If you have ever wondered how fashion designers manage to get those great prints on different materials, then you have come to the right place. This article discusses all that goes into all-over dye sublimation printing- what it is, how and why it is used, its pros and cons, and even the materials used during the process.
What is All Over Printing?
Now, let's break it down. We are all familiar with printing methods that leave a design on just one particular area of the material. Well, with all over printing, the design goes over the whole fabric - it even goes through the seams, the hems, and the zips, just to ensure that the material is covered all over.
You can create these designs on your polyester t-shirts, leggings, socks, hoodies, and as many clothing types as you please (as long as they are the right material type). Since you have to heat-press the design on the material’s full length beforehand, a more effective approach is to complete the printing before you sew it into any product you please after that.
Whether it is for your work team, your social media campaign, or just a meaningful personal project, all over printing allows you to create dynamic continuous designs.
All over printing is one of the latest fashion/printing trends and, as such, requires the printer to follow certain precautions to ensure that the end-product is flawless and without white dots.
All over printing can be achieved through several methods, but we focus on the dye sublimation method for this article.
What is Dye Sublimation Printing?
Dye-sublimation printing is a printing technique involving a heat press on a sheet of transfer paper with a printed version of the design. The ink on this transfer paper is then 'sublimated' into its gaseous form and penetrates every inch of the material to create the perfect high-resolution design with distinct colors.
You can do this on different fabric and non-fabric items. For example, if you run a business, you can print your designs on glass, aluminum, plastic, and even fiberglass. You can do it on knit and woven polyester fabrics, signages, home decoration items like ceramic floor tiles, and even high-quality photographic images.
To make this process work, there are some essential tools you must have. First, there is the sublimation printer to, of course, print the design on the material. Next is the sublimation paper upon which the design would be transferred. This is the only kind of paper that works with the machine. A computer and RIP (Raster Image Processor) software, a cutting device, and a heat press. Some other tools include the material you're printing on itself, heat resistant tape and gloves, etc.
How Do I Get Started With All Over Sublimation Printing?
So, you have decided to produce (and probably sell) high-quality custom materials, but you are not sure how to get started. Not to worry, this section was made just for you. First, you need equipment. Lots of it. These are all the equipment you need while starting your all-over sublimation printing business.
A Sublimation Printer
This is on top of your list of printing essentials. There are sublimation printer options for both beginners and expert printers. Regardless, the machine helps you transfer the designs vividly onto the transfer paper that will be used to create the products. Sublimation printers work only with dye-sub applications (the ink used in dye sublimation). They are available from about 44 inches to 10 inches wide, and you can choose based on the volume of work you have to do and your budget.
Check out some of our recommendations for sublimation printers!
A Computer and Design Software
Before you even consider printing, you need to create a design, don't you? That's where the computer and design software comes in. Using design software like Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Sawgrass' Creative Studio, etc., you can create beautiful designs for printing. The good thing is you don't necessarily have to be a great graphics designer to make good designs. Just do your research and be open to trying new things.
A Heat/Mug Press
If you want to print on drinkware, you need a mug press, but you need a heat press if it's clothing material. If you want to achieve vibrant and high-quality prints, you MUST use a heat press on your transfer papers. Although there are many features to look out for when choosing a heat press, the most important is the platen size. The platen of a heat press refers to the surface where you place your products, and the bigger it is, the bigger products you'll produce. You should consider buying a mug oven for the mug press, especially when you want to print on many mugs simultaneously.
A sublimation blank is a blank version of whatever you wish to customize. Note: only polyester products or products coated with polyester material can be sublimated.
There is a specific kind of ink used for sublimation, and it is called disperse dyes. They are also commonly referred to as dye-sub inks. These dye-sub inks sublimate at high temperatures and easily permeate the polyester surfaces, making them permanent and washable. It is available in several vibrant colors, including fluorescent!
We have a great guide on some of the best sublimation inks available!
