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Ceramic Sublimation and YOU

The most commonly sublimated ceramics, by far, are ceramic tiles and ceramic mugs. Producing outstanding results with these two substrates require three basic elements. They are: Learning superior graphic skills, using superior inks, equipment and method and, above all, using superior coated ceramics.

It is the last element (superior coated ceramics) that is the subject of this month's article. We are writing this article, as a service, because of the increasing number of telephone calls that we get every month about problems with ceramic sublimation. 95% of the problems are caused by two factors.

First, are the problems caused by "salespeople" that can sell the products but know very little about the proper use and application of the products. For example, one of our friends lost quite a bit of money because they were told that the supplier's ordinary gloss tiles were suitable for a swimming pool. Unbelievable! When you are dealing with a vendor, make sure that you are talking to a knowledgeable ceramic person, not just a commission sales person.

However, inferior coatings on the ceramics cause the second (and biggest) problem. It doesn't matter if everything else in your production process is perfect, if the coating is inferior. The only question that is open, is whether you will have problems now…or in the future. A tile or mug is your artist's "canvass". If that foundation is not excellent, your long-term results will not be excellent.

While there may be other coatings and suppliers producing excellent results, we have done the research and from direct knowledge can only endorse one. The suppliers we are endorsing only use Rich Neely coatings (commonly called RN Coating) and, above all, follow his strict manufacturing guidelines in process application and curing.

While not exactly a "household" name, Rich Neely is a worldwide known name in commercial industry. After several years of development (and quite a few hundreds of thousands of dollars), Rich first introduced his coatings in 1991 and opened his own coating plant in Maricopa, AZ.

From his original plant, Rich continued to refine his original coating and to develop more. Rich closed his plant last year (due to more pressing business needs) but he is certainly not inactive.

In addition to supplying coating material to the five RN Coating certified facilities listed below, Rich supplies his coating products to major industrial users. These are not sublimation "blanks" suppliers. They are major corporations using his coatings for their own use.

Ceramic Tiles

Bison Coating & Supply - Missouri: Bison is the newest U.S., RN Coating facility using the strict Rich Neely coating procedures. While the plant is new, co-owner Paul Whitehill is not. He is a seasoned expert in the field of tile sublimation. Actually, the word "new" is a bit of a misnomer, when describing Bison. The plant ran for months (producing and inventorying their different tiles) before they made their official "grand opening" announcement. That is very rare in this business and shows foresight and concern for their future customers.

Bison offers five different tiles and finishes, each best suited for specific applications. The types offered are Glossy, Satin, Porcelain, Tumbled Stone and their new Glass Tiles. While all tile types have profitable possibilities, we predict that the new glass tiles (yes they really are glass) will take the interior decorating world by storm!

The "Tile Council of America" did independent testing of Bison's glass tiles. Results proved the tiles met ANSI and ASTM standards for commercial wall and floor applications. They passed freeze-thaw testing as well as resistance to chemical substances. Perhaps even more importantly, the tile's surface has a coefficient of friction (how slippery it is) that exceeds OSHA standards and a breaking strength more than 700% above floor standards (Anyone who has had to deal with OSHA knows how important it is to keep that Federal Agency happy!).

They sent us a picture of a commercial job done with ArTainium UV+ inks (what we sell) and their new glass tiles. It blew us away! Click here to see what you think.

Contact Information -,, Phone 866-402-4766

Ceramic Mugs

We have read reports from three different "real-world" sublimators who did extensive "boil" and microwave testing of RN Coated, certified mugs, along with many others. The RN Certified mugs were the only mugs that had practically no discernable color loss, after being in boiling water for one hour.

Sublimator 1st Choice - This company offers standard and premium grade mugs. The standard mugs are what most companies sell while the premium mugs are excellent.

Contact -

Ceramic Tiles & Mugs

Julie of California - CA: This company originally started in 1970 as a custom emblematic jewelry company (Awards and Ad Specialty folks take note. Their work is excellent. We used to buy from them in the old retail days). Several years ago they began offering RN Certified mugs and tiles.

In considering them as a supplier, there are three very important facts for you to know. Pricing - they are an ASI supplier. Prices on their web site are retail prices. Your price on everything is half. Tiles - They only offer gloss, "spacer-less" tiles. Most tiles have two "nubs" on the sides of the tiles. Theirs do not. Also, their 4x4 tiles are actually 4.25x4.25. Frames - Their frames are sized to fit their spacer-less tiles and tiles with spacers will not fit.

One other feature that may benefit some is the fact that they also offer a decorating service for their mugs and tiles. Remember, however, that Julie of California is a true ASI supplier. There are always setup charges and orders take weeks to produce, not days ("blanks", however, are shipped within 24 hours).

Contact Information -,, Phone 800-423-9200.

Listawood - United Kingdom: Listawood is known primarily for their RN Certified mugs but we have heard that they are starting to offer coated tiles. This information is not 100% confirmed.

In reviewing their web site it seems like they are a prime manufacturer/coater, who sells through distributors. We include Listawood to benefit our UK and European friends. You will need to check with them for details.

Contact Information -,, Phone 01 485 529100

In Conclusion…

There are four more important additional facts that we want to make sure you understand.

First - While we are glad to help our customers with the technical aspects of ceramic sublimation (and even sales and marketing) please do not call us about the technical aspects of the tiles themselves, mounting tiles or specifics about the suitability of specific tiles for your application needs. That's the job of ceramics suppliers.

Second - We are not saying that RN Coating ceramics are the only acceptable products in the United States. There may be others that you are buying from and you feel like their products are great. Wonderful! Don't change. What floats your boat fills our sails with wind also.

Third - We are not saying that any supplier that we recommend is 100% perfect, 100% of the time. We don't care if they make BB's or Yachts, we have never seen any supplier that can promise perfection. The good ones, however, do stand behind their products.

Fourth - We don't make a dime from any consumable's supplier that we recommend.

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Updated: 6/10/2011
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