A relatively newer method for apparel decoration, sublimation printing is the highest quality and offers the longest durability. The cost is higher than other methods, but it’s now much more reasonably priced than even a few years ago.
The reason sublimation does offer higher quality and durability is in the science of sublimation. The term sublimation refers to a chemical
process of a solid directly becoming a gas without becoming a liquid in the process. An example is dry ice; it goes from solid to gas without becoming water between phases.
Sublimation printing uses a special ink that when heated goes directly from solid to gas. This gas is delivered by the printer directly into the fabric in an extremely precise way where the gas is infused into the fabric and turns back into a solid.
With sublimation, the ink doesn’t just coat the fabric: Instead of the ink being a layer painted on the surface, it is actually part of the fabric. The ink is infused as a gas, actually causing the fabric’s color to change, not just putting a coat of color on the fabric. This enables more vivid coloring.
Another advantage is the ability to design and color the entire fabric of the jersey, not just one screen size. This means your logos and color design can go anywhere and everywhere on the jersey.
The use of computers in the printing process means the setup is reasonably simple so each jersey can have the unique player name and number without adding cost to the entire process. With screen printing, a unique screen would need to be made for each player name which makes that process expensive for a single use.
In the past, sublimation was much more expensive and took longer. Now it’s only marginally more expensive and can usually be done within 2 weeks.