Dye Sublimation & Specialty Imprinting Survey Results
    Survey produced by:  Ernie Ziegler, Custom Engraving, August 2001

    Thanks to all who took the time to answer the survey. I appreciate your helping out.

    A special thanks to Cherie for posting on DyeSub.org and her husband, Terry, for putting the survey into an easy to use form for your access.

    A total of 70 people responded, although not all answered all questions. I hope there's some useful info here for all of you.

    Ernie (AKA Geezer)

1.  Is your interest in sublimation primarily as a:

      Hobby (2)
      Business (68)

2.  If a business do you do:

      Sublimation only (26)
      Sublimation plus other processes (44)

3.  If sublimating in addition to other processes. What processes?

      Engraving (12)  Glass Etching (11)  Screen Printing (12)  Laser Engraving (8)
      Embroidery (6)  Other types of transfer printing (33)

4.  If a business. Are you:

      Home based (26)
      Storefront Only (17)
      Online Only (1)
      Mobile Only (1)
      Combination (23)

5.  Do you plan to go mobile?

      Yes (23)
      No (47)

      This question should maybe have asked: If going mobile do you plan to offer 1. Only premade products 2. Do on-site production.

6.  What printer(s) do you use?

      Epson 800 (2)
      Epson 850 (6)
      Epson 900 (24)
      Epson 980 (20)
      Epson 1520 (9)
      Epson 3000 (34)
      Alps 1300 (1)
      Alps 5000 (5)
      Fargo (0)
      Seiko (4)
      Other (12)

7.  What brand ink are you using?

      Sawgrass (23)
      Sawgrass XL (3)
      Sublibrite (4)
      BASF (10)
      CFII (28)
      Wholesale (1)
      Rotech (3)
      Artainium (9)
      Multiple inks (9)
      Other (9)

8.  Do you use a specific ink for a specific substrate?

      Yes (6)
      No (59)
      Sometimes (5)

9.  If answer to question 8 is yes please list ink/substrate combinations.

      Not all who answered yes or sometimes to question #8 answered this question.

      50-50 cotton/Alps
      Shirts-Hats-Jackets/Thermal Wax
      Ceramics/CFII Polyester/BASF
      Brass Plates/Icon

10.  Are you using:

      Ink Cartridges (55)
      Bulk ink (16)
      Ribbons (7)
      Toner (8)
      Multiple methods (15)

11.  What graphics software are you using?

Corel Draw 7 (5)
Corel Draw 8 (11)
Corel Draw 9 (28)
Corel Draw 10 (8)
Corel Draw other (2)
Photoshop 5 (11)
Photoshop 5.5 (18)
Photoshop 6 (23)
Photoshop other (0)
Paintshop Pro (14)
Adobe Illustrator (21)
Genuine Fractals (13)
Other graphics (list)
MS Publisher (2)
Hanes T-shirt Maker (2)
Freehand (6)
Adobe Photo Deluxe (1)
Printmaster Platinum (1)
Photogenetics (1)
Picture It (3)
Photofinish 4.1 (1)
MS Photodraw (1)
Corel Printhouse (1)
Micrographics (1)
Smart Designers (2)
Photo Impact (1)
Xara Studio (1)

12.  What platform do you use?

      PC (58)  Mac (5)  Unknown or both (7) 

13.  Do you have a written business plan?

      Yes (33)
      No (37)

14.  If the answer to question 14 is No, please explain why you don't have a business plan.

      Never got around to it (3)
      Operate by gut feel (6)
      In my head (4)
      Too busy (6)
      Not sure how to do it (6)
      Things change to fast (1)
      Not necessary (2)
      Working on it (1)
      Process to unstable to warrant the effort (2)

15.  Would you like help in formulating a business plan?

      Yes (34)
      No (33)

16.  How long have you been sublimating?

      Less than 6 months (26)
      6 to 12 months (14)
      1 to 2 years (9)
      More than 2 years (21)

17.  Do you have a niche product/market?

      Yes (42)
      No (28)

      I was surprised by the number of yes answers to this question, though maybe I shouldn't have been.

18.  Do you think it would be best to develop a niche product/market?

      Yes (61)
      No (9)

19.  Do you use the services of a:

      Sales representative (9)
      Web designer (6)

      I wonder if those that use the services of a Sales Rep. or Web Designer; would be kind enough to share their experiences on the forum. How did you find a Rep.? Success/horror stories? Compensation for Rep/Designer?

20.  Does a special interest you have (raise dogs, race cars, children's teams or clubs, etc.) provide business for you?

      Yes (50)
      No (20)

21.  Are you a member of the Chamber of Commerce?

      Yes (12)
      No (58)

22.  Do you think sublimating will ever provide you with a fulltime income?

      Yes (31) One person said it already is.
      No (15)
      Maybe (24)

23.  Do you feel you need marketing help?

      Yes (51)
      No (19)

      Purveyors are you paying attention. Is this an area where Unisub is leading the field?

24.  Do you feel you need technical sublimating help?

      Yes (53)
      No (17)

      Would local area meetings help in this area?

25.  Do you feel you need designing help?

      Yes (36)
      No (34)

26.  Do you feel you need software training help?

      Yes (39)
      No (31)

27.  Would you like to meet informally/occasionally with other sublimators in your area?

      Yes (68)
      No (2)

      Seems almost unanimous we want to meet. Now who will follow-up with making arrangements in their localities ?

