We’re asked a lot about sublimation printing: what is it? How does it work? What are it’s advantages? Is it right for me? Well, we’re going to try and answer some of these questions.
What is sublimation?
At school, we all learn of the three states: solids, liquids and gases. And we learn that a solid can melt into a liquid, and a liquid can evaporate into a gas. However, what we don’t often learn about is sublimation. Sublimation is where a solid becomes a gas, without becoming a liquid in between.
You probably best know this from dry ice, which is actually just frozen carbon dioxide that sublimates into that white gas that you can see.
What is sublimation printing?
Sometimes known as all over printing, sublimation printing uses this process to transfer an image onto an object. As well as for clothing, sublimation can be used for mugs, license plates, mouse mats, tiles, bottles, ID cards and more. For printing onto textiles, sublimation works on synthetic fibres like polyester, however it is sometimes possible to use a blend of polyester and cotton together.
To sublimation print, images are initially printed in reverse onto heat-resistant transfer paper. This is then transferred onto the fabric using a heat press, operating at a temperature of around 200 degrees celsius. Under higher temperature and pressure, the dye turns into a gas and solidifies into the fibres of the fabric.
The fabric is then permanently dyed, allowing it to be washed without damaging the quality of the image.
There are numerous advantages of sublimation printing
- The printed image is permanent, it will not peel, crack or fade
- Continuous tones can be achieved that are equivalent to photographs
- The image can be printed all over the entire garment, however some cutting and sewing may be required
- Printing is slower than other methods
- Creases in the garment/fabric will leave blank spots in the print
- Sublimation printing can be more expensive than other print methods
- Sublimation is not suitable for small quantity runs or drop shipping
Is sublimation printing suitable for me?
Sublimation may be suitable for you if:
- You are printing more than 50 units
- You want to print all over the garment
- You are looking for colour transitions or a print that won’t fade, peel, or crack