What Is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a digital printing technique that utilises heat and pressure to permanently transfer dye onto various materials, primarily synthetic fabrics like polyester. Here's a breakdown of the process:

1. Design and Printing:

  • The process begins with the creation of a digital artwork.
  • Specialised sublimation inks are used to print the design in mirror image onto transfer paper.
  • These inks differ from conventional inks as they transform from solid to gas under specific conditions.

2. Heat Transfer:

  • The printed transfer paper is then positioned, typically ink-side down, onto the chosen fabric.
  • A heat press applies a combination of high temperature and significant pressure.

3. Dye Sublimation:

  • The intense heat activates the sublimation process.
  • Sublimation inks transform from a solid state directly into gas, bypassing the liquid phase.
  • The gaseous dye penetrates the fabric's open pores, facilitated by the applied pressure.

4. Bonding and Curing:

  • As the heat press releases, the temperature rapidly decreases.
  • The dye cools and transitions back into a solid state, essentially becoming one with the fibres of the material.
  • This creates a permanent bond, resulting in a vibrant and long-lasting image.

Advantages of Sublimation Printing:

  • Durability: The embedded dye produces a design resistant to fading, cracking, and washing.
  • Vibrant Colours: Sublimation allows for exceptional colour reproduction, ideal for intricate designs.
  • Versatility: Applicable to various materials with a suitable polyester coating.
  • All-Over Printing: Enables seamless edge-to-edge printing, perfect for creating customised clothing / team merch.

Limitations of Sublimation Printing:

  • Material Restrictions: Best with synthetic materials like polyester. Cotton and other natural fibers require a pre-coating for successful adherence.

Sublimation printing offers a powerful method for creating high-quality, long-lasting prints. Its unique process and advantages make it a popular choice for customised apparel design eg swimwear, tshirts etc.