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 fabric and has actually bonded with the fabric at the molecular level. 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 either 100% or mostly polyester fabrics. 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 and bonds with the fiber of the fabric. This is why all of our dye sublimated team uniforms are guaranteed to never fade, crack or peel.

The Advantage of Sublimated Uniforms

Durability
Dye sublimation is a process in which all uniform colors and design elements including logos, lettering, numbers, team names, sponsor logos, etc. are dyed directly into the fabric. This has the advantage of being permanent, and actually becomes part of the fabric as opposed to screen printing which will eventually wear and deteriorate. All of our custom sublimated garments are GUARANTEED to never fade, crack, peel or otherwise deteriorate under normal use.

Lightweight and Breathable
Sublimated uniforms are very lightweight and breathable. You don't have the added weight of sewn-on tackle twill decoration and you are not blocking the breathability of the fabric with sewn twill or screen printing ink. These are the most comfortable garments you can wear in hot weather.

Economical
Sublimated apparel is very economical compared to screen printed or sewn twill decorated jerseys. You can add as much decoration as you want on the uniforms and the price doesn't change. You can add multi-color numbers, lettering, logos, etc. and the price doesn't increase as you add more colors and decoration. You can also use any number style or lettering style and are not limited to choosing from only a few styles. Sublimated garments are always a flat price which includes any and all decoration (except for player's names on AK brand apparel). And there are never any art or set-up charges.

Unique Designs and Custom Colors
You can create unique designs with custom sublimated uniforms that are not possible with traditional cut-and-sew garments. Sublimated designs are not hindered by cut-and-sew limitations. In addition you can get any combination of colors that you want. If you have unique team colors that are not available as in-stock items we can make them with sublimated uniforms. All sublimated team uniforms start as a roll of white fabric. So think of it as a blank canvas... if you can think it, we can make it.

No Minimum Requirement for Reorders
Sublimated uniforms have the added advantage of not requiring a minimum quantity for reorders. If you only need one or two garments after your initial order you can get it without having to spend extra money on garments you don't need.

Here is an informative video showing the process: