Dye Sublimation Printing: The Futuristic Clothing Trend That Brought the Internet to IRL


T-shirts with photograph-like prints have become a huge trend recently, from Walmart to Givenchy and everything in between, but how are they made?

The process is called “dye sublimation printing,” and it’s revolutionized clothing since hitting the mainstream.  For the internet generation, dye sublimation printing was a perfect fit.  We are constantly bombarded with images – taking them, making them, sharing them, viewing them, consuming them.  Platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest have accelerated image sharing even faster, with users collecting and aggregating images around specific themes and references making rich visual inspiration more accessible than ever.

The interesting part is how dye sublimation printing brought our increasing relationship to images online into real life.  It’s like setting your laptop’s wallpaper background, only YOU are now the screen. The relationship to computers doesn’t stop there.  The technology itself has it’s roots in computer printers.  Dye sublimation printers are similar giant ink jet printers, only they can print on fabrics and the dye begins as a gas before becoming a solid.  Just in case this wasn’t futuristic enough, the process will only print on synthetic fabrics like polyester or rayon.  With dye sublimation, however, we’ve reached the singularity of t-shirt designs- anything you imagine can be printed on clothing now.  So check out some of Karmaloop’s dye sublimation clothing and join the future!


LATCH t-shirt all over print photographic t-shirt

 The LATHC “Beetle Space” Tee is a perfect example of the vibrancy possible with dye sublimation in this all over print t-shirt.


The Play Clothes King Tomb Strapback.  Dye sublimation can be used on any fabric for many different items of clothing, like this Play Clothes snapback.


Any synthetic fabric works, in this case a Crooks and Castles mesh tanktop for the Crooks and Castles Pillage tank.


Crooks and Castles SOC Sweatshirt.  Internet style collages leap from the screen to your clothing like this Crooks and Castles sweatshirt.


Incredibly vivid colors are seen in this Waimea Ink Clouds Snapback.

Black Scale’s Burk Shorts.  Camouflage was an early use of dye sublimation in clothing, which Black Scale’s shorts brought back.

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1 Comment

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