Sunday, 11 February 2018

Sublimation Printing on Felt - Test

I have spent a lot of time researching the best AND most affordable way to print on felt.


Background:

I wanted a method of actually printing on felt, rather than using t-shirt transfer paper which leaves a plastic film on top of the felt. This plastic layer prevents felt from sticking to itself and makes layering difficult. Layering is very useful for felt board story play sets and quiet books, such as dress up dolls and the like.

Sublimation printing transfers the ink directly into the felt fibers, and because it uses pigment based ink instead of dye based ink (which is water soluble) it tends to last well even after washing. A sublimation printer prints the pigment ink onto sublimation paper. After it has dried, the paper is layered on top of the felt and pressed in a heat press. This heats the ink so fast that it quickly turns to a gas and transfers from the paper onto the item - in my case felt.

After I came to the conclusion that sublimation printing was most likely the best way to go, I set about finding a way to make it affordable.

There are a couple of companies that offer such services online, such as Bags of Love or Contrado in the UK. It is rather expensive, particularly if you do not live in the UK!

I considered buying my own sublimation printer and heat press - which would have been more affordable than buying from overseas. I joined as many sublimation printing groups on Facebook as I could to find out what were the good brands and such. Most importantly, I wanted to check that sublimation printing on felt does actually work before I made an investment in a printing system.

I quickly discovered that an affordable machine does not come with the most vibrant inks. And the ink can dry up and clog the printer if you don't use it regularly. Since my use would only be as a hobby, I decided it would be better to let the professionals deal with those issues.

In a couple of the local sublimation printing groups I asked if someone might be willing to do a test for me. Thankfully Leonie from Digitextiles offered to test some felt samples for me at no cost!




Digitextiles Test Sample Results:


Club House felt roll (Spotlight) - was SUCCESSFUL and improved the fiber quality (I was worried that it was not good enough but the heat press tightened the structure of the fibers)

Acrylic felt packaged roll (Spotlight) - was SUCCESSFUL

Arbee 50 pack A4 felt sheets (Spotlight) - was SUCCESSFUL

Acrylic felt by the meter (Spotlight) - was SUCCESSFUL

Arbee stiffened felt sheets (Spotlight) - was SUCCESSFUL but became a lot thinner than it was originally, although it remained stiff

Sullivan's A4 felt sheets (Lincraft) - was SUCCESSFUL and remained around the same thickness and quality

All felt was heat pressed for 45 seconds at 190 degrees with no preshrinking.


Screen printed fabric on heat press to sure
 ink in studio by Scrud123


My Felt Printing Plan:

In an effort to make printing on felt affordable, I asked Leonie if she would be willing to print and post me sublimation paper only. That way I would only have to buy a heat press and I would also be saving bulky postage and providing the materials and manpower myself. Transferring individual parts of an image to stiffened felt can be done as required and would not be causing too much mucking around for a sublimation printing business (which would also put costs up).

She has agreed! Printing costs are around $20 per 1 x 1.48m area plus postage. This area fits around 21-25 A4 sheets of images. She prefers images are sent via email or drop box. They should also be sent as individual images rather than as a 21 page PDF (which suits me perfectly).

If you are interested in using this method, here is a great buying guide by STAHLS' for what to look for in a heat press.

3 comments:

  1. A really well written and interesting blog. I am honoured you chose to work with Digitextiles. I would love to see your felt book when it is complete.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A fabulous article - thank you. :-)

    (Mary)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing this with so much of detailed information, its much more to learn from your article. Keep sharing such good stuff.
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