Sublimation: Hot Soft Goods, Cold Hard Cash

  Trisha & Larry Lambert own Millenium Art, Inc. located in Louisville, Kentucky. For more than a decade, Millenium Art has specialized in sublimated awards and gifts. You can reach the Lamberts at trisha.lambert@insightbb.com.

The evolution of the sublimation industry has been dramatic. Sublimation continues to be a fun and highly profitable way to produce personalized products for individuals and companies.

Although sublimation is traditionally associated with plaques and mugs, your customer will certainly enjoy the many new soft good products that are arriving on the sublimation market. These products are not factory coated but are soft and pliable, made from polyester that is perfect for imprinting with sublimation inks.

Sublimators can see noticeable sales growth with imprintable soft goods that are ideal for new and existing customers. These niche products offer the ability to create personalized items with vivid color images that create a valuable lasting impression for most customers.

Many sublimation suppliers are already familiar with traditional sublimation T-shirts. However, this article will explore a variety of soft goods that will open up new markets for your business.

SEAT CUSHIONS

Seat cushions have long been a great seller at Millennium Art. They are popular with school parents that spend hours sitting on bleachers watching their child perform. We typically decorate cushions with a logo and family name in the school colors. Easy to sublimate, seat cushions are comfortable and promote school spirit.

Print the sublimation transfer slightly larger than the actual product; use firm pressure to insure that corners get well sublimated. We usually press each one for 75 seconds because the seat cushions are large. Use a light adhesive spray to secure the transfer to the cushion before pressing. This will help insure proper placement.

We prefer to place the transfer face up on the heat press, spray the cushion and squarely align the transfer into place, flip the cushion and transfer for final pressing. You will be pressing with the transfer on top of the blank seat cushion. We also recommend using dark colors when designing seat cushions. Because seat cushions are used frequently, dark colors will not show wear as easily.

Our seat cushions are also popular for cheerleaders, especially the little leaguers. They are generally the girls that are still doing traditional cheering at football games. They sometimes tire or need to sit down so that they do not block the view of the game. Sublimatable seat cushions are perfect for kneepads and also allow the girls to sit briefly without sitting in the dust from the field. The seat cushions are passed down year to year between squads.

PET ITEMS

Pet items are very profitable for most businesses. People love their dogs and will personalize products for them. Dog leashes and collars are now available for sublimation. Imprint for fun with the dog’s name or your favorite sport’s team; for identification, use a phone number and address. The dog leash has two imprint areas. Use clever clip art of paw prints or bones.

A large vet practice or pet kennel may consider using leashes or collars with their name and phone number for a promotional product. This could be beneficial should a dog become lost; a quick call to the vet practice will relocate the dog to its owner.

Create a transfer that is slightly larger than the imprint area. Secure the transfer into place using heat-resistant tape. Press dog leashes and dog collars for 45 seconds using medium pressure. (Pet tags are also available for sublimation in a variety of shapes, including a heart, bone and fire hydrant.)

SUBLIMATABLE PURSES

My favorite new item to hit the sublimation market is a sublimatable purse. Sublimatable purses come in two sizes: 9” x 7” with a sublimatable flap sized at 7.5” x 7”; the larger purse is 10” x 12.5” with a sublimatable flap that measures 8” x 12”. The sublimatable purse has a detachable flap that snaps into place.

Sublimate the flap, and simply snap together the finished product. You can purchase the purse and extra purse flaps. You can be creative and interchange the flaps for different looks. But this is also a plus should you botch a flap in the sublimation process.

The purses are perfect for photos! Photos of a childhood home or friend, or family pictures, vacation pictures, or a family pet will be ideal complements to the purse. The larger purse is perfect for a photo collage.

Popular expensive purse lines carry sublimated purses. Although these are finished in leather, we believe you will agree that your sublimatable purse will compete nicely with this line of purses. The backing is polished polyester, with a belt purse handle that can adjust to a desired length. Large profit margins should be enjoyed with this product.

Create your transfer slightly larger than the imprint area. Press the flap at 400 degrees. First heat the purse flap for 30 seconds; this will allow for any shrinkage or escaping moisture to occur. After the material has cooled, place the transfer face down on the flap and press for 75 seconds using medium pressure.

