Article written by: Marianne Becktel, You Need This!, November 2000

We all look for ways to remind folks where they got that great looking mug (and other things) so they'll come back for more. In modern marketing parlance, it's called "Branding".

Of course you can pay a printer to do up labels for you to stick on things, but hey, making personalized stuff is what we're supposed to specialize in! Is it possible to make labels that will go through the torture our customers put our mugs and more through?


 I say yes. I put my logo on to mugs and other flat goods using mylar and the newer SubliMates. When the issue became a topic on DSSI, and we were getting mixed messages from manufacturers, I did some research myself. Up until now I had used laser sublimation in black. Could I do color?

My logo varies in colors according to my whims, but it looks like this. I reduced it to 3/4 wide, and add my web site address and phone number in seven point Helvetica below, making it roughly an inch long

I printed these on my 900. Since you trim them as close as possible, you can print them densely to get the best yield. To make a good comparison, I tried the clear mylar material available through Xpres, clear and glow SubliCal available through Machines, Materials and More, and clear and white SubliMates, available through many vendors.

 I pressed the mylar at 400 degrees for 30 seconds. The other two were too light, but came out just right at 40 seconds. I did the transfer face up, surface down. Remember that you are working with a surface where glue may ooze out, so take care to cover your press top and bottom with a silicon sheet, or at least plain paper.

 I applied the decals to some of my wastage mugs. All went on without problems. We covered the native logo with the white and glow transfers. We let them sit five hours to cure. I tested to see how easy it would be to remove at this point. All could be picked up at the corner, but it would take an effort to remove it. The best was the Mates clear.  

Then, I decided to test in the microwave. This would be comparable to someone purchasing a mug, then using it first thing when arriving home

 The first thing I wanted to check was how these decals worked in the microwave oven. One supplier believed them to not be microwave safe. They could have been thinking metalics, but I did want to check on the possible meltability or separation, since most mugs do go into the microwave. However, I placed them upside down for maximum exposure.

They spent 5 minutes on high (with a custard cup of water). When they came out, I tried to move them with my finger to see if they felt soft or melted. No. They could be lifted at another corner, but again, they did not want to cooperate with being removed. The opaque tags were most inclined to be removed, since they felt thicker, and less conforming to the curve of the cup.



The next test was to simulate rough treatment in a dishwasher. But how? I decided to let them simmer in soapy water for an hour. I placed the mugs bottom down in a lined pan which had been squirted with dishwashing detergent. I then added boiling water, and set the burner on low to continue the simmer. Occasionally, I lifted and swished them.

After an hour, I took them out and blasted them with a stream of warm water. Then it was time to test them.


My concerns were that after this, the glue would give out, and the decal would slide easily if not actually detach. So, I tried to move each decal. None of them budged. Not a bit. I then tried to pick a third corner. After some effort, I could do this, but none of the glue seemed ready to give way.




The weakest grip came from the glow and opaque white labels. These seemed stiffer than the others, and could almost flip off. Unfortunately, this is the only way to cover another logo.

Okay, the acid test was what happened when they cooled. The glue appears to have hardened! It was not about to be torn off. So the concerns about removal don't seem to be well founded. They seem to be safe in the microwave (I did not test the metallics, since it appears it may not be safe). And, they can stand up to some punishment. Actually, much better than the mugs. Of course, I don't think a customer would simmer a mug for an hour. At least I hope not. Because if they did, the image would pretty much disappear! Compare these mugs with the pictures above, and you will be able to tell how deep the water was. It's kind of a reminder that you should include a note (or another label) reminding the customers that for best color retention, please hand wash.


All the clear material was extremely acceptable for use as a label. They can all take the abuse. However, if a customer wanted to remove the label, it can be done without great hassle. The best cling overall came from the SubliMates, followed by the Xpres mylar and the SubliCal. The difference was minute. The sticking quality of the opaque materials tested was somewhat less. After all the abuse, the glow material still glowed in the dark!

All substrates sublimated details very well. The 7 point helvetica was readable. SubliCal seems to receive the transfer most clearly. The difference was not particularly noticeable. Any of them will do a good job.


SubliMates by Spectrum Marking Materials 

Mylar (in 20 x 27 inch sheets or 6 inch rolls) by Xpres Corp. 

SubliCal by Machines, Materials, and More

The above review is: Copyright 2000 Marianne Becktel, All rights reserved, and may not be copied or reproduced without the written permission of the author.