Save Time and Frustration by Learning to Embrace the Chaos

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A good friend of mine, Sean Stewart, uses a phrase all the time: “Embrace the Chaos.”  What in the heck does that mean?  More importantly, what does that mean for you in the sublimation realm?

In sublimation printing, as well as pretty much any other decorating technology, we should always fight for perfect-looking products.  What are we fighting? Often, it’s the little flaws and blemishes that are inherent in our chosen decorating technology. It’s only natural because we want our products to look a certain way, and when they don’t, we feel frustrated and look for ways to make them fit our idea of perfection.

However, what if we embraced the chaos, and learned to accept the limitations of our products and that only time and experience will help us save time and energy making near-perfect products?

For instance, with sublimation onto coffee mugs, if you try to go too close to the handle, the image will start to lighten up as it approaches the edge of the heating element of the mug press. That is always going to happen because that is how an item heats up and how the mug press functions.  It is a limitation of the process.

You do have some choices here. First, you can spend all of your time trying to overcome that issue, and if you are going for perfect products, you will end up with a lot of wasted mugs.  The other option is to “embrace the chaos,” accept that limitation and make it a strength.

Use your design skills, and feather the edges of the image before you sublimate it.  That way, if you go too far, and the image starts to lighten, it just looks like a feathered edge.

Here are some other ways that you can save time and frustration by learning to embrace the chaos!

How to Center that Image on a T-Shirt

If you have ever sublimated t-shirts, you know that you will have to work on getting the image straight on the shirt.  You certainly get the feel of it after repetition and practice.

What would happen, though, if you didn’t design the t-shirt to have the image right in the middle, like most “standard” and “every day” designed shirts?

Try moving the main design to the top right or left side, or maybe at the bottom right or left side.  Maybe try both.  And don’t try to be straight with the image.  Be creative and a little crooked on purpose. Crooked-on-purpose is art!

Avoiding Press Lines on Polyester Shirts

If you press a polyester shirt incorrectly and use too much pressure, you will create press lines on the finished garment. These are indentations of the edges of the sublimation paper or the edges of the heat press that get pressed into the fabric.

These can certainly be annoying when you don’t want them on your garment, and the certainly will not wash out…pretty much ever.  They are permanent.

What if you could use that to your advantage, though? People are always looking for a place to put their business logo without overwhelming the garment.  What about making a custom cutout of a logo and then press it into the fabric at the same time you are sublimating it? This would create a texture effect that goes beyond the simple transfer of the image.

Maybe you could cut a specific shape into your cover (blowout) paper to imprint into the garment.  Again, you could create a form of art that would be subtle on the finished product, and completely unique in your market.

Don’t be afraid to embrace the chaos and think a bit outside the box with your sublimation designs and production techniques. Let your creative juices flow and have some fun.  You won’t be sorry, and you never know what you might be able to create.

Kevin Lumberg

Kevin Lumberg is a sublimation industry veteran and expert. He led the sublimation department at Johnson Plastics for more than 13 years and ran his own sublimation gift shop for 3 years. He served as the Chief of Operations for a cut-and-sew sublimation company for 1 year before joining IIMAK, a US-based ink manufacturer.

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