What is Sublimation Printing?

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Evolving technology means that there is now a number of printing techniques available to the textile industry.  Therefore we thought it would be appropriate to blog about what these techniques are, what advantages they have, and also what restrictions can apply.

Sublimation printing, also known as heat transfer or paper print, is one of the most popular processes in the industry due to the following advantages.

//  No screen set up costs
//  No minimums (depending on producer)

//  Ease in creating panel prints due to small press machines 
//  Highly detailed prints can be achieved

Unlike screen printing, the detail which can be achieved in sublimation printing artwork is unlimited.

Basicaly, the artwork is printed onto paper first, then transfered onto fabric using a heat process.  In more technical terms, a sublimation printer is a computer printer which employs a printing process that uses heat to transfer dye onto medium materials such as a plastic card, paper, or fabric. The sublimation name is applied because the dye transitions between the solid and gas states without going through a liquid stage.

There are two restrictions to mention.  They are not necessarily disadvantages; it depends on the way you look at it.

1.  You can only sublimate on Polyester fabrics:  This is due to the temperatures needed to achieve a high quality print and depth of colour.

Recommended printing temperatures and times are:
//  195-205 degrees
//  No higher than 205

//  No longer than 40 seconds

Trust me, if you use nylon at these temperatures, you have a lot of cleaning to do as the nylon will actually melt in your machine!  When polyester is made, it is exposed to  higher temperatures than those recommended above.  Therefore it will not melt during sublimation printing.

2.  Grin through:  Sublimation printing does not use a traditional wet process.  As the paper is placed on top of the fabric for the dyes to be transferred, the dye remains on the surface and does not penetrate entirely through the fabric.  This will create “Grin Through”.  The fabric’s knit construction affects the result, especially for circular knit fabrics, unless they have a fine gauge knit and are made specifically for sublimation printing.