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How to Sublimate Photo Panels

How to Sublimate Photo Panels

Posted by Karen Fay on Mar 2nd 2021

Sublimating Photo Panels

Photo panels are a newer type of media for displaying pictures and home décor. They are aluminum plates that come in multiple sizes with different finishing options like matte, gloss, and semi-gloss.

Design and Printing

To get started, you will first need to setup your design by choosing a program. The program options have a huge range in complexity and price. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be a photo software program.

  • For example, you can use Microsoft Word to size your design, add text, etc.
  • Free design programs are also available such as Paint, Canva, Fotor, Inkscape, and Photoscape.
  • Finally, enters the paid design programs like Adobe Photoshop and Corel PaintShop Pro.

In all cases, you will want to setup your design slightly larger than your photo panel with the idea that an overhang will exist and not transfer to your panel but is ideal to ensure there isn’t a miss in the transfer and end up with an exposed edge on the panel at the end. When you are happy with your design and ready to print to your sublimation printer, don’t forget to mirror your design. Don’t worry if your print does not look as bright as it is intended to be and is as expected.

Now that you have completed and printed your design, its time to prep your print and panel.

  • Cut your print down to minimize excess paper.
  • Remove the protective film from the front of the panel.
  • Tape your print face to face with your photo panel.

Pressing Your Photo Panel

  • Test your pressure while your press is still cold. Ensure that you apply a medium to firm pressure per the application instructions of the photo panel.
  • Set your press to 400° F for 90 seconds.
  • Use uncoated butcher paper both over and under your photo panel.

After pressing the panel will be extremely hot and should not be touched however if possible to remove the butcher paper and sublimation paper, do so. If this cannot be done without burning yourself, let it cool a little before trying again. It is important that the sublimation paper is removed in one swift move and lifted away from the panel as to not create a shadow or ghost effect on your design.

Don’t forget that stands are sold separately from the panel and are a nice added touch to display your new masterpiece.

Pricing

Lastly, let’s discuss pricing if you are into the idea of selling your good. The general rule for pricing is simple and start with knowing your costs. Add together the cost of all your materials like the panel and stand itself and don’t forget to include the cost for your sublimation paper and ink.

  • For example, the 5” x 7” photo panel and stand may cost $3.
  • Now assume the design will use a piece of sublimation paper and you know that you spend $15 (add in your tax and shipping to get it to you) on a pack of 110 pieces. Then that paper is $0.13.
  • You will also need to calculate the approximate ink consumption by dividing the cost of your ink by the number of prints you get on average out of a set of ink cartridges. For this example, we will guestimate $0.50 in ink.
  • Now add those together for a total cost of materials. This brings us to $3.63 in materials. With the use of your equipment and my desire to work in whole numbers, we will round that to $4 in materials.
  • Next you will want to apply a 2 to 3 times multiplier for your time. My personal method is to use a 2 times multiplier for friends and family and then a 3 times multiplier when selling at show, online, and through social media. That 3 times multiplier will allow you to adjust accordingly for offering sales and bulk discounts.
    • $8 for friends and family
    • $12 for trade shows, online sales, and social media contacts with room for sales and bulk discounts
  • It is recommended to calculate shipping separately and use an insured method of shipping.

Now you're ready to start creating beautiful and unique photo panels with dye sublimation. 

For more information on adding Dye Sublimation blanks to your business, check out the blog:

"How to Bank Off Dye Sublimation Blanks."

Written by: Karen Fay - CK Customs