Are you looking for long-lasting printed products with different colors and high resolution? The best designed graphic apparel, home decor and promotional displays use the dye sublimation process to achieve vibrant and timeless graphics.
So, what is sublimation and why is it so effective?
All the information you need to know is available in this comprehensive guide.
What is sublimation?
While the name may make the process sound complicated and technical, it's actually quite easy to understand.
Sublimation Definition: When a solid material changes to a gas without passing through the liquid phase.
This means that the artwork is transferred to a gaseous object using a high temperature heat press during dye sublimation printing. It differs from traditional printing methods as it omits the liquid phase. No wet ink is applied to the printed object and no waiting for it to dry.
How it works
The image is first printed on the printing paper, making the whole process quick and easy for color sublimation printing. Heat is then used to transfer the image from the sublimation paper to the object.
Businesses and home designers use this print style to create apparel graphics, as well as signage, home decor, corporate displays, and personal items such as coasters, coffee mugs, and key chains.
Dye sublimation printing for businesses: what products can you print on?
Below is a list of profitable items that companies sublimate:
Rigid substrates - polymer-treated items containing non-fabric items such as glass, plastic, fiberglass, and aluminum. These are products that are not flexible like fabrics.
Blank Rigid Products - Many of these materials are available for bulk purchases at bulk prices, such as custom mouse pads, cell phone cases, and drinkware. Sometimes referred to as blanks, these are products without design or printing to allow for personalization.
Labels - ideal for e-commerce companies for quick printing. Easily print on vinyl to create pop-up banners and other trade show displays. If you see signs hanging in front of shops or buildings, there is a good chance that sublimation was used.
Polyester fabrics - one of the most popular items for sublimate dyeing. They are divided into two types:
Polyester products that hang and flow in their natural environment, such as apparel, flags, banners and custom printed covers.
More durable products such as custom bags, fabric backdrops and custom tents.
The home decor dyes sub-process is often used by companies that sell to interior designers. Decorations like ceramic floor tiles are a popular choice for bathrooms, kitchens, restaurants and more.
Photo printing - by far the best way to create the highest quality photo images on canvas, magnets and clothing.
What are the advantages of sublimation printing?
Here are the benefits:
If you want the best looking printed component, dye sublimation is the way to go.
Using this method, the images will not crack or wear after multiple uses, and the visuals will last as long as needed.
This is very important when using items that will be used continuously over time. Everyday items such as mouse pads, kitchenware, and custom printed shirts benefit from this type of printing. This is especially true for clothing and bedding, as they can be washed regularly without fear of distorting their appearance.
If sublimation needs to be done on polyester or polymer-coated items, screen printing can be applied to anything as long as the surface is flat. Although this opens the door to more fabrics, such as cotton, screen printing is not usually done on more rigid surfaces such as mugs or textured tiles. This is because a flatter surface is required for best results, otherwise the image may be distorted. This is why this form of printing is usually done on garments and is usually limited to a single color design. Sublimation, on the other hand, works best when more colors are used and the designs can be very detailed.
Why is sublimation printing better?
Sublimation offers more space for creativity and unique desire
Sublimation printing on glass
Because glass can break easily, it is important to be more careful when using dye sublimation printing. The heat press must be used carefully. A heat press pad can provide an additional coating to the glass, but is not necessary.
Another thing to keep in mind when printing on glass is that the way glass heats up is different than the more conventional fabrics that are often used. Occasionally, heat can cause hazy sections in a print, so halftones can be used to solve this problem.
Another solution to the problem is to use textured material, which gives the impression of a clearer image. Something that makes this approach different is that the ink has to be sublimated in a proper reading style as the print is transferred to the back of the glass and viewed from the other side. Other materials require image sublimation in a mirror image.
Sublimation printing on plastic
Printing on plastic materials can require different types of technology. While the heat press used for fabrics and other flatter surfaces is a flat press, sublimation printing of a 3D object requires an oven press instead.
Another change is that the image is printed on film rather than paper, which is more malleable to the object being printed.
One last thing to consider is that the item must be able to withstand heat of around 400⁰F without spoiling. This may be rarer for plastic products than for fabric and glass.
Sublimation printing on aluminum and metal
Using aluminum or metal objects can create a very dynamic printed image. Choosing high-quality materials for printing will provide the best results.
To achieve the most beautiful effect, you should buy an efficient sublimation printer. An eight-color setting is recommended.
Something to keep in mind is that when printing, the metals are usually placed on top of the sublimation paper, not underneath. Make sure the image stays properly placed on the material without using heat tape.
In general, it must be ensured that the heat directly touches the metal and paper.
Sublimation print on canvas
The main difference when using dye sublimation on canvases is that the canvases can be designed to stretch. This process is called gallery wrapping, where the canvas print is rolled around the back of the frame so that viewers cannot see the tools used to attach the canvas.
It must be remembered that the sides are visible and either a continuation of the front image or a repetition of the same image must be printed on them. If you are using this style of gallery wrap, the canvas material should be larger than the frame so it will stretch easily.
When preparing to use the heat press, it is very important to make sure that the material is clean. This can be done using a lint roller.
Sublimation printing on wood
Sublimation printing technology has even extended to wooden objects, leaving the field even more open for what can be printed. Although the wood does not contain polyester like many other products, it can be coated with a poly material using rollers and heat.
Once this is done, completing the sublimation process is similar to working with other polyester materials. The coating can allow the heat press to be used at a lower temperature than the standard 400⁰ most other products. This should be looked into if you are using a certain coating on the wood.
Sublimation printing on acrylic
Although acrylic is not polyester based, there is sublimation acrylic that can be used in the dye sublimation process. This product can be used with conventional heat press and transfer paper without spoiling. Sublimation acrylic is sold on sites and stores that sell printing materials and machines.
Sublimation print on vinyl
The vinyl sublimation process is almost the same as with other materials. The main difference with vinyl is that it is used on cut-to-shape products.
This is often the case for products that use sticky adhesive, such as wall and floor stickers. This is done by cutting the silhouette of the desired image on the design file before using the sublimation printer.
When it's time to sublimate, the vinyl is cut to the correct shape. Cutting should be done close to the edges of the print. Depending on the size, more than one vinyl product can be printed and cut separately at the same time.
Sublimation printing on nylon
It is the most difficult material for sublimation printing. There are many different types of nylon, each of which reacts differently to the sublimation process. Nylon 6 is the type most commonly used in textiles.
Something to keep in mind with nylon printing is that you have to try and experiment to see what the most attractive result is. There are unique results for wide selections. One useful tip would be to use a lower temperature.
Why choose dye sublimation printing?
See, dye sublimation can be more expensive than heat transfer printing, but it creates a better look that can be used for years.
The possibilities to print on are much wider than with other more affordable printing processes, leaving more room for innovation.
If you want something that needs to be used for a short period of time, then something with heat transfer can be recommended.
However, if you want to print something that is intended for long-term storage and you plan to wash it to keep it in pristine condition, then dye sublimation is the best choice.