This article has tips, techniques, and trends to get you started using dye-sublimation equipment and materials.
By Cara Cherry
“Dye sublimation is often misunderstood, because it is so different from other methods of printing,” Roberts says. Dye sublimation is closer to dyeing than printing, because actual dyestuff is used instead of inks or pigments. Dye Sublimation can be difficult, because great care must be taken during the heat press process, or the dye molecules that have been vaporized can sometimes deposit on unwanted areas of the fabric if the printed paper is jarred or otherwise moved too quickly. This is often referred to as ghosting of the image.
Dye sublimation also offers a low production run cost and the ability to offer one-offs or smaller runs. One of the downsides to the process is that white or light colored garments must be used. Sublimating is generally not as successful on darker colored fabrics, as the colors do not appear nearly as vibrant. Nor will it work on 100% cotton-based materials. However, garment decorators who offer other decorating methods can embellish with screen printed transfers, DTG printing, or other effects.
Trends in dye sublimation
Newer fashion trends and consumer demands are influencing the use of dye sublimation and its popularity in clothing and apparel. Models can be seen on the runway showing off designer-inspired patterns. Cheerleaders at colleges and universities can be seen sporting the trend, and even companies are getting in on the trend with signage.
The trend for personalized, one-of-a-kind products continues to be in high demand. Tattoo artwork, custom designs and patterns, and even corporate logos can be applied to T-shirts, scarves, dresses, hats, and shoes. The ability to offer unique products also offers a perfect opportunity for decorators to charge a premium price for their service.
In terms of durability and performance, dye sublimation is the best choice for decorating performance wear, because it doesn’t affect the breathability or the moisture wicking properties. Performance garments generally contain high percentages of polyester, which allows them to withstand the high heat required to sublimate the garments. Larger sporting goods manufacturers are now entering into the market, since dye sublimation offers one of the best options for decorating performance wear.
Showing their softer side is a big trend in the corporate world. Fabric signage presents a good opportunity and allows companies to use softer fabrics and textiles to deliver their messages. Temporary outdoor signs, trade shows, and mall kiosks all offer creative uses for dye sublimation as well.
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