Sublimation Apparel Printing: The Basics

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Sublimation Apparel printing:

Just when think you’ve covered all your printing bases — screenprinting, DTG — someone asks you about sublimation apparel printing. You might not know what it’s called, but you can’t walk into a retailer without seeing an example of it. It’s a printing method that provides all-over coverage, in full-color.

In a nutshell, sublimation printing uses heat to transfer the dyes onto the fabrics. There are two ways to do this: one is to print onto a transfer paper and then transfer the image to the fabric using heat and pressure. The second involves printing the image directly onto the fabric. But either way, you’re looking at transferring the dyes into the polyester molecules using a combination of time, temper

ature and pressure. With dye sublimation, the result is a virtually permanent full-color high-resolution print that won’t crack, fade or peel under normal conditions. If you’re looking for color saturation, you’re looking for dye sublimation printing.

Unlike screen printing, where one color is added at a time, with sublimation printing, all colors are printed at the same time so there’s not a risk of the colors not lining up or running. And as we may have mentioned, sublimation printing is the only way to go, if you’re trying to get that all-over printed look.

Image above: Epson SureColor® F6070

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Offset vs. Digital Sublimation Printing

There are two types of sublimation apparel printing: Offset and Digital. The differences between the two can be simplified to a single word: volume. Offset sublimation requires a pretty hefty investment – the machinery alone can cost up to $1 million and you’re looking to do print runs of between 5,000 – 10,000. So if you don’t have a cool million hanging around, and you’re hoping for print run under 500 pieces, then you’re looking at digital sublimation, which will give the saturated all-over print look, without having to invest quite as much capital.

Image above: from Epson’s Digital Sublimation fashion show

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Direct to Garment Printing (DTG) vs Sublimation

While both DTG and digital sublimation use inkjet printer technology, the processes and results are quite different. The first big difference you’ll notice between DTG and sublimation is going to be your garment choice. DTG is the choice for 100% cotton fabrics, while Sublimation only works on polyester garments (sublimation needs a polymer-based surface). Both processes will work on blended fabrics, but the result will be a little washed out and faded.

But that’s only the beginning. The entire chemistry behind the two processes is different. I’ll spare you the Chem 101, but basically, the DTG process is relying on surface adhesion, while with sublimation, there is actual molecular bonding taking

place. (The dye actually begins as a gas before becoming a solid!)

Image above: The District® Young Mens Sublimate Tee is soft, lightweight and is quite literally, made for sublimation.

 

Sublimation Printing Perks

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  • You can print a highly detailed photographic image on nearly any polyester fabric.
  • You can print on textiles prior to the assembly of the garment for all-over coverage
  • Many polyester fabrics provide moisture-wicking capabilities making your garment perfect for high-performance sports ware.
  • There is no feel, which makes for a soft hand.
  • Perfect for full-color design on light textiles
  • Extensive color options

Sublimation Printing Downsides

  • You have to print on light color polyester – cotton need not apply
  • It can be a little more expensive than other printing options.

Image above: Alo™ M1006 Performance T-shirt’s moisture wicking shirt with an antimicrobial treatment that keeps clothes odor free, is perfect for sublimation printing.

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When you’re ready to take a leap into the world of sublimation apparel printing, check out our sublimation apparel category. If you don’t see what you are looking for, let us know. And we’ll help you get started on your sublimation journey!

Image above: The District® Juniors Sublimate Tee® is perfect for sublimation apparel printing

L.A.T An Industry Innovator

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LAT Sportswear has been in the blank apparel business for over thirty years. During this time the company has gone from being the innovator and pioneer of Rabbit Skins the original imprintable infant clothing line, to cutting edge with their recently released trendy GREY line for Youth and Men.

The line showcases a light weight fashionable Tee, and overall has a fashion forward feel. Trending towards a youthful hip market has been popular as of late in the blank apparel business.  LAT has done an excellent job of creating garments inline with the demands of todays fashion conscious consumer while keeping prices inline with the wholesale markets demands.

Comparable in fit and feel to both extremely popular industry favorites, the TULTEX 0202 and 6901the Canvas 3001, the LAT 6901 boasts a light weight fit and feel. At only 4.5oz this 100% combed ringspun cotton T shirt is very soft to the touch with a comfortable tailored fit. With over twenty five colors to choose from, the 6901 is a great choice for any line. While this Jersey T could easily stand on its own it does not have to! LAT has counter parts to ensure your brand has a consistent finished look.

The 6901 pairs seamlessly with other garments in the line allowing you to screenprint your own small line with a big feel. From youth to infant, and from junior to Lady’s and back, the entire LAT line incorporates many of the same core colors allowing you to imprint your design on a wide range of garments regardless of your run size. Utilizing LAT, you can outfit almost any group with the same colors and fabric.

Innovation does not stop with fit feel and color consistency throughout the LAT line. In addition L.A.T has created one of the first full lines of sublimation friendly t-shirts in SubliVie. Sublimation is a process in which ink is super-heated. The super-heated ink turns into a gas which adheres to polyester. This process allows for extremely vibrant all over prints. sublimationexSublimation has been traditionally used in the creation of uniforms, think cycling Jerseys similar to those Lance Armstrong wore in competition. The creation of SubliVie is truly innovative because of its fit and feel. While the line incorporates 100% polyester garments necessary for sublimation, the feel unlike most polyester garments is almost cotton to the touch allowing for vibrant all over T-shirt printing as seen on the t-shirt to the left designed and sold by Thredya.

L.A.T sportswear is tirelessly committed to providing customers with innovative products for innovative needs at affordable prices.