Custom Sublimation Apparel: The Ultimate FAQ Guide

Choosing custom sublimation apparel can be an overwhelming task.

But this guide will make everything simple and straight forward for you.

It answers all questions you have been asking about custom sublimation apparel.

Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Custom Sublimation Apparel?

Custom sublimation apparel

Custom sublimation apparel

Custom sublimation apparel is clothing whose designs and artwork are imprinted using the dye sublimation process.

The apparel is usually made to a client’s unique requirements. It comprises t-shirts, shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, pants, hoodies, jackets, swimsuits, etc.

What Is Sublimation?

Sublimation is a printing process that uses heat to transfer ink onto apparel fabric.

The technique evaporates ink off sublimation paper and into the fabric.

It doesn’t coat the apparel fabric. Instead, it merges with it to re-create the intended designs in lasting and vibrant colors.

What Is The Production Process Of Custom Sublimation Apparel?

The production process of custom sublimation apparel begins when you design the clothing and hand it over to the manufacturer.

Once the design is approved, the manufacturers create a mock-up design. This shows how the complete garment will look with your design concepts.

The next step after this is sublimation printing.

Here, each garment is printed in actual size on a large format sublimation printer. The printer uses special dyes which are jetted onto sublimation transfer paper.

The imprinted paper is joined with the chosen fabric and fed through a rotary heat press machine.

As the now ‘marred’ paper and fabric are pressured and heated together, the sublimation ink vaporizes. The gas then dyes the design into the material in a permanent way.

Next, the fabric is cut using either manual or laser cutting techniques. The latter is commonly used for large sublimation apparel orders. In contrast, manual cutting is used for small orders and intricate patterns.

After each piece has been cut, it is labeled and organized for sewing.

Custom sublimation apparel is sewn using different techniques depending on the garment and purpose of the clothing. Flatlock sewing, surge stitching, and over edge stitching are pretty common in this regard.

Once sewn, the garments are checked for quality control on the print and proper sewing. Approved items are then tagged, folded, and packaged for shipping to the client’s destination.

What Are The Advantages Of Custom Sublimation Apparel?

Custom sublimation apparel has numerous benefits that include:

  • Limitless design options. There are no limits to what you can add to the garments when it comes to sublimation apparel. You can sublimate a variety of colors, including Pantone and fluorescent.
  • Full-color printing. Sublimation doesn’t require separate screens or an extensive setup. Thus, the process is straightforward and relatively cost-effective.
  • Custom sublimation apparel is highly durable. Since ink penetrates the fabric when sublimated, designs can last as long as the garment.
  • Best color retention. Sublimation printing uses CMYK inks which have a great color range. Sublimated designs come out bright, vibrant, and highly durable.
  • Unlike other decoration methods, the sublimation process does not layer dye onto the fabric. Save for the addition of your artwork and other design elements, sublimated apparel remain unchanged.
  • Given that ink penetrates the fabric, wearers cannot feel the dried ink, weaves, or artwork stitches on custom sublimation apparel. This adds to the comfort of the clothing as it is soft and lightweight.
  • The sublimation process does not obstruct the airflow or moisture-wicking properties of the fabric.
  • Reduced minimum order requirements. Minimal setup time and charges reduce the need for MOQs on custom sublimation apparel.

What Are The Material Specifications For Custom Sublimation Apparel?

Sublimation only works with polymers and polyester. The chemistry involved in this process won’t bond dyes with other fabrics like cotton and wool.

Although blended with polyester, certain fabrics like spandex, nylon, and cotton can be sublimated. But the results won’t be as colorful. It will be a bit faded or retro. A style that is also favored in some markets.

Generally, it is required that blended materials for dye sublimation contain at least 50% polyester. The remaining fibers should be able to survive high temperatures.

Note that while 100% polyester is the best choice for custom sublimation apparel, not all polyester can be sublimated. Some polyester fabrics may contain chemicals that inhibit the sublimation process.

So be careful with your fabric selection, and test it before you approve it for your custom sublimation apparel.

What Types Of Custom Sublimation Apparel Are There?

Sublimation polo shirts

Sublimated polo shirts

Several types of custom sublimation apparel are available.

  • Custom Sublimation T-shirts. Available in a variety of neck, sleeve, and fit options.
  • Custom Sublimation Hoodies and Jackets. Comes in different collar designs, closure systems, sleeves, and cuts.
  • Custom Sublimation Shorts. Also available in various lengths, fits, and waist styles.
  • Custom Sublimation Polos. Available in different collar designs, sleeve lengths, and closure options.

