Sublimation Printing vs. Screen Printing: A Comparison for Custom Sports Apparel

When it comes to creating custom sportswear, choosing the right printing technique is crucial. Sublimation printing and screen printing are two popular methods, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this blog post, we'll compare these techniques to help you make an informed decision for your sports apparel customization.

Sublimation Printing:

Sublimation printing is a versatile and increasingly popular method for custom sports apparel. Here's how it works:

How it Works:

Sublimation printing involves using heat to transfer dye onto fabric. The dye becomes a gas under heat and bonds with the fibers of the fabric. This process creates vibrant, full-color, and long-lasting prints.


  1. Vivid and Durable: Sublimation printing results in vibrant and detailed designs that won't fade, crack, or peel, even after multiple washes.

  2. Full-Color Options: Sublimation allows for intricate, full-color designs, making it ideal for custom sportswear with complex graphics or gradients.

  3. Breathable: The dye doesn't create a heavy, thick layer on the fabric, making sublimation-printed sportswear more breathable and comfortable.

  4. All-Over Printing: Sublimation can cover the entire garment, allowing for unique all-over designs that screen printing can't achieve.

  5. Quick Turnaround: Sublimation can be faster for complex designs, as it involves a one-step printing process.


  1. Polyester Requirement: Sublimation works best on polyester fabric, limiting the choice of materials.

  2. Limited to Light Colors: The dye doesn't show well on dark fabrics, so sublimation is better suited for light-colored sportswear.

  3. Not Ideal for Cotton: Sublimation doesn't work well on pure cotton fabric, making it unsuitable for some traditional sports apparel.

Screen Printing:

Screen printing is a traditional and widely used method for custom sportswear. Here's how it works:

How it Works:

Screen printing involves creating a stencil (screen) for each color in the design and manually applying ink through the screens onto the fabric.


  1. Versatile Material: Screen printing works well on various fabric types, including cotton, polyester, and blends.

  2. High-Quality Prints: Screen printing produces vibrant, opaque prints with excellent color saturation on light and dark fabrics.

  3. Cost-Effective for Large Orders: It's a cost-effective choice for large quantities of identical designs.

  4. Long-Lasting: Screen prints are durable and long-lasting, even after multiple washes and wear.

  5. Great for Simple Designs: Ideal for simple and bold designs with limited colors.


  1. Limited Detail: Fine details and complex designs may not be as sharp or accurate as sublimation printing.

  2. Bulkier Prints: Screen printing creates a thicker layer of ink, which can feel heavier on the fabric.

  3. Setup Costs: The process requires screen setup for each color, which can increase initial costs for small orders.

  4. Not Ideal for All-Over Prints: Achieving all-over prints can be challenging with screen printing.

Which Method to Choose?

The choice between sublimation printing and screen printing depends on your specific needs and preferences:

  • Sublimation is ideal for intricate, full-color designs, especially on light-colored polyester sportswear.
  • Screen printing is a great choice for simple, bold designs on various fabric types, especially in large quantities.

Consider factors such as the design complexity, material type, order quantity, and budget when deciding which printing method is best suited for your custom sports apparel.

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