One of the most common questions about sublimation that we get asked is “what can I sublimate?”. It’s a common question because people either assume you can sublimate anything or they assume you can only sublimate items that are in some super secret special category to which not everyone has access. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Not every item is suitable for sublimation, as with most decoration disciplines, there are items that cannot be sublimated because of how they’re made, what they’re made of, or because they won’t fit properly into the heat presses or other heating methods available. On the other side of the coin, items suitable for sublimation are not some magically coated items that only a select few can use or buy. In reality, sublimation is really a fairly easy decoration discipline to enter and master. If you are thinking of starting a sublimation business or wondering what you can and can’t sublimate, here are a few pieces of information that should help you understand what you can sublimate and what may not be an ideal choice when it comes to sublimating a product.
The first thing you need to know is that hard goods suitable for sublimation need to be poly coated. This means, as I said in my last post, that you can’t go to the dollar store and buy a mug and sublimate it. Yes, there are sprays that can be used to coat items for sublimation, and going that route may be a viable choice for some people. For most people, however, the easiest route is to buy sublimation blanks already coated. This will ensure that you get a quality blank with a smooth coating that is designed to stand up to the temperatures needed to get a good sublimated print.
When it comes to sublimating fabric, 100% polyester fabric will always give you the best result. There are several t-shirt brands, among them Vapor Apparel, that make 100% polyester shirts that are comfortable to wear and have a nice feel. These shirts are designed especially for sublimation and come in an array of colors that are suitable for this decoration discipline.
People often ask if it is possible to sublimate a polyester blend, and the answer to that question is yes, with a qualification. Yes, you an sublimate a poly blend but, because it is a blend, the sublimation ink will only dye the poly fibers. This results in a more distressed look for your print. Some people find this sort of look attractive and desirable. Others do not. If you want a full color print, your best bet is to start with a garment that is 100% polyester. This will always produce your best and most colorful result.
Sublimation is actually fairly simple when you get right down to it. You need sublimation ink and sublimation paper and a blank suitable for sublimation. You need a heat source that can reach 400 degrees, either a heat press that can accommodate the blank you want to sublimate, or a wrap that can hold your transfer in place while the item is in an oven. Finally you need a blank that is suitable for sublimation and some graphic software to create the graphic you want to print. If you have all those things, you’re ready to sublimate.