What is Sublimation Printing? Everything You Need To Know About it

You may have seen the high graphical advertising displays and quality resolution prints on the billboards. But you wonder how they are made and why their colors do not disappear. Also, the print on your shirt looks attractive you wanted to know how it’s designed. So, the short answer to your queries is, that most of the designs you see are made with sublimation printing. 

What is sublimation printing? Sublimation printing is a way to print and design multiple products, including clothes, mugs, and T-shirts, with the help of heat transfer. In sublimation printing, the artwork is transferred on the piece of a material you use for printing using pressure and heat. With this process, you can personalize your products sitting at home and sell them in the market. 

What is sublimation printing for beginners

In this blog post, I’ve covered informative data about sublimation printing which can help answer all the queries in your mind. So, if you are interested in finding the most relevant yet valuable data about print sublimation, then keep reading!

What is sublimation printing, and how does it work? 

Sublimation printing is a process to transfer the digital design that you made on a laptop or mobile phone to any solid material that can be used for printing. For example, you can use ceramic mugs, fabrics, and t-shirts for design. 

sublimation printing with sublimation printer, and heat press machine

Sublimation printing utilizes converting a solid directly into gas and imprints the design using a special kind of ink called Sublimation ink. Now, you might think, “how is it possible to sublimate a liquid?”. However, this is not ordinary ink; it is a special ink in which a mixture of colored solids and printer fluid is present.

The solids present in ink are readily sublimated and adhere to the polyester product quickly and firmly. The adherence to sublimates and polyester is so strong that their designs are washable and do not even crack or fade.

The process of sublimation

After making your design in the device, it’s time to bring that design out on special paper with the help of the sublimation printer. You will have to use sublimation paper to print the design on the fabric. Let’s take a look at the process step by step:

Step 1: Take Dye Sublimation Equipments

To start to make the print on your product, the first thing you need is, To have a dye-sublimation printer that allows you to put ink cartridges in the printer. The ink cartridges are a long-lasting solution for printing shirts and other materials. 

what is sublimation printing with a sublimation printer

Some Tips for Dye Sublimation Printing

What is sublimation printing for big printers

Then you need a sublimation heat press that can print designs on your fabrics. To start with the sublimation process, you must know about the difference in your material because the heat press is only applicable to clothes. For example, if you want to design a mug, you need a mug clamp and press. 

what iis sublimation printing with heat press machine

Step 2: Select your printing material 

Understanding your work requirements is essential for the printing business. There is variation in the material, so it is better to know the material types before starting your first sublimation project. Usually, the most common types of material which are used for sublimation printing are:

sublimation printing on polyester

  •  
    Polyester with aluminum coating
  •  
    Polyester fabric 
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    Polymer with plastic coating
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    PVC
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    Poly-Cotton, which is typically used for t-shirts 
  •  
    Ceramic 
  •  
    Polyester

The most common types of materials that are used for sublimation printing are polyester and ceramic. So if you are thinking of printing a t-shirt or any other fabric material, you can use them for design. 

Step 3: Use heat presses for sublimation 

Finally, the heat transfer will help you to print your product with the heat pressure. Heat presses are used to sublimate your design on the material. Place your product under the heat press, and the process of transferring heat will start. Heat transfer is the most accurate method to print your design on your t-shirt, mugs, and other printing material. Although they can be a bit expensive, they are worth it. 

What’s the difference between dye sublimation printing and digital printing?

Digital printing

Digital printing is an advanced method to print photos onto a panel according to your need. In digital printing, you have the edge to customize your photos according to your need. You can edit color accuracy, retouch faces, do color grading, and set the image that you like. Digital printing is a direct printing method where you connect the printer to your device, and you can get your print directly on the board without any third-item involvement. 

Dye-sublimation printing 

In dye-sublimation printing, you need a longer process than digital printing. In this process, you have to first print your design on a special sheet of transfer paper and then place the paper sheet on the pre-treated metal. Then place the metal in the sublimation printer, the printer then starts the process of heat transfer, and you get the final design of the material. 

What are the different types of sublimation printing

There are three major types of “Dye-sublimation printing” that include;

Basic Sublimation

This is the most basic type of sublimation in which a simple design is imprinted on polyester products. This can include shirts, jerseys, trousers, etc. Basic sublimation is the only sublimation that can be done on multiple fabrics at a time. The sublimation method was first developed by “Noël de Plasse” of France in 1957.

Essential sublimation can also be done at home. The equipment used for sublimation includes a sublimation printer, sublimation ink, heat press, and sublimation paper. To completely embed the design on the fabric permanently, heat the ink at about 400°F for 40 seconds. 

