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How to Start a Sublimation Printing Business in 20 Steps

Do you want to start a sublimation printing company? If YES, here is a 20-step guide on how to open a sublimation printing business with no money or experience. Sublimation printing also referred to as dye sublimation printing is known for providing high-quality photographic results. It has become a popular method of printing on suitable materials. Note that one of the significant factors that are found to be attractive about dye sublimation printing is that it directly goes from solid stage to gas without entering the liquid phase.

Please note that if you intend to start this type of business, it is advisable to first look at the existing laws and zonal regulations in the country or state you reside in to know what is expected of you. You also need to pay a visit to the regulatory bodies in your country to get all the information you need before you can legally open a sublimation printing company in your city.

You can start your sublimation printing business from a small town in the United States and if you are good at what you do when it comes to printing fanciful and reliable fabrics or equipment, it won’t be too long before your brand becomes nationally recognized.

20 Steps to Starting a Sublimation Printing Business

  1. Understand the Industry

Sublimation transfer paper in dye sublimation printing utilizes heat to initiate the conversion and pressure to control it. The result obtained is a permanent, good quality print that won’t fade, peel, crack, or wash away with time. According to reliable reports, the dye-sublimation market was valued at USD 8630.1 million in 2020, and it is expected to reach a value of USD 15310.96 million by 2026, registering a CAGR of 10.7% during 2022 – 2026.

Dye-sublimation printing is also being adopted massively due to its high-quality photographic results. This process utilizes thermal transfer to shift different amounts of coloured dye pigments from a carrier film to the PVC printing surface, to which the dyes bond chemically. ​

Dye-sublimation printing is gaining very massive traction among promotional product printers owing to its diverse application on a wide range of products. This printing applies to fabric and rigid materials. Companies are also adopting this type of printing for banners and ceramic tiles. It yields permanent colour, which is embedded in the substrate or fabric rather than printed on the surface.

In recent years, the demand for dye-sublimation printers has experienced significant growth; owing to this, printer vendors have initiated the production of high speed and high-volume systems for industrial facilities. The advancement in design, better print heads, and other components are further augmenting the demand.

The new print heads provide faster print speed, along with an automatic circulation system, thus, reducing print head nozzle clog, which is one of the common reasons behind the downtime.​ According to industry reports, the garment industry holds an encouraging share of the market with the increasing vendor propensity toward the adoption of dye-sublimation printing solutions, as they offer better print quality at a faster pace.

The global textile industry’s move toward automation and its increasing capacity are driving the demand. ​Some of the critical factors for digital printing adoption include greater design flexibility compared to sublimation printing.

  1. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Before you start a sublimation printing business, ensure there is a wide range of both corporate and individual clients who you believe cannot successfully take their promotions and branding to the next level without hiring the services you offer. You will also need to dictate and develop strategic pacts with corporate organizations, advertising and branding agencies, and religious organizations et al. Here are possible target markets to consider;

  • Banks, Insurance Companies and other related Financial Institutions
  • Blue Chips Companies
  • Corporate Organizations
  • Manufacturers and Distributors
  • Real Estate Owners, Developers, and Contractors
  • Research and Development Companies
  • The Government (Public Sector)
  • Schools (High Schools, Colleges and Universities)
  • Hotels
  • Celebrities, Politicians, Public Figures and Public Speakers
  • Sport Organizations
  • Religious Organizations
  • Political Parties
  • Television Stations
  • Printing Press (Publishing Houses) and Authors
  • Branding and Advertising agencies
  • Aspiring celebrities
  • Entrepreneurs and Start-ups
  1. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

Focusing on a niche market can help you attract customers. That’s because instead of competing with every other sublimation printing company, focusing on a niche helps set you apart. It also gives you a better chance of being known as the go-to supplier for customers in that niche. Also, finding someone to pay you for your work is one of the hardest parts about owning any business.

Even though the customer base is attractive, competing in the online world can be a recipe for disaster. The competition is fierce, and the margins are tight. Therefore, most successful sublimation professionals focus on local shops, organizations, schools, and events.

Doing this allows you to not only create a demand for future sales; it targets a local market where face to face customer service excels. A few examples of excellent local demographics to sell items include;

  • Schools, school boards, and school parents.
  • Consignment Shops
  • Local Businesses
  • Local Churches
  • Photographers
The Level of Competition in the Industry

Owing to the outbreak of COVID-19, the global textile industry is experiencing the brunt of a worldwide market slump. The demand for textiles has slowed down as the major markets are still recovering from lockdown, globally. Businesses, such as apparel stores and malls, were ordered to shut down, and it is expected that a good number may not be opened regularly until the production of vaccines begins.

These are likely to hinder the market growth. The dye sublimation printing market is gradually heading towards the fragmented market as market leaders are banking on diverse product portfolio and product development to gain an edge and the number of local players is also increasing, which is creating intense rivalry in the market.

