Mar 182011

Published in Image Magazine
Publish Date TBA

The Dye sublimation industry has become a very strong market. For those of you that may not be aware of it the process involves printing with an inkjet printer (small or wide format), with special water based inks onto a transfer paper. This transfer paper is then put on top of a polyester product such as fabric and with the combination of heat, time, and pressure the ink is turned into a gas that transfers internally to the fabric fibres rather than on the surface where it could be damaged as in other technology. This process means that the print can be used in the same way as other fabrics; it can be used as clothes or banners that can be ironed or washed just like any other.

We have been offering colour support to the dye-sublimation industry for a while, but have just recently completed what we believe to be the largest colour management project to this industry to date involving 10 printers across 2 countries, and all profiled and calibrated onto around 30-40 different fabrics. We will have another article on this project with more details but it’s a good reference when I talk about colour to this marketplace.

In the past this company was like almost all others producing dye-sublimation, to get the desired colours their customers expect they have to print swatches of colour to try to find the right combination of colour that will match their chemically dyed or previous garments. In one location this was 80% of a person’s time exclusively on this colour matching. In many cases they were forced to use additional non-standard colours such as Blue or Red to get the colour they need, and once they eventually find the particular colour they are happy with, it only prints that way on that side of that fabric. They were not able to get consistent colours between different fabrics, or printers, and definitely not able to match results between country production facilities.

We have standardised them to Pantone colours where they use a hand held spectrophotometer (colour measurement device) that will measure any sample colour and let them know the closest matching Pantone. We then built custom calibrations and profiles for each fabric and printer that have taken into consideration the printer, press (type, time, pressure and temperature), transfer paper, inks, and fabrics so that they are now able to accurately produce Pantone colours on first attempt, but also match the results across all of the calibrated fabrics even matching the flat side to the honeycomb sides of the fabric. Even to us it was surprising the degree of accuracy we were able to achieve across so many variables, in our testing we found that we had around a 98% Pantone accuracy result across all fabrics even though we dropped their system from 6 ink colours down to 4 removing the Red, Blue and Orange (we always remain reserved in our predictions when customers ask what quantity of Pantone colours can be accurately produced and normally understate at around 80-90% because of unforseen variables so this was an exceptional result).

The wasted labour and consumables that this company is now saving by reduced reprints is substantial and in a marketplace that is forced to compete more and more with Asia this has given them a greatly reduced cost of manufacture, and improved quality, leading to very good customer satisfaction and increased production ability.
If you are struggling with colour on dye sublimation then don’t let anyone tell you that you must take the hard road and figure it out yourself colour by colour, technology has come a very long way and there is absolutely no reason that you can’t expect automatic and accurate colours and images in this process, talk to your vendor about an improved workflow today.

If you would like to know more about colour management, we offer a lot of free information online at or contact us to find out more.

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