Why Does My Sublimation Print Look Faded? (With Prevention Tips)

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By Lora Blandon

When you sublimate an object, you heat the material to a point where the molecules change from solid to gas and immediately cool it back to its original state. The object appears as a layer of “fogged” or “sublimated” material. It’s not harmful to your print, but it does make them look a little older than they are. This is because when you sublimate something, you can no longer control what happens with the chemical bonds in that particular material. In other words, once you reach a specific temperature, the molecular bonds will start breaking down and changing randomly into other chemicals or elements. This randomness is what causes faded prints. Suppose your sublimation process reaches around 100 degrees at lower or higher temperatures (to a degree). In that case, your prints will look less vibrant and more faded after several washes.

How to Prevent a Faded Sublimation Print?

You can do a few things to help prevent your sublimated prints from fading over time. These include:

  • Lower the temperatures at which you sublimate your objects. The hotter the object is, the faster the molecules will break down and the more faded your print will be after washing.
  • Lower the temperature at which you wash your print. Hot water can cause even more breakage of molecules and make your prints look less vibrant.
  • Wait longer between washes. Sublimation prints can hold more water than other types of prints, which is what causes them to fade. If you can go a few months without washing your prints, they’ll look much fresher.
  • Use a sublimation transfer paper with a lower ink sensitivity. Sublimation papers like the Heat Transfer Vinyl from PaperKing are lower in ink absorption and, therefore, less likely to cause fading.

Keep Your Printed Object in the Shade

Shading your sublimated prints can help to prevent them from fading because it keeps them in the shade, preventing them from being exposed to direct sunlight. If you don’t have direct sunlight in your house, placing an object over your prints in a closed room will help keep them in the shade. This is especially useful if you sublimate your prints on a heat transfer vinyl sheet since the plastic can get hot!

Dry Your Prints Thoroughly

When you sublimate an object, you keep the water inside of it. This means that any bacteria on the surface of your print could contaminate your print with mildew and other germs. To avoid this, thoroughly dry your prints after washing them. If you leave the prints in a damp room or wet sheet, they can pick up bacteria that could cause mildew or discoloration.

Don’t Use Anything Abrasive on Your Print

Even though the sublimation process is safe, it’s still a printing technique, and delicate objects like posters could be harmed. If you want to remove any marks or abrasions on your prints, gently rub a damp sponge over the print or spray with a water-safe cleaner like a diluted detergent. Do not use abrasive cleaners or non-abrasive cleaning products like dish soap or laundry detergent on your prints, as they could harm your print.

Keeping Your Printed Object New and Fresh

To keep your sublimated prints looking new and fresh, follow these steps:

  • Store your prints in a cool, dry place: Humidity, heat, and sunlight can cause prints to turn yellow over time, so keeping them in a cool, dry place will keep the colors fresh. If you have room in your house to store the prints in a cool area, that’s even better.
  • Do not stack prints on top of each other: Stacking them will cause them to rub against each other and rub off their coating. They also tend to get pushed down lower in the stack and start to get rubbed off at the bottom, which is not very nice.
  • Do not store them folded or creased: This will cause them to rub against each other even more and damage the coating faster.

Wrapping It Up

Sublimation printing is a great way to make your design on fabric, clothing, or even paper. It’s safe, easy, and fun to do. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up with faded prints. These are just a few things you can do to keep your sublimated prints looking vibrant and fresh for longer.

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