Sublimation Printing Methods

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Sublimation Printing Methods
Sublimation printing is used for printing shirts and other fabric items. (Portugal shirt image by Jorge Figueiredo from

Sublimation is the process of changing directly from a solid into a gas. Dye sublimation printing uses this process to print either onto a paper transfer sheet or directly onto fabric containing polyester.

Because sublimation dyes bond only to polymer substances, polyester fabrics or materials coated with a polymer are the only substrates you can use for sublimation printing. The process causes the image to permanently bond with the material.

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Photo Printing

Dye sublimation photo printers convert digital image data into high-quality colour photographs. The printer has a cartridge of polyester film infused with the colours cyan, magenta and yellow. The picture is printed onto sheets of special porous paper in a four-step process.

The printer loads a sheet of the porous printer paper, places it next to the polyester film and applies heat at 350F in four steps to transfer each colour and a final protective coat to the photograph. The heat causes the dye in the film to bond with the paper to make a long-lasting colour photograph. According to Samsung, sublimation photo printers can print images from a computer or directly from your digital camera.

Sublimation Printing Methods
Sublimation photo printers can print pictures directly from your digital camera. (digital camera image by bright from

Transfer Printing

Sublimation transfer printing is used to print images, logos and text onto fabrics and other polyester coated substrates. The process combines software for managing the images and text with hardware to put the image onto specially treated transfer paper.

In transfer printing the image to be printed is captured by the coating on the transfer paper and then a press is used to apply heat and pressure to transfer the image onto the T-shirt, banner or other cloth item.

According to the Industrial Fabrics Association online magazine, Fabric Graphics, dye sublimation transfer printing technology is available to print directly onto the cloth substrate also. The technology is used for printing items such as banners, flags and sports uniforms.

Rigid Surfaces

According to the Hatboro-Horsham Schools, sublimation printing can be used to print images onto a variety of rigid substrates. The first step in this process is to print your image onto transfer paper using a printer designed to print using sublimation inks.

Next the transfer image is taped onto the item to be printed using heat resistant tape. These substrate items are coated with a polymer substance to which the image bonds. The item is then placed image-side-up into a heat press to transfer the image. Heat presses are available with flat heat plates for flat items or curved heat plates for hats or mugs.

Sublimation printing is used to print speciality items such as mugs and number plates.
Sublimation printing is used to print speciality items such as mugs and number plates. (coffee mug image by timur1970 from

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