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About Sublimation - What is Sublimation and how do you get started?

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You want to know about sublimation and the below information is designed to teach you the basics and lead you on the path to learn more. Sublimation is a very popular and proven process to customize all types of goods from apparel to promotional items. However, there is a lot to learn to really understand this. Read on to learn about sublimation and what it can do for your business.

What is sublimation?

To understand sublimation, you need to first realize it's a chemistry term. The scientific definition of sublimation is a change directly from the solid to the gaseous state without becoming liquid. Interestedly enough, this chemical change is a way to customize goods.  These are the steps of how sublimation works to decorate things like t-shirts, mugs and more.

  1. An image is printed with special sublimation inks, through a sublimation printer, on sublimation paper (All purposely designed for this process.)
  2. The ink dries and you now have an image that is ready to transfer.
  3. Place the paper over the substrate you want to customize.
  4. Apply heat (usually 380-400 degrees for about a minute.)
  5. Remove the item from the heat and remove the paper.
  6. The image will have sublimated from the paper to your substrate.
  7. You now have a finished good ready to use.
Sublimation Essential Kit

Is sublimation good quality?

The first question people ask about all decorating is, "does it last well?" or "does it wash well?" The answer to sublimation is a simple, "yes." Sublimation is known to last a long time, be scratch resistant and hold up in the wash. If you are referring to apparel, you shouldn't notice any fading on your image. When referring to hard goods like coasters, photo panels and keychains the image won't scratch or peel off. Essentially when you sublimate something it "becomes a part of the substrate." Therefore, you must damage the substrate to damage the image.

This doesn't mean sublimation will last forever, nothing lasts forever. You can indeed have a mug that was sublimated and washed many times over the years. Eventually the mug will show signs of wear and tear though. Also, this depends on how the item is washed and treated. For example, a mug that is used for coffee once a day, then hand washed and stored in a cabinet will last many years. However, a mug that is used in a restaurant dozens of times a day, then washed in a commercial sanitizing dish washer will fade faster. This same logic can be put into anything, a daily delivery truck is going to wear down faster than a truck used every other weekend to drive to the lake.

Sublimation is a great way to professionally customize goods and the quality is considered an acceptable industry standard.

Do you need a special sublimation printer?

Yes, absolutely. Sublimation ink is a special formula of ink designed to sublimate. This isn't the same ink that is in your desktop or office printer. The paper you will run through the printer is also a special formula. This means that you want a specialty designed printer to be able to handle the ink and paper that will run through it.

There are people who "convert" a desktop printer to a sublimation printer. They will have varying degrees of success with this. However, it's not recommended for commercial use if you want to depend on this printer for your business.

You could take a small pickup truck, add a trailer and haul roofing supplies with it. You have essentially converted this truck to a roofing materials hauler. Is it designed for this? No. Will it break down more often? Yes. Will it have the same life as the large truck designed to haul the same materials? No. Would you feel comfortable having your roofing business rely on this truck? Probably not. This is the same logic that comes to converting a printer. Will it work? Maybe. Will it be as reliable? Probably not. Sublimation printers are a small investment compared to the profits they can generate.

Sublimation Coffee Mug Sublimation Mousepads
Sublimation T-Shirt Sublimation Coffee Mugs

What does it cost to sublimate something?

Sublimating goods is generally an economical process. This is easily broken down by looking at a few examples. The below are estimate of finished goods from the time this article was published, current pricing may vary.

Sublimation Mug - $2 - $5

Sublimation T-shirt - $5 - $15

Sublimation Mouse Pad - $2 - $6

If you are savvy with retail value of goods, you will know that the above example retail for 2-4x the cost to produce the items. Relatively it is inexpensive to by wholesale blanks and sublimate them.

What are items that are available in sublimation blanks?

There are too many items to even list. Sublimation blanks have grown in availability over the years and manufacturers continue to get creative with blanks. Here is a short list of popular examples:

Sublimation Blanks
Galaxy Heat Press

What is the next step to adding sublimation to your business?

You are on the right track if you are reading this article. Understanding the basics of sublimation will help you make an informed decision. Many times, people think they are looking for one thing, but really want another. Sublimation is very popular and there are a few key decisions you want to make regarding your printer and other accessories like a heat press machine.

Talking to a pro at ColDesi is one of the best decisions you will make. The ColDesi Pros can help to guide you in the right direction for your business. Call 877-793-3278 and talk to a pro today.

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