Dye Sublimation Printing

How does it work?

Sublimation printing systemAs one of a number of digital printing processes, sublimation as a production technique is relatively simple to understand.

The sublimation printers that are used in the promotional printing industry are very different to "off the shelf" sublimation printers that are used to print photographs. These systems do not use ink to achieve a colour image whereas the models for the printing industry require specially formulated inks.

Sublimation is a chemically based process that separates it from any other form of digital printing. When sublimation inks are heated to 200ºC, they turn into a gas and form a permanent bond to 100% polyester materials or items that have been coated with a special polymer. The ink molecules revert to a solid state once they have cooled down.

Sublimation printed mousematsThe result is a full colour, photographic quality image that does not crack, peel or wash away from the substrate.

However, like any print process, there are downsides and as a result, we must clarify five important considerations. First, that sublimation inks areSublimation printed ceramic products not opaque and therefore the printable items need to be white or a light pastel colour. Second, the printed product must be coated with a special polymer coating, hence such products cannot be purchased from any promotional goods supplier. Third, it is not possible to print 100% cotton products so these type of garments should not be printed using this technique. Fourth, you cannot use standard inkjet inks hence the printer can only be used for sublimation purposes and finally, special sublimation transfer paper is required - normal paper stock does not work with the transfer process.

If you would like to print promotional clothing, then in our opinion, the best choice of equipment comes down to either screen printing or laser based heat transfer printing.

Twin head mug heat transfer pressWhat other equipment do I need?

In addition to the sublimation printer, you will also need the following additional items:

Given that the most commonly printed sublimation products are mugs, a mug press will be the best choice, but as your business grows, the need for a flat bed press will become more important. Our mug press can be supplied in either single or twin head configuration.

What can I print onto with the sublimation process?

There are a range of products that can be printed using this method, but remember that because every item must be specially coated, the cost will be higher than an un-coated promotional item.