What is Sublimation Printing? [In-depth Details] 2024

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a process in which we first print a design on paper, then transfer it to the required material. The material can be a piece of fabric or glass as well. This is all done with the help of a sublimation printer. The popularity of sublimation printing has been at its peak over the past few years. 

what is sublimation printing

If we see it as scientifically, when we apply a specific temperature and pressure, solid particles of the ink change directly into the gaseous state and then print on the paper. A solid directly changes into a gas during this process without passing through the liquid state. Here we will discuss the process of sublimation printing in detail. 

What to need for Sublimation Printing?

When anyone talks about sublimation printing, five tools must be considered to get the results. An overview of these materials is given as under:

Sublimation Printer

Sublimation Printer

The first and the most important tool required for the sublimation is a sublimation ink printer. Sublimation ink is filled in the printer, and you need to give a command from the system, and the printer will do all. In the end, you will get the image on paper. 

It is recommended to choose the printer wisely because the quality of design you will get mostly depends on it.

Sublimation Paper

Sublimation Paper

When you have selected a design, the printer will give the command. In response, that design will be imprinted on the paper. After that, the next process will be started.

Sublimation paper plays a vital role in getting the quality output. From low to high quality, every type of paper is available in the market. On the low-quality paper, the ink will spill. This way, you will waste both time and money. So, always go with paper of high quality.

Sublimation Ink

Sublimation Ink

The design you have selected will be imprinted on the paper if you have filled ink in the sublimation printer. Sublimation inks are filled in ink tanks or cartridges, which depends on the printer and how it refills ink.

Sublimation inks come in different colors. Some companies offer four colors, and other offers eight colors. When selecting an ink color, make sure that it should be compatible with your printer. Otherwise, you will not be able to get a quality result.

Cutting Tools


After getting the print from the printer, you will need to cut the paper according to your need before placing it in the heat press machine. This can be done through a knife, scissors, or rotary blade. 

The person running a sublimation printing business must know about cutting different materials. If you get mastery in this work, it will prove beneficial for your business.

Heat Press


We will move towards the heat press machine after cutting the paper (if needed). The design we got in the paper will be transferred to the material like shirts and mugs with the help of a heat press. For this, we provide a specific temperature and pressure. The rest of the work will be done by the heat press itself, and finally, we will get the design on the material.

Like sublimation printers, there are hundreds of heat presses available in the market. The sizes of these printers are also different. So, you can buy them according to your need.

How to do Sublimation Printing?

We need different things like a sublimation printer, sublimation ink, sublimation paper, and a heat press for sublimation. All of them play a key role in the process of sublimation printing. If one of them is missing, it will be impossible for you to get a quality result.

First, we select a design that we want to embed on the required material. Then, put the sublimation pages and ink in the sublimation printer. After that, give the command to the printer, and it will print the design on the paper. Now, take the material on which you want to draw the design. For example, we take a shirt. Put this shirt on a heat press and paste the page on the shirt. Now, apply a specific temperature and the pressure through the heat press. Through the heat, the pores of the shirt will be open, and through the pressure, the ink will be filled in them. All is done, and now separate the sublimation paper from the shirt, and you will get the design on the shirt.

 Sublimation printing technology is so advanced that you will get the same image on the shirt you selected in your system. All the process is very easy and handy. The first time you will face a bit of an issue, but after the first project, you feel very easy while sublimating anything.

Which products can be sublimated?


There are many materials on which we can make designs. But, some materials can not be sublimated. Here, we will discuss all the materials and find out why some materials are not suitable for sublimation.

The materials ideal for sublimation printing is polyester and ceramic. You can sublimate every design on such materials without facing issues like the unwanted squashing of ink.

On the other hand, the materials which have 100% cotton can not be sublimated. When heat is applied through the heat-press, their pores don’t open completely, so the ink absorbs. Thus, we will never get the desired result for such materials. 

In the upper paragraph, we have talked about the sublimation of the products of fabrics. There are also hundreds of other materials which can be sublimated. You can get amazing results for hard materials like mugs, glasses, plates, etc. Mobile phone cases, mousepads, and drinkware are also the top products on which we can print desired design.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sublimation Printing

Advantages of Sublimation printing


Sublimation printing has many pros as compared to other printings. Suppose you are scrolling on social media or watching TV, and suddenly you have seen a cat and wish to have this cat on your shirt. Now, this becomes possible to embed this cat image on your shirt through the sublimation printing method.

Sublimation printing also has an advantage over the other printing methods based on the longevity of the design. Prints from all the other methods did not prove long-lasting and faded away very soon. On the other hand, the design will be as new as it was at the time of printing, even if you have to wash them in the washing for hundreds of times. The design will also survive if you expose them to light. 

