If you’re a small business owner, I’m sure you can relate to the struggle of establishing a consistent, profitable income. This is particularly true when you work in the decoration industry. Whether it be high competition or cut-throat margins, establishing a comfortable and consistent profit can be difficult. Adding a complementary service, or even centering your new business around a particular technology, can help you gain that steady flow of work you’re looking for. That’s where sublimation comes in! Sublimation technologies can be a great opportunity for your existing business, or for the business you’ve always wanted to start. Is sublimation a good business model? Is sublimation worth it? Let’s take an in-depth look in this article.
Sublimation can enable you to offer new products that complement the ones you already sell. Or sublimation can be your foray into the world of business ownership.
In the words of Jimmy Lamb, manager of education for Sawgrass: “Sublimation enables you to offer new products that complement what you already sell, deliver increased convenience and value to existing customers, attract new customers, and enter new markets.” He continues, “In a word, adding sublimation to an existing business brings diversification to your product lineup and sales strategy.”
What is sublimation?
Maybe you’re already familiar with sublimation. Maybe you’re not. If you already have familiarity with the technology, and want to skip to the good stuff, then feel free to omit this section. Otherwise, stick around! We’ll be going over dye-sublimation right now.
Is sublimation a good business model?
Before we answer that, we need to understand what sublimation is. Sublimation is a technique to transfer ink onto different types of garments and materials, called substrates. Sublimation is a specific process in which heat and pressure is used to turn the water-based ink into a gaseous form. In this gas form, the sublimation ink is able to bond with substrate. This bonding process occurs at the molecular level, meaning it’s permanent.
So what does that actually mean?
Yeah, that definition might be a little overly complicated. Let me simplify it a bit.
Sublimation is a process for transferring inks onto different types of garments and materials. A specialized sublimation ink is printed onto a type of sublimation paper. This sublimation ink and sublimation paper use specialized chemicals to allow them to work. You can read about some of our favorite sublimation inks here, or our favorite sublimation papers here.
Once you have a design printed onto your special sublimation paper, you’re ready to move onto the next step. Placing your design and transfer material in a heat press, you use heat and pressure to transfer the design onto the material. The ink on the paper is bonded permanently to the material, making it impossible to remove. Once you’ve finished applying your design, just remove your substrate from your heat press, allow it cool, and you’re all finished!
Step by step process for sublimation
Here’s a step by step breakdown of the sublimation process for those still a little shakey:
- Place at least two pieces of paper on your heat press to help protect your heat press.
- Tape your sublimation design onto your sublimation blank.
- When you tape your design onto your blank, you’ll want to make sure the transferrable sides of each are facing each other. Otherwise, you won’t have a proper transfer.
- You can transfer designs onto both sides of your blank, just not at the same time. One side at a time!
- Place your sublimation blank into your heat press, with your transferrable design on-top.
- Place another piece of paper on top of your design. This will help protect both your substrate and the heat platen of your heat press.
- Press your design, using a temperature somewhere between 360-400F with a light pressure. You’ll want to start out with press time at around 30-120 seconds.
- Whatever material you are attempting to press onto, may require different settings. Don’t be afraid to play around with your settings, or use the manufacturer recommended settings.
- Once your transfer is complete, remove your blank from your heat press. Immediately remove the transfer paper from your substrate.
- Be careful when removing both your transfer paper and your substrate from your heat press. If the transfer paper moves during this, you may end up with a ghosted or smeared transfer.
- Set your blank off to the side to cool down. Once it is completely cool, you are free to continue pressing onto the other side, or start using your newly made design!
Hopefully this further clears anything up! We have more resources if you’d like to read about getting started with sublimation printing.
So, is sublimation a good business?
Let’s get into it. Is sublimation a good business?
Whether you’re looking to start your first business, or if you already own a decorating business, I think sublimation is a great business to get into. There are a lot of reasons why sublimation is a good business, so let’s get started talking about them!
Low Cost of Entry
When compared with other business models, it becomes abundantly clear the sublimation has an extremely low cost of entry. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on tons of equipment, you don’t need to maintain some complicated warehouse, and you don’t need some ultra specialized software to get started.
In fact, you don’t need much at all to get started with sublimation!
Printer & Ink
To get started with sublimation you need a printer that is able to handle the specialized sublimation ink!
There are dedicated brands, like Sawgrass, that make great printers. One of our personal favorites is the Sawgrass SG400, which is a great sublimation dedicated printer. You just need to make sure your printer can handle the designs and needs of your niche. Whether it be a particularly wide format, or a specific color range, just double check that your printer can handle it!
If the Sawgrass SG400 is a little on the expensive side, then there are options for you! Take a look at the Epson WF-7710, which is a great printer to start your sublimation journey. You can use a conversion kit, like this one, to set it up to work with sublimation ink. You’ll be able to save a few hundred dollars this way, but you may require a little more setup!
You’ll need some design software to work with! You’ll use this software to come up with and print out your designs.
