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This is the first in a series of posts looking at the entire process of sublimation printing, and how to choose products which work well together and help you to achieve the best results possible.

 

When people ask us which sublimation paper is best to use with our inks, we always feel a little disingenuous recommending our own paper. Obviously we would say that, wouldn't we?

 

When we settled on our sublimation ink, we tested a lot of different papers in order to see which would work best, and to save our customers some legwork in testing out the different options themselves. We know that our sublimation customers are concerned with the quality of their products above all else, and were determined to find the absolute best paper to recommend - after all, it doesn't matter how cheap your mugs are if they look cheap.

 

In order to demonstrate how our paper fares against the opposition, we decided on a simple test. We bought a pack of sublimation paper from ten of the main suppliers in the UK, printed the same image onto each, and sublimated them.

 

With sublimation paper, there are two main aspects which you should pay attention to. These are how the paper absorbs the ink, and how it releases the ink onto your substrate. Sublimation papers can all look very similar, and work based on the principle of a polymer management layer and release agent, but the recipe can vary substantially from one brand to another - it's important to find the paper which works best for your setup.

 

If your sublimation paper isn't capable of absorbing the ink quickly enough, your images can bleed and appear fuzzy around the edges. This bleeding will transfer across to the finished product, and can leave you with mugs and t-shirts looking sub-par. I'm pleased to say that only one of the papers in our test had this problem, and it wasn't ours. Most sublimation papers on the market today are what's known as fast-drying papers, so will readily absorb the ink during printing.

 

You'll find far more variety when it comes to releasing the inks. Ideally, you would have close to 100% of the ink transfer from your sublimation paper onto the finished product. Having more ink transfer means that your blacks will be richer, your colours more vibrant, and you will achieve much better results overall, allowing your images to really stand out. It also makes colour-matching easier, as you don't have to worry about your images looking washed-out or faded.

 

So, with that out of the way, lets look at the results of our tests. We included papers from all of the major suppliers, to try and find a definitive answer to which papers work best with our inks. The printer used for this is the Epson 1500w six-colour A3 printer, and you might also spot a couple of Ricoh sublimation printers in the background - we'll be discussing printers in greater detail in another post.

 

 

The first step was to print out our image onto each of the papers. It's best to leave sublimation paper to dry for a few minutes so the ink can finish being absorbed before it's handled too much, so we ended up decorating most of the office with these sheets - the image we chose was a sheet of around 1,000 colour patches, for the greatest variation in colours tested.

 

The images have now been printed, and are ready for sublimation - as you can see, there's very little variation at this stage of the process - all of the images were printed from the same printer, using the same settings.

 

We sublimated onto white aluminium sheets, one of the easiest substrates to work with. Ours are from Subli Metals Ltd, who provide a huge variety of sizes and finishes. At this point, all of the images have been sublimated for 50 seconds at 180°C and we haven't seen the results - our paper is in the top left of this image.

 

The big reveal - from looking at the sheets of paper, you can see there is quite a lot of ink left on each of the papers, except for one. I wonder which paper it is...

 

Enhance! Here's a closer picture of our paper compared to one of the others - you can see that a lot more ink has transferred across to the metal sheet with ours, giving much more vibrant colours - this will enable you to achieve the greatest possible variation in colours on your products.

 


Enhance! Another, closer look at the sublimated products - the image on the right appears faded, and almost cloudy in places, because of the incomplete transfer of ink. We probably don't need to point this out again, but the one on the left was using our paper. An issue like this may not seem like much on an aluminium sheet, but is far too noticeable on photographic products such as mugs, or on t-shirts (which have a lot more material to dye).

 

Having access to the largest possible colour gamut means you can consistently produce superb products for your clients, and we feel that our paper offers end results which outclass the opposition in terms of both ink fastness and ink transfer.

 

You can find the high-resolution version of the last three pictures here:

There are many, many printer companies in the market – Wikipedia lists more than 100 – and so you might think that providing a truly comprehensive range of ink and toner solutions would be a near-impossible task.

 

But while staying on top of the ever-expanding range of available models is certainly a challenge, we have found that certain brands are mentioned far more frequently than others. There may be 100+ manufacturers in Wikipedia’s list, but the five or six biggest names on that list account for the vast majority of our sales.

 

With that in mind, here’s our countdown of the 5 Biggest Printer Companies in the World:

 

Samsung logo

5. Samsung

Founded: 1938

Home Country: South Korea


 Samsung is a huge name across dozens of different industries – aside from printers, they also manufacture smartphones, televisions, cameras, kitchen appliances, and goodness knows what else. Why are they only #5? Because, unlike most of the other companies on this list, printers aren’t really Samsung’s main export; they’re just a single string in the company’s bow!

