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"Dyeing" For Something Different? Try Dye Sublimation Printing

Dye sublimation printing should be on your radar—but most marketers aren't familiar with the process. Why is it a big deal? If you enjoy vibrant colors, sharp full-color photographs, and eye-catching graphics, it could be your new secret weapon for high-impact branding, advertising, and displays. But before you start planning, you need to understand the benefits—and yes, a few limitations—of the dye sublimation printing process.


What is Dye Sublimation Printing? 

The word sublimate has roots in the Latin verb sublimare, meaning "to lift up" or "to raise." Sublimation is the process of a solid transitioning straight to its gaseous phase, skipping the liquid phase. When it comes to printing, dye sublimation utilizes this process to embed solid dye into a polyester or polymer-coated substrate using high heat. Instead of other printing techniques, like screen printing where the ink sits on top of the substrate, in dye sublimation the ink becomes a part of the substrate. 

Materials That Can Be Printed with Dye Sublimation 

The dye sublimation printing process is still primarily used with textiles, specifically polyester and other synthetic fabrics. (This is because the vaporized dye can pass through natural fibers without bonding to them.) From more rigid, woven upholstery fabrics to soft jersey knits, the range of products that can be made with dye sublimated fabrics is massive. And we’re not just talking soft signage and banners. You can also use dye sublimation printing on a variety of promotional products like lanyards, yoga mats, bags, and apparel. 

Dye Sublimation "Inks"

Instead of liquid inks, this printing method uses solid dyes which are sublimated through high heat and infused into the substrate. The resulting color gamut is quite large; some manufacturers have even introduced fluorescent dyes! One minor drawback is that dye sublimation printers cannot print using white dye, meaning any projects that include white need to be printed on all white substrates.

Benefits of Dye Sublimation Printing 

Now that you've learned about the dye sublimation printing process, you need to know all the great reasons to take advantage of this method!

  • It produces gorgeous results. Because of the exacting process, dye sublimation printing allows for vibrant and sharp prints. And even though the printing process is different, we can still accurately color match your dye sub projects and projects printed on other substrates (cardstock, acrylic, etc.) so all of your pieces look great together.
  • Dye sublimation prints are nearly permanent. Since the dye is infused into the substrate as opposed to being printed on the surface, the prints are much longer lasting than other printing methods (like screen printing or inkjet printing).
  • It's affordable even for small print runs. Dye sublimation is known for working well with a small budget! Add the lasting results, and you've got reusable, quality products that provide massive value.
  • The dyes are waterproof. Once sublimated, the dyes aren't coming off. Put it in the washing machine, the dishwasher, out in the rain...your project will still look great.
  • Prints are dry immediately. There's no wait time within the production process, so as soon as your job is printed, you're ready to go.
  • It's environmentally conscious. Many printers, including Vomela's new EFI Vutek Fabrivu 340i machine, are developed to reduce consumption and minimize environmental impact by using less water and less energy in the production process.
  • Prints are easier to ship. Need to ship your graphics to an event? Polyester is lightweight, and because the prints are permanent, you can roll or fold your prints into a small footprint that is more cost-effective to ship but won’t damage the graphic. 


Projects to Create with Dye Sublimation Printing 

With so many benefits, the choice to use dye sublimation is easy! But what will you create? There are tons of applications for this versatile printing method—some will surprise you!


Signage and Retail Displays

Retailers have a vast array of options for dye sublimation printed items. From banners and flags to backlit signs and wall panels, it's easy to outfit an entire store with printed items. Because dye sublimation is cost-effective for shorter print runs, advertising can be changed out more often at a lower cost than other methods. Combine dye sublimated graphics with our Silicone Edge Graphic (SEG) frames to create wall mounted signs, standing banner stands, floor displays, and backdrops at nearly any size.   

Apparel and Fashion 

With inline presses like the ones Vomela uses, fabrics and textiles can be printed and finished quickly. This, paired with the ability to print fabric from a roll, means that you can easily produce long-run, continuous designs. Add in the durability of the printed images and you've got the perfect way to design fabrics for clothing!

Rolls of fabric for cut-and-sew applications can be produced in small quantities for custom prints. 

Promotional Items 

If you're looking for promotional items to represent your brand, you've found the right printing method. We can print on yoga mats for your sunrise yoga event or brand mouse pads with your logo for your employees. We also offer a variety of custom printed lanyards, bags, and apparel through our promo shop for your trade show and corporate events. Share your brand with your attendees, employees, and customers through custom printed products and giveaways that they’ll want to use and show off.  

Event Supplies 

If you're planning an event of any size, dye sublimation printing should be at the top of your list. Branded table covers, tradeshow booth panels, faux walls, selfie backdrops, banners, hanging signs, flags, and more can be printed using dye sublimation. And because the prints are permanent and not easily damaged, they can be rolled up, shipped, and stored for the next event.

Take a look at the gallery to see some of our past tradeshow booth and event signage work where we utilized dye sublimation to create innovate event spaces.   

Whether you're designing a POP display for a retail establishment or banners for a large-scale outdoor event, dye sublimation can be your secret branding weapon. Contact your Vomela account manager today to learn more about this unique printing method!

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