28.  How far would you travel for a meeting?

      Less than 50 miles (16)  50 to 100 miles (29)  100 to 200 miles (19)  200+ miles (5)

29.  How often would you like to meet?

      Monthly (19)
      Quarterly (31)
      Semi annually (11)
      Once a year (7)

30.  Please add any comments, suggestions or questions you would like to ask.

    I have felt like getting into this type of printing has been like walking alone in a dark alley except for the assistance from the forum. I still have never seen anyone other than me dye-sub in person! I first tried color laser transfers, what a nightmare! I have been very happy with the quality of dye-sub. Would like to see the product lines expanded and the prices a little more competitive with other types of imprintables.

    I don't know if this skews the survey in any way, but I am not really in the business of "Sublimating", rather, I added sublimation to my catalog business as a way to increase my product line. I don't do much custom work, mostly production work for retail. Kind of a different approach than many other sublimators, but something that might be worth noting.

    How about creating a local user group, with meetings once a month? We have several sublimators in the area. Once I get rid of the screen printing stuff I would have room here for a small informal group.

    I believe that there is a need to be filled for a level of training and information one or two levels up from the level that J. Steven Spence seems to target, which seems to be more of a newbie level. I don't fault Mr. Spence in the least for that approach. But I'd like to see more advanced work such aas ink comparisons, substrate comparisons, equipment comparisons, procedure comparisons, more of an overview of ink jet sub's strengths and weaknesses compared to other processes for given jobs, more of a focus on color matching, UV, washability, consistency among runs and between runs, tradeoffs when getting into production scenarios, etc.

    Most of the DSSI Forum people provide real support to the "newbie" – I would love to visit sublimators in my area, see their products, explore the possibilities of "going mobile", gain ideas for marketing, explore some guidelines for pricing and creative ways to display my products.

    Most of my questions involve the running of a small business….taxes, regulations, organization.

    I feel that home based or basement "businesses" are nothing more than a hobby…. While some of these "hobbies" can produce an income, raising gerbils, dogs, growing tomatoes can probably be just as profitable.

    I have been involved with such businesses and have drawn this conclusion from experience…Those that sell equipment and supplies to "home based" businesses are the ones who make real money. Yes there is a rare exception here and there, but most home based biz are little more that a hobby.

    Personally, I would like to see more help from suppliers and distributors, especially concerning the use of any other ink on the substrates they're distributing. Most in this business tend to have tunnel vision when it comes tp alternatives. The DSSI Forum has been a tremendous help in picking up the slack from Vendors.

    I think I am so diversified in all the things that I do that my business is unlike most. I want to have a hundred different things for a hundred different people. If I sell 100 items to 100 people for a $1.00 it is ok. If one quits buying..oh well. If I sell 100 items to 1 people for $1.00 each and that one quits buying..different story. This is why I don't like to do :mass producing" which is one question you might have asked…as some sublimators like that and some don't.

    Well, I think this kind of business (sublimation) is pretty new and we need all the information and help possible to put our hard work in the right direction.

    The DSSI board has been the best resource I've found for info, and am happy to contribute to the info base.

    I think our biggest concern at this time is consistent color matching. We need ICC profiles that can be loaded and soft proofed on screen. The closer we get to WYSIWYG, the better off the whole industry will be. Then we need to work on fade resistance to open up markets other than novelty items. Biggest pet peeve are manufacturers and distributors that expect us to burn a pile of substrates trying to get colors to match, then promote this business as a way to do custom one offs. What a load!!! I think sublimation in some form has hugh potential but we have some pretty big problems to address first.

    We've gained so mush from the DSSI forum. We don't post often since we're new to sublimation.

    Look forward to expanding our knowledge and increased business in the sublimation arena.

    As I stated we are relatively new to this, I hope the seminar helps, I believe sublimation hasn't even started to scratch the surface of what it could do. Tote bags came out awhile ago. Since we have sold 160 of them. I would like to see a group meeting somewhere.

    I'd like to see a more formal sublimation association created, you know things like dues paying membership of retailers & suppliers. I'd prefer it to be retailer oriented but since so many sublimation retailers also supply some products….. A formal association would garner much more respect from manufacturers as well as dispel the hobbyist image we often have.

    I have not officially started my business. My current status is in the learning stages. It has taken me a pain=stakingly long time to even get to where I am (which is not far) in terms of learning my photo program for isolating and improving photo images and practicing with my dyes and pressing. My biggest need in dye sublimation would have to be there is nowhere to go for training. I have had someone come to my home for training with the photo software, but the dye-subbing is an entity of it's own. The DSSI forum has, therefore, been invaluable, but I wish there was a school/tutoring that could go on in person.

    I would like to know how many business's come from T-shirt stores.

    I am mainly working with an Epson 9000 doing larger format work with FRP, aluminum and poly fabrics. I use the Colorburst RIP (Conde's subliprint). The images that I sub range from text to pictures to images created in PS6. FRP and metal are pressed between 60-75 secs @ 400 deg. Polyester fabrics are usually pressed for 30-45 sec @ 400 deg.

    I have used offset prints from a few different printers in the past, but have had problems with consistency. I know that you did not ask for this info, but thought that it might be useful. Also a little curious as to how many other people fall into the category of printing over 17" wide and on what substrates.

    Invite to other sub users in using a web site.

    Design of survey could use some work, does not allow for our input, mostly yes/no answers.


The above survey is: Copyright Ernie Ziegler  Graphs by:  Cherie Derrick - 2001, All rights reserved, and may not be copied or reproduced without the written permission of the authors.

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