What is Sublimation Printing? and How Does it Work? Complete Process

In the 21st century, there is an increasing trend toward sublimation printing. It is a new technology that involves transferring your artwork ( using a sublimation printer and heat transfer machines) to any surface such as fabric, plastic, ceramic, etc. With sublimation, garments, home décor, and advertising displays will become eye-catching, vivid, and vibrant.

During sublimation, chemicals are released. In simple words, it is the state of a solid that immediately turns into a gas without being dissolved in liquid first. This process is also known as dye-sublimation since the dye changes state.
All the information you require about sublimation printing can be found in this comprehensive guide.

How to Sublimate? How does sublimation printing work then?

Even though the name makes it sound complex and technical, the process is quite simple.

The details, the how, and the process is what we’re here to explain to you.


The first step is printing your design or pattern onto transfer papers using a sublimation printer. In order to get a highly detailed print, you have to use a high-definition printer. These printers use a special type of ink to print the design in a mirror image. There are many water-based inks available on the market that are less toxic than inks that use harsh chemicals.

Thermal Transferring:

Then using a heat press machine, the printed paper is aligned with the fabric or material with a combination of heat and pressure the state changes from solid to gaseous, consequently, the inks become liquid.

The End Results:

After passing through a heat press, ink and the material form a bond and get completely absorbed. Let it settle down completely after application.
Sublimate a wide variety of items quickly and easily with the simple process.

Things you will need

The five essential tools required to make this type of printing happen are listed below.

1. Sublimation Printer

First and foremost, a printer using sublimation ink would be necessary for both home and commercial use. These printers would have been very costly just a few years ago. Since there is an increase in demand for sublimated products, the cost of these printers has been reduced significantly. There are several popular brands, including Epson, Sawgrass, and HP.

Check out Sublimation Printers reviews Epson EcoTank ET-2750, Epson Ecotank 15000, Epson Eco Tank Et 4760

2. Sublimation Papers

The paper used for sublimation and transfer is known as a transfer sheet or sublimation paper. By using a printer, you can create any color spectrum and then print it on suitable printing paper. We can print customized logos, patterns, and the desired image on a sheet.

3. Computer & Raster Image Processor (RIP) Software

In some cases, sublimation printers come with formatting software to help you set up the final designs on a sheet. This software is called RIP, which stands for ‘Raster Image Processor’. The ability to purchase RIP separately is not included in every printer. The printer’s software must be compatible with the printer.

4. Cutting Mechanism

Cutting devices, such as knives or rotary blades, are also recommended for sublimating goods. Certain cutting products include various options in one system, and each option can be tailored to each individual’s needs. A sewing machine would also be needed for hemming the material. This step is crucial to the creation of original fabrics. When making SEG frames (or Silicone Edge Graphics) you need it.

5. Type of Heat Transfer/Press

Similarly, a heat press is also required to complete the sublimation process, which is the next step after printing. There are countless sizes, models, and prices available for sublimation transfers, just like the printer. By using a heat press, one can transfer the design from a sublimation sheet to any desired material, such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, and tablecloths. As a result, the image will be more vivid and resistant to fading, so the item will last for a longer time.

There are four common ways to Heat transfer:

Calender Heat Press

It is best to use a calendar press for sublimating larger, softer surfaces, such as fabric signs. Besides printing on clothing, this press is large enough to print on banners as well.

Small Heat Press

A small press would be recommended if sublimating on small items, such as kitchenware. You can sublimate various items with the small heat press since it takes up very little space.

Flatbed Heat Press

It is highly recommended to use a flatbed press machine for sublimating harder materials such as floor tiles. It is versatile, as well as suitable for clothing printing.

3D Vacuum Heat Press

Last but not least, a 3D vacuum press is ideal for working with small objects with a variety of shapes and edges. In addition to printing flat surfaces, this machine also allows you to sublimate a variety of other surfaces.

What Are the Benefits of Sublimation Printing?

Those who want the most impressive items should use sublimation techniques.
Using this technique images will not crack or wear out over several uses, so they will last as long as you require.

Clothing and bedding can be regularly washed without fear of ruining their appearance, especially since they can be washed frequently.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just fabrics with digital printing; your options are much wider. There are so many things you can print, including mugs, pens, clocks,
Christmas ornaments, tins, kitchenware, T-shirts, pillows, cushions, mobile covers, etc.

The limitations of thermal transfer printing keep sublimation from being used for many things other than fabrics. In terms of creativity, dye sublimation is generally the best option for those who wish to make puzzles or create customized keychains. The possibilities for printing out business presentations and crafts are endless. Customization is a bonus.

When it comes to designs, this method offers great flexibility and durability, which is not always available with other methods. Furthermore, sublimation printing is highly versatile, as it is applicable to garments that have a wide range of templates and applications.


Sublimation on cotton does not seem to work particularly well. Almost all-natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk, can be used. In general, hoodies, tees, and socks made from polyester are promising items for sublimation printing.

Sublimation printing isn’t optimal for 100% natural cotton, so if you’re into it, you may not like it. This is a great way to print fabric when you select a poly-blend material – we suggest around 85% poly.

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How Can Businesses Use Sublimation Printing?

The following items can be dyed sublimated for profit:

Solid surfaces: foil, or ones with polymer coatings. Unlike fabrics, these products cannot be bent.

Blank rigid products – “Blanks,” products with no designs or printing so they can be personalized, these include, such as custom mouse pads, cell phone covers, and glassware, which are available at wholesale prices.  

Signatures – Ideal for commercial use offering click-to-print services. You can easily print retractable banners on vinyl to create trade show displays. Sublimation is commonly used in outdoor advertising on the shop and building signs.

Polyester Fabrics/ Nylon – The most common items to decorate. They are divided into two types:

Textile products made from polyesters, such as apparel, banners, flags, and custom-printed tablecloths. Weaved products include custom totes, fabric backdrops, and tents.

Interior designers often buy dye-sub products from companies that sell them. Bathrooms, kitchens, restaurants, & more, all use ceramic floor tiles as décor items.

A high-quality photograph can be printed on canvas, magnets, or apparel, making it one of the most popular photographic printing methods.

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