What is Sublimation Printing and How Does it Work in 2024?

What is Sublimation Printing and How Does it Work in 2024?

In the printing industry, sublimation printing is the advanced method for producing a printed product. This method of transferring images from one surface to another has been used in textile production, advertising graphics, product packaging, and more! The article will give you a brief overview of what is sublimation printing and how it works.  

Sublimation printing is often used by artists who want their work printed with bright vivid colors. Because it does not alter the substrate’s surface like traditional inks would do. It also provides smooth transitions between contrasting colors which gives your artwork a professional look that you cannot achieve through others.

In this blog, we’re going to discuss Sublimation. Including its limitations as well as the most common questions you might have.

What is Sublimation Printing?

To begin with, let’s take a broader view. “What exactly is sublimation?

In sublimation, substances leave the solid phase and move directly into the gas phase without passing through an intermediate phase of liquid.

Sublimation Printing

In simple terms, sublimation printing is a popular method of fabricating which aims to transfer the design from sublimate paper onto any material by using pressure and heat. Changing solid particles into gaseous states. This easy yet cost-effective way of personalization can be employed for both company products as well as people at home who want something more unique.

It was developed in the early 1900s and has been used in various industries for over 50 years. Because it can be done in less time and at lower temperatures than other processes such as screenprinting. 

The result of sublimation printing is vibrant colors that resist fading for years under typical use. The methods have led to different applications in the printing world including posters, banners, T-shirts, etc.

Equipment you need for sublimation printing 

For sublimation printing to begin, you will need a few items. 

Sublimation printer

The sublimation printer is the most important and initial thing in the sublimation printing business. The printer sublimates the designs on heat transfer papers. If you don’t have a sublimation printer, so how you can print your designs on paper? That’s why you should always have a dedicated sublimation printer.

Here is our Best Sublimation Printer Review & Buyer’s Guide. Check out How the Sublimation Printer works.

Sublimate ink

Sublimation ink is used in the sublimation printing process. Which uses heat to transfer images onto apparel, phone cases, mugs, and other products. It has to be specially formulated for this purpose. 

It’s important to select the best quality ink for your sublimation printing. This ink is the key to success in this process. If you have low-quality ink, it will probably affect the outcome of your project. When you choose ink, make sure it fits with your printer because not everyone can be used on all printers. You can use it on different types of paper, and the surface will affect the results.

If you don’t want your product to fade after a few washes. Make sure you don’t use low-quality ink because this will surely affect the final result. You should choose ink with vivid colors and good saturation levels for better printing.

Heat transfer paper

Sublimation paper is used in the sublimation printer to print on the material. It works like a conveyor belt that takes your design, transfers it through the printer, and then prints on your garment or item of choice. Best sublimation paper will help you to get good quality prints so pick the best quality of papers for better performance of the printer.

There are different types of sublimation papers are available in the market but you have to pick the best one for your printer. Each brand has its own specification so read the description carefully before buying it, or else you will face quality issues with your prints.

Heat press

The second primary piece of equipment is a heat press. The heat press is just like an iron, and usually comes in multiple shapes and sizes. 

The heat press with dimensions 15 x 15 inches is ideal for Sublimation T-shirts and different flat items. You can select as per your need but, you should go for the best size.

In order to continue, you must first, make sure that you have all the pieces of equipment. You will need these for sublimation printing.

The sublimation printing process

The sublimation printing process is a method of printing that uses heat to transfer the inks from an image carrier, typically sublimation paper, onto a substrate. It is used for large-format graphics and textiles. 

The result is usually highly saturated, with the colors appearing bright and bold against the white background. Sublimation can be accomplished by either inkjet or screen printers.

Step 1: Get your design ready

Once you have chosen your design, you should either scan it into the computer or print out a draft version. This is because it does not have to be in digital format when printing onto this type of paper. But in order for the printer to correctly read the information, you must make sure it is no larger than 5 inches x 7 inches, which is the standard size of paper that comes with these printers.

Step 2: Prepare the special sublimation paper

The first sheet should already be in the right orientation on your paper. You can then place another sheet underneath this one by using a pretty thick stack of about 10 sheets so that it can feed into the printer more easily.