Essential sublimation is often used by people who are new to the field of sublimation printing. The best printers for essential sublimation are Epson ET-15000, Epson ET-2720, and Sawgrass SG-500. These are the best choices a person can have for beginning in the field of sublimation printing. These printers are surprisingly cheap and better in performance than other sublimation printers. As a result, a person can get these printers for under $800.

Spot Sublimation

The second primary type of sublimation printing is Spot sublimation. In this sublimation, a person can sublimate print on even the smaller parts of fabrics or any material as long as they are polymer-coated with the help of sublimation paper.

what is sublimation printing for spot sublimation

The maximum limit of size for this sublimation is 12 by 16 inches. The sublimation should be done at 384°F for 60 seconds for materials other than fabric. This is done to embed the design more permanently.

Ordinary sublimation printers like Sawgrass SG-1000, Sawgrass VJ-628, and HP Envy 6475 can be used for spot sublimation. These printers are as cheap as $1000. Moreover, they perform surprisingly well for such a low price.

Full Sublimation

This type of sublimation provides you with complete control over your polymer-coated materials and fabrics. Using this sublimation method, you can print the design anywhere you want. This is because the design is imprinted by the manufacture of fabric or material.

This type of sublimation is used by big industries that have their businesses based on sublimation printing. The most in-demand printers for sublimation are SUBLI 2608, SUBLI 3208Tx, and Epson F10070H. These printers give you exceptionally high quality and fast prints of at least 3.2m at a time. Unfortunately, the prices of these printers can even go up to $10,000.

Although, full sublimation is expensive. The worth and value of full sublimation are higher than the other types of sublimation prints. A study shows that the business of full sublimation makes about $245,948 annually. Indeed, starting such a business requires some investment, but it is as low as $500 exclusive of taxes.

Things you need to know before starting sublimation printing

Before stepping into sublimation printing, a person needs to know various things like diversity in products, specific inks, sublimation printers, and heat-press, and that sublimation printing can become affordable.

Understand your print requirements

The first thing is that you can embed designs on various types of polyester materials like decoration pieces, handbags, suits, clothes, and even mugs, etc. These are the things that people use most commonly for sublimation printing. Besides these, sports materials like jerseys and apparel can also be embedded with designs using this method. In addition, things like phone cases, computer gear, clipboards, etc., can also be imprinted with designs.

Special sublimation ink

The second big thing is that for sublimation printing, a specific kind of ink called sublimation ink is used for such purposes. These inks can include Konica, Spectra, and XAAR inks. These are the most common inks used for sublimation printing. These inks have solids mixed with printer fluid, which are then sublimated to embed the designs. This ink makes the designs washable and more durable.

Digitize your design

Another thing is the dye-sublimation printer which is only used for sublimation printing. These printers imprint digitalized designs on polyester products. Again, there are various manufacturers out there making these printers available. Those manufacturers include Epson, Mutoh, Mimaki, etc. Generally, these printers have a minimum lifetime of about 10 years.

Types of heat press

Besides all this equipment, a person needs to have an additional tool called a Heat press which strengthens the print. It has two major types: the Flatbed heat press used for hard polyester materials and the Calendar heat press used for softer polyester materials.

Time and heat required in sublimation 

Now, people wonder about the time and heat required for a perfect sublimation print. This depends upon the performance and ability of your sublimation printers. Overall, for soft polyester materials, the temperature can be 400°F for about 40 seconds. But for more complex polyester materials the temperature can lie between 350-450°F for about 60 seconds.

Dye-sublimation printing is affordable

Also, people may think that dye-sublimation printing may not be affordable for an ordinary civilian. That is a wrong perception. The business of sublimation printing can be started as an industry by investing as low as $10,000. It may be pretty high for some people, but its outcome is even more profitable than most other businesses.

Choose quality ink

Now, if I talk about the durability of the ink and the polyester product, it depends upon the ink used for imprinting. Although the ink makes the print more durable and washable, free of cracks and fades, some inks are not as good quality as others. So, it may vary from ink to ink.

Learn an image-designing tool 

A person must have digital art software like Corel DRAW, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, etc., installed on their computer to create the designs. The usage of any photo editing tool is very helpful in designing new and trendy prints which customer likes. Moreover, you can also use an online free tool like Canva, which allows you to edit built-in t-shirts, mugs, and many other templates. 

4 Ways to create clothing and ceramics through sublimation

The four easiest and most effective ways to create your clothing and ceramics through sublimation include;

Use of copy paper or a matte paper

The first way to make clothing and ceramics through sublimation is by using copy paper or matte paper instead of sublimation paper. For example, if a mug is to be sublimated, copy paper can be used to imprint designs.

