What is sublimation?
In the printing industry, sublimation refers to a specific printing method known as dye-sublimation printing. It is a digital printing technique that is commonly used to transfer designs or images onto various materials, particularly textiles and rigid substrates.
Sublimation printing works by using heat to transfer dye onto the material. The process involves printing the desired image onto a specialized transfer paper using sublimation inks. These inks are designed to convert from a solid state into a gas when exposed to heat without passing through the liquid form, hence the term "sublimation." Then, the printed transfer paper (sublimation paper) is placed on the material to be printed, and both are subjected to heat and pressure using a heat press machine.
Heat and pressure activate the dyes on the transfer paper during the sublimation printing process. As this happens, the dyes undergo sublimation, directly transforming from a solid state into a gas. The gas then permeates the material's surface, forming a permanent bond. This technique yields remarkable outcomes, producing vivid, high-resolution images with exceptional colour reproduction and durability. Sublimation printing enables the creation of full-colour prints, intricate designs, and precise replicas of photographs and intricate graphics.
Dye-sublimation printing is commonly used to produce customized apparel, such as sports jerseys, T-shirts, and team uniforms. It is also popular for creating promotional products like mugs, mousepads, and personalized gifts. Additionally, sublimation can print graphics on rigid substrates like ceramic tiles, aluminum panels, and other coated materials.
Sublimation printing offers several advantages, including the ability to print on various ranges of materials, excellent colour vibrancy and durability, and the ability to reproduce complex designs accurately. However, it is essential to note that sublimation printing is primarily suitable for polyester or polyester-coated substrates, as the sublimation process relies on the dye bonding with the synthetic fibres or coating.
Sublimation printing is typically done on white or light-coloured polyester shirts, and bleaching is not standard practice. It is best to choose pre-made white polyester shirts specifically designed for sublimation printing to achieve optimal results.
Why bleach shirts for sublimation?
Bleaching shirts before sublimation is generally not recommended and can negatively affect the printing process and final results. The sublimation printing method relies on the white or light-coloured base of polyester fabrics to achieve vibrant and accurate colours.
Bleaching shirts can alter the fabric composition and colour, making it more challenging for the sublimation inks to bond effectively. Bleach may weaken the fabric or introduce uneven colour variations, resulting in inferior print quality. Therefore, it is typically best to use pre-made white or light-coloured polyester shirts specifically designed for sublimation printing. These shirts are optimized to provide a smooth and consistent surface for the sublimation inks, resulting in better colour vibrancy and durability.
If you have coloured shirts or shirts made from fabrics other than polyester, they may not be suitable for sublimation printing. Sublimation inks work by converting from a solid to a gas state under heat, bonding with the synthetic fibres of polyester. Fabrics like cotton or blends with a low percentage of polyester may not allow for proper ink absorption, resulting in a less vibrant and durable print. In such cases, alternative printing methods compatible with the fabric, such as screen printing or direct-to-garment printing, may be more suitable.
It is essential to understand that the sublimation printing process has distinct requirements, and using suitable materials plays a pivotal role in achieving the desired outcomes. Unlike other garment decoration techniques or fabric treatments, bleaching is not commonly employed in sublimation printing. Adhering to recommended practices and utilizing compatible materials are key to ensuring successful sublimation printing, resulting in vibrant and long-lasting designs.
Best shirts to bleach for sublimation
Again, please be aware that sublimation printing does not typically involve bleaching shirts before printing. Bleaching is not a common or necessary step in sublimation printing.
Sublimation printing is primarily used on white or light-coloured polyester fabrics or materials with a polyester coating. When subjected to heat, the sublimation inks used in the printing process are designed to bond with synthetic polyester fibers.
Bleaching shirts before sublimation can alter the fabric composition, weaken the fibers, or introduce uneven colour variations. These effects may negatively impact the sublimation process and compromise print quality.
Sublimation relies on the unique properties of polyester, such as its ability to bond with sublimation inks under heat. Fabrics like cotton or blends with a low percentage of polyester may not yield vibrant and durable prints through sublimation. If you have coloured shirts or shirts made from fabrics other than polyester, they may not be suitable for sublimation printing.
In such cases, alternative printing methods compatible with the fabric, such as screen printing or direct-to-garment printing, may be more suitable. However, consulting with printing professionals or following the manufacturer's recommendations for the specific fabric you intend to use is essential.
To summarize, sublimation printing is typically done on white or light-coloured polyester shirts, and bleaching is not standard practice for sublimation. It is best to choose pre-made white polyester shirts specifically designed for sublimation printing to achieve optimal results.
How to bleach a shirt for sublimation?
While bleaching is not standard practice for sublimation, if the customer still wants to proceed, you can follow these general guidelines:
1. Choose a suitable shirt: Ensure that the shirt is made of 100% polyester or has a high polyester content. Sublimation works best on polyester fabrics, as the inks bond with the synthetic fibres during the heat transfer.
2. Pre-wash the shirt: Before bleaching, pre-wash the shirt to remove any dirt, chemicals, or sizing agents that might interfere with the bleaching or printing process. Use a mild detergent and follow the manufacturer's instructions for washing.
3. Dilute the bleach: Prepare a bleach solution by diluting household bleach with water. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the proper dilution ratio. It is important to note that bleach is a strong chemical, so take appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing gloves and working in a well-ventilated area.
4. Test the bleach on a small area: Before treating the entire shirt, perform a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area to assess the effect of the bleach. Use a sponge or brush to monitor the reaction by applying the diluted bleach solution. This step helps you determine the optimal bleach exposure time for achieving the desired effect without damaging the fabric excessively.
5. Apply bleach selectively: If the client wants specific design elements or patterns achieved through bleaching, you can selectively apply the bleach solution using techniques like stenciling or spraying. Ensure proper ventilation and protect the surrounding areas to prevent accidental bleach spills.
6. Rinse and neutralize: Once the desired level of bleaching is achieved, thoroughly rinse the shirt to remove any residual bleach. Follow up with a neutralizing agent, such as hydrogen peroxide or a vinegar solution, to stop the bleaching process and prevent further damage to the fabric.
7. Wash and dry the shirt: After neutralizing, wash the shirt again to remove any remaining bleach or neutralizing agents. Use a mild detergent and follow the manufacturer's washing instructions. Finally, air dry or machine dry the shirt as recommended.
Ultimately, the decision to bleach a shirt for sublimation printing rests with the customer. Still, it is important to provide them with informed guidance based on the best practices and potential implications.