What Is Sublimation Printing? – ElectronicsHub

Are you new to the Print on Demand world? Want to know the technique of Sublimation Printing? This article will help you know in detail about sublimation printing, its applications, and so much more. Sublimation printing basically involves printing of motifs on mugs, t-shirts, and other such items. To do this, a printer and printer ink specifically meant for sublimation is required. This kind of printing is a great way to personalize a variety of items. This method makes it easy to get high-quality results quickly and easily.

What Is Sublimation Printing And How Does It Work?

Sublimation printing is a process in which a design from sublimation paper is transferred to an item by using heat and pressure. Basically, the ink’s particles shift from solid to gaseous. Over the past few years, this process has gained massive popularity since its effective, cheap, and results in high-quality end product.

Although it is an easy process, you must be aware of sublimation printing in detail before you attempt it yourself. Here are the main steps involved in sublimation printing.

  • The first step would be to choose a suitable design to print and print it on the sublimation paper using a sublimation printer.
  • Using heat or pressure, this design is transferred onto an item like a t-shirt or mug.
  • Once done, the heat or pressure needs to be removed gently.

You may get a design with white creases or a ghosting pattern when done incorrectly. This will ultimately be a waste of time, effort, and money. One of the ways to avoid this is by carrying out a few trials before applying it in bulk form. You can start with a very simple design, and once you are more familiar with the entire process, you can move on to attempt the more complicated designs.

Are Sublimation And Heat Transfer The Same Thing?

Although these terms may seem similar, there is a major difference between both of them. While sublimation refers to the process where only the ink is transferred onto the object, heat transfers additionally involve the transfer of a transfer layer onto the object as well.

What Materials Can Be Printed With Sublimation?

If you want to get the perfect result of sublimation printing, it is best that you use polyester material. It can be used on a variety of materials with a coating of specialist polymer on them. A few materials that can be printed with sublimation are given below.

  • Mouse pads
  • Mugs
  • Coasters
  • Towels
  • T-shirts
  • Hoodies
  • Key chains
  • Can coolers
  • Tumblers
  • Tiles
  • Luggage tags
  • Glass, among several others

When you use sublimation printing on glass, ensure that the glass is correctly treated and prepared with specialist spray.

What Are The Applications Of Sublimation Printers?

Earlier, ink-jet printers were used for sublimation which has now been replaced with dye sublimation printers. The printouts by these printers can be used the moment they come out of the printer as it dries faster. Since they have minimal moving parts, cleaning and maintenance become pretty easy. A major application of sublimation printers is in the textile industry, where polyester fabrics are printed using sublimation printers. This includes t-shirts, banners, and flags. The result is brilliant since the dye bonds excellently with the synthetic fabric.

With sublimation printers, water-resistant, scratch-resistant, and decorative designs can be easily obtained. Examples include the designs on bags, pens, mugs, etc., that are printed using such printers. The entire process is safe, eco-friendly, quick, and cheap with no wastage.

What Is The Difference Between A Regular Printer And Sublimation Printer?

Regular printers and sublimation printers are very different from each other in terms of production capacity and methods. The major differences between the two types of printers are given below.

  • Regular printers can print on photo or sticker paper. However, sublimation printers use a special sublimation paper where the design is first printed and then transferred onto various objects like t-shirts, mugs, coasters, etc.
  • The cartridges used in a regular printer are generally yellow, black, cyan, and magenta. Although combining these can produce multiple colors, the choice of base inks is pretty limited. The same base colors are also used in sublimation printers but there are a few special sublimation printers that can even accommodate fluorescent inks which give a bright output.
  • The ink cartridge in a regular printer is liquid, you can see it wet when the papers are being printed. Alternatively, sublimation printers use sublimation inks that transform into gas or vapor upon application.

How Can You Prepare A Design File For Sublimation Printing?

When you choose a design, motif, or image for sublimation printing, it is recommended that you save the file in PNG format. This image format helps you maintain the original resolution, preserving transparency, and is a universally accepted format. To save the image in Paint or Photoshop by using the steps given below.

  • Click on ‘File’, and then select ‘Save As’.
  • Select the format as ‘PNG’.
  • In Draw or Illustrator, export the image by going to ‘File’, clicking on ‘Export’, and then on ‘PNG’.

If you have created the design on your own, make sure that the background layer is transparent.

In case you are exporting the design from a certain vector program, you need to ensure that the design is in appropriate dimensions and that it is exported in PNG format at 300 DPI.

Designs That Work Well & Don’t Work With Sublimation Printers

Quirky and over-the-top designs have lately been in trend and are seen in almost every small-scale to huge luxury brand outlets everywhere. Such vibrant prints work very well with sublimation printers. Even small uniform prints all over a t-shirt work well with sublimation printers. Another kind of design which works surprisingly well with sublimation printers is photography prints. Such a print is placed randomly on the fabric as opposed to being printed in the front of the t-shirt in a rectangular frame.

If you want multiple logos to be printed on your t-shirt, sublimation printing would be the best option for it. With traditional printing, you would be paying for each logo or design you incorporate on the fabric but with sublimation it can all be incorporated at a go in huge numbers.

If you want to incorporate a design with block colors or you want a design which needs to be placed at an exact space on the t-shirt, it won’t be possible with sublimation printing. Even designs with a slogan don’t work well with sublimation printers. For such prints, direct to garment printing would be a better option. Even a design with a single logo won’t work with sublimation printing.

Pros and Cons Of Sublimation Printing


  • It allows you to customize whatever you are printing.
  • It is very quick
  • The designs created are of high-quality
  • Designs would not crack, fade or peel
  • Can be used to print on surfaces like mugs, decorative items, and crockery, that are quite rigid.
  • You don’t have to set a minimum print run
  • It is not suitable for anything other than polyester or polyester blend materials


  • Dark color fabrics cannot be used if you want a clear and vibrant print.
  • There is a possibility of ghosting which results in a faded print
  • White crease may be created on the material
  • The color of the design you see on screen may not match the end result perfectly.
  • When exposed to sun, the design may fade in color
  • If not used frequently, print heads might clog

Sublimation – FAQs

1. How long does sublimation last on t-shirts?

Ans: When sublimation printing is done correctly, it will remain vibrant and bright for a long time, even after multiple washes and uses. Since the ink used becomes a part of the fabric, it won’t peel, fade, or crack.

2. Can you sublimate on dark colors?

Ans: No, you cannot sublimate on darker shades of fabric. If you want, you can apply a special coating before printing. For the best outcomes from sublimation printing, the design must be incorporated on a light-colored material.

3. What paper do you use for sublimation printing?

Ans: For sublimation printing, you need a heat transfer paper coated specifically for this purpose. The extra layer of coating makes it strong enough to withstand extremely high temperatures without smudging or burning.

4. Can any printer do sublimation?

Ans: No, sublimation cannot be done with any printer you like. You would need a converted inkjet printer or a sublimation printer with sublimation ink and specialized paper. A regular printer with regular paper cannot help you with sublimation.


This brief guide will tell you everything you need about sublimation printing. Sublimation printing is the best option if you want to create vibrant prints on fabrics and materials with high-quality graphics. You can really profit from sublimation printing since it hardly requires any time. Apart from the cost of the heat press, the entire process of sublimation is not very expensive.

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