What is Sublimation Printing? How Does it Work? A Complete Process Guide

Sublimation printing is a particular type of computer printing.

That is used in conjunction with a sublimation printer, sublimation transfer paper, sublimation ink, and heat press machine to produce vibrant, full-color prints on any surface such as fabric, mugs, pillow covers, and plastic, t-shirts, ceramic, etc.

What is Sublimation Printing

It is a new technology, and its trend dramatically increased in the 21century. Using this sublimation process, you can make your artwork, logos, and advertising display a more eye-catching, vivid, and professional-looking finished product at home that will impress customers.

In this blog post article, we have comprehensively discussed the complete sublimation process and provided an overview of its benefits. So, let’s start.

So, What is Sublimation Printing?

The process is quite simple and convenient. It is complete in the following easy steps.

Printing:

Sublimation printing is a transition process between the solid and gaseous states. In this process, a sublimation printer uses to print the desired design onto the specifically designed sublimation paper by using sublimation ink.

Thermal transfer:

The design is then transferred onto compatible material or fabric by applying a specific heat and pressure. When sublimation ink or dye is heated, it vaporizes and converts into a gas without going through a liquid stage. After a heat press, it is allowed to cool down.

Final result:

 After cooling, the dye solidifies and infuses entirely and forms a bond with the fabric or material, and creates a seamless design, resulting in a high-quality print that is permanent, long-lasting, and resistant to scratching.

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Things you need for the sublimation process:

The essential tools for successful completion of the sublimation process are listed below

  • Sublimation printer

The first and most important equipment you need to start the printing process is a sublimation printer. A few years ago, these printers were comparatively costly. But now you can purchase a sublimation printer at an economical price because prices decreased after colossal demand for sublimation products.

There are several popular brands; you can also read our detailed review of the best sublimation printers.

  • Sublimation paper

A particular type of paper uses for sublimation and transfer. Like sublimation printers, various popular brands manufacture these papers known as sublimation paper or transfer sheet/paper. Use any suitable paper to print logos, pictures, and images. The print paper also helps create full-color range images without any worry, unlike regular paper.

  • Raster Image Processor (RIP) Software &Computer

For sublimation printing, computer and compatible software with the type of printer are also necessary. The most popular software that  uses is Raster Image Processor.’

(RIP) software. This RIP software helps create the image, page orientation, color intensity, resolution, and pixel of the image.

Some printer comes with software, or you can also purchase them separately. It recommends that before buying any printer, focused that the software should be compatible with the kind of printer utilized.

  • Cutting Mechanism

Other recommended things for sublimation include a cutting gadget, whether a knife or a rotary blade—this rotary blade is required while creating unique fabric items. There are a few cutting products available in the market with more than one option to fulfill all your needs in one unit.

Sometimes may also require a sewing machine for the stitching of material.

Some cutting tools include more than one item to suit particular needs. One would also need a sewing machine for stitching the material or fabric. This is especially required while making Silicone Edge graphics or frames.

  • Type of Heat Press Machine / Heat Transfer

Another essential tool for printing is a heat press machine, the final step in the sublimation process after printing the image on transfer paper. Like the printer, sublimation heat press machines come in various sizes, models, and prices. The primary function of the heat press is to transfer the desired design from the sublimation paper onto the required material, such as mobile or pillow covers, mugs, t-shirts, and many more.

As a result, the image will be formed a strong bond with fabric or material fiber, and the resulting image becomes more vivid and resistant to fading so that the item will last longer.

The four types of sublimation heat press are used for dye sublimation. For a detailed understanding and options, you can also visit our website’s best heat press machine.

1. Calendar Heat Press

This press is ideal for softer and large materials, such as fabric signs and banners, as this Calendar press has enough space for large objects.

2. Small Heat Press

If you want to create a design on handheld kitchenware, I will recommend a small heat press. You can also sublimate different items by using this small heat press. 

3. Flatbed Heat Press

The Flatbed press is best for more complex materials, such as floor tiles. It offers versatility and gives the best sublimation result on apparel.

