Sublimation Printing

At PSM Sportswear we have worked with schools and colleges, Universities and many other educational facilities in order to supply them custom printed uniforms and teamwear for their sports team kits. We use sublimation printing for some of our custom print items and on demand apparel, including sport kits and leisurewear.


What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a high-tech printing process which we use for printing on-demand customer clothing, including team kits and accessories such as mugs and lanyards. We offer the ability to print team logos, team mottos and colours onto synthetic fabrics and materials, enabling a high quality finish to the garment.

Sublimation is printed onto special paper where the ink is converted into gas when heated, this then offers a permanent print on the fabric. It effectively transfers a dye to fabric using heat and the image or graphic is placed on special paper which can then be printed with heat applied, therefore transferring the print to the garment.

Digital prints look fantastic through the sublimation process and it results in clear and colourful images or logos which will not fade. Generally, we use sublimated printing techniques for custom orders and small batch orders. The key benefits though with sublimation printing include crisp and clear digital prints and the fact that the image will almost never fade over time.


 What products would sublimated printing be used on?

Many of the garments we offer printing on are printed with sublimation techniques but we also provide accessory sublimated printing, including mugs and equipment for branding and promoting team colours or logos.

It really will depend on the print you choose as to whether sublimation is the right choice but certainly larger prints or designs that require full coverage on the garment, for example t-shirts and tops with modern designs, are going to benefit from sublimation printing.


The Downside with Sublimated Printing

The main issue with sublimation printing tends to be that it is suitable only for 100% polyester garments or those which include a blend and a higher percentage of polyester. This is because it is most effective on polyester fabrics, as opposed to cotton where the image print may fade or reduce in quality over time.

Vintage clothing styles would give a good example of what sublimation printing would look like on non-polyester clothing.

Anything printed with sublimation techniques which is exposed to direct sunlight can lose colour because of UV rays and items for printing must have a white or lighter coloured area for printing. Sublimation printing really needs a lighter area to print on because darker or black surfaces are not an option due to the colour process.

Ghosting can occur if the transfer paper shifts whilst printing, causing a light fade next to the image which can appear blurry. By not accurately printing properly, either by not applying the right pressure or if the ink isn’t dry, it can result in ghosting.

Colour mismatching can happen also when relying on sublimated printing. This is because with most computers outputting images in RGB colour mode, there is often a discrepancy between computer and printing hardware. Some printers operate in CMYK mode; a different colour format. This can result in colours being either slightly off or in some cases, very different. There are some solutions to this but there’s no guarantee that colours will ever be the same as on the screen.



 Screen Printing Process

Screen printing is a different process to sublimation, with better results on flat surfaces such as t shirts and aprons. The process includes a stencil for each colour of a design. These stencils are then used with ultra-violet light to print onto the mesh that prevents the passage of ink.

The ink is then pushed through the holes in the mesh. For paper you don’t need as much ink and with textile printing you use a lower mesh count, allowing more ink for printing onto the garment.

Materials for screen printing:

  • T-Shirts
  • Aprons
  • Tote Bags
  • Sweatshirts
  • Exercise Gear
  • Glass
  • Bags

The biggest consideration with screen printing is that each colour needs a dedicated stencil. However, benefits include the ability to run larger quantities on an order and high clarity colour prints


Digital Print vs Sublimation

Digital printing is without doubt one of the most common printing methods across many industries, particularly clothing and merchandise, however, you’ll find that digital printing has some drawbacks, including cost and cracks in the design over time. T-shirts in particular with graphic prints on are susceptible to cracking and it is certainly more expensive than other printing methods.

Digital designs are not absorbed by the paper through digital printing which is what sublimation printing offers. High quality printing, lower costs and durable designs are the key benefits of sublimation printing in comparison to digital printing.


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