A Behind The Scenes Look At Our Product Preparation
The products in the commission packages are carefully selected and bought as a blank product and then sublimated by us at Scotty’s Cartoons. This means that we can ensure a quality product and print, every step of the way.
What is sublimation?
Sublimation printing is a process of transferring a dye from a solid state to a gas state, bypassing the liquid state altogether, resulting in a permanent transfer of ink to the material that you’re sublimating onto.
Here’s a behind the scenes look at the process of preparing and printing a Scotty’s Cartoons face mask, which is a product that we sold during the pandemic. The process is the same for each of our sublimated products.
Step 1: Purchase “blanks”.
We painstakingly tested several different blank masks before deciding on the one that we sell. The masks tick all of our “must have”s on our checklist:
Must be a comfortable material (Ours is a soft cotton layer against your face, and a vibrant polyester layer to print on)
Must have a nose strip to aid a good fit, and to help prevent glasses steaming up
Must be double layered
Must have a filter pouch
Must have adjustable straps to ensure a good fit
Step 2: Design.
The masks are all designed by Scotty’s Cartoons, and more designs will be added regularly. I really enjoy this part. From the full face fun masks like the dog mouths and duck beak, to the pattern designs with hedgehogs or ladybirds, it’s a fun aspect of the process.
Step 3: Print
An ordinary printer and paper wont work for sublimation printing, so for the shop products we use sublimation paper and a special printer that prints in sublimation inks.
When printing out the design, the printer allows me to select what type of material I will be sublimating onto, and it adjusts the levels to get the best result.
Step 4: Sublimation preparation
The printed design is taped onto the polyester layer of the blank mask, with heat resistant tape. This ensures that the design stays in place and limits the possibility of “ghosting”, which is when a design moves slightly during the heat stage, which would result in a rejected product here at Scotty’s Cartoons.
Step 5: Heat press preparation
The taped design and mask is placed onto a layer of padding to protect the product, and also onto a layer of baking paper to transfer unwanted ink from outside of the edges of the mask.
(With other items, I take a slightly different approach when printing the design, in that I use precise measurements to print out the exact size and shape required. However, as the masks are a flexible material, they vary slightly in size and shape from one mask to another, so a larger print area ensures that there aren’t parts of the mask left with a white line around them after sublimation.)
An acetate sheet is then placed on top, and the heat press is set to the required time and temperature, and the press is altered according to the level of pressure needed for each product. These three aspects take a LOT of trial and error, but once the right levels are found for each product, they are noted and used for every one of that type of product from then on.
Step 6: Heat pressing the products (The process of sublimation)
When the heat press reaches the required temperature, the top is swung around over the mask, and pressed down to lock the position. “Start” is pressed on the heat press, and it’s left to work it’s magic!
Once the set time is up, the press beeps, and the mask is removed.
Step 7: Revealing the transferred design
I love this bit, it still excites me. The big reveal, although sometimes when it’s gone wrong and the item has to be rejected, the excitement can leave pretty quickly. Thankfully those times are fewer than the good results though, and once the tape is carefully removed it’s time to check it over properly to ensure that it has printed to our high standards.
Step 8: Time to cool
The mask is left to cool and air.
Step 9: Preparation for the customer
The aluminium nose strip is inserted into the mask, and the adjustable toggles are fitted onto the straps
Step 10: Packaging
The disposable filters are left untouched in the plastic packaging that it arrives to us in, and is wrapped in lovely paw print tissue paper with the mask. I print out the customer invoice and the mask details, and package them all together.
Once wrapped, the package is weighed with postal scales, measurements are taken, and then the appropriate postage is bought online. The labels are printed out and attached to your parcel.
It’s now ready to be posted. 😊