Most athletic shirts, performance apparel, and sports jerseys are made with the polyester. This wonder material is strong, durable, flexible, and doesn’t hold onto sweat like other materials, such as cotton, so it’s perfect for sports jerseys. The flip side of not holding onto moisture means that traditional inks don’t work to print designs.
Luckily, there’s another technique that allows polyester to be decorated. Sublimated jerseys use an advanced technology called sublimation.
Read on for everything you need to know about sublimated jerseys!
What Is Sublimation?
Since polyester doesn’t absorb liquid dye due to its moisture wicking abilities, the liquid colors have to be turned into a vapor to be absorbed by the fabric. By using special sublimation ink and high heat, the dye turns from a solid to a gas (sublimates) when heated. At the same time, the heat causes the polyester to open its pores and absorb the colorful gas until the colors are embedded in the fabric. When it cools, the dye turns back into a solid and becomes permanent. The colors and designs are now a part of the fabric so the image will last as long as the jersey. The design will never fade or crack and you won’t be able to feel it at all. And just like our normal Lightspeed printing, you can use full color designs on sublimated jerseys so you’ll never have to compromise on the image you create.
When Should I Use Sublimation and Sublimated Jerseys?
Sublimation is best for ordering more than 10 jerseys when you have a little extra time to wait as they’re made. Sublimation produces the highest quality athletic shirts, but it’s also the most difficult and expensive process for making jerseys.
Sublimation can only be used on white or light fabric. Since the colors are absorbed into the fabric, that means that if the fabric already has a color on it, both the new color and the old one merge together to create a 3rd color. Shown below is the same image sublimated on 3 different color shirts.
The solution to prevent this from happening is to print the background color at the same time as the design. This technique requires large industrial printers and expensive manufacturing machines to heat the design with the fabric. There are 2 common versions that you can order today:
- All Over Print (AOP)
All Over Print (AOP)
This process takes a completed white jersey and a large design printed with special ink and presses them together using high heat.
Any creases or folds are left white leaving streaks throughout the design.
Designs are printed to sheets of fabric then are then cut out and sewn into the athletic shirt or apparel. This is the best way to make a jersey, but involves more steps and machines so it generally costs more and requires minimum orders. This is the technique we use for our fully sublimated jerseys.