So you want to get started with sublimation printing and create some custom mugs, apparel, and merch. But what exactly are “sublimation blanks”? And what materials can you use for sublimation?
It can get confusing trying to figure out the right blanks when you’re new to sublimation. Trust me, I’ve been there! In this comprehensive guide, I’ll clear up any confusion on sublimation blanks, explain how to find quality materials and review the most popular items you can sublimate.
Let’s dive in!
What Are Sublimation Blanks?
Sublimation blanks refer to the base materials intended for sublimation printing. They are substrates that are coated or engineered to work with sublimation inks and the heat transfer process.
There are a few key properties that make a blank well-suited for sublimation:
Choosing quality blanks designed for sublimation will ensure your prints come out vibrant and permanent. The coating allows the gassed inks to properly absorb and bond with the material.
Where to Buy Sublimation Blanks
You want to source your blanks from reputable suppliers focused on sublimation materials. Avoid grabbing generic blanks from big box retailers not specifically made for sublimation.
Some top places to buy sublimation blanks:
Heat Press Nation: They’ve got all sorts of things you can print on, like mugs, masks, and more. They even have bundles for different types of businesses.
Heat Transfer Warehouse: These guys have sublimation blanks like patches and keychains, all ready for you to print on. They come in white or silver.
Amazon: You can find sublimation blanks from small brands on Amazon. They’ve got things like cup coasters and phone wallets.
Johnson Plastics Plus: These folks have a ton of stuff in stock, from mugs to shirts. Quick shipping, too.
Sublimation Blanks Company: If you’re looking for affordable blanks, these guys offer wholesale deals. Shipping is a flat rate, starting at $5.99.
Sublimation Blanks for Apparel
Let’s review some of the most common and best options when it comes to sublimation blanks for apparel and fabrics.
Polyester t-shirts are by far the most popular sublimation blanks for apparel. They enable you to print full-color custom designs from seam to seam.
Look for 100% polyester or at least 65% polyester, light colors for best print vibrancy, soft hand feel, quality construction, and tees from reputable brands like Gildan, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, etc.
A 50/50 cotton/polyester tee will technically work but you’ll get much more fade-resistant and vivid results with a higher poly content.
For the softest and highest print quality, I recommend brands like Vapor Apparel that use performance polyester fabrics designed specifically for sublimation.
Tank Tops and V-necks
Tank tops and v-neck tees give you additional style options beyond t-shirts for sublimation. They work just as well with a high polyester content.
Look for female and male cut options, soft feel with quality stitching, loose or fitted sizing, etc.
Vapor Apparel and Bella+Canvas make exceptional polyester tank tops ideal for sublimation.
Sublimated polo shirts are popular for employee uniforms, event shirts, or sports teams.
Look for 100% polyester or high poly blend, moisture-wicking performance material, ribbed collar, covered buttons, extended size range for men and women, etc.
Gildan, Port Authority, and Badger Sport offer quality polyester polos ready for sublimation.
Performance Athletic Wear
For activewear like leggings, shorts, and dry-fit tees, sublimation lets you create vibrant, never-fade custom designs.
I recommend fabrics with moisture control and stretch, polyester with spandex/Lycra for flexibility, light colors for brightness, loose or compression fits, etc.
Popular athletic brands like Nike, Under Armour, and Reebok make polyester performance apparel perfect to pair with sublimation.
Hats and Beanies
Hats and beanies are a hot item for sublimation too. Dye-sublimated fabrics conform well to curved surfaces like hats for crisp, permanent prints.
Look for stretch polyester or high poly blends, short or long-brim baseball caps, beanies, knit hats, moisture-wicking headbands, etc.
When buying blank hats for sublimation, opt for adjustable snap or Velcro closures over buckle closures whenever possible. This avoids any interference with heat pressing.
Additional Apparel Blanks
Beyond the most common tees and polos, lots of specialty apparel works with sublimation too:
Any polyester-based fabric blank is fair game for sublimation. This includes items that blend cotton with performance fibers like polyester and spandex.
Just read tags and product details to ensure your chosen blank contains at least 65% polyester. Higher poly content is better for brightness and print longevity.
Sublimation Blanks for Mugs and Drinkware
Let’s move on to popular sublimation blanks for mugs, bottles, tumblers, and other drinkware.
Coffee mugs are one of the most sublimated items thanks to their sleek, full-wrap custom print capabilities.
When buying mug blanks, look for bright white ceramics, 11oz and 15oz standard mug sizes, curved or tapered shapes, dishwasher/microwave-safe, made in the USA (for the highest quality).
