What Is Sublimation Printing? | A Step By Step Process

what is sublimation printing

What is sublimation printing? This was the question that popped up in my mind when I studied the printing types and I found sublimation printing to be the best among other conventional types. When I completed my first sublimation printing task, I could not be happier to see the vibrant colors on different media types and sizes. Thanks to the high-quality inks that convert to gaseous state from solid form in a direct step and deposit on the media you are aiming at.

If you are also a beginner at printing and you want to plunge into the exciting domain of high-tech printing like sublimation printing then welcome to the guide which has all the information that you need to know. This guide is extracted from the years of my experience in sublimation, heat press, and conventional printing. Therefore, please keep reading to know more. Here we go with the most important details regarding sublimation printing and sublimation printers!

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing has gained a central position among the other types of printing because it has the best results and vibrancy that no other type can compete with. In addition, it is also possible to sublimate your favorite colors on a wide range of media like fabrics, glass, ceramic, canvas, etc. In this type of highly innovative printing, the inks are converted from the solid state to direct gaseous forms without making them undergo the liquid state.

To accomplish this type of printing, there are specialized printers that can provide the ink with the highest possible temperature and recommend temperature so that the dye sublimes on the media you are working with. In addition to the sublimation printing machines, it is also possible that you can convert your conventional inkjet printer into a sublimation printer by using certain protocols and steps after you are done checking the compatibility of your printer with the sublimation process.

Sublimation Printing Process | Step By Step Guide

What is Sublimation Printing

After reading about the general details of sublimation printing, you might be curious about the printing process and you might be asking what is needed for sublimation printing? Or you may ask how does sublimation work? To answer your curiosity, we have especially written this section based on the printing process. The basic principle of the sublimation printing process is the use of heat transfer or higher temperature to sublimate the ink and make it stick to the surface of the paper, fabric, or any other media.

To be more specific, the experts at the sublimation printing firm will be printing the target design using special paper. After that, they will be turning the sublimation inks into the gaseous form by giving it the required heat. This step is followed by the combining of the fabric and the sublimation time of the ink so that the sublimed ink becomes part of the fabric by coating it in a few seconds while it is converting to the gaseous form.

As the result of this sublimation over the surface of the fabric or any other media, the printing process done will have permanent effects and also it is fade-resistant. That is why you will not see the sublimation printed results showing any deterioration because the ink particles have effectively invaded the fabric fibers sticking to them in the long term. Also, the print is crack-free and you may wash it many times.

How To Do Printing On Fabric?

shirts printing

You might be wondering how to do sublimation printing on the fabrics. You will be glad to learn that you can do sublimation printing on a variety of fabrics like t-shirts, shoes, dresses, tablecloths, etc. The process of sublimation printing is very effortless to do. However, you should be careful enough to choose the perfect design with the “all-over” patterns so that the ink deposition during the process of sublimation is uniform without leaving any spaces or lines.

When you do sublimation printing at first with the sublimation machine, you might see some creases over the fabric. This fault is attributable to the wrong adjustment of the transfer paper. Due to this, you will see folding in the corners. Therefore, you need to be very careful while setting the transfer paper in the correct way to save your time and ink.

How Do do Printing On Glass?

Printing on Glass

Another important medium of sublimation printing that has been gaining popularity is glass. However, you must be aware of the fragile nature of the glass. That is why you need to do sublimation printing on the glass with an increased level of carefulness when comparing the printing process with the fabric or paper etc. In this regard, you need to use the heat press machine with great care to avoid any sort of damage to the glass.

In addition to this, when you are printing on the glass then you should always employ the right kind of heat because different glass has different temperatures at which they remain intact. So, in terms of applying temperature to the ink to sublime it, you may end up damaging the glass. For this, you need to read the specifications of the glass that you are using for full sublimation printing over it.

How To Do Printing On Plastic?

sublimation printing on plastic

How can we forget to tell you about the sublimation printing on plastic because literally there is no domain of the present life where plastics are not used. So, the good news is that you can do sublimation printing on the glass. However, in this regard, you need to use the unique kind of heat press machine which has been specially made for it with the flatbed surface.

Another important fact that we must not forget to tell you is that in the case of the sublimation printing on plastic, the image to be sublimed has to be firstly printed upon the film, not like sublimation printing in the case of the fabric where you use paper. Also, you should be careful about the integrity of the plastic so do check the temperature considerations at the sublimation step.

How To Do Printing On Canvas And Vinyl?

Printing on canvas

After reading about the most common sublimation printing items you might be thinking about some other items too. For example, you might ask how to do printing on vinyl? Or how to do printing on canvas? You will be glad to learn that it is absolutely possible to do sublimation printing on both vinyl and canvas. However, in this case, even, you need to be careful about the specifications of the temperature that is used for subliming the ink.

Sublimation Printing Vs. Heat Transfer Printing

In our short guide on what is sublimation printing we don’t want to miss an important comparison and that is between sublimation printing vs. heat transfer printing. Many people who don’t have professional expertise take them as the same process. They are somewhat similar because the heat presses i.e. heat press machines used in both types are the same. However, specifically, heat transfer printing is somewhat different from sublimation printing. Therefore, you need to check closely before deciding to print in the media.

Pros and Cons of the Sublimation Printing.

  • ● Ease of personalization and customization
  • ● High-quality vibrancy and sharpness
  • ● Speedy printing output
  • ● Good if fabric is of the lighter color

Pros and Cons of the Heat Transfer Printing.

  • ● Excellent colors of the sublimated graphics
  • ● Energy and power-efficient process
  • ● Highly economic
  • ● Stiffness in prints

Frequently Asked Questions

We have been experimenting with a wide range of printers that are best for sublimation printing purposes. Luckily, during these experiments, we found some premium-grade sublimation printers, and the top-level printer among them is Sawgrass Virtuoso SG400. This printer is admirable for its user-friendly design, excellent speed, vibrancy in results, and highly economic operation.

Screen printing and sublimation printing are the most widely used printing types. They are somewhat similar in a few aspects but the major difference which distinguishes both of them is the ink penetration inside the fabrics. In case of sublimation, the gaseous inks invade the fabric fibers and reside there for long leading to permanent printing. While in the case of screen printing, the ink particles do not invade inside the fibers, rather they only stick over the surface.

If you are looking for the most trusted and tested program for use for your sublimation printing machine then we will strongly recommend you to go for the premium grade program like ‘BEST FREE Graphic Design Program’. This program is available free of cost and also it is very easy to use. Therefore, you can have the best experience working with it.

After working with a wide range of Software for use with our sublimation printers, we have arrived at the conclusion that some of the software is best among others. They include Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, and CorelDRAW. Therefore, we strongly recommend you consider working with them.

Final Thoughts

With this section, we would wrap up our guide on what is sublimation printing. We hope after reading the relevant details, you will now be in a better position to start sublimation printing and we have answered your question: what does sublimation mean? This is indeed an amazing process that will enhance your creativity and as you work on it, your skills will also enhance considerably with the passage of time. Try it! It is indeed great fun to sublime inks!

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