Is Sublimation Better Than Screen Printing For Custom Apparel?

Screen printing uses screens to imprint designs onto custom apparel. Unlike sublimation, it doesn’t merge the dye with the fabric but kind of deposits it onto the garment.

Nonetheless, both are excellent garment printing techniques whose use will depend on your project and preferences.

There are pros and cons to both methods.

For instance, sublimation retains the fabric properties of the custom apparel. On the other hand, screen printing adds to the garment’s weight, making it heavy and sometimes uncomfortable.

Also, screen-printed designs don’t last long as they fade out and peel after several washes. Sublimated print designs are guaranteed long-term durability.

Sublimation printing is more cost-effective for small volumes and for complex designs with multiple colors. Screen printing is cheaper for large volumes but takes longer due to the additional setup it requires.

So when deciding between these two printing techniques, think about the purpose of the garments. Also, consider the fabrics you’re working with as well your budget before you begin.

What Type Of Printer Is Used To Sublimate Custom Apparel?

Dye sublimation printer

Dye-sublimation printer

A specialized printer that allows for sublimation printing and can take sublimation ink cartridges is used for this purpose.

The sublimation printer uses disperse dyes designated to work on specially coated transfer paper only and inkjet to imprint fabrics.

What Is The Difference Between Spot Printing And Allover Printing For Custom Sublimation Apparel?

Spot printing and all-over printing are the two most commonly used printing techniques in the dye sublimation process.

For custom sublimation apparel, the spot printing process is the more popular option. It basically refers to applying graphics and images to a specific part of the garment, i.e., the sleeves, wrists, shoulders, or back.

In contrast, all-over printing (AOP) applies graphics and images on every part of the garment. The AOP prints cover the garment from front to back and side to side.

What Colors Can You Use To Sublimate Custom Apparel?

Dye sublimation creates photo-quality prints. The process uses the CMYO-cyan, magenta, yellow and clear overcoat color combination, allowing printing of any color with no additional setup.

What Colors Can Be Sublimated On For Custom Sublimation Apparel?

White is typically the easiest color to sublimate for custom apparel.

Note that sublimation printers use the CYMK color model, which does not produce the color white. It lacks the essential ink combination for it. For this reason, all white areas on custom sublimation apparel are left unprinted.

When sublimating the white apparel, the open areas will allow the color of the garment to show through, thus creating white graphics.

But if the same graphics are applied to a light-colored fabric such as beige, the beige color will show where the white should be.

This is why white is the most recommended for sublimation printing. Still, you can sublimate on light-colored apparel so long as you don’t need white within the graphics.

Colored apparel, on the other hand, is restrictive when it comes to sublimation printing.

This is because colored fabrics usually come with a maximum temperature value for which the fabric dyes can withstand.

So if the material is set at below 400 degrees Fahrenheit, it may fade when pressed at the high sublimation temperatures.

Another challenge is when printing neon fabrics. These tend to turn brown if temperatures are set above 300 degrees Fahrenheit during sublimation. This because of the chemical brighteners added to the fabric dye during processing.

What Type Of Ink Do You Use For Custom Sublimation Apparel?

Kian Ink

Kiaan ink

Kiian ink is commonly used for custom sublimation apparel.

It is high-quality and waterproof ink that we import from Italy. Kiaan ink is a disperse kind of dye, which converts from solid to gas at high temperatures. Even so, it doesn’t smudge and provides excellent print accuracy and performance.

The color gamut of this type of ink is vibrant. And the best part is that fluorescent colors are also available to push the color gamut even further.

Can You Sublimate On Both Sides Of Custom Shirt/T-shirt?

Yes.

Custom shirts/t-shirts can be sublimated on both the front and backside. It is easier with custom shirts as printing is done on induvial garment pieces that are not sewn together yet.

But for pre-made blank apparel, this gets tricky. Manufacturers have to be careful to avoid transferring ink from one side of the garment to the other.

Usually, some sort of paper is placed on the first printed side. As the dye is still hot, it can quickly transfer onto the other side of the garment is turned without caution. The paper prevents any accidental transfers and shadowing.

What Is The Cost Of Sublimation Printing?

The cost of sublimation printing varies on a case-to-case basis.

Usually, this is dependent on the complexity of the print design. Complex designs may cost more to print than simple designs.

