Sublimation vs. Heat Transfer Vinyl

One of the fun things about garment decoration is the fact that there are so many methods of decoration from which to choose.   Two of the popular methods for which EnMart sells supplies are sublimation and heat transfer vinyl (HTV).  These methods share some of the same characteristics,  they both need to be applied with heat, for example,  but they’re also offer many different options when it comes to decorated goods.   Given that,  how do you know which option is the right option for your project?  Here are some guidelines that may help you with that decision.

First of all,  while both decoration disciplines work with heat,  the heat required for sublimation is much higher.   For polyester shirts or poly coated hard goods,  that won’t matter and sublimation is a great option.   If you’re working with fragile fabrics or items that have a low melting point,  you’re going to want to work with the EasyWeed Vinyl, which seals at a lower temperature.

Second,  what color is the item in you’ll be decorating?  It sounds like a silly question,  but sublimation works best on light colored garments and items.   HTV,  on the other hand,  is not effected by the color of the item onto which it is put.  So,  if you’re working with a dark or strongly colored item,  you might want to opt for heat transfer vinyl as opposed to sublimation.  (Although, side note,  tone on tone sublimation can be a very attractive option,  and works well as long as the fabric is lighter than the print. )

Third question,  what sort of fabric are you using,  or what type of coating does the item you’re decorating have?   As stated earlier,  sublimation only works with polyester fabric and poly coated items.   If it isn’t polyester or poly coated,  it can’t be sublimated.   For other fabrics,  or items without a polyester coating,  HTV is your option.

Fourth,  does the decoration you’re adding include a photo?   While vinyl cutters are great for cutting out designs and silhouettes,  and there are such things as printable vinyls,   the sort of vinyl EnMart sells is probably not the best option for photos.   When you want to add a photo realistic image to something,  sublimation is the decoration discipline with the major advantage.   You can print your exact photo on to the sublimation paper and transfer that directly to your garment or hard good.

Don’t forget,  there’s always the option of using heat transfer vinyl and sublimation together,  either by sublimating the vinyl,  or by combining the two disciplines in a mixed media decoration.    The effects offered by some of the vinyls,  like Holographic or Glitter,  can be very complimentary to the sublimation and add a little extra eye catching glamour to the design.

 

Sublimation and Multimedia Decorating

puzzle-piecesMultimedia decorating,  which is essentially decorating a garment or wearable by combining two or more decoration techniques,  is a popular way to add a lot of visual interest to a garment.  When people talk about multimedia decorating,  however,  they tend to talk about adding rhinestones to embroidery,  or combining vinyl with screen print.   Sublimation is often left out of the conversation,  which is sad,  because sublimation can combine quite well with a number of other decoration techniques to create a one of a kind garment for your customer.

Let’s start with embroidery.    One of the fun parts of machine embroidery is that it can be done with polyester thread.   Polyester is the material that can be dyed by sublimation inks.   So,  it is possible to embroider a design using white polyester thread,  and then to sublimate another design in color on top of the thread.    This also has the advantage of giving the design a bit of a 3-D effect,  since the embroidery will be slightly raised.   Another option is to sublimate the garment first and then embroider over portions of the sublimated design.   Either way,  combining sublimation and embroidery will add visual interest and definition to the finished design.

Next up is vinyl.   There are many heat transfer vinyls that will also work for sublimation.   Get some glitter vinyl and make a sublimated design that sparkles!   Another advantage to using vinyl is that a vinyl transfer can often be applied to fabric types other than nylon.   If you want to put a sublimated design on a cotton shirt,  put the design on vinyl and it can be added to the shirt without a problem and without loss of color.  Sublimating on vinyl,  particularly glitter vinyl,  could prove very popular with cheer and dance teams and certainly could add some sparkle to fashion designs.

Another option for a multimedia design using sublimation and another decoration technique is rhinestones.    Anyone who likes bling will already be aware of rhinestones and how they can be used to add sparkle and shine to garments.   Combining rhinestones with sublimation allows for full color prints embellished by rhinestones,  which give the design flash and a bit of height.   Rhinestones can be incorporated into the design by hand,  or through the use of a rhinestone template.

When considering which decoration techniques to combine with sublimation,  there are a few things to keep in mind.   One is that sublimation requires heat,  and relatively high heat at that.  Some inks or vinyls might not react well to the temperatures that sublimation requires,  so keep that in mind.   Another thing to remember is that the decoration technique chosen must compliment sublimation and work with the sublimated design.   The best multimedia pieces are the ones where both decoration techniques combine to make a design that is fresh and interesting.

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