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The Complete Guide to Sublimation Printing
If you are just starting your Sublimation Journey, you have come to the right place. The Complete Guide to Sublimation Printing is just the beginning of the sublimation journey. We will discuss the dye sublimation printing process, rip software to use, different brands of dye-sub ink (sublimation ink), and sublimation transfers. But we aren’t stopping there. We will also discuss sublimation printers, special papers including sublimation paper and blow-out paper, heat presses, and traditional printing to help you make the right choice for your business.
What is a Sublimation Printer?
A Sublimation Printer is a machine that uses heat to merge the ink and fabric together, so it combines the materials to make one. Thus allowing the ink to become part of the fabric instead of adding another layer on top, EX. Vinyl or Heat Transfer Paper.
To be a sublimation printer, it needs to use digital printing to put sublimation ink onto sublimation paper, which is usually called sublimation printing.
The magic of sublimation occurs by using a chemical process with a combination of things such as special inks, special paper, designs, and a “blank” or substrate, then applying high temperatures to make it adhere to the blank.
Last update on 2023-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How does Sublimation Printing Work?
Sublimation Ink– (DYE) is the material used to color materials and fiber infused into the substrate. It is a permanent process and will last forever if done correctly. Sublimation ink starts in a liquid state, which is printed onto Sublimation Paper. When heat and pressure are added, the solid dye changes into a gas (gaseous state), which then permanently adheres to your polyester fabrics. Finally, the ink’s final form is turned into a solid ink form using the chemical process and high heat.
The Sublimation Ink starts in the liquid stage, solid state on the sublimation paper, and gaseous state when the heat is applying the design to the blank. The final state is a solid state or solid form because it attaches to the blank.
Sublimation Printing uses the CMYK Color Model, based on the primary colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. ‘
CMYK Color Model uses four cartridges in most sublimation printers which are cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). It works great for sublimation because the ink is transparent and reflects from your finished product.
The CMYK is often known as a digital color printing process and can produce over 16,000 color combinations.
Therefore, it will not wash out if applied correctly. However, the ink will wash out over time if you sublimate on cotton. Learn more in A Beginners Guide to Sublimation, the book I have published on Sublimation Printing.
Want to learn about the Sublimation Printing Process?
Looking for the Best Sublimation Printer?
We have the solution for you if you are looking for a new sublimation printer.
We discuss different printers and various printing methods in depth. Any of the below printers will allow you to take a printed image and apply it to a substrate/blank for a great finished product.
Epson eco tank printer(s)
special sublimation printers
dye sublimation printers
Look no further because we have you covered in our post: Surprising answers to Sublimation Ink and Sublimation Printer Use Questions.
Dye-sublimation printing requires practice, patience, and products to help you master the dye sublimation process.
There are various materials (substrates/blanks) that you can sublimate on, which are called sublimation blanks. Some examples of sublimation blanks include coffee mugs, phone cases, mouse pads, polyester shirts, photo panels, and home décor items. You must ensure they have a polyester coating on them because it is a sign they are “sublimation” ready products.
T-Shirt Sublimation Blanks
White Color T-shirts are the absolute best to use for the dye sublimation process because you will be left with a vibrant print without an additional layer to your shirt. You can also use specific colors for T-shirts, but the lighter the material, the better the results will be. Remember all polyester materials need to be more polyester than cotton, at least 65% polyester/cotton ratio, and the lighter the color, the more vibrant your results will be.
Sublimation Printing allows you to print in full color using sublimation dyes (ink) which are generally housed in special ink cartridges or an Eco-Tank system. Sublimation Printing is a cost-effective way to produce printed designs. Those printed designs are then applied to a substrate using a heat press or a variety of heat presses depending on the substrate.
Examples of presses include the Hat press, tumbler press, mug press, and the standard flat Heat Press.
Can I sublimate on a cotton shirt?
No, you can NOT do sublimation on cotton shirts, but you can use heat transfer paper. It will leave an additional layer on the top of your shirt, though. Also, remember that some t-shirts run small, so you might have to size up.
Heat Transfer Paper
Heat transfer papers work with inkjet printing or laser printers and are NOT compatible with Sublimation Printing. Therefore, your Inkjet printer is best used for regular printing of paperwork, mailing labels, and things of that nature.
Is Screen printing the same as sublimation?
The main difference between screen printing and sublimation is how ink is applied to the shirt. Screen printing uses ink pressed through a stencil onto the shirt. In comparison, Sublimation Printing uses a chemical process to adhere to the shirt’s fibers.
Which, as described here, makes them different printing methods. Sublimation Printing, when done correctly, will last a long time, and some might even say the product’s lifetime. So depending on your needs, screen printing might be better, or sublimation printing might be better. It depends on what process you want to use. With both Sublimation Printing and Screen printing, you have to have a heat source.