This type of paper holds in the dye-sub inks and is involved in the design’s heat transfer to the preferred surface. From this paper, the design is 'heat pressed' on to the surface of your material.
Since you'll be dealing with heat, you need heat-resistant gloves to protect you from burns while handling any hot objects in the factory.
Your heat-resistant tape fastens your sublimation paper to your sublimation blank while the heat press is ongoing. This will reduce the unnecessary shifts that could ruin your design.
Check out some of our other tips on sublimation equipment!
What Kind of Software Can I Use to Make Designs for All-Over Sublimation Printing?
Whether you're a pro designer or you're still new to it, there is design software for you.
You can create design templates to use on this platform each time you need to process another type. Be creative and use attractive patterns, and repeat it throughout your design. Because Photoshop has been around for a long time, you can find many resources to help you online, so you're never stuck. The downside is that you will have to subscribe to a monthly paid plan to use the software at all.
If you're working with a tight budget, then Corel Draw is for you. It is a free, downloadable program, and it can be used to create high-quality images, with unhindered access to unique image effects. You can also access many of the features offered by Adobe Illustrator. Plus, it is a vector graphics program, which means you'll have a lot of design freedom.
Creative Studio was developed by Sawgrass, mainly for creating sublimation designs. Once you buy any Sawgrass Sublimation System, it comes with the package, free of charge. You will find custom made, ready to use sublimation patterns on this software, and you can simply tweak them to fit your creative vision for the product. It is also a web-based application, which means you can access it from your PCs and mobile devices. Although it's free, there is a paid premium package that gives you access to thousands of ready-to-print designs that cut across diverse themes.
Just like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator is a part of the Adobe Suite and is a commonly used software among graphic designers. It is a paid platform too.
Large Format Printers for All-Over Sublimation Printing:
A large format printer (also called a wide format printer) will produce print roll widths between 18 and 100 inches. It ensures that you can print on a larger scale while maintaining the design’s high quality. These are some of the best large format printers for all-over sublimation printing in the market right now;
Sawgrass Virtuoso VJ 628
The Sawgrass Virtuoso VJ 628 is the world's first fully integrated 25-inch desktop sublimation printer with eight-colour ink sets. You can print up to 24" products with a resolution of 1400×1400 dpi. The package comes with Sawgrass Print Manager, four 8-color ink sets, and a CreativeStudio Online Designer. Shop the Sawgrass Virtuoso VJ 628 here.
Epson HP DesignJet T630
This product is the world's smallest large format printer. It prints up to 36" wide media rolls and up to 36/74.7" in sheets.
This printer will render the designs with the exact line text for professionals who wish to print maps, posters, or technical drawings. It has a modern design that makes it the perfect fit for your office and home. It also comes with a built-in stand, perfect for saving space. You can shop the HP DesignJet T630 Large Format Wireless Plotter Printer here.
The Epson Surecolor Standard Edition large format printers are successors to Epson Stylus Pro 900 Series. They are designed professional proofing and photographic applications using the latest imaging upgrades. Its maximum printable cut-sheet and roll media width is 24" with a resolution of 2880×1440 dpi. Shop the Epson SureColor SC-P7000 SCP7000SE USB & Network here.
Large format heat presses for all-over sublimation printing
Like large format printers, large format heat presses are necessary for heat transfer applications on large garments. Their platen sizes are bigger with high-pressure lifting systems. These are some of the best large format heat presses for all-over sublimation printing.
Please note that you should ensure the platen is large enough for your desired substrate! A heat press can only transfer a design that fits within it's press area. Check out a full list of large format heat presses at Heat Press Nation!
Heat Press Nation High-Pressure Blue Series
The Heat Press Nation High-Pressure Blue Series heat presser is one of the market’s best heat presses. It is unmatched in quality and ensures that there is complete end-to-end even pressure and heating. It has a 15" by 15" non coated heat platen with full range heating coils that guarantee swift heating. Shop the HPN 15" X 15" High-Pressure Heat Press Transfer Machine Blue Series.
