At Our Success Group, we get to work with a diverse range of companies, and challenges like mindset, planning, pricing, production, and marketing. We even support small businesses with the nuts and bolts of producing products as seen in the weekly Tuesday's With Todd and many of the tips and tricks on our YouTube channel. Our founder, Aaron Montgomery and been deeply involved in the sublimation process for over 10 years, and has consulted with start-ups all the way to a 10 Million Dollar year wholesale sublimation facility. Many sublimation businesses get started with hard surface items like Mugs, Tumblers, Hardboard, Metal, and more, but there is demand for apparel. Sublimation apparel can bring some unique challenges, so we took the top questions asked by sublimators and ask Aaron to answer those questions.
Sublimation Apparel Q&A
QUESTION: Sublimation on apparel. What considerations must be kept in mind for this method?
AARON: The main things are the type of garment. 100% polyester is the best and the more polyester the more vibrant the images will be. Secondly, there is no white ink in the process, so the more white your garment is the less affected your image is. On the plus side, it is really cost-effective, one-off digital alternative. There is no hand to the transfer and the fabric is dyed permanently so the ink will look the same for the life of the shirt.
QUESTION: For those that were previously sublimating hard substrates such as recognition products, what’s the difference when moving to sublimating apparel?
AARON: There are a few more factors. You have to mitigate transfer lines, blanks that might not all be the same size, so you need more bleed, and folds and creases. Also unlike many of the hard surface items, you are typically not decorating apparel all over, so you have to deal with the white base, and how you compete with other decorating tools. To me, the big draw though is the versatility and permanence of performance fabrics.
QUESTION: What is sublimating vinyl transfers? Why is this a method worth exploring?
AARON: It lets a sublimator be in the conversation when it comes to cotton shirts or dark shirts. There are certainly other tools available for this, but if you are limited to sublimation this is an option. It took off in the crafting space because of the lack of being able to invest in other digital technology like DTG or print and cut due to economic factors, but it has its place for some shops.
QUESTION: What other decoration methods can be mixed with sublimation to really up that wow factor?
AARON: The great part about sublimation is how permanent it is and the fact that it takes a good deal of heat to transfer it, so it can be the base to a lot of other decorating techniques, and give you a beautifully vibrant background to then add Rhinestones, Spangles, Specialty types of vinyl and even screen printing on top of to make some really unique pieces without a bunch of hoops to jump through.
QUESTION: For those decorators looking to make the leap from hobbyist to full-blown business, what advice can you offer them?
AARON: I think the key to that question is the word business. I know spending money is something we all need to do wisely, but if you want to be a business, you have to make investments. Sublimation does require even heat and pressure from your heat-press, otherwise, it can be a recipe for disaster and lots of ruined blanks. So the main thing I suggest is to look at the tools like the heat press and printer as an investment, not a cost. There is a difference. Based on everything I have seen if you can buy it on Amazon, avoid it. Get a press that comes with a warranty and has support from someone you know you can contact. And get a printer that is sold for sublimation. I know the 3rd party inks have come a long way, but this is a business, and I want my tools to be ready to go when my customers demand it, so having a printer from one source and ink from another seems to me to be a recipe for disaster. AGAIN I know it is an investment to choose a purpose build tool like a Sawgrass system or Epson F570, but making that leap requires it or you will always be chasing other businesses who choose to invest in better business tools.
If you have questions for Aaron, Todd or anyone in the Our Success Group community, please contact us.