A Guide to Sublimation Printing
- What exactly is sublimation printing?
- How does sublimation printing work?
- Why does sublimation printing last longer than standard prints?
- What are the best uses for sublimation printing?
- What uses should be avoided for sublimation printing?
- The pros and cons of sublimation printing
- What are the challenges of sublimation printing?
If you’re looking to find out more about the pros and cons of sublimation printing, this guide is designed to answer all your questions.
We explain what sublimation printing is and outline exactly how it works.
What exactly is sublimation printing?
Sublimation printing is a popular way of printing high-quality images on a range of fabrics and items.
It delivers an image print that is as clear as the source file, with little to no resolution loss. Items that are printed in this way can sustain their quality for many years.
It is also referred to as dye sublimation printing.
The results of the sublimation printing process results in a full-color, near-permanent image that will not peel, crack, or wash away.
In a situation where a design is defined by its intricate details, this provides a highly effective, quick digital print method.
It is also referred to as ‘all over printing’, because it has the ability to print a design that literally goes from seam to seam.
What is sublimation?
The definition of sublimation is a chemical process where a solid is transformed into gas, without having to go through any liquidation phase.
How does sublimation printing work?
The process will involve using a digital printer to replicate images onto sublimation transfer paper using sublimation ink.
Once the design has been printed onto this special paper, it is then placed into a heat press with the materials.
Next, it is exposed to extreme temperatures, usually between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is at this point the transfer material and ink transform from their solid-state into gas. Once they are in this state, they will then permeate the fibers of the material.
The heat will then be removed from the substrate and transfer paper, with the ink that has permeated the fibers being solidified and permanently locked into place.
The heat releases the gas from the sublimation ink and opens the pores of the materials that the image is being transferred into.
Once both the heat and the pressure have been released, the ink reverts back to its solid-state and the pores of the fabric close, leaving the ink trapped inside.
In a nutshell, the heat is used to bring the fabric and the ink together as one.
Why does sublimation printing last longer than standard prints?
Sublimation printing delivers an effect that is permanent, and far less likely to fade when compared to other printing methods. With normal prints, the ink is simply layered on top of the fabric, but with sublimation printing, is it infused into the fabric.
What are the best uses for sublimation printing?
The specific method of printing is ideally suited for products in lighter colors or white, such as polyester apparel, or on harder surfaces that have a poly-coating, such as mousepads, coasters, cups, and more.
What uses should be avoided for sublimation printing?
There are a number of designs that don’t work too well with sublimation printing. A typical example of such a design can be found with block colors. For designs that require slogans, direct to garment printing is a more suitable option. If you require only a single logo, then there could be a more cost-effective printing solution available.
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The pros and cons of sublimation printing
What are the benefits of sublimation printing?
- Image Quality
Perhaps the most advantageous of all benefits is the quality of the image that can be achieved by this method. With no loss of resolution, it is one of the only methods that is as clear as the source file itself.
This is a real strength of the process and one which makes it a great investment. Sublimation printing results in a print that won’t peel, fade, or crack.
- Freedom of Design
Another huge upside of sublimation printing is the freedom of choice you have with your design. It can be used for seam-to-seam designs, smaller batch orders, along with orders that have many different design variations.
What are the challenges of sublimation printing?
Typically, a garment will need to include polyester, being either a polyester blend or 100% polyester.
While it is possible to do this on other materials, like cotton for instance, this is not recommended.
Aside from this, it can only be used on white or very light materials.
Order Quantity Vs. Cost Effectiveness
Because of the process of sublimation printing, orders that require a larger run are not always as cost effective when compared to other printing methods. If you need to get a large number of items ordered, and you’re considering sublimation printing, it’s always a good idea to speak with your local sublimation printing company to ask their guidance and obtain prices.
Sublimation printing is a superb way to get high-quality images printed seam-to-seam on fabric in a way that delivers almost no loss in resolution.
The end-result is crack, peel, and fade-free.
Although there are certain limitations to the color and type of fabric that can be used, it delivers longevity and incredible freedom of design choice.
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