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Dye Sublimation Explained

The basic dye sublimation process uses special heat-sensitive dyes to print graphics, text and virtually any image onto special transfer paper. The paper is then placed on the pre-cut fabric pattern and both are placed into a heat press.

When the heating cycle is completed, the image on the paper has been transferred to the item and has actually reformed into or underneath the surface. Run your finger across the surface of a sublimated garment and you will feel nothing but the fabric.

Dye sublimation is always done on a polyester, polymer, or polymer-coated item, in the case of team uniforms 100% polyester garments. At high temperature, the solid dye vaporizes into a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The same high temperature opens the pores of the polyester fabric and allows the dye vapor to enter. When the temperature cools, the pores close and the gas reverts to a solid state trapping the dye into the fiber of the fabric. It has now become a permanent part of the fabric.

This is why dye sublimation can’t be done on natural materials, such as 100% cotton. Natural fibers and non-coated materials which have no "pores" to open cannot accept the gas vapor. The dye particles are designed to bond with polyester, and ignore everything else. It is like trying to mix oil and water with most natural materials.

A DYE impregnates color into a material and this color change is permanent. SUBLIMATION refers to the change from the solid, to the gaseous state without becoming liquid.

DYE SUBLIMATION refers to solid dye particles that are changed into gas using heat and pressure, which then bond with any polymers present and change back into a solid.

Dark materials cannot be used with the sublimation process so all of our dye sublimated apparel starts out as solid white fabric. Garments decorated with a dye sublimation transfer cannot be removed like images on shirts decorated with screen printing. Again, this is not ink that sits on top of the fabric; it is a dye that penetrates the fiber of the fabric. This is why all of our dye sublimated team uniforms are guaranteed to never fade, crack or peel.

Here is an informative video showing the process:
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