What's the Deal with Dye Sub?
Written by Baylor Meche
What is Dye Sublimation?
Dye Sublimation is a vastly underrated printing process that fills a unique niche for promotional product decoration. While it's not applicable for every product, Dye Sublimation is ideal for polyester fabric and polyester resin coated products. We recently started using this process to launch new t-shirt designs on our Artist's Marketplace. Let's take a look at how this method works.
The process is unique due to the use of Disperse Dyes. These dyes are like a weird science experiment going from a solid, to a gas, then back to a solid in a split second. The first step is to print the artwork onto transfer paper. Once printed, the paper is then heat pressed onto the item you're decorating.
The heat transforms the inks from a solid to a gas that immediately bonds with the polyester fabric. The polymers within the polyester fabric cause this reaction which permanently bonds the dye with the fabric. The result is a full color print with a vintage feel devoid of the rough texture of other printing processes.
Dye Sub printing has no limit for the number of colors used on a garment, however there are a few limitations. The most important is that the garment must have at least 65% polyester thread. Since the inks bond to polyester, the higher the polyester content the brighter the print will be.
It's important to note there are no white dye sub inks since the ink is actually dying the garment with a pigment. So the color of the shirt you choose will also be the negative space, whites, and transparent areas of your design. This process is computer generated and uses the RGB color palette so printing exact PMS colors is not achievable as it is with screen printing. Ultimately the lighter the garment the brighter the print.
Detailed full color and photo realistic images are a great match for dye sub printing. These can also be achieved with screen printing and DTG, but the process of dye sublimation is a perfect choice for predominantly polyester fabrics.
We're stoked to launch more t-shirt designs using this process in the future. Stay tuned because eventually you'll be able to order your own dye sublimated shirts through our print shop. You can find our available dye sub shirts here.