4.3D Vacuum Heat Press

Finally, a 3D vacuum heat press is the way to go for printing on a smaller object having different edges and shapes. It comes with multiple removable accessories that utilize accordingly. In addition, it can also sublimate flat surface items with this hat press.

What Are the Benefits of Sublimation Printing?

  • The most exciting benefit that this technique offers is the freedom to customize your favorite image on a personalized item that is not provided by other methods. It is the best printing process who want special and unique items.
  • Another benefit is the durability of the image over several uses; it will not crack or wear out. You can frequently wash sublimated t-shirts, bedding, and apparel without fear of louse up their appearance.
  • Sublimation printing is not limited to fabric printing. It has more expansive application areas, including pens, key chains, mousepads, pillow covers, mugs, ceramic plates, kitchenware, Christmas ornaments, tins, mobile covers, etc.
  • The best option in terms of creativity to invent puzzles or create customized things is also a bonus. The limitations of starting the business presentation and crafts are endless.
  • Furthermore, sublimation printing is suitable for small business batches and garments that need versatility with many designs modification and applications.

Limitations

Like every method, sublimation printing also has some limitations.

  • It gives the best results on polyester and polyester mixed materials.
  • On light color background, it gives clear and more vibrant results.
  • It is impossible to use sublimation printing on 100% natural cotton material.

So, What’s the Major difference between sublimation printing and digital printing?

The significant difference between the two methods is the selection of material. Digital printing is used on polyester, silk, and cotton to print images. Alternatively, sublimation printing is only suitable for polyester and poly mixed material. Unlike digital printing, sublimation printing is also used to transfer the design onto the fabric in sublimation printing.

Sublimation printing is designed to produce high-quality, durable, and permanent images. In contrast, digitally printed designs aren’t long-lasting and often lead to cracks in the color because did not entirely pass the color from the paper used for transfer. In comparison to sublimation, printing is quite expensive and creates more waste.

The type of printing you pick will depend on the items you are making. Each is an incredible type of printing, and a variety of technology is available for both. It is vital to list up the advantages and disadvantages of every while choosing and thinking about your objectives – at that point, the kind of printing you want will be precise.

FAQS Of Sublimation Printing

What products can be used For sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is the best use for

  • white or light-colored fabrics
  • polyester, cotton with less than 30%, or poly blend.
  • Products with polymer coating include coasters, mugs, mousepads, basketball jerseys, glass, etc.
  • Ceramic, PVC
  • Polyester-coated, aluminum, metal plastic

What does sublimation printing mean?

Sublimation printing or dye- sublimation printing is a popular cheapest printing process for transmitting images onto fabrics or materials. Sublimation is a chemical reaction that excludes the liquid state and goes right from a solid to a gaseous state.

Is sublimation printing permanent?

Yes. The sublimation printing process yields iridescent, beautiful, and everlasting images and designs submerged into the substrate.

Can We sublimate on cotton?

No. You cannot sublimate on 100%  pure cotton because it does not take up the ink inside it. For good results must be used 100% polyester or cotton with polyester mixed.

Is sublimation printing eco-friendly?

Yes. Sublimation printing is the most eco-friendly and reliable process as it produces zero waste.

Does sublimation printing fade?

No, sublimation can print high-quality photo prints or graphic designs that do not fade or peel off after tons of washing or exposure to the sun.

What is the optimal temperature range used for sublimation printing?

The optimal temperature range for sublimation printing is up to380 to 420 degrees Fahrenheit, which is enough for activating the dyes used for printing.

 Is sublimation printing produces good quality products?

Sublimation printing is the best process to produce a vibrant and high-quality print on fabrics with endless design possibilities compared to other printing options.

Conclusion

Sublimation printing is an incredible choice for those who love to create both apparel and different materials with full-color contrast and premium-quality graphics. It is an ideal method for all-over printing.

It is the perfect method to start a small business with less setup cost than other printing processes. It produces unbeatable print quality. Yet, it isn’t ideal for cotton, requiring 80-85% poly-mixes, and the white regions are left unprinted, which can be risky to print on darker fabrics.