  1. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

Here are some of the most popular sublimation printing companies in the United States of America;

  • SEIKO EPSON Corporation
  • Roland DGA Corporation
  • Sawgrass Inc.
  • Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
  • Mimaki Engineering Co. Ltd
  • Left Hand Promotions
  • Cenveo
  • Quad/Graphics
  • RR Donnelley
  • Arvato
  • Cimpress
  • Dai Nippon Printing
  • Toppan Printing
  • Transcontinental
Economic Analysis

Sublimation is a rewarding and profitable business. Thousands of individuals and small companies are making money with dye sublimation to create amazing personalized items for family members, local community groups, online platforms (like Etsy, eBay, and Facebook) and local paying customers. What is most impressive is the sheer amount of items available for personalization on the internet.

Have it in mind that getting started in sublimation will require an investment that can range anywhere from $500-$4000 depending on your commitment and goals. The best part is that many people can recoup their investment in as little as 2–3 projects.

Howbeit, once you start dishing out large quantities of sublimated products, you will find that your original hardware may no longer support the volume you are printing — you’ll have inconsistent prints, print head issues, and wasted materials.

In addition, you may also find yourself waiting for heat presses to warm-up, spending valuable time. Entrepreneurs and even some hobbyists tend to prefer machines designed to handle the consistent print workload of a busy shop.

  1. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

Note that the benefit of buying a Sublimation Printing franchise far outweighs that of starting a new business venture from the scratch. However, also remember that buying a franchise isn’t necessarily a bed of roses. You are expected to evaluate the factors involved with buying a franchise; you need to do your research even before committing yourself. It is necessary to make sure the business is the right fit for your personal and professional goals.

If you feel and ascertain the business rhymes with your life goals and vision, the assistance of a business broker will help the pieces of the process fall in place and you might just become an owner of a sublimation printing business without the stress of going from the scratch.

However, always remember that achieving your primary goal of building a profitable business grows when you become a franchisee instead of starting from the scratch. If you have decided to start a sublimation printing business, here are few steps to consider;

  • Researching the history of the company
  • Decide if it’s the best of you
  • Hope for the Best But Plan for the Worst
  • Negotiate for a Good Price
  1. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you have a well detailed business plan, you will undergo each step of the planning process. There are times when start-ups or entrepreneurs handling one-man businesses think there is no need to have a business plan. However, this is not a right approach. Also make sure you do not make the following mistakes.

  • Not indulging in market research or having a profit and loss projection
  • Not branding your business enough (Will elaborate this more later in the post)
  • Commencing business before knowing how to accept and fill shipping orders
  • Opening an online store without integrating a web-to-print software
  • Not having enough t-shirt design templates, colour options and clip arts.
  • Lack of knowledge about the working of web to print software and its maintenance
  • Not checking the quality of final output (printed t-shirts)
  • Not taking into account the challenges that any business must know how to cope with
  1. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

When it comes to choosing a suitable legal entity for your sublimation printing business, remember that you have two options- sole proprietorship and the LLC. Also remember that the legal structure you choose will depend on the size and scale of the business.

Since your business is all about the income and interest of your clients, the LLC is the best legal entity for your business is it small, medium or large. It’s imperative to state that the advantage of creating an LLC typically outweighs any perceived disadvantages and these are typically unavailable to sole proprietorships. You will get;

  • Protected assets
  • Heightened credibility
  • Limited compliance requirements
  • Flexible management structure
  • Few restrictions
  1. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the Ideas Below

In terms of choosing a suitable name for your business, try being creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Normally, it is ideal for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business. If you are considering starting your own sublimation printing business, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • Style Print
  • Little Atoms
  • Methane Studios
  • Creative ink
  • Nimbus Print Shop
  • Wailers Design Shop
  • Designer Press
  • Mafia Designs
  • Cool fashion
  • Feather designs
  • Printing fire
  • Design Trap
  • Gall Art
  • Hancock Creative Shop
  • Manny Apparel
  • Blue sublimation
  • Ink designs
  • Printed Wonders
  • Suburban Basement
  • Time Printing
  1. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policies that are required by the industry you want to operate from. Therefore, it is very necessary to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your business.

Here are some of the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own sublimation printing company in the United States of America;

  1. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If you are looking to venture into this business, then it is advisable that you consider going for intellectual property protection to be able to protect your intellectual property. Indeed, you might not deem it necessary for your business, but have it in mind that filing for intellectual property protection for your sublimation printing business goes beyond protecting your company’s logo and other documents, but also protecting your investments, ideas, style, and of course the name of your company.

If you want to file for intellectual property protection and also register your trademark in the United States, you have to start by filing an application with the USPTO. The final approval of your trademark is subjected to the review of attorneys as required by USPTO.

