What is Sublimation Printing?

Have you heard of sublimation printing?  The best-designed graphic apparel, home furnishing, and advertising displays use the dye sublimation process to achieve vibrant, everlasting graphics.

We will explain in detail what is sublimation printing, how it works, what are its advantages and disadvantages, when to use it — and when not to. All of the information you would like to know is available right here in this article.

What Is Sublimation Printing?

So, what exactly is sublimation printing? In simple terms, it’s a method of printing that transfers a design into a material or fabric using ink and heat.

In the world of apparel, it’s a game changer because it allows for entire garment prints. In other words, designs can go seam-to-seam. Sublimation printing for custom garments can accommodate any artwork design you can imagine and make it come to life. The result is a permanent, full-color design that won’t crack, peel or wash away over time.

Many garment factories as well as personalization manufacturers are using sublimation printing.

Why Use Sublimation Printing?

Want a photo-quality print pattern with true, continuous tones that will never blur or fade? Then sublimation printing is the ideal process. Digital textile printing using YIQIA DIGITAL products creates crisp lines, and true-to-life shades, as well as making the production process more environmentally friendly and safer.


Photo Source -Shutterstock

How does sublimation printing work?

After selecting design patterns, use a sublimation printer to print them out onto the sublimation transfer paper. The design pattern is then transferred from sublimation paper to the fabric using a heat press by applying pressure. Finally, gently remove the transfer paper from the fabric (or whatever object you are using).

Sublimation printing can combine the ink and fabric perfectly, compared with other printing processes, it will not affect the beauty of the fabric due to the wear and tear of the printed pattern.


What Materials Can You Sublimation?

Rigid Substrates – Polymer-treated objects that include non-fabric items like glass, plastic, fiberglass, and aluminum.

Blank Rigid Products – Like mouse pads, phone cases, and mugs that do not have any design or printing can be purchased in bulk at wholesale prices and are perfect for personalized products.

Home Furnishing – Like pillows, blankets and curtains are a popular choice.

Signage – Flags, backlit signs, backdrops, rigid signs, table covers, tents—all these are popular sublimation applications within the sign industry.

Photograph Printing – Arguably the best way to produce the highest-quality photographic images on canvas and apparel.

Fabrics – One of the most popular items for sublimation printing. They are divided into three types:

Sportswear: ​Sublimation printing is used considerably for the production of t-shirts for all sports. The fabrics used are one-way and two-way stretch in a variety of weights and weaves.

Knit: Polyester products that hang & flow in their natural environment, like apparel, flags, banners, and custom-printed table covers.

Woven: More durable products such as custom tote bags, fabric backdrops, and custom tents.


What Do You Need?

In order to make this form of printing possible, there are five essential tools needed.

1. Sublimation printer

First of all,  the most important item would be a sublimation printer. Popular sublimation printer brands include Mimaki, Epson, MS, and Roland.

2. Sublimation Transfer Paper

With the sublimation printer, any spectrum color can be created and transferred onto printing paper suitable for the machine. This type of paper is referred to as sublimation paper or transfer paper. One can print a personal work of art, a customized logo, a family picture, or any design desired for use onto the paper as they do with office paper.


3. Computer & RIP Software

For sublimation printing, RIP software is an integral part, you will require specialized RIP software to handle your CMYK colors.  This is because software affects the color performance, the printing characteristics of the ink, and the final print performance. It must be stressed that the software must be compatible with the type of printer used.

4. Sublimation Cutting Machine

Sublimation Printing In Roll First, Then Sublimation Laser Cutting. The use of cutting equipment can effectively improve production efficiency.

5. Heat Press

Another necessity is the heat press, which is a necessary step in the sublimation printing process and is a machine that uses heat to apply designs to various substrates.

The function of the heat press is to transfer the design from the sublimation paper to the requested material, such as mugs, sportswear, and pillows.

Like sublimation printers, heat press are available in a variety of sizes, models, and prices to meet different needs.


6. Sublimation Ink

Sublimation ink differs from regular ink, regular ink isn’t made to be compatible with sublimation paper. Sublimation transfer ink ( dye sublimation ink), is made up of sublimation disperse dye and a carrier.  The carrier includes water (or solvent, or oil), and some chemical addition ingredients.

The dispersed sublimation dye has hydrophobic and polar groups, so it has an excellent affinity for synthetic fibers, and plastics, the color is very vivid.

What’s more, it can spread to the internal fiber and plastic, so when they are transferred to the substrates, the color fastness is very good. Also, the chromatography is complete, vivid color, color fastness, and washing fastness reach more than 4-5.


What Are the Advantages of Sublimation Printing?

Simple and fast to produce,  sublimation printing allows on-demand printing, reducing risk and waste.

The sublimation printing process uses 10x less energy consumption than regular dyed fabric and allows for greater customization with infinite possibilities for design.

The garments are printed with sublimation printing, the printed pattern will not crack or wear out after long-term use, the life of the pattern is as long as the life of the garment, and there is also the advantage of a good print feel and vivid colors.

This feature is important for items that are in constant use over time. Everyday items like mouse pads, mugs, and promotional banners are perfect for heat sublimation printing.

This is especially true of clothing and household items, as they can be washed regularly without fear of distortion in appearance.

Sublimation printing can do much more than just the apparel industry. There are many things that can be done in the personalization industry, such as custom phone cases, personalized keychains, creative puzzles, etc.


What Are the Disadvantages of Sublimation Printing?

Material limitation- Sublimation printing is a very effective printing process that creates the perfect effect, but there are limitations to what material it can be used with. The best fabric for sublimation is 100% polyester. Other blended materials will do but aim for a minimum of 50% polyester. Apart from polyester, other good options include nylon spandex and lycra. If you want to print on items that aren’t made from fabric, they must be poly-coated for the process to be most efficient.

Limited to light-colored – Sublimation printing does not work with natural fibers like cotton or paper unless the materials have been treated with a polymer coating beforehand. Furthermore, because sublimation printing is more like high-precision dyeing than imprinting, it works best on white or light-colored materials.

Why Choose Sublimation Printing?

The options of what can be printed on are much wider than with other more affordable printing methods, leaving more room for design.

Whether you are planning to use sublimation printing for your own designs or are looking for high-quality printed products, this article should help you find the information you need.

Maybe you are also interested in this article: What is Sublimation Paper & Why it’s Important?

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1. What is Sublimation Printing? – The Ultimate Guide (2020)


2. Understanding how sublimation printing works


3. How Dye-Sublimation Printing Fits in the Sign Industry


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