For most artists, a major goal is to get the art out into the marketplace, hopefully to be purchased, which generates income, which allows for more art to be made. The problem for a lot of artists is that creating a unique artwork takes time, and each piece can only be sold to one customer. What is needed is the ability to reproduce a unique piece of art a number of times, on a number of different substrates. It would also be great if the reproductions could be created relatively easily and quickly, at a low cost per print. It would be even better if the method used to create the reproductions had, compared to other decoration options, a low cost of entry.
Sublimation is, as far as we’re concerned, the perfect decoration method for artists who want to reproduce and sell their work. For those who don’t know, sublimation is a printing method which can be used on both soft and hard goods, as long as the item is either made of polyester or has a poly coating. Using ink and paper created for sublimation, transfers are printed which are then set on the item being decorated using heat. The ink bonds with the poly material or coating, so the prints have no hand, and are dishwasher safe. The printer that’s used is a standard inkjet printer and the designs can be created with any graphics program.
There are several advantages to printing your saleable products using sublimation. One is the cost of entry. Compared to other decoration techniques, like machine embroidery or direct to garment printing, sublimation has a relatively low cost of entry. An SG800, which is the larger of the two desktop printers used for sublimation, can be purchased in a package for under $2,000. A heat press, which is also a necessary part of the process, can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on the brand and model purchased. Most blanks are also relatively inexpensive. The cost for a cartridge of ink ranges from slightly above $60 to just over $100, depending on the printer make and the size of the cartridge.
A second advantage is the fact that creating a sublimated design doesn’t require learning any new software. Any graphics program, Adobe, CorelDraw, whatever is currently being used can be used to create designs for sublimation. If you don’t currently have a preferred graphics program, Sawgrass’ Creative Studio comes with every purchase of a Virtuoso printer package. This program is touted as being easy to use, and contains a curated library of templates for the items that are most often offered by those who sell sublimated products.
One of the best things about sublimation, especially for photographers, is that the prints are photo realistic. If you’re interested in selling your photography or your original art, sublimation is the perfect decoration discipline for you. Prints will reproduce exactly as they were created. Photos will look like photos. Hand drawn art will retain the qualities that make hand drawn art so unique and special. The only difference is that sublimation allows the photo or drawing or design to be recreated over and over again on a variety of different substrates.
There are also advantages to owning your own system versus using a contract printer who will do the work for you. Owning a sublimation system means you can print when you want and as many items as you need, so you won’t be tied to minimum order requirements, or have to carry an inventory of a design that didn’t sell. You also have control over the quality of the finished product, you create the prints and you can reject them based on your quality standards. You also know all the costs involved in creating the product in advance. There’s no last minute shipping or blank good upcharges and no potential delays in production due to weather or problems at the plant producing the goods.
All in all, sublimation is a great option for a lot of artists. While there will be a slight learning curve when starting with sublimation, most people are up and running within hours. Add to that the relatively low cost of entry, and the fact that the entire process is controlled by the artist, and the advantages, for an artist, of purchasing a sublimation system become quite clear.