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What Is Sublimation Printing and How Does It Work? [Simple Guide]

Sublimation printing is becoming more popular by the day. This is because it allows you to print high-quality images on a variety of fabrics and other items without any loss in resolution when comparing it to the original image.

Besides, an image printed by sublimation can keep its quality throughout the years; accordingly, it has been getting a lot of attention lately.

Of course, whether you decide to try sublimation printing or not is up to you. But from our side, we are going to take you through everything you need to know about it so that you can make an informed decision.

And without further ado, let’s go through it.

What Is the Meaning of “Sublimation”?

In a nutshell, sublimation is turning a substance from its solid state into a gas state without passing through the liquid state.

To understand this more, think of what happens to dry ice when you expose it to heat. It directly turns into a gas without seeing a liquid form.

How Is This Process Used in Printing?

Well, what happens is that the printer uses sublimation ink, and a transfer paper to print an image onto the material or fabric that you choose.

Let’s assume you have a T-shirt, and you would like to print an image on it. The printer will use the sublimation process to change the ink on the transfer paper directly into a gas. The T-shirt will absorb this gas, and thus, it is now printed on it.

Now we will explain what happens in a more detailed way. First, the printer produces the image on the sublimation transfer paper using the sublimation ink.

Then, the paper is subjected to a heat press, and the material is exposed to a high temperature of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit as well. Now think of the material as skin when it is exposed to heat, the pores open up, right?

The same thing happens to the material, the pores between the fabrics open up. And the ink turns into a gas that is absorbed and fills the pores of the material, i.e., it permeates the fibers of the materials you use.

Once the temperature cools down, the ink returns to its solid-state, and also, the pores of the material close. This way, the ink is trapped inside the pores. This makes the ink lasts longer because the T-shirt absorbs it; it is now a part of it, and it won’t crack or peel off.

Is Sublimation Printing Better Than Traditional Printing?

It depends on the material that you are printing on as well as the size of your print.

Sublimation printing works on polyester and other fabrics, ceramics, and PVC.

The best thing about using sublimation printing is that it is more durable than traditional printing in addition to being eco-friendly and producing a minimal amount of waste.

If you decide to print all over a material, then sublimation printing will be your best option. It gives you a space to show your creativity and make it look like a single painting or mock-up.

Also, it doesn’t change the feeling of the material you are printing on; on the contrary, it remains just as soft and smooth as it was before printing and no annoying layers on top.

However, if you decide to print over a small area rather than the whole T-shirt, then traditional printing is a better choice.

What Is the Downside to Using Sublimation Printing?

Unfortunately, sublimation printing has its cons. Some of which is the reason why traditional printing still exists.

For starters, it only works on limited fabrics. To get the best results, you will have to work with 100% polyester fabrics. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work on other fabrics, because it does.

However, decreasing the percentage of polyester decreases the durability of the print.

Another con when it comes to using sublimation printing is that it is much better when used with white or light-colored materials.

But, it won’t be that good if you used it with solid dark colors or black fabrics.

Lastly, everything has to be strictly perfect for sublimation printing to give you the results you hope for.

For instance,  if the fabric was folded, even if just a little bit, or if the transfer paper wasn’t absolutely dry, you will see white (or the fabric’s original color) creasing.

This means that some areas on the material you are printing on won’t take the ink due to folding or moisture. Issues like this interfere with the transformation of the ink and cause the presence of uncolored patches.


Sublimation printing depends on a chemical process in which the ink used is changed directly to a gas.

The gas is absorbed by the material you’re printing on & then solidifies and gets trapped in the pores of the material.

This allows your prints to stay longer. It is better to use it when printing on the entire material, not just a small part of it.

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