Sublimation imprinting is still incredibly popular and profitable for all kinds of business owners.
As trends and demands continue to rise, technology is also advancing to meet those needs. With fluorescent and expanded gamut inks, more accessible larger format printing and new ideas being born of consumer buying patterns, the sublimation market for 2018 is going to be more creative and popular than ever. A representative Sawgrass Digital Printing Solutions out of the UK provided WFOL with examples of a few areas to explore, which they believe may drive sales trends throughout the year.
Pillows were very popular in 2017, and they expect this trend to continue to grow. Not only are they easy to decorate, they’re both a profitable and evergreen product that you can offer off-the-shelf and as custom orders.
There a lot of different types of pillow cases that can be purchased as blanks. Satin, velvet, fleece, peach skin, canvas, faux canvas and sequin are just a few. The natural colour of the fabric can be used as the main part of a design, or print full-bleed to completely cover the pillow with the colours and images that are wanted. Once the case is complete, a pre-made insert can be used to fill out the pillow and provide a product that people will absolutely love.
Throw and decorative pillows are always in style. Custom monogramming or designs can be used for an additional charge, or sell off-the-shelf with original designs. Sports photos, school photos, birth statistics/announcements, family names, funny phrases, holiday images/sayings and memory pillows are just a few ideas to run with.
“Mermaid” pillows – ones with reversible sequins – took markets by storm over the past 12 months, and these types of pillow cases can often be personalised and decorated using sublimation. They also command premium prices, especially when names and photos are added to them. Some businesses are even selling them as baby gender reveal and announcement novelties.
Sawgrass believe that shirts, hats and jackets will always be a staple of the apparel decorating market, but sublimation helps business branch out into more creative products. It is already popular for poly-performance sportswear and uniforms. Sublimated socks have also risen to the top as an in-demand product for both wholesale and retail customers.
Teams love to add customised socks to their uniforms. Whereas before, athletic socks have been either white or only one or two colours, now, sublimated socks include full-colour logos and team colours – even pictures! They can be made up as full-bleed designs from toe to calf or just offer strategically placed images, words or team numbers.
Athletes and their fans also like customised socks with pictures of their favorite players imprinted on them. One great idea for kids’ sports is to build a relationship with the local photographers who shoot team pictures, and offer socks featuring each player, along with a complementary pattern in coordinating team colours. These sell especially well among the teams that make it to the end-of-season playoffs and championships.
Baby markets are also a great place to focus on with sublimated apparel. Beanies are becoming increasingly popular. These soft, stretchy knit caps offer both comfort and warmth, and are great for babies and small children. Names can easily be added, favorite colours, characters and graphics to order, making them both practical and an eventual keepsake for families. Look for seasons or milestones that can be marked with a beanie: first holidays, monthly pictures, first trip to grandma’s, etc. Along with this idea, you can also decorate baby bodysuits and sell as a packaged set!
Printing larger is easier than ever these days with sublimation, which is helping drive demand for flags. Desktop systems give you a maximum print size of 13” x 19.” This is just right for garden or lawn flags that can be generalised or customised, car flags, desk flags and other, more personal flag applications. So long as people want to celebrate their favorite teams, countries, families and the like, these kinds of flags will continue to be in style.
Sawgrass are also seeing an upswing in demand for larger flags, as sublimators are finding that taking the step toward larger format printing is more affordable than expected and the creative possibilities are even greater. Today’s 25” sublimation printer is not only small enough to be operated in a home workshop environment, it can accommodate 8 colours of ink, which makes offering specialty products both possible and profitable.
Flags are being used as signage and promotional decoration for bricks-and-mortar businesses, as they are easily branded with logos and corporate colours (thanks to expanded gamut ink sets for 8-colour printers). These are used primarily for indoor and soft signage applications, and business owners are finding the colours attract attention, deliver the message and are very cost efficient in comparison to other types of signage.
Decorative flags for home décor are also rising in popularity. These can run anywhere from licensed sports team and country or religious flags, to interesting patterns that match existing décor, reproduced artwork, family names and more. Fluorescent colours practically leap off the fabric and grab attention, making them perfect for this application. These flags can be personalised or customised to-order, adapted for seasonal or holiday-focused purposes, celebrations…the possibilities are endless.
There are more sublimatable bag substrates on the market than ever, and this is in direct response to demand. Non-woven totes are an inexpensive option for corporate customers and take to sublimation with beautiful colour. Heavier polyester or even poly-coated canvas tote bags are more expensive, but show more quality and often favorites among businesses.
Thin cinch sack backpacks are a great seller among school, sports and youth groups. These can be decorated with screen print and vinyl transfers, but as a sublimator, business can offer full-colour and photo imprinting, thereby increasing the value to their customer. There is both retail and wholesale options for these products. Sports teams, camps, clubs, gyms and other group-focused organisations like these bags as promotional products. Some even look to sell them to their members and may come to business for wholesale deals.
There are also a lot of bags available that combine fashion with utility. These include purses and shoulder bags, backpacks, laptop bags, messenger bags, reporter bags, metro bags, nappy bags and more. Each generally has a panel that can be imprinted with pictures, graphics, logos, brand colours, etc. These can become promotional products, corporate gifts, teacher gifts, personalised school and/or team gear, baby gifts or essentials…the more creative you get, the more potential you must sell.
With 2018 freshly minted, now is a great time to think about the markets and plan out some solid sublimation strategy for the year. These trends are a good place to start, and these may help to start the thinking processes in new, more creative ways when it comes to growing business.
Choosing the right solution
Sawgrass reflected that if you’re thinking of getting into sublimation, there are a few things to consider as sublimation systems vary, depending on your needs.
For smaller volumes that are testing out the limits of demand, start-up systems are the least expensive and the best choice. Co-engineered with Ricoh and harnessing the advanced technology of the printer manufacturer’s popular GelJet line, Sawgrass’ Virtuoso SG400 (A4) and SG800 (A3+) printers. Both offer print capabilities up to 1200 x 1200 dpi for HD photo-quality reproduction. They also feature a built-in self-cleaning function.
For high-volume, high-definition printing Sawgrass has developed the VJ 628 8-colour printer, a fully integrated sublimation printing solution. It enables bright, high-definition images, efficiently, whilst being easy to use. It delivers full bleed on 24” products and up to 1440 x 1440 dpi.
Applications include personalised gifts, furnishing and decoration, garment decoration, hard surface, goods, interior signage, promotional products and fine arts while polyester fabrics or polymer-coated rigid media that can be used include aluminium panels and inserts, tiles, hardboard and wood plaques, mugs, acrylic, glass, slate and reinforced fiberglass plastic.
With CreativeStudio, Sawgrass’ innovative software suite (included in purchases of any Virtuoso system) consisting of the CreativeStudio Online Designer and Virtuoso Print Manager, designs can be produced easily from any Internet-connected computer or tablet. Easy to use with print-ready designs created in minutes, its carefully curated library of thousands of templates and images can be applied to just about any market or application.
Virtuoso Print Manager is Sawgrass' first universal print management software for SG400, SG800 and VJ 628 printers. Offering a singular solution for optimal print quality and production efficiency, this software combines the best features of PowerDriver, CreativeStudio Print Manager and WinProfile / MacProfile ICC profile solutions into a single, powerful and easy-to-use RIP-like application. Virtuoso Print Manager enables excellent colour output with CorelDraw, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and CreativeStudio design software for both Windows and Mac OS.