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How to Grow Your Store with Sublimation Printing

How to Grow Your Store with Sublimation Printing
Gundega Vjakse

By Gundega Vjakse

5 min read

With digital textile printing on the rise, it’s time to look into the technique that’s projected to be the most lucrative—sublimation printing.

Sublimation printing is used to print on all sorts of products, from household decor to apparel and accessories. Because of this, sublimation printing is high in demand. It’s become so popular that the total value of the sublimation market is expected to reach $14.57 billion by 2023.

So, what is sublimation printing, and how does it work? Let’s take a closer look at two methods of sublimation printing, its advantages, and presence at Printful.

What is sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is a technique that embeds your design into the material of your chosen product, rather than printing on top of it. It’s used to print on all sorts of items, ranging from hard-surfaced mugs to various textile products.

Sublimation is suited for printing on light-colored fabrics that are either 100% polyester, polymer-coated, or polyester blends. Just some of the many products that can be sublimation printed include shirts, sweaters, leggings, as well as laptop sleeves, bags, and even home decor. The results are magnificent! Just take a look at the vibrant print on our All-Over Print Hoodies:

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How does sublimation printing work?

Sublimation printing starts with your design being printed on a sheet of paper. The sublimation paper is infused with sublimation ink that is then transferred to the material using a heat press.

Heat is vital to the process. It opens up the material of the item being printed, and activates the sublimation ink. For the ink to become part of the material, it’s put under immense pressure, and exposed to high temperatures of 350-400 ºF (176-205 ºC).

The pros of sublimation printing

Sublimation printing produces vibrant and durable colors, and is particularly great for all-over print items. Let’s see how these perks can be used to your advantage!

Create and sell custom products online
Turn your ideas into premium products that leave a lasting impression

Unlimited design possibilities

With tie-dye paraded on runways, and 60’s floral wallpaper patterns suddenly in fashion, all-over print graphics are all the rage now. Use sublimation printing to make the whole product your canvas, and create a statement piece of your own!

Don’t have a design at the ready? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Play around with our free-to-use sample graphics, and clipart.

Freedom of creativity

Although muted colors are making a comeback, love for vivid, lively colors won’t fade any time soon. Sublimation printing is perfect for bringing out the vibrant colors of photos, true-to-life images, as well as designs that don’t rely on perfect, fixed alignment from seam to seam. When picturing your all-over print product, keep those seams in mind and give your design some wiggle room!

An easy way to achieve that is to create patterns! Have a go at our Design Maker’s built-in pattern tool, and get your design ready in no time. Here’s a tutorial to get you started:

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Since sublimation ink seeps into the very fabric of the product, sublimation prints don’t crack, peel, or fade away. Even after multiple washes, the print will look as good as new. It’s a great selling point to assure customers that your product will serve them for years to come.

Sublimation printing at Printful

Here at Printful, we use sublimation to print on our custom coffee mugs and flip-flops, as well as a vast selection of textile products.

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In the textile industry, products printed using sublimation can be divided into two groups: ready-made products and cut & sew products. We sublimate ready-made socks, towels, blankets, and laptop sleeves, but create the rest of our sublimation products using the cut & sew technique. Most of our cut & sew items are clothes, but we also have accessories and home decor.

To better understand the difference between the two product types, let’s look at some sublimation examples, and compare ready-made shirts to hand-sewn all-over print shirts.

In the case of ready-made sublimation shirts, design prints are transferred directly onto the shirts. When sublimation paper is aligned with the shirts, areas around the seams might be folded and not get sublimated, and the shirts could end up with white streaks. Here’s what it looks like:

White streaks along the shoulder seam of a sublimation shirt White streak along the side seam of a sublimation shirt White streak under the armpits of a sublimation shirt
White streak along the shoulder seam of a sublimation shirt White streak along the side seam of a sublimation shirt White streak under the armpits of a sublimation shirt

To avoid this from happening to our all-over print shirts, we chose to sew them from scratch using the cut & sew technique.

First, our in-house expert team prints the design on a sheet of fabric, rather than a ready-made tee. We then cut the fabric into multiple sections—front, back, and both sleeves—and sew them together. This way there are no white streaks in sight.

sublimation printing mockup example
Printful in-house seamstress sewing a cut & sew product

Available cut & sew products

We use the cut & sew technique for all kinds of products. First and foremost, the previously mentioned custom all-over print shirts. Our shirts come in different fits for men, women, kids and youth, and various styles, e.g. Crew Necks, Tank Tops, and Crop Tees.

Custom men's all-over shirts Custom women's all-over print shirts Custom kids & youth all-over print shirts
Men’s Shirts Women’s Shirts Kids & Youth Shirts

Since sublimation printing is the driving force behind the sportswear trend, we have plenty of all-over print activewear items for you to choose from. From swimsuits and leggings to rash guards and fanny packs, we’ve got all the items you need to start your own athletic clothing line.

Custom sublimation printing swimsuit Custom sublimation printing sportswear Custom sublimation printing streetwear
Beachwear Sportswear Streetwear

Last but certainly not least, we offer cut & sew athleisure products. Unlike the rest of our sublimations products that are 100% polyester, or a polyester blend with spandex or elastane, our sublimated athleisure items are made from a polyester and cotton blend, and have a brushed fleece lining. These products are soft to the touch, extremely comfortable, and are perfect for showcasing the pop of sublimation printed colors.

Custom sublimation printing sweatshirts Custom sublimation printing hoodies Custom sublimation printing joggers
Sweatshirts Hoodies Joggers

Introduce sublimated items to your product catalog

With its vibrant, long-lasting colors, and trendy all-over print design possibilities, sublimation printing is at the forefront of both everyday and niche fashions. On top of that, it can be done on-demand, without any upfront investments.

Now that you’ve learned what sublimation printing is and how it can grow your store, all that’s left for you to do is create your own sublimated products. If you already have a design you’re eager to print on a product, just hop on our product catalog, choose your favorite, and add your design. If not, contact our professional graphic design team—they’ll be more than happy to bring your ideas to life.

Get started with Printful

Share your experience with sublimation printing in the comment section below!

This article was originally published in April 2015; it has since been updated.


By Gundega Vjakse on Jan 2, 2020

Gundega Vjakse

Gundega makes sure to know at least a little bit of everything. And to pet any willing cat in close proximity, even though she's allergic.

Gundega makes sure to know at least a little bit of everything. And to pet any willing cat in close proximity, even though she's allergic.