  1. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Some businesses require professional certifications before the business can be launched; however, the sublimation printing business does not fall under this category. These courses are geared towards enriching the skill of the people who take them.

Any entrepreneur who desires to start his or her own printing business can start it with little or no stress. Nonetheless, always remember that each certification in this industry has its own set of rules and regulations and is granted by a professional career organization.

  • ASPA Certified Sublimation Printer
  • Silk sublimation Printmaking Training and Certification
  1. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

Have it in mind that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long hands of the law catch up with you. However, there are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own business in the United States of America;

  1. Raise the Needed Start-up Capital

Whether you’re sourcing for loans, small business grants, angel investors, venture capital, crowd funding, or investments from friends and family, you can greatly step up your chances of securing business capital by putting together a detailed business plan. Ways of financing your sublimation printing business may include;

  • Personal savings
  • Pitching
  • Angel investor
  • Partnership
  • Bank overdraft
  • Venture Capital
  • Loans forms family and friends
  • Loans and grants
  • Alternative funding source like Crowdfunding
  1. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

If you have done your feasibility research, then you must have noted or have noticed other sublimation printing businesses in your proposed location. These businesses can be spotted and noticed easily, this is because it is hard to come across a business area that does not have a printing service business.

That is one of the important reasons why you should ask yourself: why do they choose these locations? Indeed they have done their research. However, note that most sublimation printing businesses pick their locations by leveraging population density, average adjusted gross income (AGI) in that surrounding area, and proximity to their target market.

Moreover, it is advisable that you leverage the same factors when choosing locations for your sublimation printing business. You should also know the specific area you are considering. At least understand how many people have access to that location, what income level they belong to, demographic and psychographic, and likely competition.

  1. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

When starting a sublimation printing business, always remember that you have to do some or all aspects of the dye sublimation printing process.

These processes may include the brainstorming for ideas and then design of the print pattern, the mixing and loading of inks, the cleaning and maintenance of the machines, the drying and then folding and storage of the finished sublimation-printed products, and importantly, and often overlooked, the ability to troubleshoot any mechanical or technological problems that may arise over time.

Also, before you start this business, it is very advisable that you master the skills of managing your workers and keeping up with all the administrative tasks necessary in running your firm sustainably.

Note that the task of coordinating a business corporately may also include record-keeping, the processing of orders and payments, and the management of the shipping of the purchased items to your prospective clients. You also need to have good eyes, an ability to see the subtlety of colours well, and a unique dexterity of eye-hand coordination while doing the work.

You should also be able to organise and to mix the many chemicals being used in the ink for sublimation-printing. With the level of advancement in technology in this industry, it’s very necessary to know your way around computers.

Other important skills may include; a great deal of self-motivation, the ability and temperament to solve issues as they come up, general creativity, and a trait for keeping things organized. You should also have a great familiarity with all the sublimation printing equipment, which may include;

  • Athletic numbering equipment
  • Automatic textile sublimation printing presses
  • CTS & film printers
  • Computer-to-sublimation printers
  • Digital printing software
  • Direct-to-garment printers
  • Drying racks
  • Epson inkjet printers
  • Express jet printers
  • Flash units and spot curing
  • Graphic conveyor dryers
  • Graphic sublimation printing presses
  • Heat transfer presses
  • Manual sublimation printing presses
  • Platen choices
  • Plotters
  • Pre-treatment sprayers
  • Replacement belts
  • Roland inkjet printer/cutters
  • Sublimation exposure units
  • Sublimation exposure units
  • Sublimation printing equipment & pre-press
  • Sublimation printing frames & accessories
  • Sublimation reclaiming/cleaning equipment
  • Shop equipment & misc.
  • Squeegees & floodbars
  • T-shirt and textile conveyor dryers
The Service Delivery Process of the Business

Sublimation is the process of changing a solid to gas without transitioning to a liquid state. Typically this is accomplished using temperatures in the 350F–400F range for 4–16 minutes. When this process takes place, it allows the gaseous ink to permeate an object; this could be solid like a mug, or flexible like fabric.

When the ink turns back into a solid, it adheres amazingly well to polyester, or a polyester coating, creating a permanent bond with that object. Note that the first thing you want is a computer where you can manage the printing process. You will also need a graphics design software as that’s where you will handle and manage all your prints.

Starting this type of business will also require you to get a printer compatible with Dye Sublimation Ink and specific Sublimation cartridges as well. In addition, you will need Sublimation ink, Sublimation paper, refillable or sublimation cartridges, a heat press and substrates that support the Sublimation Printing.

After the printing, once the dyes fuse, this coating is really resilient so you can’t scratch it off. It’s not like a surface and it’s not like ink on the surface of anything so especially with shirts and stuff like that, it’s not going to crack or fade or wash out.

