Why Sublimation ?
Many people ask what the advantages of sublimation are compared to more traditional imprint method such as silk screening, embroidery or heat transfer. There are certainly many advantages of sublimation and a couple of drawbacks that are outlined below.
Advantages of Sublimation
Sublimated uniforms are NEVER out of stock !
They are made from scratch when you order so fill-ins and exact reorders are possible forever. Adding new players or replacing uniforms that are damaged are a normal part of the coaching experience and without question the most frustrating component of sourcing uniforms. The ability to fill-in for many years to come both at the beginning of the season and in mid-year allows you to significantly extend the potential life of you uniforms. As a matter of reference major brands such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas change patterns and designs every 2 or 3 years. If you order uniforms in last year of design cycle you will not be able to fill-in at all. Manufacturers love this “planned obsolescence” forcing you to buy complete new uniforms.
Sublimation will never crack, peel or fade !
This is a really big deal and one that people do not realize how important it is. Sublimation literally bonds with the fabric so your design and logo is permanent. Alternate decorations such as silk screening or heat press are applied on top of fabric and will degrade significantly with time and washing. They are very susceptible to improper application and laundering which will cause the image to peel, crack or come off completely which ruins the garment. Sublimated garments are much more robust when it comes to repeated laundering.
Sublimation is the only decoration method that does not interfere with the performance characteristics of the fabric.
Everyone is interested in getting uniforms and apparel that use today’s high tech fabrics which offer outstanding moisture management, range of motion and comfort. There is no point getting moisture management and high stretch fabrics if you are covering them up with silk screen or heat transfer graphics. These other methods completely destroy the breath-ability of the uniform or garment and significantly reduce the stretch wherever they are applied.
Sublimated uniforms and apparel are the only true “custom” options available.
With sublimation you have no restrictions in designs, color, name, numbers or logos. If you can imagine it, we can make it! This is why we say that sublimation is the only true “custom” uniforms available. Every major manufacture says they offer custom but it is limited to changing colors on a pre-set design. The logos, names and numbers are restricted to their locations, styles and sizing. By doing custom uniforms and apparel it allows you to create a brand identity at your school or team that enhances team and school pride. By creating multiple versions of popular items such as hoodies or t-shirts you can create a series of “limited editions” that become collectible and enhance sales and fund raising.
Disadvantages of sublimation !
Potentially longer lead-time !
If you have a new player that needs a uniform or have a damaged uniform that needs replacing you do not want to hear about lead-time. You want your uniform yesterday. If you are lucky enough to find a supplier that stocks blanks of your uniform then you potentially could get fully decorated uniforms in less than a week. The reality is that many uniforms need to be ordered in and if it is out of season and manufacturer is out of stock this is a problem. Nevertheless, stock garments have the potential to be delivered faster than sublimated garments.
Susceptibility to “picking”
This is a legitimate issue with all polyester fabrics but in particular knit polyester fabrics. Polyester whether it is sublimated or not does not like abrasive or sharp objects to be brushed against them. This is highlighted by the fact that polyester should NEVER come into contact with any Velcro. The fibers will be attracted to the Velcro and pull and picks will occur. While Velcro is the worst offender other issues such as belt buckles, keys, etc that is accidentally washed with garment can cause damage. This issue applies to virtually every uniform whether it is a “stock” piece or custom sublimated as almost all are made from polyester today. Sublimated garments, while not more prone to picking, are more prone to this phenomenon being visible. Sublimated garments all start out as white and then the sublimated design is applied to fabric and it permeates part way down the fabric. If you have a dark design that gets a pick the white underlay will be enhanced and highlighted against the dark color. This issue is not as noticeable on dyed thru fabrics that stock uniforms are made from. This issue can be mitigated by designing high abrasion areas in lighter colors to make issues not as apparent.
Cost – An Advantage and Disadvantage
The cost of sublimated garments compared to simple “stock” garments with one color silk screen logos is definitely higher. While we might list this as a disadvantage it can quickly turn to an advantage as additional colors, logos, numbers and names are added to the simple stock garment. When multi-color logos or numbers are used the difference between sublimated and stock garments is reduced. If you take this further and factor in fill-in costs and durability then sublimated garments become far less expensive in the long run.