What Is Dye Sublimation Printing | The Complete Procedure
If you wonder what dye sublimation printing is and how it works, keep reading this post. Since dye sublimation printing has evolved as one of the most lucrative and interesting DIY activities, many people are interested in learning this art. To help you understand sublimation in the easiest way, I’ve composed this guide discussing everything that you need to know about sublimation.
What Is Dye Sublimation Printing?
Dye sublimation printing is a digital printing technology in which the sublimation dyes are permanently transferred to a substrate by applying heat and pressure. Sublimation dyes are special dyes that directly convert from the solid phase to the gas phase without going to the liquid phase.
Materials Required For Dye Sublimation Printing
- Dye Sublimation Printer
- Cutting Mechanism
- Sublimation Paper, Heat Transfer Paper
- Computer ad RIP Software
- Heat Press Machine
- Sublimation Ink/ Dyes
- Heat Resistant Tape
Dye Sublimation Printing | Procedure
Dye Sublimation printing is a two-phase procedure. In the first phase, the gel ink is digitally transferred to a temporary substrate called heat transfer paper. Then this digital print is subjected to heat and it turns into a gas and is sublimated onto the intended substrate. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform dye sublimation printing.
Choosing/Creating The Design
The complexity of the first step boils down to your personal preference. If you choose to create a personalized design for your sublimation product, it can be a lengthy process. You will need solid software support to create a design of your own. For this purpose, you can use various software like Coral Draw and Adobe Illustrator.
If you are new to sublimation, it is advised to go with a ready-made graphic, lettering, or digital design. You can download multiple digital photos and designs from various online resources and websites for your sublimation projects. Whether you create your own design or go with a ready-made one, it is crucial to understand the difference between Vector and Raster graphics.
Raster Graphics: Raster graphics are created with thousands of dots and pixels. The images cannot be resized or realigned. Resizing the raster images can deteriorate the structure and the results will be blurry images.
Vector Graphics: Vector graphics are made of multiple lines and angles. These are scalable graphics and you can resize and realign them without affecting the resolution of the original file. So it is advised to choose vector data instead of Raster data.
Setting Up The Image
Once you have selected a design or digital image for your projects, the next step is to bring it to the scale in which you want to print it. The sublimation dyes are translucent and the brightness of the final image depends upon the background colour. For white and light-coloured objects you will get vibrant and true-to-life colours. But in the case of darker colours, you may need to perform some colour adjustments to get the desired results in the final project.
Another important thing that you need to keep in mind is to reverse-mirror the image. Since it is a two-step procedure the print is first transferred to a sublimation paper. Then this transfer paper is placed upside down onto the permanent substrate. So to get the final print in the right configuration you need to reverse or mirror the image in this step.
Scaling or resizing is another important part of the process. Depending upon the size of the printable area and the print media size of your printer, you need to adjust the dimensions of the image. The vector files are available in EPS, JPEG, and PSD formats and you can easily scale them with regular printing software.
Printing On The Sublimation Paper
Load the sublimation paper into the sublimation printer. The best sublimation printer supports various print media sizes. You can find sublimation papers that are pre-trimmed to standard sizes. Also, the sublimation paper comes in free-size sheets or rolls and you may need to cut them to get a standard media size supported by the sublimation printer you own.
Take out a print on the sublimation paper
The print will not appear as bright as expected. Don’t worry, the sublimation dyes are not made for the regular printing process. You will get the true colours after the heat transfer process.
Now you are in the second phase of the process and here heat and pressure are applied to sublimate the print on the blank (mugs, t-shirts, etc.).
Setting Up For Heat Transfer Process
- Set up a clean, wide, and perfectly flat surface if you are working on textile products like shirts, towels, pillow covers, etc. in the case of mugs or acrylic blanks you may not need flat support.
- If you’re performing sublimation on t-shirts or textile products make sure your blank is free of wrinkles.
- Place the sublimation papers with their printed side facing the printable side of the blank.
- It is advised to mark the printable area of the blank and make sure that the print exactly lies within the marked space.
- Fix the transfer paper with heat-resistant tape.
- Now place the Teflon sheet on the sublimation paper. This is a heat-resistant protective barrier between the heat source and the dyes.
Heat Transfer Process
This is the most crucial part of the whole process. Depending upon the requirement of the substrates, sublimation dyes, and heat transfer paper, you need to apply a specific temperature and pressure.
Sublimation dyes usually activate in a temperature range between 380-420 degrees Fahrenheit. The dye manufacturers mention the activation temperature on the packaging. However, some substrates are more sensitive to temperature than others. If you are working on a delicate object like a gas you can decrease the temperature and adjust the time and pressure accordingly.
For 1005 polyester substrates like t-shirts the heat transfer process takes place within 45-60 seconds. In the case of mugs, or ceramic blanks the heat transfer process takes between 3-4 minutes.
In the case of sublimation-friendly blanks like polyester t-shirts or acrylic blanks, usually low to medium pressure is recommended. For sensitive blanks like ceramic plates, cups, or glass sublimate the recommended pressure range is 30-40 psi.
- The heat press machine comes with a timer and thermostat. Set up the timer, pressure, and temperature, and apply the heat press.
- In the case of clamshell heat presses, do not apply force annually. But if you own Easy Press, hold it firmly and apply gentle pressure.
- Remove the Teflon sheet right after the heat transfer process. Gently peel off the sublimation sheet, and your print is ready.
Frequently Asked Questions
Final Thoughts About Dye Sublimation Printing
I’m hopeful that this guide will help you create beautiful and valuable sublimation products. Dye-sublimation printing is all about quality, and therefore you must look for high-quality materials. By using the right technique and equipment you can sell your dye-sublimated products at a very good price.