This article has tips, techniques, and trends to get you started using dye-sublimation equipment and materials.
By Cara Cherry
Shockwave Apparel is well known for mixing a variety of different applications together. They own their own sublimation equipment, including a MAXI•PRESS, Mutoh RS900 digital printer, and two mug presses. Shockwave also offers screen printing, embroidery, rhinestones, and sequins. “Dye sublimation makes a great base because the graphics blend into the fabric. The smooth surface makes it easy to add a variety of embellishments to create a truly unique, custom garment,” Gaardbo says.
Shockwave targets their dye sub offerings to a variety of markets. In addition to fashion, (Figure 7) they are seeing great profit potential with corporate clients. While T-shirts are still their most popular sublimated item, burnout shirts (Figure 8) and bikinis have been especially popular with liquor brands and energy drink companies.
According to Gaardbo, “Sublimation is a great option to have in any decorating shop. The ability to mix a variety of media makes it a great choice for any decorator. My only wish is that manufacturers would produce a greater variety of garments featuring polyester in order to allow us to carry a wider range of clothing options.”
While not every garment decorator is ready to bring sublimation in-house, there are still a variety of ways that you can offer it without a big investment. There are a number of companies that offer high quality transfers with a fast turnaround. Simply send them the artwork, and they’ll send you a sublimated transfer that just needs to be heat applied to the appropriate garment.
Another option is dye sublimated twill and appliqué. Several manufacturers of heat- applied products offer custom letters, numbers, patches, and name bars. Multi-color appliqué is ideal for embroiderers, because it costs less than embroidery, and it doesn’t have the bulk of multiple layers of thread. Since there are no color limitations and photographic images can be printed in extremely fine detail, sublimation is a nice alternative to other methods.
According to Roberts, “The ability to manufacture a garment through a print-press-cut-sew workflow for 100% custom full-garment sublimation of T-shirts and other garments also makes for great profit potential. These workflows allow small garment decorators to provide a fully custom shirt that will command a higher price tag than a typical screen-printed T-shirt.”
Make it work for you
Jimmy Lamb, manager of education for Sawgrass Technologies, says, “Sublimation is truly one of the most unique and diverse digital printing processes in the industry. Since sublimation dye won’t fade, crack, or peel when laundered and it provides extreme durability and long-lasting color vibrancy, it offers an ideal way for decorators to add full color graphics to poly-performance apparel. Thanks to consumer-oriented companies, such as Under Armour, poly-performance apparel has become immensely popular in the mainstream retail marketplace. And on top of that, the same process used to sublimate clothing, also works for a wide range of non-apparel merchandise including promotional products, signage, awards, plaques, photo gifts, spirit products, and more. Sublimation is really remarkable!”
Dye sublimation is also becoming more popular and more recognizable with consumers. Decorators who add it to their business will find that the future for dye sublimation holds tremendous growth potential and opportunities. Like any decorating method, it has its strengths and weakness, but as any good decorator knows that finding a way to make it work for their business will guarantee long-term potential and a great opportunity for increased business with new and current customers.
Cara Cherry is a freelance writer located in Michigan. Her industry experience includes more than five years working for a well-known manufacturer of materials and equipment for garment decorating. In addition, she has degrees in both public relations and marketing and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She has written articles for various industry publications and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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