Customized pajamas — printed with photos of pets or kids — are one of the hottest holiday gift items this year.
Whether your customers are looking for custom-photo pajamas, socks, t-shirts, drinkware, ornaments, or even face masks, the only way you can print them is through sublimation. So, if you want to expand your customized gift offerings, the time is right to try this printing method.
How It Works
The sublimation process needs three things: pressure, heat, and time.
First, get the customer’s photo ready on your computer, then send it to the sublimation printer, which uses special sublimation ink (like Marabu’s DX-STE) and a specific type of paper. Using the paper as the transfer carrier, you’ll print everything in reverse on the paper, then take it to the heat press and press the image onto the desired item. The heat transfer press gets very hot — up to 400 degrees — to turn the ink into a gas. The dyes in the ink then transfer to polyester (or poly-blend) fabrics or other substrates.
It’s important to note that fabrics must be polyester or a poly/cotton blend with a higher percentage of polyester than cotton (at least 70/30). Sublimation printing won’t work otherwise.
The time to print depends on the substrate, but a pair of pajama pants will take approximately 25-30 seconds.
Benefits of Sublimation vs. Screen Printing
While sublimation may not be the easiest kind of printing since there is a second heat-transfer part of the process, it can do things that screen printing cannot — like printing photos onto a variety of substrates.
Sublimation printers have been around for several decades and have become much easier (and faster) over the years. Now, certain printer brands, like Mimaki, make sublimation printers that are more “plug and print” than ever before.
Many print businesses rely on screen printing, which is great for many printing jobs, but may have some drawbacks. For one thing, you can’t do an all-over print job or print from a photo onto a substrate like pajama bottoms with screen printing.
Additionally, screen printing requires you to buy each color or mix it yourself, and it can be difficult to get precise ink colors. There’s also the hassle of burning the screens, squeegeeing the ink onto the substrate, spraying the item with emulsion, and cleaning up the ink messes that inevitably occur.
On the other hand, sublimation printing is a more high-tech option. Sublimation printers allow you to customize products — like holiday gifts — using customers’ photos. It’s also possible to print all over substrates — like an athletic jersey — using sublimation printers.
With sublimation printers, you won’t have to buy or mix ink colors because the software manipulates the images and allows you to print literally any color. Say you’re printing an Arizona Cardinals logo onto a jersey. The software will print the image, and if the Cardinals red looks a little too orange, you can easily manipulate it to exactly the right color.
Sublimation printing gives the objects a super soft feel. Since the ink is bonded into the material, you can’t feel it at all, as opposed to screen printing, where you can feel the ink on the fabric.
A Great Way to Expand to New Markets
If you’ve been debating getting a sublimation printer but avoiding it because you thought it was too complicated or that you’d need a heat press, know that the technology has come a long way.
Many bigger brands — including Mimaki, Roland, Mutoh, and Epson — now offer sublimation printers, and Marabu’s exceptional sublimation inks support them all.
While sublimation printing can be two to three times more expensive than screen printing, you can do so much more with a high-tech sublimation printer. Sublimation printing will open up different markets for your business, allowing you to produce things that you couldn’t accomplish with screen printing — including the extremely popular holiday gift of customized pajama pants!