Sublimation printing is possible for materials of all sizes, and you will get marvelous results for each size. It can be used for small materials like mobile phone cases to large materials like blankets. 

All the old printing methods allow printing on soft surfaces like socks, shirts, etc. But sublimation printing can also be done on rigid surfaces like mugs, plates, and glasses. Moreover, these materials will give a natural look after the sublimation printing.

Traditionally, we have gotten print with only black colors for the past many years. But sublimation printing allows you to use different colors to obtain hundreds of amazing designs. Most of the sublimation inks offer four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. 

When sublimation print embeds on a material, it will become a permanent part of that material and will not be scratched or fade away easily. Moreover, it is the easiest and fast way of printing.

Disadvantages of Sublimation printing 

The complaint that most of the users of sublimation printing is that it is not suitable with fabrics having cotton of more than 30%. This is because the colors can not be transferred to that particular material completely. You should use the polyester blend or 100% polyester materials to overcome this issue. 

The issue faced by most users is double printing when they put material on the heat press. Sometimes, colors could also not be transferred completely to the material. These are only technical mistakes made by the user itself. The issue can be in adjusting the temperature and pressure of the heat press. So, fix them and get amazing images.

Sublimation printing was recommended for the white and light color materials in the past years. It was impossible to get the design on the black or other dark color areas. But the good news is that now it is also possible to get the colors on the dark materials.

Sublimation items should not be exposed to the high lights. They can lose their original colors if you expose them to the light for a long time. The main reason for fading away of colors is the UV rays, which mostly affect the color of any material.

What is the difference between sublimation and digital printing?

sublimation printing vs digital printing

The purpose of both sublimation and digital printers is to transfer the images and design to the desired surfaces. The main difference between them is that a heat press is used in the case of sublimation printing. Then, ink is infused into the material by providing a specific pressure and temperature. These designs will be durable and long-lasting.

On the other hand, in digital printing, design is directly printed on the surface. The other name for digital printing is flatbed printing. Therefore, the prints get by this method don’t prove much strong and sturdy. They fade away quickly and also can be scratched from the surface.

If we talk about the cost of both printers, the sublimation printer is much more expensive than the digital printer. This is because sublimation printing is the latest technology, and the printer is also large than digital printers.

Sublimation printing is a time-consuming activity; using a digital printer, you will get the desired design within seconds. In the case of a sublimation printer, much time is consumed because after getting the image on paper, we put the material and paper in the heat press machine and then get a result. 


What is Sublimation?

Sublimation is a scientific term, and you can understand it better in terms of chemistry. When a solid substance is heated, it directly converts into the gaseous state without passing through the liquid state in sublimation. Through this process, we print different designs on the desired surfaces.

Are sublimation printing and heat transfer the same thing?

Both are not the same but linked with each other to some extent. In sublimation, the designer selects a design and prints it on paper, then finally embed it on the desired surface with the help of a heat press machine.

On the other hand, heat transfer is only a two-step procedure of transferring an image to the desired material using a press machine.

Can we sublimate any material?

No, some materials can not be sublimated, like the fabrics having a ratio of cotton of more than 30%. But there are rare cases when we could not sublimate the things, and most of the materials were sublimated.

Is Sublimation printing better than digital printing?

Yes, sublimation printing is far better than digital printing. The design made using sublimation printers will be long-lasting and can not fade easily. In contrast, digital printers will give you instant results, but they will not be long-lasting and fade away quickly.

What are the limitations of sublimation printing?

The item you want sublimation printing should have white or light-colored areas. It isn’t easy to get quality results for black and dark-colored areas. It is also recommended to use fabrics items having less than 30% cotton.


In conclusion, sublimation printing is a fascinating and versatile printing method that offers a wide range of applications in various industries. Through the process of sublimation, solid ink transforms into a gas, bypassing the liquid state, resulting in vivid and durable prints on different substrates, especially polyester-based materials. This printing technique has gained immense popularity in the world of textiles, sportswear, promotional products, interior design, and personalized gift items due to its exceptional color vibrancy, sharpness, and longevity.

The key advantages of sublimation printing lie in its ability to produce intricate, full-color designs with no loss of resolution, and its resistance to fading and washing. Its eco-friendly nature and minimal waste generation also contribute to its appeal in a more environmentally conscious world.

As technology advances, it is likely that sublimation printing will continue to evolve, opening up new possibilities for businesses and creative individuals alike. As with any printing method, understanding the process, choosing the right materials, and using quality equipment are essential for achieving the best results.

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