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Sublimation Tip of the Month - Moisture Issue

The introduction of moisture into the sublimation process can cause unwanted results. During production with a heat press operating at 200°C, moisture can flash to steam and literally blow the ink away from its intended target. Some of the problems that are attributed to moisture include colour shifting (colours lose accuracy), image bleeding and the uneven transfer of solid-filled areas.

Under normal circumstances, a small amount of moisture can accumulate in the transfer paper and it’s usually absorbed directly into the substrate during pressing. However, hard substrates like metal and ceramic are unable to absorb excess moisture. Thus, it’s important that you take steps to minimize the introduction of moisture into the process. The first step is to protect the paper from moisture absorption. As a preventative measure, store your paper in dry place. Consider a sealed container such as a re-sealable bag. If you suspect moisture, set the paper on your press for a few seconds. Do not press it; just expose it to the warmth. The heat radiating from the press should help evaporate most of the moisture.

Another trick is to use newsprint or butcher paper instead of a Teflon sheet. The paper will help absorb moisture from the transfer sheet during pressing, whereas Teflon will not. Be sure to use a fresh sheet of paper for each pressing cycle.

If you are working with garments or fabric, it’s also possible that the substrate may contain a bit of moisture. Pre-pressing the garment for about 10 seconds should remove the moisture, as well as any wrinkles. In addition, you should focus on your work environment. High humidity levels usually contribute to moisture issues. A dehumidifier can help control these issues, but reducing it too much can have negative effects on the inks and your equipment. It’s wise to invest in a hygrometer and take some readings. The ideal operating conditions for sublimation are 15°C (70°F) to 25°C (80°F) with above 35% relative humidity (no condensation).

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