Heat Press Nation CraftPro 15" x 15" High Pressure Crafting Transfer Machine
The HPN CraftPro series is a sort of compression of all the best parts of HPN's heat presses into a compact machine. If you are a crafter, the CraftPro series is tailor-made for you. It is available in the 15"×15" and 13"×9". It also features a lower slide-out plate that helps you work far from the heat. It has a digital temperature readout that shows you the temperature value when your work is done. There is also a digital timer and an autostart timer. Shop the Heat Press Nation CraftPro 15" x 15" High Pressure Crafting Transfer Machine.
How Does All Over Sublimation Printing Work:
What exactly does it take to make all-over sublimation printing work? There are three major processes involved;
Create Your Design
First things first: turn on your computer, choose a software that suits your capabilities and budget, and start designing. If you're using the Creative Studio software, you would have access to a lot of ready to print templates you could use. If not, you can still refer to some online tutorials to guide you in the process.
Print Out Your Design
This you do using your sublimation printer. You stack your printer with sublimation papers, load the cartridges with vibrant dye-sub inks, transfer the design to the printer, and then wait patiently for your design to come out, fully rendered.
Transfer Onto Your Substrate
Once you're satisfied with how the design came out, you then transfer the printed paper to your heat-press, set your fabric on the platen, and apply. Heat is applied to the paper while it is on top of the material, and then the ink seeps into every fiber of the fabric, and voila! Your state-of-the-art piece is ready.
Pros and Cons of All Over Sublimation Printing
All over sublimation printing is great; we know that. But then, there are a few cons you must take note of to ensure you make the best product decisions. These are the pros and cons of all-over sublimation printing.
With sublimation printing, you can create as many unique designs as you like. These designs are personalized and would appear on your material the same way it did on your computer. This is especially useful for companies that might need their logos branded on conference/events materials.
The finished product of a dye sublimation printing process is always of very high quality, with vibrant hues and colors of all shades and intricate attention to detail. The prints are produced with high-resolution image quality, given the nature of the special inks themselves.
Once the design is heat pressed onto a material, that ink becomes permanent and washable. Other printing methods will simply stamp the image on the cloth, leaving it open to wear and tear, peeling, cracking, and all sorts of damage. But with this style, the high-quality ink becomes one with the fabric, making it impossible to wash away.
Starting a business producing and selling dye sublimation products is very expensive. The special printers, heat presses, software subscriptions, ink, and even the sublimation paper comes at a high price. From the cost of a regular-sized sublimation printer running into a few thousand dollars to ink costs, production costs could get very expensive. And so will purchase costs.
Not Suitable for Large/Bulk Orders
Dye-sublimation printing is expensive and time-consuming. This is why it is better suited to small projects of at most 10 shirts or 1-3 other materials.
You can only use polyester or polyester coated materials when printing with dye sublimation. Also, there is a limitation on the kind of colors that can be sublimated in. No black or dark-colored surfaces can be printed using this process. Instead, the materials must be white or light-colored.
Is All Over Sublimation Printing for You?
At this stage, you must already have a fair idea of what dye sublimation entails. Does it seem like something you would be interested in? Do you want to start a real business (may not be the best option for a hobbyist due to the high cost of entry)? Are you interested in expanding your current business? Or do you simply want to get your designs on custom clothes?
Good All Over Sublimation Printing Services
There are several good all-over sublimation printing services available, but these two would help you get started;
Culture Studio prints custom merchandise for brand marketing, sports gear, school functions, teams, or for any other occasion. They will produce and ship whatever you order in all sizes and shapes.
Vispronet produces custom all-over dye-sublimation print t-shirts. You can choose your preferred style position, design, and colors. Their products are also available in different adult and youth sizes. You can order as low and as high as you wish and get free shipping on all shirt orders!