And although most people think that it is an expensive printing technique, it is not.

With dye sublimation, you can print multiple color designs at no extra cost. There are also no setup fees and no minimum orders with this printing method.

This is what sets sublimation apart from other printing methods, such as screen printing.

How Do I Design Custom Sublimation Shirts?

Two options are available for designing custom sublimation shirts.

The first one is to use a custom design template which you’ll customize with your desired effects.

Or, you can design the shirts from scratch using any reliable design software.

  1. First, you need a sketch of how you’d like the shirts to look like. The drawing should also help determine the essential characteristics of the shirts. It should show the style of the apparel and custom elements as you’d like them to appear on the final product.
  2. Once you’ve established the aesthetics part of the shirt, the next is to define its specifications. This includes the measurements, materials, stitching, texts and graphics, and color.
  3. Next, create the technical file that you will present to the manufacturer for approval and execution.
    The tech file should detail the materials, components, and manufacturing steps needed for your custom sublimation shirts.
  4. Once the design is ready, save it in the appropriate format and send it to the manufacturer for further review and possible adjustment.

If you’re confident about creating your own custom sublimation apparel design, talk to your manufacturer. They will professionally create a bespoke design and based on your unique specifications at a small charge.

What Is The Best Resolution For Custom Sublimation Artwork And Images?

For sharp, premium prints, an image must have enough pixels for the size you want to sublimate.

Thus when creating artwork for custom sublimation apparel, aim for a resolution of at least 300 dpi. This will ensure your images and texts are come out clear and sharp.

Does Custom Sublimation Apparel Fade? Is It Durable?

Custom sublimation apparel is designed to retain the bold, vibrant colors for decades of long-term use. They don’t fade after washing.

Besides, the apparel is made using high-quality fabrics with remarkable comfort, flexibility, and breathability.

The sublimation process also uses superior quality imported ink.

So yes, custom sublimation apparel is non-fade and highly durable.

Is Sublimation Printing On Custom Apparel Permanent?

Yes.

As earlier mentioned, the sublimation process uses special dyes that turn from solid to gas under heat.

The ink in a gaseous state penetrates the custom apparel fabric and combines with the fabric polymers.

This results in beautiful and permanent colors that are less prone to fading.

Can Sublimation Printing Be Done On Cotton Apparel?

No.

Dye sublimation does not work on 100% cotton fabrics. The process works best with 100% polyester but can also work for fabrics that contain a mix of polyester and cotton.

This combination is called poly-cotton blend fabric. In this case, the polyester composition must be at least 50% or more.

What Temperature Is Used To Sublimate Custom Apparel?

Dye sublimation, as you’ve noted, uses very high temperatures to imprint designs on fabrics. The high temperature is critical for the sublimation process to occur.

Typically, custom sublimation apparel manufacturers use 400 degrees Fahrenheit as a benchmark.

Which Is Better For Custom Apparel, Sublimation Or Heat Transfer?

Heat transfer process

Heat transfer process

Heat transfer uses a unique heat transfer paper and a heat press machine to transfer designs onto custom apparel.

In this, designs are first printed on transfer paper using an inkjet or laser printer.

The sheet is then placed onto the printing location on the garment, after which a heat press is applied.

After a few minutes, the paper is peeled away; leaving the image fully adhered to the fabric.

As you can see, the heat transfer process is quite similar to dye sublimation printing.

The only difference lies in the chemistry behind sublimation, where ink turns from solid to gas. It then embeds itself within the polymers of the fabric.

Comparing the two, dye sublimation makes the ink a part of the fabric. It doesn’t add a layer of ink on top of the garment as heat transfer does.

This makes custom sublimation apparel lighter and with greater breathability.

Also, sublimated designs are kind of permanent as the ink merges with the fabric. The designs cannot peel or scratch in their lifespan, which adds to the durability advantage.

Heat transfer adds the print layer on top of the garment. This layer can be physically felt and can sometimes make the garment feel heavy and uncomfortable.

In addition, heat transferred designs are not as durable as sublimated designs. They can easily peel, fade and crack after some time.

What Is The Meaning Of ‘Cut And Sew’ For Custom Sublimation Apparel?

Cut and sew means creating a bespoke custom sublimation apparel design from scratch and developing the concept to production.

You get complete customized sublimation apparel from raw fabrics and stitched to perfection with cut and sew apparel.

It’s not just sublimating mass-produced apparel but instead creating the apparel, from fabric choice to stitch to final decorations.

