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What Is Sublimation Printing & How does it work?

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The takeover of sublimation printing has been rapid. Starting your own sublimation business has become an easy and profitable business. A lot of people have set up their small businesses. With the continuous advancement in printer models, working with the cheapest sublimation printers is becoming easier day by day, and the quality of results is getting better with it.

But what exactly is sublimation printing? What is the science behind it, and how does sublimation printing work? These are common queries for someone unfamiliar with this form of art.

So for a brief but informative guide, I am here today to tell you all about sublimation printing and how it has become such a popular thing.

What Is Sublimation Printing?


In scientific terms, sublimation is when solid converts into a gaseous state directly without going through the liquid form. This concept is the driving force behind sublimation printing.

By using heat, the sublimation ink is converted into a semi-gaseous state, resulting in the incorporation of the ink onto the fabric or any other surface on which sublimation is possible.

How Does Sublimation Printing Work:

As stated above, sublimation printing uses the concept of sublimation as its primary working model. The designs or logos you have created using the ink are transferred to the fabric through a heat process. The use of heat produces in a condition that becomes part of the fabric in tincture converting. This transfer is not just the ink lying on the material, but the ink is embedded into the fabric.

For a more elaborate representation of the process, let’s talk about it in steps:

  • The first thing is the creation of the selection of your design. Using your computer or the device connected to the printer, you choose the design that you are looking to print.

  • Second thing is to move on to the printing process. The image is printed on special paper which is specially made for sublimation.

  • Once the design is printed on the paper you move on to actual sublimation. For this process, a heat press machine is recommended. However, if you are doing this at home, you can also use an iron. The paper and the surface that the sublimation needs to be done on are placed facing each other and then using the heat press machine, they are pressed against each other.

  • The pressing is done at specific settings, the temperature and pressure are determined according to the surface. Once the pressing is done you get your sublimated product.

It may appear like a complex process, but once you get the hang of it, making creative and beautiful decorative prints will become an inexpensive process for you. Moreover, due to the printing nature, the prints are long-lasting. This easy application and cost-effectiveness is a big reason behind the growth of this printing, especially in the form of businesses.

Accessories & Supplies:

Sublimation requires a dedicated set of accessories and machines. First and foremost, you need a sublimation printer. The most popular among users are printers from either Sawgrass or Epson.

The Sawgrass is made explicitly for sublimation printing but is a bit expensive.

On the other hand, Epson is more affordable but needs to undergo conversion for sublimation printing. In terms of quality, though, both are incredible.

Then you also need sublimation paper and sublimation ink. These both are essential accessories for sublimation printing. The standard paper or ink cannot be used for sublimation. A heat press machine is also recommended if you are looking for the best results. They are especially recommended if you are looking to start a business.

Surfaces That Can be Sublimated:

The most common sublimation material is fabric. Clothing is a familiar spot for designs, logos, or images. So fabrics are the most sublimated surfaces. However, there are few exceptions.

Most of the sublimation printers or sublimation inks cannot be used with cotton fabric. The least these printers can handle is to give the best results in less than 30% of cotton. The best fabric material for sublimation is polyester.

Moreover, printing on black surfaces is also a no-go as the prints do not correctly appear on the black-colored fabric.

Block colors and sublimation on a larger area can also result in mismatches, so sublimation with these two factors is not highly recommended.

When it comes to other surfaces such as ceramic, mugs, tiles, etc., coating these surfaces with polyester is highly suggested. Without a polyester coating, the ink does not penetrate the surface properly, resulting in short-lived and distorted prints.

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Advantages of Sublimation Printing:

Every style of art comes with its fair share of positives. Sublimation printing gives you a few good reasons to enter this world:

The freedom that sublimation printing gives you is incredible. There is almost no limit to creativity when indulging in sublimation printing. You can freely customize your designs and adjust them according to your needs.

The great diversity you get when it comes to surfaces you can sublimate on is another factor that fascinates your imagination. In addition to garments, surfaces such as mugs, ceramics, tiles, pillows, etc., can easily be decorated with your creative designs.

Another plus point to sublimation printing is the durability of the prints. Attributed to the fact that it uses the concept of sublimation, the designs do not fade or peel away. These prints are long-lasting and keep their flair and vibrance for a pretty substantial period.

It is also a cost-effective and quick method to get a business started. A lot of people are setting up small businesses in this industry. The investment is not very large, and you will not have to wait for a long time to start getting profits.


Where there is brilliance, there are also some shortcomings when it comes to sublimation printing:

The most glaring disadvantage is perhaps its inability to print on cotton surfaces. It is less of incapability and more that the prints are not proper, and there is a risk of burning cotton due to heat application. Also, black fabrics cannot give you results. Block colors also do not have a good case when it comes to sublimation printing. Sublimation printing can be considered totally polyester dependent.

Sometimes due to creasing or shifting of transfer paper, the colors can fade onto the other side of the fabric, or the part of the design is not transferred onto the material. This phenomenon is known as ghosting and usually occurs on white fabrics.


The following are a few recommendations for sublimation printers. They are one of the best printers when it comes to sublimation printing and has proven their prowess. They truly excel in this department of printing:

  1. Epson Workforce WF-7720 (link to pricing & availibility)
  2. Epson EcoTank ET 4760 (link to pricing & availibility)
  3. Sawgrass SG500 (link to pricing & availibility)

For a detailed review of these printers and more, you can read our article on the best sublimation printer for beginners.


Sublimation printing has become the face of printing. The freedom of creativity it gives you is incredible. The vast market of sublimation printers and the enormous developing interest of people towards starting a sublimation business is proof of its multiple advantages and profits.

It can provide you with a great platform to start a profitable business and is easy to set up. Moreover, its application is not just confined to companies. It can be used in an office environment and can satisfy your hobby of craft and art.

The personal use of sublimation printing gives a lot more options to express your imagination and creativity.

This paragraph concludes my guide about sublimation printing. I hope this will end up being helpful to you in understanding this great form of printing.

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