To make sure you get perfect colors on your designs, you’ll need to use an ICC profile designed to work with your printer and ink. It is generally recommended to create a custom ICC profile for your exact setup, but you can roll with a generalised profile. We have a download section for ICC profiles here, and you can read more about ICC profiles in general here.
There are a lot of softwares to use! You can use something like Photoshop, or a free alternative like GIMP. Both are great options! Just use whatever you’re most comfortable with. If you haven’t used any type of design software, then I’d recommend checking out Photoshop. It’s what I use!
You need a heat press to transfer your ink!
There are loads of heat presses out there, and it’s difficult to tell you what’s the right option for you. Take a look around on Heat Press Nation and Amazon! You need to look for a heat press that supports the size of designs and transfer you’re looking for!
Heat presses have a heat platen, and the heat platen constitutes the area where heat and pressure will be applied. You’ll need a heat platen large enough to fit your work. So if you’re working with a t-shirt, you may need a heat platen of at least 16 x 14! Just double check before you buy.
Sublimation is really low cost of entry
That’s pretty much all you need! There are some other supplies you may want, like heat resistant gloves or heat resistant tape. You can read about some of our most recommended sublimation accessories here, we think they make your sublimation business just that much easier!
You can really get started with sublimation for just under $1000, especially if you’re willing to do some work to find the best deals! There aren’t many businesses that can be started for such a low price, which makes sublimation a really good business for people just getting started.
Lots Opportunities to sell
If you’re just getting started with sublimation, or if you’re using sublimation as an extension of your decoration business, I think it’s easy to argue that offering a wide range of products means you can fulfill a wide range of needs.
No matter if you’re in the sports, pets, or health niche. No matter if you want to specialize in t-shirts, hats, or hoodies! Sublimation can work with such a wide range of garments and can support any design, making it perfect for whatever niche you want to fill!
A specific example: an awards retailer
Let’s look at a specific example of an awards retailer.
Traditionally, an awards retailer can expect to get steady business year round. Lots of people need awards all year, like schools, local sports, organizations, companies, and events all have needs for award products. But you can take it further with sublimation!
With just one sublimation system, you can start offering much more than typical awards! You can add full-color awards on acrylic, slate, aluminum, and even glass! You can also work with promotional goods, like apparel, hats, t-shirts, personalized gifts, and signage.
Sublimation is a really good business
I think it’s more than clear that sublimation can really expand your offerings. No matter if you’re an established decorator or looking to get started with your first business. Sublimation has such a wide range of applications that you can find and fill a niche for anything!
And that makes sublimation a good business.
Expectations are always changing
Expectations are always changing. But that’s a good thing!
People are starting to have greater expectations for everything they order. Blame it on Amazon, convenience stores, or whatever. But if you and your business are agile and flexible, and able to meet and form to these expectations, then you can have a lot of success!
A growing trend, in both the decoration and gift industries, is a move towards customized and personalized products. People want something unique to them! With sublimation, you can easily meet those expectations
Personalization and customization
With the growing popularity of places like Amazon Customs and Etsy, it’s unsurprising to learn that customized and personalized apparel are becoming increasingly popular. Getting ahead of the curve, or better yet just hopping on the bandwagon, is a great way to grow your business!
An industry report has projected huge growth in the sublimation industry over the next few years. And I can’t help but agree with them. People are starting to expect high quality products, customized to their needs, and delivered within a timely fashion. With sublimation, you can start meeting these expectations!
Diversification of your business
Adding sublimation to your business is a great way to diversify your income sources. Most decoration companies rely on their bread and butter sources of income: heat transfers, embroidery, engraving, signage, and much more!
Sublimation allows you to really diversify your income sources. You can also expand into new niches, or even offer a wider range of products for your niche! And you can do this without running out and buying the latest and greatest in equipment.
You can make a targeted attack, addressing buying trends, and targeting the needs of your buyers. What are the quantities they’re ordering in? What are they looking for? How often are they buying?
Chances are that sublimation allows you to meet the most amount of expectations from your buyers. Use sublimation to improve your business, hitting the needs of your buyers and customers, and diversify your business!
Is Sublimation a Good Business?
I think the obvious answer here is yes.
Sublimation has a low barrier for entry. You can realistically start a sublimation business, or add sublimation to your existing decoration business for under $1000. That’s an unbelievable cost for getting started, and one that most other business options can’t match. I mean, even if you’re just interested in testing sublimation within your work-flow, it’s a reasonable cost without having to put up much risk at all.
There are a lot of opportunities for selling with a sublimation business. Being such a flexible method of customizing garments and other materials allows you to enter into any niche and add to any business. Whether it’s customized apparel for your pre existing business, or whether it’s you entering a completely new niche, sublimation will be able to meet your needs.
Buyer expectations are always changing. What are they ordering? What do they need? What is their expected turnaround time? With sublimation, you afford yourself the best chance to meet this ever evolving needs. Don’t hinder your business by being slow to change. Rapidly adapt to the needs of your buyers. And what better way is there to meet those expectations than offering sublimation?
Sublimation is a good business. And if you aren’t checking it out already, than you’re missing out.