THROW PILLOWS

A decorative accent to a home in a bedroom or a family room is a canvas throw pillow. The pillowcase can be sublimated with photos, or clever artwork. An antique wedding photo will make an entertaining conversation piece. An inspirational message for an ill loved one is meaningful during difficult times.

Pillowcases that fit a standard bed pillow are soft and comfortable. Individuals have purchased these pillows for family members that are sick but especially for those that are bedridden due to surgery or broken bones. We have made them for a heart unit featuring an inspirational prayer.

Also popular for sleepovers and summer camp, these pillowcases are very easy to sublimate, using colorful graphics and text. For a girl’s travel team, the pillowcases are just the thing for road trips, featuring the team photo.

Further personalize the pillowcase with the player’s name and jersey number. Often, team members have nicknames that may seem silly, but build team unity when used in a fun-filled way. Press out any wrinkles that may have occurred during shipping, then sublimate for 45-50 seconds with medium pressure.

APRONS

Aprons are crisp white and make wonderful gifts and promotional items. They are available with or without a pocket on the front. Not just for the kitchen, aprons are ideal for the craft person or artist.

They are perfect to add to a gift basket with jams and jellies. We have made the aprons for a company that sponsored a chili cook off for employees. The aprons were awarded as prizes. The aprons wash beautifully when soiled.

TOTE BAGS

Tote bags are available in a variety of sizes for sublimation. Strong and durable, totes are good to carry along to the beach or playgroup. Canvas wine totes are available too for the perfect housewarming gift or holiday message. Company logos sublimate well for piazzas.

We prefer to sublimate totes with the handles hanging off the heat platen. This prevents the handles from getting an undesirable crease. For best results, use high-release paper for the transfers. Totes are machine washable.

PLACEMATS

Placemats for sublimation are available in canvas fabric, a high-gloss laminate with rubber backing, or polyester fabric with rubber backing. Placemats can be designed to fit individual decorating styles, or to reproduce fabric patterns or wallpaper borders that coordinate with kitchen interiors.

Use theme pictures such as travel pictures from a European trip. Or add novelty with monthly holidays such as Valentine’s Day or Halloween. Let the kids do their own artwork on white paper, scan it and reproduce it on a placemat. Use colorful graphics and clip art to create a Happy Birthday mat for the family to be used throughout the year.

TOWELS

Beautiful towels are available for sublimation. Soft cotton towels that feature a strip at the bottom sublimate nicely. They come in white, blue, green and burgundy. Sizes are 11” x 18”, 16” x 28” and 27” x 50”. With a company or school logo, or an individual’s name and clip art, they are perfect for the bath.

Hand towels that read “Welcome to our home” are nice for the bath for a finger towel. Press towels for 45 to 50 seconds with firm pressure. The knap of the cotton towel will flatten during pressing but will fluff after washing.

Sublimatable towels are also available for full image coverage. They come in 11” x 18”, 15” x 25” and 20” x 38”. Photographic images and graphics reproduce splendidly. Sublimatable towels are perfect for a country club or hotel photograph and logo. For a bar area, use a small-sized towel with colorful graphics such as martini glasses and text.

Be careful when purchasing towels that you do not purchase a towel that exceeds your heat press size. Towels can be purchased with or without a grommet. A grommet is a metal circle that allows for a brass clip to be inserted for hanging, such as on a golf or tennis bag.

LANYARDS AND BADGES

If you have attended a trade show or perhaps an event at your local fairgrounds, you have noticed that most exhibitors are wearing lanyards with a badge at the bottom for company identification. Sublimation provides an opportunity to offer this product to your customer.

The lanyard fabric and badge can be sublimated with company name or event information. The badge portion is available in horizontal or vertical positions. They are also available in aluminum or plastic.

PUZZLES

Just for fun for the puzzle enthusiast are new sublimatable puzzles. The puzzles are soft and made from polyester with a rubber backing. They are offered in a variety of shapes and sizes. The actual puzzle shapes are unique twists and turns, different from traditional puzzle pieces that snap together.

New products generate new monies for your business. Introducing new soft goods will delight your customers, capture their attention and keep them coming back for more!