The downfall to it is that because it is a dye process, you can’t print on dark objects. For instance, like a dark t-shirt because you can’t print white, and you can’t lay down any base colour white to print on. So dark t-shirts aren’t available for printing, but besides that, it’s really resilient so it’s not going to scratch or crack or anything like that. So that’s definitely a plus!

  1. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With Ideas & Strategies

Of course, once your Sublimation printing business is ready to go, you have to promote your company. So, when you are drafting your marketing plans, make sure that you create a compelling company profile.

Aside from your qualifications and experience, it is important to clearly state what you have been able to achieve in time past. This will help boost your chances in the market place when marketing your skateboards. Here are some of the strategies you can utilize to market your sublimation printing company;

  • Building a website

In your website, you can explain your services and your rates, and give potential customers information about you and your professional background. It will also give you the opportunity to share relevant information that individuals might find interesting and helpful.

  • Partnering with corporate organizations

Have it in mind that almost all these organisations are eager to boost their brand awareness and coming to them first might be the kick they need.

  • Using marketing materials

Make use of inexpensive marketing materials such as business cards and postcards. We advise you drop these off with Ventures and businesses around you.

  • Referrals

Another step in marketing your business is to get referrals from family and friends. We believe that they would create the initial buzz for your business and provide the bulk of the testimonials on your website.

  • Using customer’s testimonies

It is advisable that you collect testimonials from people who have done a job or two with you. That way people who visit your site can see that your services work and are motivated to patronize you.

  1. Work out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products

One very crucial factor that will help you boost your sublimation printing company bottom prices is to purchase your raw materials and supplies directly from wholesalers in pretty large quantities. The truth is the higher the quantities of items that you purchase directly from wholesalers, the cheaper you tend to get them. Do a little bit of research and find out about a manufacturer who can provide you with good quality materials for printing.

Garment distributors also help the new business owners to go through different material options to find the one within their price range. After a couple of orders and production, you will be able to decide on the price points and other factors for your t-shirt.

Make sure you maintain a good relationship with your supplier as you lose time and money from your production schedule with every imperfect shirt. If you are able to secure business partnership as it relates to getting referrals, then you will be able to get the right pricing and of course maximize profits from your business.

Also note there is a huge variety of ink available in the market. These include high density ink (meant for textured and dimensional look), gel ink (which is thick and rubbery) and foil ink (meant for shiny embossing). You can choose the one which is most compatible with your fabric and goes with your customers requirements.

  1. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

Do not believe anyone who tells you that building your own sublimation printing business is easy and startup costs are minimal. The industry is filled with fierce competitions. Therefore, it is advisable that you start by taking a sublimation Printing course and familiarizing yourself with the field.

But note that as much as the sublimation printing industry is becoming competitive, you as an outstanding entrepreneur should also deduce a means of outshining your competitors. These means may include…

  • Researching and identify your competitors
  • Join professional organizations
  • Keep your customers happy and satisfied
  • Work with a graphic designer to create a website
  1. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

When it comes to business, regardless of the industry that you choose to pitch your tent in, one of the easiest ways to increase customer retention and perhaps attract new customers is to produce results and satisfy your customers always.

If your customers are satisfied with your facility and service delivery, they can hardly source for alternative service providers. One of the strategies that you would need to employ in order to generate repeated sales from your customers and also to retain them is to ensure that you always ensure that your facility is on point and your customer services does not fluctuate.

However, if your services and customer service fluctuate, you are likely going to struggle to get your customers coming back to purchase your products or services. Ensure that you offer your customers incentives if you want to retain them and of course continue to generate repeated sales from them and also attract new customers.

Part of what you need to do to achieve this is to track progress, results or outputs with the aim of improving on them quickly as the case demands. When it comes to managing your customers and building a loyal clientele base, you should purchase customized CRM software.

With a customized CRM system, you can easily stay in touch with your clients (you can carry out quick surveys, you can introduce new products and prices to them without any hitch, you can felicitate with them on their birthdays and other anniversaries, you can keep track of their progress, you can send bulk SMS and customized e – mails and above all, you can easily receive compliant and feedback from them).

  1. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

It’s important to state that having just a brand alone is not enough in the sublimation printing industry. Have it in mind that to win over customers you need to make sure you shout about your brand and get your name into people’s eyes as well as their hearts.

One of the secrets of larger corporations is that they are willing to spend fortunes year in and year out to boost their brand awareness and to continue to communicate their corporate identity the way they want people to perceive them to be.

However, irrespective of the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market. Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand and create a corporate identity for your sublimation printing company;

  • Place adverts on both print (newspapers and magazines) and electronic media platforms
  • Sponsor relevant community – based events
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your sublimation printing company
  • Install your billboards in strategic locations all around your city or state
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • List your sublimation printing company in local directories/yellow pages
  • Advertise your sublimation printing company in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
  • Position our Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where your sublimation printing company is located.
  • Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles are branded with your company logo.