Table of Contents
- 1 What is sublimation printing used for?
- 2 What are the benefits of sublimation printing?
- 3 What are the cons of sublimation printing?
- 4 How Does Sublimation Printing Work?
- 5 How Does it Compare to Screen Printing?
- 6 Which materials can be printed with sublimation?
- 7 How Does it Compare to Heat Transfer?
- 8 The Wonders of Sublimation Printing
Sublimation printing is a term that’s growing increasingly popular among designers and artists alike. With dye sublimation, you use a special kind of printing process and paper to create stunning images without harming the environment.
Although sublimation printing is just one option for people creating prints these days, it often stands out as one of the best choices for those in search of affordability, consistent quality, and other excellent benefits. Today, we’re going to introduce you to the world of dye sublimation printing and how this printing process works.
Let’s get started!
What is sublimation printing used for?
Sublimation printing is a method of printing that transfers a design into a fabric or material using heat and ink. Perhaps the biggest benefit of using dye sublimation printing instead of a standard printing process like screen printing or heat transfer is that it allows you to engage in full garment printing.
The sublimation process can cover a garment from seam to seam with no gaps. Another bonus is there’s less waste with a dye sublimation printer because you don’t have to worry about heat transfer paper or other substances that would just get thrown away.
What are the benefits of sublimation printing?
Sublimation printing or “dye sublimation” is extremely popular because it allows you to create stunning pictures and garments at minimal expense. As a DTG printing method, dye sub printing is taking the clothing landscape by storm. Benefits include:
- Longevity: Dye sublimation printing fuses the ink with the fiber using heat press ink techniques. This means that your garment won’t fade over time like it might with another printing process.
- Smooth finishes: Sublimation blanks can create stunning images with a smooth finish and crisp edges, so you can make your garment look as stunning as possible.
- Environmentally friendly: Unlike other solutions, dye sublimation printing does not harm the environment or human beings. Dye sublimation ink is often water-based, so it will usually have less of a negative impact on the environment.
- Economical: The sublimation printing process can be quite cost-effective once you have the sublimation transfer paper and disperse the dye you need.
- Flexibility: With sublimation design, you can create a wide selection of different styles and designs using computer programs, which allows you to be more experimental.
What are the cons of sublimation printing?
Sublimation printing has a lot of benefits, but it won’t be the right choice for every garment or project. Your fabric options with sublimation printer products are often limited to synthetic materials, like polyester fabric. Additionally, because dye sublimation ink is transparent, darker substrates might not deliver the best results.
Unfortunately, printing with dye sublimation doesn’t work as well with cotton or silk and various other natural fabrics. You will need to choose a synthetic fabric like polyester instead if you want to get a quality finish on your design.
The good news is that although sublimation printing might not work as well on natural fabrics, it is good for hard media like paper, clocks, pens, mugs, Christmas ornaments, and countless other objects.
How Does Sublimation Printing Work?
Sublimation printing is a unique printing process that differs drastically from other strategies. For instance, if you use inkjet transfer paper, you print ink on top of the substrate, while other printing methods go through multiple states of matter.
Sublimation printing is a unique printing method that avoids the “liquid” state of ink. Rather than transforming your ink into water, the sublimation method combines the ink with the substrate in a gaseous state, then solidifies that ink to create your design.
Sound complicated? Let’s break it down a little. Dye sublimation printing is a chemical process where a solid turns into a gas without going through the common liquid stage. The dye is called dye sublimation, and it’s a very special substance that can change state. The opposite of a sublimation ink would be a desublimation system, where something transitions from gas to solid.
To go through the sublimation printing process in full, you would print your design onto a special transfer paper. The picture will be a mirror image, and it will use special dye sublimation printing inks, different from those in an inkjet printer.
You then line the transfer up with your fabric and apply a combination of heat press, force, and pressure. This causes the sublimation dye to transition from solid to gas. The inks penetrate the textile and permanently bond to the printed fabric.
How Does it Compare to Screen Printing?
Compared to other forms of printing, like screen printing and heat transfer, sublimation is very popular. It can cover more fabric than most alternatives and delivers a crisp printed image. Although sublimation printing does have higher setup costs initially than inkjet printing and other tools that use cheaper toner and dye options, it’s very cost-efficient in the long-run.
Once you have made your initial purchase, dye sub is more cost-effective than screen printing ink. Additionally, while screen printing can deliver sharp images and edges, the level of detail from a sublimation printer is much greater because of the digital printing methods available.
Among other printing techniques, sublimation transfer can also offer a wider selection of colors, although you will be restricted to the shades that you can create on a computer. Screen printing is a lot more complex as it requires you to stick to one color at a time. Using multiple colors and print head options often messes up the finished appearance.
A sublimation print also benefits from greater longevity. While screen printing simply sits the design on top of the polyester or garment that you’re printing on, the sublimation printing penetrates deep within the fiber instead.
Which materials can be printed with sublimation?
People often assume that printing is something connected exclusively with paper. However, there are many printer devices out there that go beyond the paper landscape. Dye sublimation printing is most commonly used with polyester in the garment world. However, with the right transfer paper and heat press, you can use a variety of materials with dye sublimation, including:
- Polymer-coated plastic
- Metal (polymer-coated)
- Polyester and synthetic fabric
Sublimation printing is extremely versatile as long as you have the right printer, paper, and dye solution. The great thing about this process is that it also produces minimal waste, with no water required and no dangerous chemicals produced as part of the print.
You can even use one dye sublimation print multiple times until it runs out, and you can use sublimation transfer papers for other crafts too. The development of eco-friendly dye sublimation substrates makes this printing process more appealing to those worried about the environment.
How Does it Compare to Heat Transfer?
Dye sublimation printer options are just one of the ways that you can create stunning images on fabric today. Some people still prefer using heat transfer instead, as this technology delivers a similarly great experience for small print runs. If you’re not printing very often, you might find that heat transfer is less expensive too.
Heat transfer usually uses a standard printer, like you would use to print paper, whereas sublimation printing requires a more advanced, specialist printer instead. The more high-quality the technology involved in the print is, the more you’re likely to get amazing details and accuracy.
When comparing heat transfer and sublimation printing, it’s also worth remembering that dye sub allows you to choose from a wide selection of colors. However, you do need to create those colors with a computer first. Since heat transfer uses laser or inkjet printing, you can’t always get the same selection.
Finally, remember that transfers simply add a layer of printing onto the fabric that you’re designing on. There’s no annoying sticky feeling or problems with transfers washing away when you use dye sublimation, so your creations can last a lot longer.
The Wonders of Sublimation Printing
Sublimation printing is an excellent choice for anyone in the textile landscape looking for quality, accuracy, and amazing detail. Although it’s often a little more expensive to invest in a sublimation printer at first, the long-term results can be phenomenal, particularly if you’re planning on printing quite a lot.
With the unique solid to gas chemical process, the sublimation process allows you to create amazing details and fine lines without excess waste or damage to the environment. This is also one of the best options available for all-over printing, with no worries like seams and lines getting in the way. However, there are still limits to what you can do with sublimation printing too.
Unfortunately, if you’re committed to printing on natural fabrics like cotton and silk, then sublimation isn’t going to be the right choice for you. This kind of printer needs its materials to be at least 80 to 85% blends with a heavy focus on synthetics. Fortunately, you can always consider printing on other materials outside of fabric too.