Dye Sublimation

What is Dye Sublimation?

Dye Sublimation involves a transfer paper print and heat transfer application to bond the sublimate dye colours into the fibers on a microscopic level. The base fabrics are always white in colour and predominantly made from polyester or a poly-cotton blend. Sublimation is a process of transferring specific sublimation ink to a polyester-based fabric. The image is printed in reverse (mirrored) onto transfer-paper. The paper and fabric is then sent through a heat transfer process, where the ink separates from the paper and gets dyed into the fabric. In a dye-sublimation process the printing dye is heated up until it turns into a gas, at which point it diffuses and solidifies into the fibers of the polyester, embedding the image forever into the fabric. Due to the complexity of this process, its very difficult to match Pantone or specific colours off screen. There are several factors that influence the colour such as the weave of the fabric, ink absorption, humidity when printed, temperature at transfer, speed at transfer, natural light observation compared to indoor lighting etc. SubStitch will match colours to as close as possible, but please note that there might still be variations due to the aforementioned factors. SubStitch will not be held liable, unless the client specifically requests and pays for colour matching. We therefore recommend colour matching where this might be an area of concern.     

Why use Dye Sublimation?

This dye sublimation process allows for a much greater range of design possibilities; unlimited, vibrant colours and individuality e.g. uniform numbering, with the finished garments retaining their original feel and shape. The durability of sublimated garments is first rate and the comfort of the latest fabrics is assured with moisture management technology. Dye Sublimation also does not require expensive screen setup that would have to be divided between the quantity of the products, so it eliminated the need for a minimum order quantity to justify costs. At SubStitch we will produce a single garment if that is what you require.

What are the benefits of Dye Sublimation? 

Design is virtually unlimited, from simple designs and colours to full colour photographic images. Numbering can be done during the design process, eliminating the need to have numbers added afterwards. Emblems, Sponsor Logos, Names and Numbers can all be included in the design, eliminating the additional costs of screen printing, heat transfer, embroidery etc. Prices are cheaper than traditionally paneled garments with the additional costs of cresting. Colours can also be matched to corporate identities and can be reproduced time after time.


Innovative designs, along with using cutting edge technology has kept us at the forefront of the sublimation industry. With the use of our pattern digitization and industry insight, we are able to introduce and modify new styles of garments very quickly and efficiently. We have kept our focus on meeting the unique needs of our customers on an individual basis where pattern alterations and adjustments were required. We are also open to adding completely new garments to the our production range, where a research and development process is vital.  No minimum orders, pattern alterations, size adjustments and colour sampling are just some of the ways that we put our customers needs first. In a world where customers demand choices, we offer our clients the services of a high-level design and production facility with every order we manufacture.


The design process starts with us either using a standard pattern template, your supplied pattern or working from a detailed brief to produce a unique and fresh design. Supplied artwork needs to be in a high resolution or vector format to ensure a quality print and transfer. We can redraw some artwork in certain aspects, but prefer to use original artwork where possible. We utilize standard RGB and CMYK colour palettes to include over 1100 colours and can also colour match if required. Each design is fully graded for every garment size in order for the appearance to be kept crisp and that graphics or artwork are not cropped in smaller sizes. If the logo’s and numbering need to be kept within specified dimensions, we ensure that it is accommodated within the design process.


Once the design, specifications and pattern has been finalised, we will send you a generated layout indicating the approximate look if the finalised garment. Once approved, a full sized sample can be produced if required at the same cost as a normal garment, or the full order will be placed into production. Please note that colours, and the final look of the garment may vary slightly depending. Seam overlaps might have an effect on the final look, depending on the artwork. Please note that supplied artwork will be the responsibility of the client. Detailed logos might lose legibility when downsizing for print, and thin lines might not be visible once transferred on to fabric. This is due to the nature of the ink absorbing into the fabric. SubStitch will advise in certain instances where this might come up as a problem, but will not accept responsibility in this regard if the artwork was supplied by the client. 


The artwork will be printed onto dye sublimation paper using special water based, toxin free, dye sublimation inks. In order to increase the richness of the colour and depth, we use additional spot colours resulting in rich black and vibrant colours, which normally can be hard to achieve. We have four modern and well maintained wide format printers with state of the art software, which together create a high resolution print with vibrant colours. 

Transfer to Fabric

Once printed, we feed both the printed paper and selected fabric through a large format rotary heat press at a very high temperature and high pressure. The ink from the paper turns into a gas and SUBLIMATES into the fabric. The combination of temperature, pressure and dwell time ensures that we get a consistent, high quality, resilient and long lasting reproduction every time. Our paper is also coated with special glue this stops the fabric from moving or shrinking as it travels through the press in order to prevent ghosting to the text or graphics giving sharp images.


The printed fabric is then hand-cut, sewn, ironed and packaged into poly bags.


Tolerances in apparel manufacturing is the accepted level of leeway permitted between the digital pattern, printed pattern and the final product. Substitch aligns with international pattern making and garment manufacturing standards, who allows around 2-3cm (usually just over one inch) variance on garment width and length. Colour tolerance and variation will depend on various factors including ambient temperature, humidity, transfer temperature, transfer speed and fabric dye batch. Due to this it is difficult to get exact pantone matches, but we can get it very close. Please note that a shade variation of between 1% and 5% can be expected, dependent on the afore mentioned factors. Black and Blue prints are most susceptible to these variations. They will display differently depending on the fabrics used, so should you need to match a clothing set on different fabrics, colour swatches will be required.   

Polyester textiles as used by SubStitch have various levels of tolerance due to the very nature of each fabric. The directional stretch, thread count, weave pattern, weights and thickness of each fabric will have an impact on tolerance. During garment production, these fabrics undergo handling by transfer technicians as well as individual seamstresses. The fabrics are also exposed to pressure, tension and heat during the ink transfer process. This leads to varying and slightly inconsistent results when transferring, cutting and sewing. All garments that fall outside the acceptable tolerance levels will be deemed as defective and will be replaced. Garments within the tolerance levels will be deemed acceptable. 

Genuine defects

Having a range of tolerance doesn’t mean quality control isn’t important. Example defects include misprints, stitching defects and fabric defects. We will replace defective items if fabric availability and time constraints allow. We will keep defective garments for Training, Sample and Quality Assurance purposes, to ensure they get as much practical usage as possible. SubStitch will not accept responsibility for any damaged, used or mishandled garments, unless directly due to the manufacturing process. Any garments older than 10 days from production date will not be replaced, unless the defect is directly linked to the manufacturing process and reasonable wear and tear is present. If any garments have been exposed to undue stress or extreme wear and tear within this period, SubStitch will not accept responsibly.