 

Browse Samsung toner cartridges >

 


Epson logo

4. Epson

Founded: 1942

Home Country: Japan


Epson is part of the Seiko Group, but while the Seiko brand is synonymous with watches and clocks, Epson have carved out a huge name for themselves in the printing game. As of Autumn 2012, their market share was more than 15%, and they’ve continued to flourish in spite of controversies regarding their ink cartridges.

 

Purchase toner for Epson laser printers >

 


Canon logo

3. Canon

Founded: 1937

Home Country: Japan


 One might argue that Canon are better known for their cameras than for their printers, but let’s not split hairs – printing and photography go hand-in-hand anyway, and Canon are international leaders in both markets. They’re also the only company on this list without a blue-and-white logo, so more power to them for bucking the trend!

 

Buy Canon toner >

 

 

Brother logo

2. Brother

Founded: 1908

Home Country: Japan


Brother are by far the oldest company on this list (they were founded almost three decades before Canon, although admittedly they were called the Yasui Sewing Machine Company throughout a large chunk of their early history).  While companies like Canon and Samsung have complemented their printing products with successful forays into other markets, Brother have mainly been all about the printers for some time now. And it’s paid off – their machines are some of the very best available.

 

Buy Brother toner cartridges >

 


HP logo

1. Hewlett-Packard

Founded: 1939

Home Country: USA


You thought Japan were going to run away with this list, didn't you? 'Fraid not - America, as usual, are at the top of the tree, and even though printers are only a part of HP's massive hardware and software range, Hewlett-Packard printers still appear to be the most popular worldwide.

 

Buy toner for HP printers >

Epson are a Japanese electronics giant that has been around as far as back as 1942, and have had their fingers in the printer world since the early 60s! As you can imagine then Epson printers not only have quite the pedigree, but they also lead the way in terms of technology and innovation.

 

The majority of Epson printers you will find are intended for home use – and it’s fair to say that they have a firm grasp on this sector. Epson’s models range from £24 to £209, and although you may be able to find cheaper there are few brands that contain so many ‘best buys’, which is obviously a massive positive.

 

You can find Epson printers in a number of ranges:

 

Epson Stylus


This particular range contains a large number of multifunctional devices intended for home-use. Within this range there are also models like the Stylus Photo PX730WD which are aimed at photography and photography fans.

 

Epson Expression


These Epson printers are similar to the Stylus range but with a focus on being compact! These devices can print, scan and copy, but don’t take up too much space on your desk!

 

Epson Workforce


As you can probably grasp by the name these printers are aimed towards businesses and the working world. Prices for these models start at around £80 and they’re equipped to handle the extra rigmaroles of business demands.

We ourselves sell some high quality Epson printer bundles so why not browse our range now?

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We have just released a range of refillable cheap inkjet cartridges for the following epson printers complete with ARC auto reset chips,

XP-600,XP-605,XP-700,XP-800,XP-510,XP-610,XP-615,XP-750,XP-850

 

 

As you can see by our video, simple to use and clean !

I have dealt with Cityink for a few years now.  During that time I have purchased two of their kits for 2 different Epsom printers.  The kits are of excellent quality and have saved me a fortune in cartridges.  My first printer needed 6 different inks, and before my Cityink kit, one set of "genuine" Epson cartridges cost as much as the whole kit, which was complete with six bottles of good quality ink. 

 

Apart from the initial cost, the other obvious advantages are that, whereas with cartridges, every time you clean the heads a lot of ink is used which soon empties the cartridges: also, when putting in new cartridges, a lot of ink is wasted.  The kit, on the other hand, as its name implies "continuous ink supply," gives a constant supply of ink so there is no wastage due to continual changing of cartridges.  When I changed my expensive printer (due to mechanical malfunction) I bought a cheaper Epson with 4 inks and so had to buy a new kit, which I am still using 3 years on.  The kits are GREAT. 


I must also mention, that I am not a computer expert and the number of times I have e-mailed for assistance it has been immediately forthcoming from Shane, who must have sometimes been tearing out his hair with frustration.  He has been, and is, an absolute brick and the advice, help and prompt after-sales service he has given me is second to none. 

 

A final note; I thought I was going to have to replace my printer because it was telling me it was at the end of its life.  I contacted Shane for advice and he put me in touch with another company who supplied me with a plastic tank to catch the surplus ink instead of it running into an absorbent pad inside the printer, and more importantly how to reset the printer.  Thanks to Cityink and Shane I am still up and running and printing out pictures, by the boatload, for family and friends. 

 

In conclusion; I can highly recommend Cityink and will continue to use them as long as I am able.  Thanks very much Cityink.

 

Richard