By Tom Chambers

Now that the headline has grabbed your attention, I’m sure you know that there are no “get rich quick” schemes that are even remotely legal, and all earned wealth comes from hard work and creativity, with a little luck thrown in.  Sublimation alone is (probably) not very likely to make you rich either.  So then why bother?

Because sublimation has its own niche – much like embroidery, direct to garment printing, and screen print all belong to separate decoration niches.  Unlike the others however, sublimation only requires a fraction of the startup costs, generally requires less labor, and is a lot easier to learn.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find ANY business venture that you could start up for LESS than sublimation that has even close to the same payback potential.

Sublimation, and whether to invest in doing it or not, seems to make for quite the conundrum for some though.  It’s fascinating to me that many people who don’t seem to bat an eye at borrowing or spending thousands of dollars on an embroidery machine, direct to garment printer, or screen print equipment, will suddenly freeze in apparent terror when confronted with the idea of doing sublimation.  It’s almost as if spending money on a sublimation system is somehow the equivalent of lighting a pile of money on fire.  Or maybe they think because it doesn’t cost very much to start out that it can’t really be “all that”.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Sublimation does things that other decoration methods cannot, although it does come with its own set of limitations, the same as everything else.  Because there is no magic “one size fits all” decoration method that does everything, that’s why you see all those other methods and equipment in use.

For example, screen print is limited to a few colors per image or it becomes impractical, but it is very well suited to large runs and mass production, and works on a wide variety of substrates and products with any color background.  Yes, it IS possible to do full color images but you will typically see a dot pattern and it will not look anything like an actual photo.  A screen print business is also very expensive to start up.

Likewise, direct to garment printing is an expensive investment as well, although you can do full color prints onto garments of all colors without worrying about a dot pattern.  This method is very well suited for one-offs, small quantities, and even some larger orders, but is limited in the number and types of additional substrates that can be used, and can require a lot of maintenance and upkeep.

Embroidery, while long recognized and accepted as a premium product, is a complex endeavor requiring expensive equipment, software, and training, and yet cannot reproduce anything resembling photo quality (although there are some extremely talented digitizers that produce admirable work in this area).  Embroidery is also limited to only substrates that can be stitched – typically items made of fabrics and other similar materials.

With sublimation, there is nothing else out there that allows you to do permanent, full color photo quality printing on such a wide variety of substrates and items.  Basically, if it’s either made of polyester, or coated with a similar type of polymer, is a light color or white, and will hold up in a heat press, then you can sublimate it with any image, artwork, or photo that you can dream up – and it will outlast anything else except possibly embroidery.  That list of sublimatable products includes thousands and thousands of different items, fabrics, and garments, in an almost endless variety of sizes and shapes.

It’s so easy to learn and do that your older kids can even do it as a hobby, or for fund raisers.  Even if it is just for holiday gifts for the family and friends, you can still easily justify the purchase of a system, and then anything else you use it for is just a bonus – especially if you get paid for it.

There is a bit of a learning curve, same as there is with anything – but this curve is more of a gentle bunny slope compared to the black diamond mountain trails of learning that go along with embroidery, screen printing, and direct to garment printing.  Not that you shouldn’t invest in one or more of those too – it’s really all about how many different decoration methods you want to offer your customers, and what you feel comfortable with.

And if you already have a decorating business, here’s why you should add sublimation to it.  Simply put, it makes a great add-on for only a little investment, and offers you a high return rate.  Instead of buying sublimated transfers or referring out that type of work, you can do it yourself, cut out the middleman, and make some of the best margins possible anywhere.  400% or better markups aren’t unheard of with sublimation, depending on your local market environment.

The same as any other business, what you get out of it is directly proportional to what you put into it.  You will need a plan, a market for your goods, and some idea of what that market and those goods would be.  A good place to start is “Top 6 Questions to Ask (And Answer) Before You Buy A Sublimation System”.  Other articles in this blog will provide you with additional valuable information.

Last but not least, as always, if you have any questions, contact us – we’re here to help.

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