of Sawgrass sublimation printers. Replaced the Virtuoso series SG400 and SG800.

Shear (Metal): A device used to cut thin metal.

SubliShrink: For those imprintable products that don't fit in a traditional flat heat press or mug press, SubliShrink™ shrink wrap film sleeves provide the appropriate pressure needed to sublimate uniquely-shaped products using a convection oven.

Spacer (Tile): The tiny ribs on the edges of ceramic tile.

Spectrum Marking: The manufacturer of the MATES® material.

Stage: The lower platform on a heat press.

SubliGlass®: The name given to many of the sublimatable glass plaques currently being offered. SubliJet: Brand of Sawgrass inks. Includes several variations such as Sublijet-R, E, IQ and HD.

Sublimation: A process by which a solid turns to a gas and back into a solid without passing through a liquid stage.

Sublimation Sandwich: The order in which the various items are stacked prior to heating in a press.

SubliSlate: The name given to black slate, cut and coated with a white sublimatable coating. Used as wall hangings or products to sit on a shelf, these ½” thick plaques come in a variety of sizes and shapes.

SubliWrap: A sublimatable, self-adhesive white film that is sold by the roll or dye-cut into specific products such as phone covers and face plates for printers.

Substrate: The base or product being sublimated.

Swatch book: A printed book of sample colors, (usually Pantone™ colors) that are used as a color standard so printers, painters and others can refer to a single source and know the actual color. Used in sublimation by running a test strip of colors and manually matching them to the swatch (PMS) book to find a match.

Swing-a-Way Press: A heat press that contains a pivotal joint, allowing the heating element to swing 180˚ so it is out of the way when loading the press. Allows for perfectly vertical pressure on the substrate.

Synthetic Fabrics: This can include many fabrics and most will sublimate; with Polyester being the most common. (Polyester, Micro-fiber, Performance Fabric, Dacron, Olefin, acrylic, Nylon.)

Tacky Paper: A special paper used to sublimate large sheets of fabric with a wide-format printer and heat press.

Teflon Sheet: A brown sheet used to protect a heat press from stray sublimation gas. Commonly recommended to be placed over the rubber pad on the stage of a heat press. Two sheets are often used when printing self-adhesive films.

Template: A computer design that shows the actual size of a product and an extended area for full-bleed printing.

TexPrint: A specialty transfer paper for sublimation.

Textured Metal: Aluminum with a pebble-like surface. Offered by UNISUB and others.

Transfer: When referring to sublimation, what we often call a “transfer”, this is more accurately called “release paper” since the special paper is a highly engineered paper that is capable of holding a very tight dot gain, accepting ink and then releasing it when heated.

Tumbled Stone: Tile made of compressed sandstone.

UNISUB Metal: An aluminum sheet with the UNISUB coating applied. This is the only aluminum containing a UV inhibitor. Has a slightly yellow cast to it prior to sublimating. Considered by most to be the highest grade sublimatable available.

UNISUB: Brand name for most of the products made by Universal Woods. The other brand is ChromaLuxe™. Universal Woods: Maker of all UNISUB and ChromaLuxe products.

Vapor®: Manufacturer of many of the Polyester garments used in the sublimation industry.

Vector Image: An image made up of lines and shapes that can be taken apart when opened in a graphics program. Any image you create yourself starts out as a vector image.

Vector Software: Software like CorelDRAW and Illustrator intended for creating line type drawings.

Virtuoso™: Brand name of the first generation of Sawgrass printers. Included the SG400 and SG800 models, now discontinued. Replaced with the SG500 and SG1000 Sawgrass printers.

Wasatch SoftRIP: A brand of RIP software designed for wide-format printers.

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