Dye Sublimation: We’re all over it




2016 is coming to an end and I’m pretty sure many of us can’t wait. The words ‘enough 2016’ have been trending on social media sites on more than one occasion this year and I’m pretty sure that nearly all of us have uttered these words to a friend and some point during the course of the year. The number of celebrities who have died this year is quite frankly astounding. Some great legends have been lost; Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, David Bowie and so many more. So, we thought we’d change the tone and talk about something more positive. Essentially, this is a death we can celebrate. The death of minimalism. That’s right, the fashion trend of barely noticeable prints is on the decline and it’s replacement comes the in your face, all over print; the dye sublimation technique.


The word ‘sublimation’ might sound like a headache to many. However, the sublimation printing technique is actually easy to understand. Basically, it refers to  all over printing, with an emphasis on the all-over part. Whereas printing techniques like direct to garment, screen printing and transfer printing result in a blank space around the design, dye sublimation covers everything. Areas that were previously unreachable in printing can be covered, including zippers and seams.

Now for the complicated part, how this technique actually works. To achieve sublimation printing, a computer printer that works with polyester and polymer-coated substrates is required. The required design is then loaded onto a special kind of transfer paper and is then transferred onto the garment using a commercial heat press. The dye does not become a liquid but instead a gas, magic, eh? Basically, this means that the dye becomes part of the makeup of the fabric.


One of the main reasons to consider this type of printing is its appeal. Dye sublimation is a rising trend, taking the fashion industry by storm. It’s made its presence in popular designers work such as Vivienne Westwood and has appeared in leading publications such as Vogue. It’s not just the elite fashionistas who are getting in on this trend either. A simple look at Google Trends shows the rise in searches for sublimation T-Shirt over the last few years, a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon.

Now for the deeper explanation of this. The replacement of minimalist, blend in designs with bold statement fashion can be linked to a change in cultural norms and expectations. In 2014, Susie Lau of Style Bubbles offered an explanation for this. In reference to the changing cultural landscape, Lau linked this changing fashion trend to the fact we are now living in the “InstaAge”. Ultimately, we now live in a world where images flash past your eyes in a millisecond, whether it’s on social media or through advertising. This has led to trends being born instantaneously and requiring stand-out qualities to merely be noticed. Lau suggests that designers themselves are reacting to this even if it’s on a subconscious level.

This type of thinking is important to apply not just to the world of fashion but also companies, charities and organisations that want to get noticed in the world. Look at it this way, Digital Marketing experts have estimated that Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements each day. This is a staggering amount and means that organisations now have a much greater challenge of getting noticed. That’s why dye sublimation can work so well in terms of generating public interest. The bold stand out prints essentially gets noticed.


So of course, one of the biggest benefits of sublimation printing is its standout nature. I mean come on, if you saw someone wearing this jumper of Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, you would definitely look twice. Heck, if you’re anything like me, you’d be stopping them in the street to ask them where they got it from.

Even if you’re not a fan of the Fresh Prince, it’s hard to argue against the fact that sublimation printing does stand out. The vibrant images and colours it provides are bound to turn heads. This is great for anyone wanting their design to stand out and get attention. Whether it’s a logo, a slogan, or an image, it’s bound to get noticed. You don’t have to include something surreal of humorous for it to get recognition, the fact it’s essentially covered the top half of a person is enough.

The benefits don’t stop their. The printing technique allows for very intricate details to be printed in a superior way in comparison to other printing methods. This is great if you’re printing an image of high detail, for example, a photograph.

Furthering this, the product itself becomes extremely hardwearing . The garment itself will withstand various washes and use without the dye fading, cracking and peeling. This makes customised garments created using this technique cost-effective. Their noticeable nature will not fade and they are sure to not only be useable but stand out for years to come.

Things to keep in mind:

However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you choose this printing technique. Firstly, it’s important to point out that a true black is not achievable. T Shirts can only absorb a certain amount of ink meaning black ink is not always saturated as much as other colours, meaning colours may appear slightly off-black.

Sublimation printing is also only compatible with products that contain polyester. This is fine for the majority of T Shirts and clothing. However, for those of you who wanted to get your face printed full-scale on some woolly socks, we’re sorry, this won’t be possible.

Lastly, it is common for white spots to appear under the armpits on some garments. The printing technique sometimes doesn’t reach areas that are creased. This isn’t to say that the white marks will be instantly noticeable but it is something that you need to keep in mind.

Get all over it:

So, it’s obvious we really believe that dye sublimation is the way forward for companies wishing to create customised printed garments. This is a fashion trend that isn’t going to die and will become ever more important with the changing cultural landscape.

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