In the world of dye sublimation printing, most of the conversation focuses on printers and inks. Last year, Esprix Impressions started changing that last year with the introduction of its Artesprix Permanent Thermal Transfer Markers.
This is a really cool concept. Simply use the markers to draw or color on plain copy paper, then press the design onto a sublimation-friendly product. We at Sublimation Today wanted to see how well this works in real life, and give you a full picture of what you get when you invest in a set of these pretty nifty markers.
What You Get
Most major dealers of dye sublimation printers, inks and blanks carry Artesprix markers for around $35 each. They come in a 10-pack with yellow, magenta, orange, red, light blue, green, dark blue, purple, brown and black.
The markers are chisel tipped, which means you have to practice a bit to get your strokes and fine details right. One thing we learned is that you don’t want to use these to quickly color an image. Long, slow strokes do a much better job filling in color and reduce the chances of the marker drying out. Take some time to get a good feel for how the ink flows from the tips.
How it Works
These markers user sublimation ink. When you print a sublimation transfer from your computer, the dye solids absorb into the transfer paper and then release during the sublimation process in the heat press.
With these markers, the dye solids stay on the surface of the paper, waiting to be pressed into a product. That means you don’t use sublimation transfer paper when using Artesprix markers. Regular copy paper is your best bet.
You can, however, print designs to be colored (such as blank mandalas or coloring sheets) using your sublimation printer. Then use the Artesprix markers to color in the white spaces. We printed 2 mandalas and a page from a Pusheen coloring book we scanned into our computer for our experiments. Both were printed on HP copy paper using an SG800 printer with SubliJet-HD ink.
Once we had our prints, three members of the Sublimation Today team went to work! We colored in the mandellas for 2 Unisub coasters. The Pusheen design was sized and colored for a seat belt cover.
Using the markers was easy. Just uncap and color. We learned that:
- Long, slow strokes worked best for filling in large areas.
- You can color over the black lines that are already printed. The black will show through most colors.
- If you color in a large area fast, the marker will seem to run out of ink. If you let the marker sit for a while, it should go back to normal.
- The ink color spreads, so be careful how much ink you put down in one area.
- The yellow can pick up smudges from the other colors or pre-printed black, but the discoloration remains on the paper, not the marker itself.
- The colors are dark when they go onto the page.
- The ink dries quickly and you can feel the solids on the surface of the paper.
Once you’re done with your coloring, just attach the design to your product and press according to the substrate manufacturer’s instructions.
We pressed on both hard and soft substrates, and we found that the colors are significantly brighter after pressing.
With dark colors, like brown and dark blue, you get a deeper darkening, but also a better sense of what the actual color is. When they’re dried on the paper, it can be difficult to figure out what the color is or what it will look like if you don’t already know. Even with all that said, there is a large amount of brightness that comes with these dark colors.
Brightening is even more pronounced with the lighter colors. Some, like pink and yellow, are almost fluorescent! We expected the glossy coaster to outshine (literally) the color on the matte fabric, but both were very bright and eye-catching.
The quality and consistency of color aren’t the best; it’s easy to tell that the ink was not printed. You can see some strokes from the markers, though much of the color blends during sublimation. However, if you left more ink in one area than another, it will show.
These markers work best for applications where you want your customers to be involved with what you’re making or when you want there to be some hand-crafted aspect to your product. These are not practical for everyday use or applications and were probably not designed for such purposes.
Two quick ideas for making money with these markers include:
- Special Events: Take your business on the road to a local festival or event. Invite customers to make their own designs or color in pre-printed transfers. Then transfer them to mugs, which is a fantastic product for a mobile sublimation operation. A mug press is light, portable and the dwell time is short.
- Team Sports: Offer these as part of a team package of products. Have team members use the markers to sign or draw on a sheet of paper, then transfer it to a plaque, photo panel or mug.
Have you used Artesprix Permanent Thermal Transfer Markers?
Share your experiences in comments below!