Coating substrate with polymers

The second way is to coat the ceramic or clothing pieces with polymer to make sublimation possible. This helps to absorb sublimation ink more effectively.

Usage of heat-resistant tapes

The third way is used for ceramics where the heat-resistant tape is wrapped around the ceramics other than in places of design. This prevents damage to the design.

Larger image than the substrate

The fourth way is to print the image or design larger in size than the object’s size to be sublimated. Using this, a person can diminish the error and fix the print nicely on the object.

What material can be printed via sublimation?

The process of sublimation printing provides us with a vast range of materials that you can print on these materials include;

Apparel

Apparel is clothing accessories that include shirts, trousers, jumpers, etc. This material is easiest to print via sublimation because its majority composition is polyester.

Homeware

Homeware accessories like mugs, plates, cups, and other kitchen products can also be imprinted on with the help of sublimation printing. The additional step involved in their sublimation is applying a polymer coating on them. The other steps are the same.

Other accessories

Other routine accessories like mousepads, bags, canvases, etc., are also widely imprinted by using the process of sublimation printing. Again, Polymer-coating must be applied before the sublimation procedure.

These are the three major classes of materials that can be printed with the help of sublimation printing. 

How to do sublimation printing on t-shirts?

To make perfect sublimations on shirts, a person first needs to be well equipped with the tools required for sublimation printing on shirts. These tools include;

Sublimation printer

The fundamental tool required to start sublimation printing is a sublimation printer. This is a particular printer that prints digitalized designs onto polyester. Brands like HP, Epson, WorkForce, etc., provide an excellent variety of sublimation printers.

Sublimation Ink

The second thing required for sublimation printing is sublimation ink. This ink is a brew of solids and fluid, which is sublimated by the printer to embed the design on the shirt.

Sublimation Paper

Sublimation paper is also an essential part of the sublimation printing process. This type of paper is already coated with polymer layers, which help in the sublimation process.

Graphics designing software

To print the designs, a person first needs to create designs with graphics designing software, like Corel DRAW, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop. A person can create designs with this software at ease.

Heat press system

A heat press system is also essential for sublimation printing. To sublimate the ink, a heat press system is used. For example, the Calendar type heat press is used for smooth polyester products like shirts. This further strengthens the bond of ink with polyester.

Lint roller

Whenever shirts are purchased, there is an amount of dust covering the shirt. To wipe this dust off the shirt, a lint roller is used. This cleans the shirt in seconds.

Butcher paper

Butcher paper is used To protect a shirt from the heat of the heat press and prevent the design from printing on the other side of the shirt. This paper is put on either side of the shirt, and then it is passed through the heat press.

Procedure:

Now, when a person has completed their equipment, they will need to know the sublimation printing process to start their business. The process of sublimation printing is quite simple. At first, the digitalized design is printed on sublimation paper with the help of a sublimation printer. 

Secondly, the design on the sublimation paper is put on the shirt, and both sides of the shirt are covered with butcher paper to prevent design damage. After that, the shirt is passed through the heat press system. After applying the heat of 400F for about 60 seconds, the design embeds it on the shirt permanently. This is how sublimation print on shirts is obtained.

Frequently asked questions- FAQS:

Can any printer do sublimation?

A regular printer can not do sublimation printing so, only the printers that use micro piezo head technology to transfer images on any material are capable of doing sublimation printing.

How does sublimation printing work?

In sublimation printing, a design is printed onto sublimation paper using sublimation ink, and when we apply heat and pressure to transfer this image onto any surface the sublimation ink converts into a gas state and infuses ink dyes into the fiber of the material and makes a permanent beautiful sublimation design.

 

Final verdicts

 

 

In closing, sublimation printing has proven to be an effective and easy method for embedding various designs on polyester products. If I see it from the business perspective, it requires a handsome investment, but it also gives profits beyond expectations. In this modern era, people prefer art over simple designs. That’s why it is one of the most profit-generating businesses in the world.

On top of it, a person can learn new graphics designing skills while working with sublimation printing. Now, what are you waiting for? Start your sublimation printing business with an investment as low as $500. That’s quite low for such a profitable business.

 

 

 

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Author
Edward Smith is an expert in content creation and has years of experience working with more than 100 brands. He is passionate to write about all types of content and loves sharing his knowledge with others.Through his work on techrayss.com, Edward, hopes to help readers discover the best products and information for their sublimation-related business, and to provide expert guidance and advice to help them make informed purchasing decisions.

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