Are you thinking about offering apparel sublimation as a service? Or are you just curious about what one needs to get started? Before you start shopping, here’s a good grocery list of the items you’ll need to jumpstart your apparel sublimation business:
- Sublimation printer. Depending on the size of your standard production run and the types of items you’ll be producing, there are both advantages and disadvantages to going either the small-format or wide-format route right off the bat. If you are new to sublimation and still learning the ins and outs, it’s a great idea to begin with a small-format desktop printer. You can always update your setup at a later time, preferably after you’ve mastered the basics of sublimation printing and your business has a steady/growing demand for printed products. If your apparel business already has an established customer base for decorated items and you’re thinking about adding sublimation to your services, you may want to invest in a wide-format option. This depends on an established/projected demand for sublimated items and the amount of marketing you’re willing to commit to once you begin offering sublimation as a service.
- Heat press. The size and capability of your heat press will also depend on the size of your standard production run, as well as what you’re comfortable using/maintaining. Just like your sublimation printer, start small, master it, and upgrade when you need to. Do your homework. Establish which items you think you’ll be printing most frequently, then find out recommended pressing times/temperatures for each of those items. Find a good equipment seller, one that will help you find the right heat press that fits your customers’ needs. Ask for their advice. Clarify your pressing times again. Use them as a resource, not only for finding a heat press but for helping you each step of the way as you grow your business.
- Inks and heat transfer paper. Always ensure the inks you are using to sublimate with are compatible with your sublimation printer. There are a variety of sublimation papers on the market that cater to the requirements of dozens of different projects. It’s a great idea to do your homework here, too. If you are stuck on which paper to purchase, consult your vendor. Provide examples of the products you intend to create and let them point you in the right direction.
- Polyester apparel items. Now’s the fun part—shopping for apparel to sublimate! Before you go on a spending spree, remember you can always ask your apparel provider for samples of different garments that work well with sublimation. Run your own tests. Experiment with poly blends to see what you can and cannot offer.
- A good resource for pressing times/temperatures. Again, consulting with your vendor regarding their recommendations for pressing details is a great way to sublimate with success. Most vendors/resellers test all of their products prior to offering them, and the good ones know their products inside and out. There are also online resources like blogs, YouTube videos, etc. that provide personally-tested pressing instructions based on the equipment and items you are utilizing.
- Design templates for your products. You should have access to downloadable templates and instructions for your product via your vendor’s website. Ensure you have a template for all items you intend to offer (T-shirts, tanks, long-sleeved Ts, pocketed garments, etc.).
As you can see, a lot of variables go into offering sublimation. Finding a good equipment/product vendor and using them as a resource can make a great impact on your business’ success and bottom line. Always do your homework. Always ask questions. Always experiment when you’re unsure.