This article has tips, techniques, and trends to get you started using dye-sublimation equipment and materials.
By Cara Cherry
Dye sublimation is everywhere. If you’re already in the decorating business, then you’re probably more familiar with the term and the process. If you’re new to the decorating industry, then the term may be new to you as well, but the technique is not. Perhaps you watched the Tour de France or some of the Olympic Games in London this past summer. More than likely you saw various garments from top retailers like Nike and Adidas featuring dye sublimation on their performance apparel. If you’ve visited a department store recently, then you’ve probably also seen dye sublimated T-shirts featuring brilliant, full color, all-over printed images.
Sublimated products are also very popular with promotional products and hard goods. You’ll also see lots of examples of it if you stop by the photo section of your favorite retailer. You’ll find mouse pads, ceramic mugs, and T-shirts all featuring full color photos applied to them using sublimation. Sublimation really is all around us. With new products on the market that can support it and with the increased number of benefits, it has over other decorating methods. Dye sublimation is a great option that can be added to just about any apparel decorating or promotional product business.
Education and equipment
The first step to getting started is to understand how the dye sublimation process actually works. Sublimation takes place when a liquid turns into a gas without going through a liquid state. It occurs after heat and pressure are applied. Dye sublimation uses specialty dyes (known as sublimation dye) that are very unique, because the dye actually embeds colors and graphics directly into fabric (Figure 1). It results in a smooth print that becomes part of the garment. It is extremely durable. No matter how many times the garment is washed, the quality of the image will stay the same because it has become part of the fabric. Several pieces of equipment are needed to get started in dye sublimation.
Decorating software To be successful in dye sublimation or really any type of garment decorating, it helps to be a proficient graphic designer. Knowing programs like CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator will allow you to adjust logos or images for your customers. Having the ability to change colors or reproduce images also makes it easier to create detailed designs in-house without outsourcing.
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