The Evolution of Sublimation

by SBS Team on May 03, 2021

Sublimation is a wildly popular fabric printing technique that allows you to create intricate fabric designs across the entire garment surface, virtually from seam to seam. According to analysts, nearly 75 percent of the entire U.S. textile industry is printed using dye sublimation. This fashionable method produces bright, vibrant colors and designs on a wide variety of products making it particularly trendy among those who manufacture promotional items. Sublimation is one of the technological innovations creating better quality, cost-effective products. Contrary to popular belief, this trendy new process was discovered more than half a century ago.

Meet Noel de Plasse

The sublimation process you know, as it relates to the textile industry, was discovered in 1957 by a Frenchman named Noel de Plasse. He was doing research for a textile company in France at the time of his discovery. De Plasse found that certain dyes could be transferred from a solid state to a gas state without turning into a liquid first under the right conditions. Sublimation is a type of dry heat transfer effective at temperatures exceeding 190 degrees Celsius. Nothing much was done with the breakthrough until the late 1960’s when an American company invented the first electronic machine to print using the sublimation method.

Travel Through Time

Fast forward 60 years and sublimation is the predominant textile printing technique worldwide. This simple process first prints an image or design on transfer paper. The printed paper design is then transferred onto polyester fabric using dry heat and pressure. The combination of heat and pressure encourages the dye to permeate the fabric creating bright dynamic colors for a permanent high-quality design that doesn’t crack, peel, or fade over time. This simple, affordable approach also makes sublimation a preferred method for printing on three-dimensional objects like coffee mugs and other specialty items. 

Benefits of Sublimation

There are several reasons sublimation has become so popular over the years. It’s a cost-effective process that produces durable, high-quality textile prints without creating an extra layer on top of the fabric. Blankets, clothing, and other accessories retain their soft luxurious feel with intricate and custom design possibilities. This digital print method offers virtually endless color options but only works with poly-coated substrates and polyester fabrics. It’s ideal for smaller batch orders making it the preferred method for print on demand customizations.

Many understandably confuse sublimation with heat transfer but they are different processes that cannot be used interchangeably. Sublimation is a type of heat transfer that allows you to customize merchandise by uploading your own unique design or by choosing from easy pre-made templates to bring your vision to life. At The Sublimation House, we offer a variety of custom options and accessories to help you showcase your living fabric. 

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