Sublimation printing has become increasingly popular as a versatile and durable printing method used to create high-quality prints on various materials such as polyester, ceramics, and metal.
While sublimation printing can be challenging, it is possible to achieve great results by following tried and tested methods.
In this blog post, we will discuss sublimation printing, the material required, and tips for making sublimated prints.
Sublimated prints, also known as dye-sublimation prints, are a type of printing process that uses heat to transfer dye onto a material, such as fabric or metal.
Here is the list of the best types of fabrics you must know and their specific use in making a variety of projects.
The sublimation process involves printing an image onto special transfer paper using specialized inks that turn into a gas when exposed to heat.
In sublimation printing, the material to be printed on, such as polyester or other synthetic fabrics, is first coated with a special sublimation coating.
The ink is then printed onto transfer paper and placed on top of the coated material by applying heat and pressure.
This will cause the ink to vaporize and penetrate the fibers of the material, resulting in a permanent, high-quality print.
Sublimated printing is often used to create full-color designs, photographs, and patterns on various items such as:
- Sports jerseys
- Signage etc
Sublimated prints offer excellent durability and longevity, as the ink becomes a part of the substrate’s fibers, rather than just sitting on top.
Additionally, sublimated prints offer a high level of detail and color vibrancy, making them a popular choice for custom apparel and promotional items.
Sublimation Vs Heat Transfer
Sublimation is a printing method where heat and pressure are used to transfer dye onto a material, such as fabric and this process is often used to create all-over designs on polyester or other synthetic fabrics.
With sublimation, the ink becomes a part of the fabric, resulting in a vibrant, durable print. On the other hand, heat transfer is a method of applying a design onto a material using heat and pressure.
In embroidery, heat transfer is often used to apply pre-made designs onto fabrics using a heat press. The design is typically printed onto a transfer paper, which is then placed onto the fabric and heated to transfer the design.
If you’re considering starting your own home-based heat transfer business, consider the following justifications.
Note: While both involve the use of heat and pressure to transfer a design onto a fabric, the processes produce different results.
Sublimation produces a design that becomes a part of the fabric, while heat transfer produces a design that sits on top of the fabric.
Review this article for a thorough comparison of the heat transfer method and sublimation printing to help you make the best decision.
Material Required For Making Sublimated Prints
The material needed for making sublimated prints include:
A sublimation printer is a special type of inkjet printer that uses sublimation ink to transfer images onto a substrate so here are some examples of sublimation printers including:
- Sawgrass Virtuoso etc.
If you also wish to employ the screen printing method, here are the best automatic screen printing machines, together with their features and specifications.
Sublimation ink is a special type of ink that turns into a gas when heated, allowing it to bond with polyester and other synthetic materials.
Sublimation ink is typically sold in cartridges that are compatible with sublimation printers.
Sublimation transfer paper is a special type of paper that is used to transfer the sublimation ink from the printer to the material.
It has a special coating that allows it to absorb the sublimation ink and release it when heated for making sublimated prints.
A heat press is used to transfer the sublimated image onto the substrate. It applies heat and pressure to the transfer paper, causing the sublimation ink to transfer onto the substrate.
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These are the products that are printed on, such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and other items made of polyester or other synthetic materials.
You’ll need software to create and edit the design you want to print. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are popular options.
Heat-resistant tape is used to hold the transfer paper in place on the substrate during the transfer process. It should be able to withstand the high temperature of the heat press without melting or leaving residue.
Teflon sheet/ Paper
This is a non-stick sheet that is placed over the sublimation paper and substrate during the heat transfer process.
It protects the heat press from any excess ink and prevents the substrate from sticking to the heat press.
Tried And Tested Tips For Making Sublimated Prints
Assuming you are referring to making high-quality prints of your artwork or photographs for submission to exhibitions or other events, here are some tips:
1- Use high-quality Paper
The quality of the paper you use to make sublimated prints will directly impact the quality of the print.
Choose a paper that is appropriate for the type of image you are printing and make sure it is compatible with your printer.
2- Check Your Ink Cartridges
Make sure your printer ink cartridges are properly installed and have enough ink. If the ink levels are low, replace them before printing to ensure the best-sublimated prints.
3- Choose The Right Material
Not all materials are suitable for making sublimated prints. You need to choose materials that have a polymer coating or are made of polyester fibers.
This is because the dye sublimation process requires the material to be able to absorb the dye in a gaseous state, and polyester is the most receptive to this process.
Some materials like cotton can’t be used for sublimation printing methods as they don’t have a polymer coating, and the ink won’t adhere well.
4- Adjust Your Printer Settings
Experiment with your printer settings to find the best combination for your specific printer. This includes adjusting the color, brightness, and contrast settings.
