Understanding How Sublimation Printing Works

Sublimation Printing

Once in a while, you come across unique printing designs in ceramic or fabric that look too good to be true. Such printing is often done through the sublimation method. This method of printing rarely disappoints in quality hence its popularity. So, what is sublimation printing, and what are its pros and cons?

What is sublimation printing?

Sublimation is the transfer of a substance from solid to a gas state without changing into liquid. Sublimation printing follows the same process as it transfers the artwork to the selected printing material using heat. This is why it’s also referred to as heat transfer printing. Unlike ordinary printing, there is no liquid ink involved. This ensures no print cracking occurs, which often happens due to exposure of ink to stress.

Sublimation printing starts with the design process, where the printing of the design occurs on a special paper called a sublimation paper. The sublimation paper is then put on the final printing media, and heat helps transfer the image from the paper to the material. Depending on the printing media, a heat transfer machine or a ceramic sublimation machine may be used to complete the process. The final image is a permanent print that doesn’t crack or rub off unless material degradation occurs.

The advantages of sublimation printing

Sublimation printing can be used on different media, making it ideal for printing a wide range of products. Unlike most printing options, sublimation is a perfect method for both hard and soft surfaces. Besides, different shapes are often ideal for this form of printing. For instance, sublimation is easily done on mugs, ceramic tiles, t-shirts, water bottles, etc.

Sublimation printing is also popular in printing full-color images, especially on hard surfaces such as ceramics, which isn’t doable with most printers. Most of the available color printing options have specific colors that they allow. These options are also expensive when it comes to the printing of full colors. But sublimation printing allows for full-color printing at an affordable cost.

Sublimation printing is also easy to learn. With a video tutorial and the required equipment, the process is straightforward. Most people doing sublimation printing are self-taught. Sublimation is also perfect for printing in small quantities as the cost of production doesn’t increase. It remains a viable option when printing for personal use rather than for commercial purposes.

Moreover, sublimation printing takes minimal time to produce. The process can take between 15 to 30 minutes, which is fast compared to screen printing. Therefore, this is the ideal printing method when work is time-bound because the quick turnaround does not sacrifice quality.

A notable advantage that makes sublimation printing so popular is its work quality. This method allows for creativity and innovation. No matter how complicated a design may be sublimation always delivers quality. 

Sublimation work is also permanent. Therefore, sublimation designs done on fabric will not fade or crack. Similarly, it allows for outdoor advertising because it’s not affected by the weather. Longevity and durability are critical issues when choosing printing options, and sublimation guarantees both at a competitive price.

The disadvantages of sublimation printing

According to tech geek Antoine Bechara, there are a few disadvantages that one should be aware of when choosing sublimation printing. They include:

  • Printing is limited to a few types of materials, such as polyester fabrics and polyester-coated materials. For other materials, you should confirm if this method is a viable option.
  • To achieve good quality, sublimation printing requires the use of white or light-colored materials. The printing may not appear clear when done on a dark fabric, which means it may limit your options as far as material selection is concerned.
  • Sublimation printing requires a printer and a heat transfer machine and the combined cost of purchasing these two equipment is higher than regular printing.

How to start a sublimation printing business?

If you want to start a sublimation printing business, you should have some basic design knowledge. You should also have access to a computer and design software, which will allow you to translate clients’ ideas into something printable. 

You will also need a heat transfer paper (sublimation paper) and a machine to print it. Sublimation paper uses the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Overcoat (CMYO) rather than the traditional Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CYMK) colors. Thus, the printer selected must accommodate CMYO inks.

Once the design is printed, a heat source is required to transfer the image. Different media will call for different heat transfer machines. A heat press machine is the most commonly used when doing flat objects such as t-shirts. For ceramic printing of mugs and cups, a ceramic sublimation machine is used.

In conclusion, sublimation printing is dependable as it doesn’t fade away or crack with time. Also, the cost is competitive because the final product is superior to what other printing methods provide. If you’re looking for printing options, this is a method you should consider. Better yet, it’s a good business investment since it requires little expertise to run.

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