The 5 Ws of Sublimation: When Is The Right Time

Note:  This post is the fifth and final post in the series called the 5 Ws of Sublimation.  The traditional five Ws are who, what, when, where and why.    For the purposes of this series, however,  I’m changing the five Ws to who, what, why, which and when.   This post deals with how to know when it’s the right time for your company to start sublimating.

Let’s get this right out of the way first,  the when for each company will be different.   For some companies, sublimation may be something they take on after years of establishing their business in other areas.   For others,  sublimation may be the process around which the company is formed.   Given that,  there is no precise way to say when it’s time for your company to start sublimating.   There are, however,  some items to consider which may help you make the right decision.

Item 1Can You Afford to Start Sublimating –  While it is true that cost is less of a barrier to entry when it comes to sublimation then with other decorating disciplines,  there are still costs associated with start-up.  Plus,  you also want to be able to purchase equipment that can handle the largest size sublimation transfer you would ever want to print.   Starting small and working up can be an option,  but it is often easier to start as you mean to go on.

Item 2: Do You Know Where to Sell What You Sublimate –  The lure of the new and the fun can be very strong.  Sublimation is fun to do and offers a wide variety of products that may not be available from other decoration disciplines.   Since costs are relatively low to start up,  some shops may add sublimation without knowing exactly where they’ll sell what they sublimate.    It is always better to do a little market research and line up some customers, or be fairly sure you can upsell existing customers,  before you add sublimation to your shop. 

Item 3: Are You Familiar With Graphics Programs – Creating graphics for sublimation is like almost anything else,  the task can be easy or it can be difficult depending on a lot of different factors.  One of the things that will help make creating your artwork easier is a familiarity with standard graphics programs like Adobe or CorelDraw.   If you’re not familiar with these programs,  it might be wise to take a class and increase your knowledge and skill level.   The time spent becoming more expert is time you will save when creating your designs for sublimation.

Item 4:  Do What’s Right For Your Business – There will always be people out there who will tell you that your shop “should” offer this and “can’t live” without that,  but the best person to determine what’s right for your business is you.   If you do your research,  talk to knowledgeable people and look at your business with a realistic eye,  you’ll most likely be able to tell quite quickly if now is the right time to start sublimating.  

Sublimation Resources

Earlier in the week  I asked you all what videos you would like to see us make first,  and I’m still hoping for answers to that question.   Our goal is to build up a library of video and written resources that will educate and inform our customers and help them make the most of the sublimation and ChromaBlast products.   The reality of the situation,  however,  is that we can’t cover every subject and every project,  even if we worked 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives.  For one thing,  there are simply too many subjects to cover.  For another,  we can only shoot one video at a time.   That’s why I’ve been searching the web to find some alternative sources that can help answer some of your questions.

If you’re interested in creating a tile mural,  there are a couple of tutorials that could prove very useful.  The first tutorial features  Hanes SublimationMaker 2.0.   The second tutorial covers the same subject,  but using Corel Draw.   These tutorials feature 6 x 6 tiles.

Another option for learning about sublimation and how to be successful with it is the Sawgrass webinar series.  These webinars cover everything from publicizing your business to managing color and working with Corel Draw.   You can  attend a webinar the day it is offered,  or you can view archived webinars at your own convenience.

If you have a lot of specific questions for which you need answers,  or if you’re looking for information on a particular product,  your best resource could be a forum.  EnMart participates in two that I find especially helpful.  One is T-Shirt Forums and the other is the Apparel Decorators Forum.  Both forums are populated by helpful, knowledgeable people who are always happy to give assistance and share knowledge.

The companies that make the sublimation blanks are also typically a good resource if you’re having a problem with a particular product.  EnMart is a distributor for Rowmark,  and the company provides an extensive technical help section.   If you’re having an issue sublimating a particular blank correctly,  it would be worth checking out their information.

You should also check out magazines like Awards & Engraving and Printwear for sublimation tips.   Both have offered great articles with sublimation tips in the past and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so in the future.