What is sublimation printing?

What is sublimation printing?

If you’ve been around the block, you’ve probably heard of the term sublimation printing or all-over-print (AOP). This article will tell you more about this sublime technique that helps create unique pieces of clothing, accessories, and even drinkware that you can add to your eCommerce store. Hint: customers love them!

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What is sublimation?

If you’re new to the print on demand (POD) dropshipping world, there are a couple of different printing techniques. But let’s talk about the most eye-catching of them all: sublimation printing. Otherwise known as all over print, sublimation printing is a design process where inks are transferred onto the product using heat. 

If you’re looking for long-lasting POD products that feature distinct colors and high-resolution quality, keep an eye out for AOP clothing in the Printify catalog. The process is applied to achieve that vibrant, all-over, everlasting graphics on apparel and home décor.

AOP Clothing

In short, here’s the whole sublimation printing process:

  1. Artwork is printed with sublimation ink onto sublimation paper
  2. The blank item is then placed onto a jig
  3. The garment is wrapped in the desired design
  4. Then it’s pressed in a heat press
  5. Et voila!

How does sublimation printing work?

Sublimation printing uses heat to fuse ink and surface material or fabric, depending on the case. The inks used in the sublimation process turn into gas when brought under heat, then combine with the textile and permanently imprint onto the fabric. The result is permanent and significantly less prone to fading, as the ink penetrates the material instead of simply laying on top like a regular print.

Think of sublimation printing almost like tattooing where fabric is used instead of skin. Then, instead of pores, there are fibers that open up under the heat. There the ink cools while pressure is applied, transitioning back to a solid, secure form.

 

Fact: The sublimation printing method allows for long-lasting designs – the images won’t crack or wear even after dozens of uses.

This quick, effective print method is constantly gaining popularity, especially for designs that rely on nuances. Sublimation printing, or ‘all over printing’ (or AOP – these two terms are interchangeable, so don’t get confused if you see one or the other), allows you to play around with designs that cover the entire blank product from seam to seam.

What about sublimation shirt printing?

Sublimation Shirt Printing

When it comes to sublimation t-shirt printing, the artwork is first printed onto a special sheet of paper. That image is then transferred onto another material, like polyester or a polyester mix, and the ink then gets heated until it literally disintegrates into the material. The process of sublimation shirt printing may cost more than other methods (screen printing) but it lasts longer and won’t crack or peel over time. And did we mention it looks way cooler?

The pros and cons of sublimation printing

The pros

The most exciting upside for this method is purely the freedom you have with your designs, which is not always possible with other printing methods or embroidery. With sublimation printing, you can go bonkers – a shirt that’s covered seam to seam in hotdogs? Knock yourself out. AOP socks that look like blocks of cheese? I want a pair of brie, I mean three. A gorgeous galaxy print leggings? You betcha!

Of course, you can also keep it classy with prints of cloudy skies, grass, cupcakes, landscapes, etc. The possibilities are endless, which will keep you (and your customers) coming back for more.

The longevity of sublimation print is another positive aspect here – a design that won’t crack, peel or fade even after countless wash cycles.

Sublimation printing is fit for small batch orders, seam to seam patterns, and garments with many design variations and applications.

The cons

The cons lay mainly in the choice of materials. Sublimation printing isn’t available for natural fibers like cotton or silk – it’s only suitable for garments that include pure polyester or polyester blend. Although you could use cotton, the image won’t be permanent, plus cotton fibers are way more absorbent, and the outcome simply won’t be pretty. And silk would just get damaged in the process as it is not heat resistant at all.

If you’re lusting after a distressed or vintage look, simply look for apparel items with a lower percentage of polyester. For your convenience, we have a whole section of AOP apparel in our catalog + many a home decor and drinkware items. 

Another potential issue to watch out for is white creasing. Sublimation printing is only available on white blank products, and if there are areas of the garment that are left uncovered or simply out of reach (like the area around the seams, for example), they’ll remain white. This can occur by accidental folding, or when minuscule droplets of moisture accumulate on the transfer paper. This is not a huge dealbreaker, but you should definitely be aware of this.

Other than material that can be used for sublimation printing, one of the core limitations is the color of the blank items. Because sublimation printing is a dye process, you get the best results when the fabrics are either white or light-colored (that’s why in the Printify catalog, you will only find white blanks).

Is there white ink in sublimation printing?

Sublimation Printing

Unfortunately, no. And this would add to the cons list. Sublimation employs a CMYK color scheme; thus, no combination of any base color ink can create the color white. You can print onto lighter color or ideally white materials, but this will not work with sublimation if any of your designs have white within them.

What are the best-selling AOP products?

Some of the products that you can include in your eCommerce store would definitely be t-shirts and sweatshirts. But among the most popular there also are sublimation socks. Feel free to read this piece on tips on how to sell sublimation socks like a pro, because it really is a lucrative niche.

Designs that work well with Sublimation printing

Sublimation printing works especially well with dramatic, whimsical, and almost, dare we say it – ridiculous designs. I can neither confirm nor deny that the author of these lines owns leggings with dozens of bratwursts printed on ’em.

What sublimation products does Printify offer?

Printify sublimation products

In the Printify catalog, you’ll find blank all-over-print goodies for every need: we offer leggings, t-shirts, hoodies and jackets, socks, underwear, swimsuits, bags, and even countless home decor items – mugs, cushion covers, and so much more – you’ll simply have to visit the catalog and see for yourself.

What makes Printify the best sublimation printing provider?

It’s simple – working with us is a walk in the park. Printify is free, foolproof, and oh so lucrative. Besides the vast catalog of 300+ printable items and a network of 90+ highly-rated print providers from all around the globe, Printify provides you with tools that help you sell more:

Streamlined fulfillment

Printify's print providers handle order fulfillment so you, the merchant, can focus on marketing and growing your brand. Design your products, publish them to your online storefront, and Printify handles the rest without you needing to lift a finger when you make a sale.

Production network

Printify lets you easily choose among the 90+ print providers the ones you wish to work with. Take a pick based on what's essential to your business – product, location, and price. By choosing print providers closer to your audience, you can substantially save on shipping costs and fulfillment time.

Save more with Printify Premium

Printify is and always will be free to use for everyone. Integrate your sales channels with ease and publish as many products to your stores as you want. But with their Premium subscription, you get an additional 20% off on all products drawing more profit. And that's not all – the first $29 gets deposited directly to your Printify account that you can use for ordering samples.

Easy integrations

The Printify platform offers automatic integrations with some of the world's most popular online marketplaces and eCommerce platforms: Shopify, Etsy, Wix, WooCommerce, eBay, BigCommerce, and more.

Now that you know a little bit more about this sublime printing technique, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Figuratively, of course, since Printify does everything after you’ve come up with some designs to offer to customers. 

So, if you haven’t already, set up your online store, connect it to Printify and let there be fun. Fun, you might ask? Yes, because Printify’s Mockup Generator is super easy and fun to use, especially with all-over-print products. So, go ahead, start creating beautiful continuous designs that cover your high-quality blanks from edge to edge and seam to shining seam.

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