Sublimation Printing: The Ultimate Guide

Sublimation printing is becoming very popular with product makers because it offers long-lasting colors with high-resolution quality. The highest quality graphic clothing items, home decor items, and advertising signage all use sublimation printing to provide a superior result. We will discuss everything you need to know about the process of sublimation printing as well as its pros and cons. 

Related: The Basics of Making a Custom Shirt Using Vinyl

What Is Sublimination Printing And How Does It Work? 

Sublimation printing is a clunky, complicated-sounding term, but it is actually a simple process. Sublimation is when a solid turns directly into a gas, forgoing the liquid state. All that means is that graphic artwork can be transferred to a surface in gas form by using high temperatures from a heat press. Sublimation skips transferring liquid inks or dyes drying on the printed product, making a less messy and higher quality print. 

Images are loaded onto the paper that will be used for printing by infusing them with little mess. The heat from the press will transfer the imagery to the product in high resolution. Businesses large and small use this process to form imagery, logos, branding, and anything else onto clothing, home decoration, signs, or promotional items like mugs or lanyards. 

What Do You Need For Sublimination Printing?

You will need a few items to start your sublimation printing process. Here are the essential tools to get started:

1) A Sublimination Printer

You can’t get started sublimation printing without one of these ink printers. There are many models available that cater to both personal and business users no matter what volume you are planning to produce. Sublimation machines used to be very expensive, but over time the technology became more affordable. The supply of sublimation printers has exploded to meet the demand of companies and individuals looking to print high-quality graphics. Some of the more popular printers include models from companies such as Mutoh, Mimaki, and Durst.

Sublimation printer

2) Sublimation Paper

You will need a specific type of paper to start printing. With sublimation paper, any color can be transferred to the surface that is uniquely suited to the sublimation machine. The paper may also be referred to as transfer paper. Any image can be printed on these sheets of sublimation paper, such as pictures, logos, graphics, and anything you can think of!

3) Computer Software

You may need some basic software to begin sublimation printing. Some sublimation printers will require special software that is called RIP (raster image processing). Not every printer will require this, but RIP software can be bought separately. The software must be compatible with your printer so double-check online to see which software your printer will take.

4) Cutting Device

You will need some sort of cutting mechanism to cut your material. Depending on the application, this can be as simple as a knife, or more in-depth like a rotary blade.

5) Heat Press

Another necessary item for printing is the heat press for completing the sublimation process. Just like your option in printers, heat presses come in various styles depending on your use. The heat press is responsible for transferring the image from the sublimation paper to your desired object. A heat press should leave a vivid and durable image on any piece of clothing or material. 

Want the best vinyl, apparel, and supplies for your printing business? Look no further than Advance Vinyl. Take a look at our sublimation supplies here. 

Pros of Sublimination 

The best-looking printed graphics will have to be sublimated. This is simply the best way to provide high-quality imagery on products.

Sublimation is the best choice for durability and your visuals should last a long time to come. Sublimation printing is best for any material -- not just fabrics. Ceramic mugs, metal, cardboard, and many more materials can be used for this. Sublimation provides countless opportunities for creative printing where other methods can’t compete. 

Cons of Sublimination 

The only con to sublimation is the sometimes hefty price tag. Sublimation printers alone for personal use can cost anywhere from $300 to $600 and up. Larger printers meant for commercial use can range anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. However, the prices for these printers have lowered dramatically over the past few years as more companies have begun providing for the growing market. 

Related: Stylish Acid Applied Apparrel You Can Add Your Graphics To

Screen printing a t-shirt 

Sublimation vs Heat Transfer 

How does sublimation stack up against heat transfer methods

  • Print Runs - These methods are both comparable for smaller volumes of work. However, for very small uses such as making one shirt every month, heat transfer may be better.
  • Colors - Sublimation allows for better coloration as you can choose the mix of colors very specifically via software. Heat transfers use an inkjet or laser printer, so they do not allow the same quality of palette.
  • Details - Sublimation printers will offer much higher resolution and better quality imagery.
  • Durability - Sublimation imagery becomes more ingrained with the material instead of layering on with heat transfers. This means they will have much more longevity. 

Sublimation vs Direct to Garment (DTG)

  • Print runs - These are comparable as they are both good for smaller runs. However, DTG processes limit you to printing in an area of around 12” to 16.”
  • Colors - More advanced details in imagery such as glowing, fades, metallic colors, and gradients can’t be done well with a DTG process.
  • Details - Much of your detail may be lost as the ink spreads with DTG methods.
  • Durability - DTG layers the image directly on top of the garment surface meaning the design will be prone to cracking or peeling after a certain amount of time and use. 

Looking for the best supplies to get your printing operation running? Take a look at all of our supplies you will need to get started!

Sublimation printing is the best way to transfer images to clothing, dishware, keyrings, or any other items. Now you should know everything about sublimation printing to see if it is right for your hobby or business!

Related: Best Sublimination Paper

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