A cut and sew manufacturing service goes above and beyond your expectations. It gets you truly custom sublimation apparel for your brand.

What Is Blank Apparel Sublimation Printing And How Does It Compare To The ‘Cut And Sew’ Process?

Blank apparel sublimation printing is basically the opposite of ‘cut and sew.’ It uses stock, blank t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and other pre-made apparel, unlike ‘cut and sew,’ which uses whole fabric rolls.

It is the more economical custom sublimation printing option.

The sublimation processes are also similar, as are the results.

Compared to full custom sublimation printing, the blank printing option has some limitations.

For instance, since the garment is already made, chances are high that some garment areas may pucker and not print.

When this happens, ink may not get into these areas leaving blank creases and spots on the garment.

Sadly, these limitations are unavoidable when sublimating blank apparel. If you want prim and proper full dye-sublimation clothing, the cut and sew option is better suited for your brand.

What Are The Best Uses Of Custom Sublimated Long Sleeve Shirts?

Long sleeve baseball shirt

Long sleeve sublimation shirt

Custom sublimated long sleeve shirts are great for outdoor sports and dirt biking, fundraisers, etc.

They are great for warm-up or lounging around and are especially perfect for cold weather.

Which Collar Designs Do You Offer For Custom Sublimated T-shirts?

Several collar options are available for custom sublimated t-shirts.

They include:

  • Polo collar design with buttons/zipper
  • V-neck collar design
  • Tri-collar design
  • Crew/tee neck
  • Stub collar which is made up of one panel back and sleeve panels
  • Stand Up collar

What Is The Difference Between White Label And Private Label Custom Sublimation Apparel Services?

Private label services refer to when a manufacturer does custom branding for a client. The client can resell the products directly to customers or wholesale them to other clients.

In this, manufacturers can set requirements on size, color, and MOQ.

Branding generally gives you an edge over your competitors, which makes private labeling services quite advantageous. You can always request samples before making a bulk order for private label custom sublimation apparel.

Ultimately, you increase your brand loyalty by providing unique and distinct products. Moreover, private label apparel also increases your revenue.

On the other hand, white-label custom sublimation services involve manufacturers selling blank apparel to clients. You can then choose to brand the clothing with your logo and other brand elements before reselling.

White labeling offers benefits such as reduced production costs and time.

Why Is Custom Sublimation Printing Popularly Used Over Other Options?

Generally, sublimation printing is inexpensive and the most effective way to produce full-color prints on custom apparel.

Other options like screen printing and digital garment printing do not have the same effect. They’re also quite costly and take longer to produce custom apparel.

What Are Some Imperfections You Can Expect On Custom Sublimation Apparel?

Blank creases on custom sublimated apparel

Blank creases on custom sublimated apparel

While dye sublimation is known to create vibrant and lasting designs, it also comes with a few imperfections.

  • Print colors may vary in shade. This may happen from one garment piece or order to another. Often, clothing may appear faded or retro (with light spot areas in print).
  • Some apparel might come out with blank creases/spots, especially if the garment had creases before printing.
  • Print appearance may vary slightly, i.e., it may not line up correctly. This can be assumed to be a manufacturing trick meant to enhance the apparel design.
  • You may notice blemishes on common areas like shoulders and arms. This usually happens when color gassing.
  • There may be white seams in common areas, too, though not limited.
  • Channeling is also a common occurrence in the neck and shoulder regions.
  • Heavy/large artwork files may slow down the printer. Thus lengthening the turnaround time.

What Is The Turnaround Time For Custom Sublimation Apparel?

Order processing for custom sublimation apparel is instant if your final design is ready and you have an approved payment.

If you need help with design, the process will be done within 24 hrs. after which we can begin processing your order.

Again, this is on the condition that your payment plan is approved and all the requisite information is complete.

As for production times, this depends on the time of the year. Peak season orders may take longer to produce.

We may accept rush orders on a case-to-case basis, depending on your production capacity.

Please, feel free to contact us, and we will be pleased to work on a timeline is that is mutually convenient.

Is Custom Sublimation Apparel Environmental Friendly?

Yes.

Sublimation is the most ecological choice for custom apparel compared to other printing methods.

The process uses little energy, no water, and leaves no wastage.

Depending on your unique requirements and specifications, Goal Sportswear offers a range of custom sublimation apparels.

Contact us now for all your custom sublimation apparel needs.

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