Road to Sublimation Success: Profiting from Smartphones

Almost everyone has a smartphone. How can digital decorators use dye-sub transfer to turn smartphone popularity into profits? 

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Almost everyone has a smartphone. Since being introduced by Apple in January 2007, smartphones have become the fastest-selling gadgets in history and are constant companions to young kids, teenagers, adults and even seniors wanting to check messages, play games, browse the internet, and take photos.

Similar to a car offering more than just transportation or a person’s eyewear providing more than just clear vision, it’s no surprise that smartphones have become more than just portable personal computers-they’re also a reflection of each person’s style and personality. How can digital decorators use dye-sub transfer to turn smartphone popularity into profits? Two ways:

  • Produce highly personalized, photo-quality products and accessories for your customers’ smartphones.
  • Tap into the billions of photos being taken with smartphones to create unique full-color gifts for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and holidays, or to simply make someone feel special.


  • It’s a low cost form of decorating: Sublimation printers with a heat press start at about $1,200.
  • It’s powerful: There are hundreds of sublimation-ready products to choose from.
  • It’s highly profitable: With the right sales and marketing plan, sublimation decorators can often pay for their system in a month or two.
  • It’s what your customers want: Your customers are actually looking for ways to use their favorite photos.

With the right equipment and knowledge, sublimation decorating is a simple process that can put a lot of cash in your pocket. Most blank substrates are inexpensive yet have high profit margins. What determines a product’s profitability? Three things:

  • The blank substrate has a genuine function (i.e. coffee mug or phone case).
  • Quality of the artwork (the better looking or more personal, the higher the value).
  • The selling environment (is your target market a high-end gift boutique or a flea market).

Underpricing personalized products is perhaps the most common mistake among digital decorators.


Newer smartphones produce high-quality photos similar to those produced by point-and-shoot digital cameras. That’s easily enough resolution to produce smaller products such as cell phone covers as well as a wide variety of other dye-sub products including jewelry, coffee mugs, keepsake boxes, desktop photo panels and more. Use individual photos or create unique treasures by combining photographs with themed design templates. You will look like a real pro while greatly increasing the value of the products.

How do I get the photos from my customers’ smartphones? 

Make it easy for your customers to share their photos by having them email or text them to you. The only downside is that it may take a short while for the digital image to actually be delivered to you. Another option for those with a fast-paced storefront or those that want to set up at a remote event is to use a kiosk (for example, the Condé Kiosk). Kiosks are an awesome way for customers to upload photos to you from any smartphone without using an app. 

What types of products are available for smartphones?

Protective Cover 

It’s almost as important as the device itself. With styles for many iPhone and Samsung models to choose from, you’ll be able to offer your customers high-quality phone covers that feature cherished photos and/or colorful designs. One of the most popular cover styles, the Brookley, offers a protective inner rubber bladder and outer hard plastic shell to help phones stay safe. The Brookley’s insert is attached after imaging and displays transferred images. Decorated smartphone cases can sell for as much as $40.

Device Stands

These provide a personalized charging site for smartphones, e-readers or tablets while also providing a stylish way to view those devices upright on a desk, kitchen counter or nightstand. Even when empty, these hardboard device stands look great. Device stands are easy to produce and are available in several sizes. Decorated stands can sell for $20 and up.

Repositionable Sublimation Sticker Material

With SubliWrap, everything from charging blocks to laptops can be decorated to make them stand out from the crowd and keep them from being taken or confused as someone else’s. SubliWrap is easy to cut, provides amazing image color, and features an adhesive backing that can be easily applied and removed many times over without air bubbles or leaving a sticky residue.

What other types of products are available using smartphone technology?

As mentioned earlier, there’s plenty of resolution available within most smartphone photos to produce a large variety of dye-sub products. The following make excellent sentimental gifts for anyone that wants to show off their spouse, children or pets:

  • Personalized cuff bracelets
  • Bezel pendants
  • Charms
  • Dog tags
  • Ceramic and travel mugs (a coffee mug will cost less than $2 to produce and generally sells for $20 or more)
  • Keepsake boxes
  • Drink coasters
  • Key chains
  • Holiday ornaments
  • Tabletop photo panels


Jesse James was once asked why he robbed banks. He answered in complete astonishment, “Because that’s where the money’s at!”

  • Sell your personalized products at the pet grooming shop by setting up an attractive display of products and having the pet grooming staff take the orders for you. Cut them some of the profits and everyone wins.
  • Get a copy of your community calendar for a list of celebrations and events that will allow you to create products on-site.
  • It’s easy to create a photo booth using a smartphone, green screen with app, and a selection of awesome backgrounds.


I hope this article has been helpful to point you to just a few of the excellent opportunities with sublimation decorating both for smartphones and using smartphone technology. 

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David Gross

David Gross is president of Condé Systems Inc., of Mobile, Ala. For the past 24 years, he has devoted to advancing sublimation technology. He can be reached by email at dgross@conde.com.

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