Before you start a sublimation printing business - read this

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So you’re thinking of starting a sublimation printing business?

Well, I’m really pleased that you found us first but don’t worry I’m not going to try to talk you out of it, quite the opposite in fact. I want to encourage you to be the best Sublimator that you can be and to provide you with a few tips that will save you money and hopefully enable you to sidestep some of the mistakes that I made. Let’s get started.

OK, first and foremost; start with the basics. Sublimation printing may sound very technical which, in many ways it is, but you only need a basic understanding to get started. You can tackle the rest as you get there in the same way that you would eat a 1lb burger; just a little bit at a time. So when approaching new challenges such as new products or new designs break the process down into manageable bite-size pieces. If things don't quite work out then being able to focus on the individual parts rather than the whole process will enable to you to identify issues and work them out much faster.

For the purpose of this article I’m going to assume that you’ve researched what sublimation is and how it works. But, if you’re still a bit unsure, visit this blog first and then head straight back here because you don't want to miss out on these top tips.


Starting a Sublimation Business

Starting a sublimation business is a very exciting time with lot's to do, think about and plan and now, right at the beginning of your journey, is the best time to start with good habits.

Top Tip: So my very first tip is to start keeping a journal and call it, ‘Things you need to know and do’. This journal is going to be with you for your entire sublimation printing journey and within a few weeks you’ll understand why it’s such a good idea to keep one.

Get used to writing lists, making notes and jotting down ideas. Make notes of the settings that you use when working with different consumables and equipment, sketch your amazing design ideas, keep a record of the things that inspire you, write down everything that worked well and everything that went wrong. If it went wrong then work out why and include that too. Keeping a journal really will help to build your knowledge and understanding of the processes involved in sublimation printing and, if you keep all your notes, you won’t repeat the same mistakes.


Sublimation Business Plan

Even if you are not going to seek financing for your business it is still a good idea to write a business plan. It will help you to focus your idea and to recognise opportunities / challenges plus it will also get you into the business frame of mind so you start to think about your hobby or project as an actual business.

Did the mention of a business plan set them alarm bells ringing? Well do not be alarmed because a sublimation business plan does not have to be complicated or even take a long time to write. The basic things that you’ll need to include are details about your product and who you expect to sell it to. What is different about you and you're product and why should potential customers buy it, these are your unique selling points. Think about where you’re going to find customers and how you’re going to get your product in front of them. You’ll also need to calculate how much it will cost you to run your business and how much you expect to make. You can fine tune your sublimation business plan as you go but make sure that you are making more money than you are spending and that means covering all your costs and time. All these points will provide you with something to measure your progress against. A good business plan requires research but don’t let it stop you getting on with the fun part which is producing fantastic designs.

Top Tip: There are businesses and charities that have been specifically set up to support business start ups so it is really worth taking advice. They'll be able to help you with everything from business plans to tax to cash flow and anything else you may think of. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help.


Start Small

Please don’t take on too much because no matter how talented you are stress can quickly turn something that should be fun and enjoyable into an arduous task. I’ve seen people give up simply because they placed too much pressure on themselves. Enthusiasm is a great driver which pushes us to learn new things but it has to be managed. So be honest with yourself about what you can achieve with the time that you have available. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Top Tip: Depending on how much time you have to devote to starting your sublimation printing business (most people also have another job at the beginning) stick with 1 or 2 ideas and get really good at them before moving on. You’ll build your knowledge quicker this way and with it your business reputation. Then when you feel like you want to take on a new challenge you’ll be more than ready.


Sublimation Equipment

Only purchase the equipment that you’re going to use. It can be very expensive to get started in the sublimation printing business so only get the equipment that you need to get started and I seriously mean the bare minimum. Refer back to your business plan and stick to it.

When it comes to sublimation equipment there are a lot of choices which can inspire new ideas, but if you start small and only buy the equipment you need to get started, you’ll keep costs down and minimise your learning curve so you will be able to master the equipment you already have. Your profits will also be higher which means that when you are to ready to upgrade or invest in new equipment your business will also be financially ready.

I’ve touched on it before but for me this is one of the most important things you can do. Get to know you’re equipment.

Top Tip: Practice, practice, practice. Sublimation printing is a process and the more you use your equipment the better you will get. Whatever you choose to specialise in keep practicing and learning new things.

If you'd like to know more about the different types of heat presses and consumables that are available visit this blog after you've read this.


Learn About Colours

You don’t need to be an artist but a basic understanding of what colours work well together will improve your designs enormously. Working with different colours and trying out new styles and designs is part of the fun of sublimation.

Top Tip: Remember that you need to plan your designs using RGB (red, green, and blue) not CMYK (cyan, yellow, magenta, and black). Computer screens show colours using RGB whereas most printers use CMYK so when you print there will be a difference in the colour. Print colour charts and practice with different coloured designs on different coloured consumables. And don't forget to make notes so you remember everything you've learned.

Three basic methods of colour management are: ICC (International Colour Consortium) Profiles, RIP (raster image processing) Software and Custom Printer Drivers.

Top Tip: All three basic methods of colour management face the same issue which is that colours change properties during the gas stage so my top tip is to purchase software that includes ICC profile creation capabilities, such as Photoshop and, as stated above, get to know your equipment and be prepared to do a couple of test runs to perfect your designs. As your business grows you may want to learn more about RIP software or custom printer drivers but just using software that includes ICC profile creation capabilities and testing your designs is more than enough for small to medium sized business.


Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the most experienced of Sublimators had to start at the beginning and learn the trade. So build your knowledge by reading blogs and articles, practice with new techniques and designs and join online forums. If you're stuck or struggling with a problem post it to one of the forums and someone out there will have the answer. Before you know it you will be the one posting answers.

Top Tip: Find your own niche and make it something you’re passionate about.


Conclusion

Running your own sublimation business is not going to be easy and there is going to be a huge learning curve, not just about sublimation processes but about business management too. Remember that the sublimation industry is extremely fast paced with lots of new technology and techniques being developed all the time so be prepared to keep learning and developing your skills. That said there are few things more rewarding than seeing your completed creations and designs being enjoyed and appreciated by people, after all that's why we love sublimation so much. So stick with it, be honest with yourself, ask lots of questions and above all 'Love It'.

I hope you've found this article useful. We have lots more information about sublimation printing available on our website so stick around and see what else you can find out.