Screen Printing VS Sublimation Printing
Screen Printing is more for mass production of the same items. Especially if you are going to be doing garment customizations in mass quantities. Screen printing soaks into the fabric and lasts longer than heat-transfer designs, but not as long as sublimation printing.
Screen printing and sublimation use different methods to create high-quality prints. However, as discussed above, Screen printing uses stencils, thick inks, and a heat source, which is time intensive.
Sublimation, on the other hand, uses a printing process that is also a chemical process. The chemical process causes the ink to bond with fibers of the fabric and takes less time than screen printing.
Both use graphic design software.
Pros and Cons of Screen Printing
Cracks and Peels after several washes
High quality with raised designs
Very consistent, easy to make mass quantities
Cost-effective for mass quantities, but the cost varies based on the size and complexity of the design.
Works better with a few colors
Requires a lot of setup time
The same designs are easy to make in large quantities
100% Cotton Shirts only
Special effects-Glitter inks 3 D effects
One or two color designs on contrasting shirt colors
Pros and Cons of Sublimation Printing
Sublimation lasts longer than screen-printed designs and is durable. But you must use a high polyester fabric, which some people find limiting.
It lasts as long as the fabric
High quality with vivid colors and more details
More complex designs
Consistent but requires a new sublimation print each time
Equipment is pricey at first, but lower order costs. Cost-effective for custom orders
Easy to make with multiple colors
A little setup time
Large quantities and smaller quantities are quickly done
100% Polyester shirt, or a minimum of 65% polyester for best results
Special effects-Siser Glitter
Detailed multi-colored designs on white or light-colored shirts
Use images that are high in quality. Ex. PNG is the best quality image, and image quality affects the finished product. Also, be sure you have the business use or commercial use license for the design because some only allow personal use.
Take the guess work out of your sublimation projects!
Check out ALL of our Sublimation Resources NOW!
Small business owners can quickly take advantage of Sublimation Printing to expand their business. Check out our handy Sublimation Business Plan PDF to help you plan your own business.
Sublimation uses printing technology resulting in high-definition prints on special paper that are pressed onto your blanks with a heat press. It is the best printing option, especially when a white background is involved. This makes an affordable price tag to get into as a business and sell your finished sublimation products at an affordable price.
Sublimation prints are simply the printed version of your design. I will soon have a post on preparing files for sublimation printing which will break down the sublimation printing process step by step for you.
How do you get sublimation prints?
You can order sublimation prints on this website by sending me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, or I will eventually have some listed for sale.
Sublimation prints will come print ready for you to press on t-shirts, bags, mugs, tumblers, blankets, and other sublimation blanks.
How to store sublimation prints
Sublimation prints are easy to store, with thousands of different images to make. A sublimation print is a piece of paper with sublimation ink on it that allows you to transfer a design to metal, fabric, or other substrates.
Sublimation Paper, in general, is fragile when it comes to moisture. So it is best to keep it in a cool, dry place and in its original packaging.
You can also do that if you want to print and store them out. Keep the print in a cool, dry place and away from humidity. It will last until you press it.
Be sure you store it flat in both cases. I place mine in a ziploc bag for added protection, especially in the summer. Alternatively, a three-ring binder and plastic sleeves are a great way to help preserve your printed image.
Sublimation Color Chart
If you are looking for a Sublimation Color Chart that is printable, you can download it today. This is a great way to set up your ICC profiles for sublimation and double check your prints and finished presses. My results from the above download shows you just how vibrant my colors are.
I went to my local craft store and bought two yards of 100% polyester fabric, that I always use for a new project. Each time I make something, I press it into the fabric to make sure it is a quality print. It takes a really long time to fill up the entire 2 yards, but I use them to cover printers and other things in my croffice. (Craft room and office makes Croffice. Then, when I’m done with the heat press for the day, I cover it up with the polyester fabric.
Must Have Sublimation Resources
Here are some helpful must-have resources to help you on your sublimation journey. All of the items below I’ve made to help you on your Sublimation journey.
Sublimation 101 Guide Book
Can you use sublimation ink in any Printer?
No, you can’t use sublimation ink in any printer. Inkjet printers that use thermal printing heads cannot be used. We have a extensive resources on printers on our site for you.
How can I test my Sublimation Ink Colors?
Use a piece of polyester fabric or polyester material to test your ink colors. It’s a cheap way to practice with different sublimation prints.
Icc Color Profiles
Need help with ICC Color Profiles? Print out these charts.
Can you use old Sublimation Ink?
Yes, you can. Should you use old ink?