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Beginner's handbook

How to Grow Your Store with Sublimation Printing

By on January 2nd, 2020 Reading Time: 4 minutes

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:

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!

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 Mockup Generator’s built-in pattern tool, and get your design ready in no time. Here’s a tutorial to get you started:

Durability

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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  1. Carol Vega

    HELP! I cannot find anything about the overall shirts. I did a mock up BUT are they printed on back and front? What is the pricing? I have placed designs on overall t-shirts on POD sites but they are so expensive I can’t sell them. What’s the info on yours? Where’s the links? Thanks for your help.

  2. ZACCY

    Hi! Just wanted to say I am absolutely LOVING my new all-over print tanks & I can’t wait to start selling them! I’ll be wearing them all summer! Leggings will be awesome for my sisters as well! & I am curious about underwear being a possibility with this print method? I know briefs are on your roadmap & I am curious what print method that will entail! If you have any insight I’d love to know!

    1. Julia Gifford

      Hey Zaccy,

      Underwear is in the roadmap, you’re right. As to what print method that might involve, though I can’t say anything for sure, it would most probably be with DTG at first.

      Best,
      Julia

  3. SFB

    It’s getting more exciting every month!

    What would be a game changer in my eyes is to be able to do sublimation printing on sportswear. I’m personally waiting for the day that printfull makes it available on football (soccer) shirts/kits. Take a look at what oneills is doing with sublimation printing on sportswear/teamwear. It’s a huge market. Please make it happen.

  4. BYT

    I would really like to see other t-shirt models (women’s) available for sublimation. The standard you offer right now is too boxy and lacks stylish fit for women. When will you offer the other tee models in other colors?

    1. Julia Gifford

      Hi there, thanks for your feedback! Not just any t-shirt can be sublimated, you need a specific sublimation style for it to work. For that reason, you’ll never see an existing t-shirt style available for both DTG and sublimation. As for colors – every sublimation t-shirt is by default white, so that you can sublimate whatever you want on top of it 🙂

  5. CHERIE SIEBERT

    Considering the issue of white spots on the tees, I would love to see more cut and sew clothing options ( I saw the leggings announcement, and love that). The sweatshirt option looks promising.

    I would also love to see more allover bag options, perhaps a simple sling bag or drawstring backpack – something a bit more trendy than the tote.

  6. Thai

    Are only the leggings available as cut and sew? I’ve been looking all over the place for kids all over sublimated cut and sew products and it’s sooo hard to find…

  7. Timothy Rock

    I have been making a lot of cut & sew sublimation shirts but they don’t fit the same as the sublimation Ts. They are cut too tight. Is there a way to pattern the Cut & sew after the looser fit of the all-over sublimation Ts?

    1. Ilze Folkmane

      Glad to hear you’re making use of the sublimation printing technique! We’ve no immediate plans to change the patterns for our cut & sew t-shirts, but I’ll pass on your feedback to our product team. Perhaps try ordering a size up for a looser fit!

  8. alex

    Are you guys going to have men’s sublimation basketball shorts available since you have launched the women’s shorts?

      1. Margo

        That would be awesome, I have a lot of requests for basketball shorts as well and am currently searching for a POD that would do them for a decent price.

    1. Giedrė Šulčinskaitė

      Hi! It’s not in our plans as for now, but I’ll pass on your message to our product team.

  9. Tiffany

    I’m really excited to start making subliminal shirts. I do a lot of pattern designs and am excited this option is available

    1. Giedrė Šulčinskaitė

      Hi! All-over cut & sew products are made using similar printing technique and are available in Europe too. Check them out here!

  10. Tracey

    Hi,
    I know you are probably dealing with a lot of requests. But Just wondering if you have plans on have all-over printing for hoodies.
    I know Skyou have them, but they are so hard to work with, however the mockups give me a great idea on how they would look, and think this would be a great addition. There seems to be a hole in the market for sublimation hoodies/longsleeved garments. I would love it!

    1. Gundega Vjakse Post author

      Unfortunately, sublimation printing is not suited for printing on 100% cotton fabric. But it can be used to print on polyester and cotton blends like the one we use for our cut & sew athleisure products (70% polyester, 27% cotton, 3% elastane).

    1. Gundega Vjakse Post author

      All-Over Print Unisex Hoodies are temporarily unavailable due to fabric stock problems, but should be back in our product catalog in February.

  11. Елена

    Здравствуйте! Есть ли возможность доставки кофты или юбки в Россию? сколько дней это займет?

    1. Madara Zute

      Уважаемая Елена, мы осуществляем поставки по всему миру, и в том числе в Россию. Изготовление швейной продукции занимает 2-7 рабочих дней, не включая выходные и праздники. В свою очередь, только доставка в Россию занимает в среднем 7-12 рабочих дней. Также предлагаются ежемесячные пробные образцы нашей продукции с Вашим дизайном по 20% скидке с бесплатной международной доставкой. Размер скидок на обычный заказ зависит от объёма заказанной продукции.

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