9 Best Practices for Apparel Sublimation Design


When it comes to custom apparel, you have various printing methods at your disposal. However, sublimation printing has been making waves for its ability to produce vibrant, durable, and intricate designs that can transform everyday apparel into works of art. 

Understanding Sublimation Printing

For those not familiar, sublimation printing is a technique that utilizes heat to transfer dye directly into polyester or polyester-blend fabrics. The process allows the ink to become part of the fabric, leading to designs that are resistant to cracking, peeling, and fading. This makes it an excellent choice for sports jerseys, branded merchandise, or any apparel where longevity and visual impact are essential.

Sublimation Design Process

Sublimation design is a 5 step process that involves the mock-up designer, print designer, and client. It’s important to communicate clearly throughout the process to prevent costly mistakes.

  1. Initial Requirements
  2. Mock-up
  3. Revisions & Design Approval
  4. Print File
  5. Production

Top 9 Best Practices for Sublimation Design

Now that you’re up to speed let’s delve deeper into the top 9 best practices for designing stellar sublimation apparel.

1. Choose the Right Fabric

While you can technically perform sublimation printing on a variety of materials, polyester and polyester-blends provide the most vibrant and durable results. The polyester fibers fully absorb the ink, making it a part of the fabric itself. So if you want your design to pop and last, polyester is your go-to material.

2. High-Resolution Graphics

Starting with a high-resolution image is non-negotiable in sublimation printing. Low-quality images can result in a print that appears fuzzy, blurry, or pixelated. So make sure your graphics are at least 300 DPI for optimal results.

3. Color Matching

While digital designs allow for a broad range of colors, not all colors reproduce accurately through sublimation printing. What you see on your computer screen might not match the final product. It’s a wise idea to conduct test runs and adjust the color settings as needed.

4. Leveraging the ‘All-Over Print’

Unlike traditional printing methods, sublimation printing lets you go beyond the usual design placements. You can extend your design to cover seams, sleeves, and even the entirety of the garment. This offers a unique way to stand out, but it should be executed skillfully to avoid an overwhelming or cluttered look.

5. Seam Alignment

If your sublimation design includes elements that cross seams, it’s crucial to make sure everything aligns perfectly. Mismatched seams can result in a less polished final product and can distract from the overall design. 

6. Scaling Designs for Different Sizes

The proportions of your design may look great on a medium-sized shirt but could lose their appeal when resized for larger or smaller garments. Always consider how the design elements will scale across various sizes.

7. Prototyping & Testing

Never go into full-scale production without printing a sample first. It’s the only way to spot potential issues and adjust them before committing time, effort, and resources.

8. Customer Collaboration

Especially for custom orders, involving your customer in the design process is a smart move. Share drafts and mock-ups, solicit feedback, and make revisions as necessary. This not only builds customer trust but also ensures that you’re delivering a product that meets their expectations.

9. Consistent Branding

Your sublimation design should not only stand alone as eye-catching garments but should also cohesively fit into your overall brand narrative. Make sure your colors, messaging, and design elements are consistent with your brand’s established identity.

Elevate Your Sublimation Apparel Designs

Sublimation printing is an exceptional tool for creating apparel that wows your customers and solidifies your brand’s image. However, it’s not as simple as just transferring a digital design onto fabric. 

By adhering to these 9 best practices, you’ll be better positioned to navigate the nuances of sublimation printing, ensuring that each piece you produce is a true masterpiece.

Sphere Sport specializes in designing and manufacturing highly customized sublimation teamwear for brands of all sizes. We have a large team of in-house graphic designers ready to help realize your vision. Additionally, our staff are experts on fabrics, sizing, and garment styles so your apparel won’t be held back. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can make sublimation design easy for you.

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