You Keep Saying This Word…

What does it mean?!

Sublimation is a form of heat transfer where dye transitions from solid and gas without going through a liquid stage. Modern sublimation has been used for over 70 years.

Sublimation has greater durability than other methods of imprinting words or images not a product; a shirt, cup, hat… Customers are familiar with screen printing, heat-transfer vinyl, and ink on products. Each of these methods have pros and cons. 

Think of it in terms of a tattoo- we used to think of tattoos as permanent until we were introduced to removal technology. We learned that tattooing only lays the image on a few layers of skin; a doctor can remove those layers and reveal skin that is not tattooed. With conventional methods of placing images on product, the image is laid on the item. Eventually the image can begin to fade, crack, and or peel. (Those items will vary in durability from “temporary tattoo that can wash off with soap” to “‘permanent’ tattoo that can be removed with a few doctor’s visits”)

Sublimation is superior to these other methods because it actually fuses the image into the item. It is what we thought tattooing was. The same way that most people will have a tattooed image for a lifetime, sublimation can last the lifetime of the product IF it is properly done on an item that is appropriate for the process.

As you can imagine, sublimation is more expensive. The machines used to generate the images, the ink, and often the items the images are transferred to (a shirt, cup, etc) are more limited in availability and more expensive.

Therein lies the limitations of sublimation. We can’t sublimate a rhinestone onto a mug or shirt. Neither can we sublimate a great, holographic vinyl. Sublimation is 2D and works best on 100% polyester fibers (as it pertains to textiles) and certain surfaces (only certain ceramics, plastics, etc for instance are receptive). Even though a sublimated image can transfer onto improper surfaces, the image is not permanent. The image will fade as if the image were made with a water-soluble ink. There are methods and products to improve the life of sublimated images on surfaces that are not proper for sublimation but those items will always have care instructions that an item that is meant for sublimation would not have. (Those items will also vary in durability from “temporary tattoo that can wash off with soap” to “‘permanent’ tattoo that can be removed with a few doctor’s visits”)

As a consumer, an item being sublimated should spark excitement! It should be able to stand up to abuse that similar items could not withstand. But beware of creators advertising an item as sublimated on cotton or a dollar store coffee mug, for instance. Those do not have the maximum durability.

Since I’m an exhausted mom of four, rest assured that whatever method I use to make your products, I make them to maximize the durability of the product to maximize product life AND ensure easy care. Whenever possible, I sublimate. I will only sublimate on the appropriate surfaces because sublimating on incorrect surfaces are a waste of your and my time and money.

See the ExhuastedMomM item care page.

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