What is Sublimation Printing…How does it work?

A sublimation printer is used to transfer pictures, names, and motifs on different materials like ceramics, fabric and steel. For this purpose, a special type of ink is used in these printers. The term sublimation means transfer of solid direct into gaseous state without becoming liquid.

Sublimation printing is a process in which the image to be printed is first printed on a special paper then by applying heat it is transferred to the required material. The special dye in this process is converted into gas by applying heat then printed on to the desired material.


Sublimation Printing & Dye Sublimation Meaning?

sublimation ink

 Printers for sublimation use special viscous dyes which are water insoluble. These are also known as subli-printers. As the ink is heat sensitive so special sublimation printers are required. Regular printers can also be used for sublimation by using special water-based inks. But there is a risk of accumulation of residues in the tube of printers, therefore you need to convert regular printer into sublimation printer.

The whole process is performed in two sections, first the sublimation dyes are transferred on special paper in the from of gel ink. The ink is deposited on the high release transfer papers. In the second step, heat is applied so ink is turned into gaseous form directly from solid form and because of high pressure applies penetrates the material creating a color bond with the molecules of the material. When heat is removed, the gaseous ink turns back to the solid creating a clear image on the desired material. As the process is performed with the molecules of the material not on the surface, so the color do not fade or crack after multiple washes.

Material suitable for sublimation.

Generally, sublimation works best on manmade fabrics as the sublimation ink is water-based dye ink, which after applying heat and pressure is converted into gas. The gas molecule bond with the polyester molecules transferring your desired design deep into the fabric, thus yielding the best quality images.

polyester t-shirt for sublimation

 To sublimation, sublimation paper was used which was very costly. Now it can be done on an ordinary paper. The best sublimation is done on t-shirts as the polyester of the shirt melts at high temperature and opens pores of the fabric which allows color gas to sit in. If sublimation done on ceramic or cotton shirt it should be coated with polyester first, because cotton may burn at high temperature and the life of motive would be very short on ceramic or any other material. Moreover, cotton is not good for sublimation because the fiber of cotton does not sublimate accordingly with the dyes of sublimation ink.  The design is transferred temporarily and wash out immediately.

What you need for sublimation printing

Here is a list you need for sublimation prinitng.

1.Sublimation printer

sublimation printer

The choice of the printer is the most important factor when you are going to start sublimation. If you are new to sublimation first you should have complete knowledge of best sublimation printers for beginners to start with confidence. The best quality printer provides you with the desired results of high-quality images. As the business of sublimation is growing with the demand so there are a lot of printers in the market to perform the desired operation. Among the best sublimation printers, most famous are Epson and Sawgrass printers which are meeting the daily demand of printing. Also check best all-in-one printers of 2022 for further details.

2. Sublimation paper. 

sublimation paper

A special type of printer is used in the printer to perform the function of sublimation. These papers are the size of the related printer, and you can print any image or logo of your choice on to these papers. These papers act as transfer papers.

3. Sublimation ink.

sublimation ink

Special type of ink is used in the process of sublimation. Regular inks are not use in the sublimation because the color and chemical use in the regular inks do not support sublimation. Dye sublimation inks are water-based solid color dye particles which are rounded into powder and then turned into liquid form. For better results you must use these inks as regular inks may damage your printers.

4. RIP Software.

Some printers use Raster Image Processor software which guide what is to be printed. It is necessary to check the type of the printer and the compatibility of the software. Not all the printers possess the RIP Software, so it can be purchased separately.

5. Computer and Smart devices.

computer connected for sublimation

For more convenience, computer and smart devices are used for desired printing. You just need to connect these devices with the printer and start printing. There are multiple ways of connecting with thes devices which are in built property of the printer.

6. Heat press.

heat press machine

Heat press is the most important part of the dye sublimation. When the image iis transferred to the sublimation paper, the next step is to transfer the image on the desired material by heat press and applying pressure. There are four different types of heat press depending on the surface, size, material and types of the sublimating materials.

To print large size images on banners and fabrics calendar heat press is used. When you want to print small size image, small heat press is used for better quality images, for tiles printing flat-bed heat press is used. When the surface isn’t flat then 3D vacuum heat press is used. Also check our best sublimation printers for heat transfer.

7. Thermal gloves. 

The most important thing to handle hot sublimated materials are the thermal gloves. Use these while you are handling with hot surfaces.

thermal gloves for sublimation

8.Thermal tape.

Another important required thing is the thermal tape to fix the paper on its place during the process in order to get mess free sublimation.

thermal tape

7. Silicon cover sheets.

cover sheet used for sublimation

These sheets help to prevent ink bleeding onto the heat press.

8. Foam pillow.

Help to eliminate press line and protects the sublimation fabrics from direct heat.

foam pillow for sublimation

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sublimation Printing


It is used around the world on a variety of materials as long as the material is made up 80% of polyester. In order to get a perfect photo or logo the background of the material should be white or light. There is a wide variety of mugs, t-shirts, water bottles, phone case, bags, frames and medals on which sublimation can be done.

Secondly it is cost effective and can produce a large number of sublimations prints in a short time period. For exhibition or for promotion a stock of sublimation items of excellent quality can be produce within no time.


The first and most important disadvantage of sublimation is it is expensive. Other products which come along the printer such as heat press and printing papers are costly. So before starting a small business one should have to analyze all the expenses. It works best only on polyester fabrics thus minimizing the options of printing on multiple materials.


1.what is the significance of sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is getting fame day by day as growing industry. Now you can start your own home business with a low budget and earn a lot by spending less. It is the fastest way of printing desired images in short time.

2. What is the best material for sublimation printing?

Manmade materials are best for sublimation. Polyester is the most important of all as the process carried out on it easily and images lasts for longer time.

3. Can we sublimate cotton?

Cotton is not good for sublimation as the high temperature may burn it. However, the process can be carried out by using thermal pillow. 

4. what is the advantage of sublimation printing over laser printing?

Sublimation printing is cheaper as compared to laser printing. The sublimate images run for long without being faded or having any crack.

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