Sublimation: What Is It And How Does It Work?


One of the newest and most effective printing techniques today is sublimation. It is a popular method used to transfer images onto garments and surfaces. It does not use inks or liquids but instead transforms from a solid to a gas through a chemical reaction. The result is an imprint that does not fade, crack, peel, or fall apart. 

What Exactly Is Sublimation?

The term sublimation refers to the process by which a solid material turns into a gas without first going through a liquid stage. Therefore sublimation printing is a method of printing that transfers a design from a sublimation paper onto a piece of fabric or material through the use of pressure and heat. 

By changing the solids into a gaseous state without first turning them into a liquid is a cost-effective method of personalization. Another advantage is the quality of the image that you get when you use this method. 

How Does It Work?

The first step is to select a design. After you have chosen your design, it is fed to a sublimation printer where it is printed on special paper known as sublimation paper. The design is then printed onto the fabric using a heat press at 350 to 400 degrees. 

The inks used turn into a gas under the heat then combine with the fabric permanently when they print onto the textile. The results are permanent because the ink is embedded in the material rather than simply laying on top like a standard print. 

This process is a lot like getting a tattoo, but instead of skin, it is the chosen fabric. The heat opens up the pores of the material to deposit the imprint. Then when pressure is applied, the ink cools and turns back into a solid. 

This whole process allows the ink to turn from solid to gas just as dry ice does. The heat initiates the conversion while pressure controls the process. This printing method is popularly used in polyester designs. Still, it can also be used on ceramic, wood, and metallic surfaces as long as they have a special coating to receive the sublimation inks. 

The Pros of Using Sublimation Printing

One of the most significant advantages of using sublimation printing is the freedom you have with designs. You have the freedom to choose detailed designs, and they will come out accurate and precise, which is a freedom that is not offered by other printing methods.

The longevity of the design is another advantage. Because the design combines with the fabric, it ensures that it will last a long time. Unlike other printing methods that lay the design on top of the material, this method gives an image that will not crack, peel, or fade even with multiple turns in the washing machine. 

Another advantage of this method is that it can be sued on seam-to-seam designs as well as garments that require a large number of design variations and applications. The process makes it easy to incorporate multiple designs in different styles; on the same item.