5- Use A Color Profile
A color profile is a set of instructions that tells your printer how to produce the correct colors for your print. Make sure you use a color profile that is appropriate for your printer and the paper you are using.
6- Allow Your Prints To Dry
After printing, allow your sublimated prints to dry completely before handling them. This will prevent smudging and ensure the best results.
7- Calibrate Your Monitor
If you are editing your images on a computer, make sure your monitor is properly calibrated. This will ensure that the colors you see on your screen are accurate and shall translate well to the printed image.
8- Take Care When Pressing
When pressing your sublimated prints, take care to ensure that the pressure is even and that the material is flat.
Uneven pressure or wrinkled materials can result in faded or blurry prints so be careful not to overheat your material, as this can cause it to burn or melt.
9- Check For Errors
Before submitting your sublimated prints, carefully check them for any errors or imperfections. This includes checking for smudges, streaks, or color inconsistencies.
Benefits Of Making Sublimated Prints
We’ll discuss some of the benefits of making sublimated prints:
Sublimation printing produces high-quality prints with vibrant colors and sharp images. The colors are long-lasting and won’t fade, crack, or peel over time.
This is because the dye is infused into the material, rather than just sitting on top of it. The result is a print that looks and feels like part of the fabric itself.
Sublimated prints can be used on a wide variety of materials, including fabrics, ceramics, and even metals. This makes it a versatile printing process that can be used for a variety of different applications.
For example, Sublimation printing can be used to create custom t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and more.
Sublimated prints are highly durable and can withstand regular wear and tear. They are also resistant to fading, peeling, and cracking.
This makes them ideal for printing on items that will be used frequently, such as t-shirts or phone cases.
Sublimation printing is an eco-friendly printing process that produces very little waste. Unlike other printing processes, there is no excess ink or toner to dispose of.
Additionally, the dyes used for making sublimated prints are water-based, which means they are non-toxic and safe for the environment.
I’ve listed the top 5 printing methods in this post, together with their benefits and drawbacks, to help you choose the best one.
Limitations Of Sublimated Prints
There are some drawbacks of sublimation printing that you should be aware of:
Limited Fabric Options: Sublimation printing can only be done on certain types of fabrics, such as polyester, nylon, and spandex.
It is not suitable for natural fabrics like cotton or silk. This limits the range of fabrics that can be used for sublimation printing.
High Production Cost: Sublimation requires specialized equipment and materials, which can be expensive and this makes it a more costly option compared to other printing techniques.
Color Limitations: Sublimation printing can produce vivid and bright colors, but it has some limitations when it comes to producing darker shades or black.
The black color in sublimation printing tends to appear more like a very dark grey.
Limited Print Size: Sublimation printing is unsuitable for large-scale printing as the printers used for this technique have a limited print size.
This means that large designs may need to be divided into smaller sections and printed separately, which can be time-consuming.
Limited Design Options: Sublimation printing is best suited for designs with a white background, as the color of the fabric will affect the final print color.
This limits the design options for sublimation printing, as it is difficult to print light colors on dark backgrounds.
Not Ideal for Detailed Designs: Sublimation printing is not the best option for designs that require a high level of detail or precision.
This is because the dye tends to spread during the printing process, which can result in a loss of detail.
With advances in technology and the availability of affordable sublimation equipment, this printing method is becoming more accessible and popular than ever before.
Whether for creating custom apparel, promotional products, or personalized gifts, sublimated prints offer a level of detail and color accuracy that traditional printing methods simply cannot match.
Additionally, the durability and resistance to fading make sublimated prints a cost-effective and long-lasting solution for businesses and individuals alike.
Overall, sublimated prints are an excellent choice for anyone looking to create high-quality, customized products with stunning visuals that will stand the test of time.
Sublimation printing is a method of printing that involves transferring dye onto a substrate using heat. The dye is sublimated, meaning it goes from a solid to a gas without becoming a liquid, and then bonds with the substrate, typically a polyester or polymer-coated material.
Sublimation printing works best on polyester or polymer-coated materials, such as fabrics, mugs, phone cases, and other items with a special coating designed to accept sublimation ink.
The process of sublimation printing involves printing a design onto transfer paper using a sublimation printer and sublimation ink, then transferring the design onto the substrate using heat and pressure in a heat press or similar machine.
Sublimation prints are long-lasting and durable, but they require special care to maintain their quality. They should be washed in cold water with mild detergent and hung to dry. They should not be ironed or dry-cleaned.
No, sublimation printing is incompatible with cotton or other natural fibers, as the process requires materials that can bond with the sublimation ink at a molecular level.