Ceramic mugs have a smooth polymer coating ideal for absorbing sublimation dyes. Make sure any mug blank explicitly states “for sublimation printing” for best results.
Water Bottles and Tumblers
Sublimated water bottles and tumblers are great for branding and personalization.
Ideal features include stainless steel or plastic walls, flip-top or screw-on lids, vacuum insulation for temperature control, leak-proof seals, matching straws or splash guards.
Powder coating on stainless steel bottles provides a polymer layer for crisp, vivid sublimated prints. Plastic bottles work too for more budget options.
Wine Glasses and Beer Mugs
Add some fun personalization to barware with sublimated glassware.
Best features clear soda-lime glass or acrylic, stemless or stemmed wine glasses, glass pints, pilsners or beer mugs, durable tempered glass, Dishwasher safe, etc.
Depending on the manufacturer, the polymer coating on glass drinkware might be sprayed or baked. Avoid using generic store-bought glassware not made for sublimation.
Additional Drinkware Blanks
Some other drinkware items suitable for sublimation include:
Metal, acrylic and even wood drinkware with polymer coatings can work for sublimation too. Just read product details carefully about sublimation suitability before purchasing any blanks.
Sublimation Blanks for Hard Goods
Now let’s explore popular sublimation blanks that aren’t fabrics or mugs. These are commonly called hard goods or rigid blanks.
Mousepads are a hot item people love to customize with photos and designs.
Ideal pad features include polymer coating on the surface, a fabric top for comfort, a contoured shape, a non-slip rubber backing, and standard square or rectangular sizes.
Sublimated mousepads make great promotional giveaways or personalized gifts year-round.
Ornament blanks are popular for holiday customization and year-round crafting.
The best qualities include round polychrome aluminum, a pre-drilled hole for hanging, various blank shapes like circles, ovals, and stars, and glossy or matte finish.
Sawtooth hangers allow ornaments to lay flat for optimal sublimation pressing.
Full-graphic custom skateboard decks make a fun blank for sublimation.
Key features include maple wood or bamboo core, polymer heat transfer film coating, various blank shapes and sizes, strong grip tape for traction, etc.
The heat-activated film provides a surface for sublimation inks to bond to. Just be sure to buy pre-coated boards specifically made for sublimation printing.
Sublimated aluminum license plates are popular for souvenirs, gifts, and decor.
Ideal qualities include rounded corners, pre-drilled holes, durable 0.048 gauge aluminum, gloss or matte polymer coating, and a standard 6″ x 12″ plate size.
The aluminum blank should come ready for dye sublimation with a heat-activated polymer layer.
Customized keychains make fun personalized keepsakes and promotional items.
Good options are: acrylic, metal, or plastic blanks, square, round, or unique shapes, split ring or carabiner attachment, bottle opener or LED light features
Luggage tags, wristlets, and dog tags are other popular keychain-style blanks suitable for sublimation.
Some other sublimation blanks for hard goods include:
Plastics, wood, acrylics, and even metals can work with the right polymer coating. Just double-check product details before purchasing.
Choosing the Right Sublimation Blanks
Now that you know the most common sublimation blanks, here are some tips for picking the right materials:
- Match the item to the printing purpose – if making apparel, choose soft polyester blanks versus hard goods.
- Read product descriptions carefully – ensure the blank is specifically made for sublimation printing.
- Buy samples first – order a few blanks to test before buying in bulk.
- Choose light colors – darker blanks can interfere with print vibrancy.
- Research reputable suppliers – buy from companies focused on sublimation blanks.
- Review customer images – look at actual customer prints to assess quality.
Taking extra care to select proper sublimation blanks will ensure you get vibrant, long-lasting results with your custom designs.
Parameters can vary based on material, size, shape, and coating.
Get Creative with Sublimation Blanks!
The range of sublimation blanks available today provides tons of possibilities for creating customized merchandise, apparel, decor, and more.
From t-shirts and tanks to beer mugs and pet ID tags, you’re limited only by your imagination when it comes to designing sublimated goods.
Sublimation breathes new life into products by enabling full-color image personalization on fabrics, ceramics, plastics, metals, and other polymer-coated surfaces.
So get out there and source some fun blanks from reputable vendors. Follow pressing best practices for optimal print longevity. Then offer customers unique customized keepsakes and merch they’ll love!
Do you have any questions on finding and using sublimation blanks? Ask in the comments below!