Introduction: Photo Mug Dye-Sublimation Production Process
How do you make dye-sublimation products?
We'll take you on a virtual tour of the dye-sublimation process...
Images courtesy of Photoflurry.com.
Step 1: Dye-Sublimation Mug Blanks
The first step of the dye-sublimation process is the selection of quality blanks. A blank references the mug or other dye-sublimation product that doesn't have an image applied to it yet. Meaning... It's blank! All dye-sublimation blanks must be treated to receive dye. Mugs and cups are coated with a polymer making them dye receptive.
Why a white mug? Dye-sublimation printing doesn't use white ink to print. The dyes are transparent and rely on the surface of the printed mug or substrate for brightness.
Step 2: Dye-Sublimation Printing
Mug artwork is inkjet printed using special dye-sublimation inks and transfer paper. The transfer paper is only a temporary stop for the printed image.
Step 3: Dye-Sublimation Preparation
Once printed, the transfer paper is wrapped around and affixed to the mug or other dye-sublimation product. The image on the transfer paper is actually mirrored or backwards because it's being transferred directly to the surface of the blank.
Step 4: Dye-Sublimation Heat Press
The blank mug and imaged transfer paper are placed in a heat press. As you can gather from the name, heat and pressure are applied to transfer the image from the transfer paper to the surface of the blank. The process infuses the printed dye into the polymer coating of the blank. The image actually becomes part of the mug creating a very durable and long-lasting image.
There are different types of heat presses for a range of products. The accompanying photo shows a mug and cup press. The press needs to conform to the surface of the blank for proper sublimation.
Step 5: Finished Dye-Sublimation Product
Dye-sublimation products are extremely durable and scratch resistant due to the image-infusing process. The vibrant and rich printing is "locked-in" for years of use and enjoyment.