Sublimation printing allows you to permanently print full-color designs onto fabrics using heat-resistant inks. But the high heat and pressure applied during sublimation can actually damage delicate fabrics. This is where heat tape comes in handy!
Heat tape is a special tape designed to protect fabrics from the intense heat of sublimation. Applying it is a simple way to avoid scorching your materials.
In this guide, we’ll explain the benefits of heat tape for sublimation and teach you how to use it for flawless results. Let’s get started!
Why Use Heat Tape for Sublimation?
Here are the main advantages of using heat tape in your sublimation process:
Prevents Scorching or Melting
The high heat of sublimation, around 400°F, can melt synthetic fibers or cause cotton to scorch. Heat tape forms a protective barrier to prevent fabric damage.
Allows for Diverse Fabric Choices
More delicate fabrics like silk, linen, and rayon can be sublimated worry-free with a heat tape shield. It expands your material options.
Conserves Fabric for Testing
You can repeatedly test print the same fabric piece when protected by heat tape. No need to waste yardage while perfecting designs.
Reusable for Many Projects
One piece of heat tape can be used for hundreds of prints. Just reposition it as needed between transfers. You’ll get a lot of use out of each roll.
Easy to Find and Affordable
Heat tape is readily available at craft and hardware stores. It’s an inexpensive must-have for any sublimation studio.
Now that you know the benefits, let’s go over how to select the right heat tape products.
Choosing the Best Heat Tape for Sublimation
These are the key features to look for when purchasing heat tape:
- Withstands over 400°F – Check product specs to ensure it’s rated for sublimation temperatures.
- Silicone-coated fiberglass – This material combination handles repeated heat exposure without losing integrity.
- Medium thickness – Around 10 to 15 mils thick offers protection without excess bulk.
- High tack adhesive – A sticky adhesive layer evenly bonds tape to the fabric.
- Sheet format – For sublimation, opt for heat tape in wider sheet form rather than thin rolls.
- Good dimensional stability – The tape shouldn’t shrink or expand at high temperatures.
Choosing the wrong or cheap tape will end up with heat tape leaving marks on your fabric, which will ruin your sublimation completely,
With the right heat tape picked out, application is quick and easy.
How to Apply Heat Tape for Sublimation
Follow these simple steps:
- Cut the heat tape 1 to 2 inches larger than your design size to allow a protective border.
- Remove the paper backing from the adhesive side of the tape.
- Smooth the tape onto the fabric, pressing firmly to maximize adhesion.
- Slowly peel away any bubbles or wrinkles to create a smooth surface.
- Secure the edges of the tape with extra adhesive if needed.
And that’s it – your fabric is now ready for sublimation! The heat tape will safeguard your fabric from scorching.
“I was ruining fabric until I started using heat tape for sublimation. It’s a total game changer for delicate materials!”
Now let’s walk through the full sublimation process with heat tape protection.
Step-by-Step Sublimation Process with Heat Tape
Follow these best practices:
- With your fabric protected by heat tape, place the transfer paper ink-side down and smooth.
- With firm, even pressure, run the fabric through a heat press preheated to 400°F.
- After 30-60 seconds under heat, remove the fabric and transfer paper.
- For an all-over pattern repeat, reposition the transfer paper and run through the press again.
- Once complete, allow the fabric to fully cool, then carefully peel away the heat tape.
- Finally, peel the transfer paper to reveal your finished sublimated fabric!
The heat tape takes the risks out of pressing delicate fabrics. Just be sure to remove it promptly once cooled – extended heat exposure will cause tape adhesive to deteriorate.
“I can’t believe how crisply the ink transferred onto the silk with no strikes through the heat tape. I’m hooked!”
Now let’s go over some tips for heat tape maintenance and reuse.
Removing and Reusing Heat Tape
With proper care, heat tape can be reused many times over:
- Allow the tape to fully cool after sublimation before attempting removal.
- Carefully peel away the tape slowly at a 180° angle to minimize adhesive residue.
- If needed, gently remove any leftover adhesive with heat tape adhesive remover spray.
- Store the removed tape flat in a ziplock bag to prevent curling or creasing.
- To reapply, firmly re-adhere the tape starting from one edge to smooth bubbles.
- Replace the tape after approximately 15-20 repeated uses once adhesion wears down.
With just a little maintenance, a single roll of heat tape can protect yards of sublimated fabric, saving you money.
Key Takeaways and Tips
To recap, here are the top tips to remember:
- Use heat tape to protect fabrics from scorching during high-temp sublimation.
- Select heat tape that withstands over 400°F for the best results.
- Cut tape 1-2 inches larger than your design and firmly apply to fabric.
- Carefully peel away and store heat tape flat after use to reuse many times.
- Replace tape approximately after 15-20 sublimation uses for best adhesion.
- Be sure to promptly remove heat tape once cooled to avoid deteriorating the adhesive.
With the proper application techniques, heat tape is a game changing product for flawless sublimation on delicate fabrics. No more ruined materials! Give it a try for your next custom print project.