Once you have placed the stack on top of each other, then close the paper tray and make sure that it is firmly in place under its tabs. Then use your computer to print your design onto these sheets, by choosing either ‘mirror’ or ‘flip’. If this option is not available to you, then simply choose ‘rotate 90 degrees’.

Step 3: Prepare the shirt or fabric for printing

If you are using a heat press machine to print onto your t-shirt, place the t-shirt face down on the table. Then make sure it is lined up correctly inside the machine by using this as a guide:

You should then place the paper with your artwork onto the shirt in this position. Once it is lined up correctly, then use the heat press machine to iron your design for about 5 minutes at 350° Fahrenheit (176° Celsius). Make sure that you cover both sides of the shirt evenly when doing this. You can also choose to print onto other types of material such as canvas, bags, mugs, etc.

Step 4: Wait for your design to be finished

After you have chosen one of the options above, wait patiently for around five minutes while your design is being pressed onto the shirt or fabric. Then remove it from the heat press and the paper from underneath your design, and test out your custom-made t-shirt or other product. If you are confusion about starting a business, check out 10 sublimation ideas!

What’s the difference between sublimation printing and digital printing

The main difference between the two is that digital printing can print a design onto polyester, silk, and cotton (to name a few). Alternatively, sublimation printing is only appropriate for polyester. Also, sublimation printing uses heat, unlike digital printing in order to transfer the design onto the material.

What are digital prints?

Digital prints are images that are printed onto a large sheet of paper using inkjet technology. This is the most common form of printmaking where the image is “drawn” by a computer and transferred to paper through an inkjet printer.

What are sublimation prints?

Sublimation printing, on the other hand, uses heat to transfer the design onto polyester or other synthetic fabrics. The ink used for this process is water-based, which will easily dissolve if it comes into contact with water. Because of this, sublimation printing cannot be done on paper and should only ever be applied to clothing, bags, or any fabric product.

Digital printing is cheaper than sublimation printing?

While both forms of printing are fairly inexpensive to set up, the running costs differ. Digital prints are typically less expensive than sublimation prints because they can be printed on various surfaces and don’t rely solely on fabric.

What is the quality like?

Despite popular belief, neither form of printing will produce a high-quality product. While sublimation printing will produce a better quality image, digital prints are still able to transfer colors and shapes clearly onto the fabric.

The choice between sublimation or digital printing really depends on what you hope to achieve with your print!

What hacks can be used to create clothing and ceramics through sublimation?

Here are some tips and hacks for creating clothing and ceramics through sublimation.

You can use copy paper or matte paper instead of sublimation paper. Both sides of the sheet must be printed with the image since it is transferred from both sides to make sure that no empty spots remain on the substrate. 

Don’t use glossy heat-resistant paper or a glossy glaze for the final product, as it will wash out the printed design. A matte finish on both your heat-resistant paper. Your final substrate is more resistant to light bleaching from UV exposure.

Before transferring an image onto a substrate. You must coat the surface of the substrate with polyester coating or some other resin. The substrate must be completely dry before the transfer, otherwise, the image will not form effectively.

If your design is too big for your substrate, try to print it bigger than the object (roughly 6mm larger). This way you won’t have to worry about washed-out images on the edges of substrates. Heat-resistant tape can be used for hard substrates (such as a mug).


What is needed for sublimation printing?b

Sublimation is a drying technique that uses heat to create color images on garments. The main equipment you will need is your heat-press, a printing device, and a device to create designs.

How long does sublimation printing last?

Sublimated dye sublimation can offer up to ten years of color retention due to the way the ink penetrates polyester fibers. This means the print won’t crack since the dye is absorbed IN the fabric, not ON the fabric.

Is sublimation printing expensive?

Not at all. You can afford sublimation printing. All the equipment will not cost more than 5 thousand dollars.


We hope this blog will help you understand sublimation printing better and how it works! Sublimation printing is a process that uses heat to transfer images from an ink ribbon onto the surface of the paper. 

This type of printing is common for creating personalized items like t-shirts, flags, banners, and other customized products. Because it can print full-color graphics on one side or both sides of the material. It’s possible to create sublimation printed materials with high-quality finishes at a low cost. 

We hope this information will help you understand why your business should consider investing in this technology!

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