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What is Sublimation?

by Sublimation House on June 06, 2022


Imagine transforming your vision into reality on clothing, bags, towels, blankets, and more. All of that is possible with sublimation printing. There is no limit to the imagination when it comes to what designs can be created and printed using the sublimation process.


What is Sublimation?

But what is sublimation? Sublimation printing, otherwise known as dye sublimation printing, is a printing technique. It involves applying a heat press to a sheet of transfer paper that has been printed with special solidified inks. Once heated, these solidified inks become vaporized into a gas. 

The word sublimation refers to a chemical process in which a solid turns into a gas immediately without passing through the liquid stage. And when it comes to sublimation printing, the critical factor is the dye itself, as it is the dye that changes its state.

First, your design is printed onto a specialized transfer paper, and the design is printed as a mirror image using specialist sublimation inks. These are water-based inks with less environmental impact than harsher chemical inks. And they are 100% safe, as sublimation ink is designed to go directly onto the garment, which goes directly on the skin. 

After the design has been printed, the transfer paper is lined up with the fabric, and a combination of heat and pressure is applied. This combination causes the inks to transition from their current solid state into a gaseous state.

The inks then penetrate the material fibers and permanently bond to the material. The end result is a high-definition vibrant print with an extremely intricate level of detail.

What is a Sublimation Printer?

While it is possible to convert a regular printer to one that can do sublimation printing, specially designed sublimation printers are available. At Sublimation House, we use Epson Sublimation printers. Epson printers are some of the best sublimation printers in the industry, producing high-quality designs ready to be transferred to any and all blanks. 

Especially when working with fabric, the best transfer paper to use will be ‘tacky paper.’ The printer lays down the special sublimation dye onto this paper during the sublimation printing process. Tacky paper works best because it sticks to the fabric. It keeps the design connected to the fabric cuts as they come out of the heat press and reduces the chances of the design ‘ghosting’ or moving when the heat press opens and leaving a permanent imprint on the fabric where you won’t want it to be.

What Materials do you use for Sublimation printing?

Fabric isn’t the only material that can be used for sublimation printing. There is so much versatility with sublimation printing. As long as you have “blanks’, or materials that will work with the sublimation process. T-shirts, workwear, and hoodies, for example, can be printed with logos or full art designs; towels, pillows, and lanyards can be customized as gifts or for guests; also signs, mugs, cell phone covers or even snowboards can be personalized.

There are almost no limits to what you can use to print a design on, as long as the material is made of or coated with polyester, of course. You cannot do sublimation on 100% cotton when it comes to fabric. Instead, polyester materials, whether as fabric or something more rigid, are the best and only option for sublimation. That’s not to say that you can’t print on cotton shirts. You can, but it won’t be the same process as sublimation, nor will it have the same results—similar results, but not the same quality. 

Why is sublimation the best way to print graphics on textiles?

We wouldn’t be lying if we said that sublimation was the best way to print graphics on textiles.

There are so many benefits to sublimation printing:

  • Because the designs are created digitally, you will have access to unlimited colors at no added cost. And not only do you get to choose from an insane variety of colors, but sublimation produces such vibrant colors, perfect for any design, especially for photographic images. It doesn’t matter how big or small the order is; every piece created will have the same colors as the design, without the heavy price tag.
  • You are not limited to a single space on your garment or blank for the placement of your design. The sublimation print process has the ability to create complex all-over sublimation designs or prints on the front and back of your blanks. That means that there will only be white space where YOU want it to be, not because it has to be there.
  • Sublimation prints are extremely durable. Thanks to the printing process, the dyes yield beautiful and permanent colors that are embedded into the blank or fabric rather than just printed on the surface. There is no cracking, peeling, or fading in a sublimated print, meaning the design will last as long as the garment or blank. And unlike other printing techniques, you can’t feel the print on the fabric, giving the fabric a soft feel.

Are Sublimated Textiles Good for Advertising?

Ask one of our collaborators! Sublimated textiles are one of the best ways to do some “off the clock” advertising. By giving out free products to your customers or guests, you will gain back a decent ROI (return of investment). 

Take T-shirts, for example. According to the Ad Speciality Institute, the average giveaway t-shirt gets worn 4.32 times per month and earns 365 impressions per month, with an impression being any time the shirt is viewed or seen. 

Assuming that your t-shirt is kept for even just one year, that’s 4380 impressions per t-shirt. That’s not a bad deal. And because T-shirts and other products will often be used more frequently and for a longer time frame than a normal radio or print ad campaign, you will continue to gain a decent ROI.

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