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What is sublimation printing?

You get absorbed at the moment when your favourite basketball team scores one after another. I bet you support their jerseys too. But do you know where these jerseys come from or how they were made? I don’t blame you if you don’t. The cool and colourful prints of these jerseys are done by sublimation printing. 

You are probably asking, what is sublimation printing? How does this work? 

Relax, I’m here for you. In this article, we will know about sublimation printing, the pros, and cons of this method, and finally, differentiate it from other popular print technologies. 

What is Sublimation Printing, and How Does It Work?

Generally, sublimation refers to a process in which the solid substance directly converts into a gaseous state without passing through a liquid state. Similarly, in sublimation printing, a conventional inkjet printer is used to press sublimation dyes onto the garment materials. The stages of sublimation printing are described below: 

First, printers are loaded with sublimation dyes. The Colour combination used here is in CMYK space

Then images and graphics are printed onto the transfer papers. Unlike other conventional print methods, it has no colour or design limitations. 

The ink is then transferred onto the fabric of garments by applying 375°F heat. In this stage, the sublimation process allows the sublimation ink to convert into a gaseous state directly. 

The ink gets fused into the fabric pores closing them permanently, and then garment panels are cut from fabric reels.

Finally, the panels are sewn together to produce amazing sportswear.

Last year in the US, the use of sublimation printing was almost 84% among all other printing services. Almost every established and big printing company like Print shop near me provides a sublimation printing service. 

Suitable materials for sublimation printing

If you are looking forward to using sublimation printing, then you must know which materials can be used. Some of the examples are: 

  • Polyester
  • PVC 
  • Polymer
  • Polycotton textile
  • Polyester-made fabrics 
  • Polymer-coated plastic
  • Polymer-coated metal 
  • The polyester coated aluminum sheet 

The materials should contain at least 80% polyester to be used in sublimation printing. Other materials like cotton fabric and ceramics can be used, but they have to be coated with polyester first. 

Benefits of Sublimation Printing

So, what is sublimation printing? I hope you have already understood what it is and how it works. In this section, let’s learn about the benefits of sublimation printing and why you should choose it for your business.

  • Unlimited colour options 
  • No added cost
  • Efficient for small orders
  • Produce long-lasting vibrant colours
  • Perfect for digital and photographic images
  • Ability to print very complex designs 
  • Sublimation prints do not fade, crack or peel
  • The printed fabrics give a very soft feel when touched. The print can not be felt
  • Garments can be enhanced by adding extra elements as rhinestones and hotfix glitters

Sublimation printing always remains in trend. The sublimated products like uniforms and jerseys are usually custom-made. That’s why the customers do not need to worry about the trends of the upcoming seasons. Moreover, it is a very cost-effective and quick printing method. 

Promotional, occasional, and temporary items can be provided through an on-demand service. The quality of sublimation print materials is unquestionably high and retains it for a long period.

Cons of sublimation printing

Despite plenty of advantages, sublimation printing has some limitations too. It needs special sublimation printers along with sublimation inks. Thus it gets very costly for an individual to buy all equipment and machinery. Instead, small businesses can look for a print provider.  

The printers also work slowly. Limitation to materials is another setback for choosing this printing method. White or light colours can not be printed by sublimation printing.  

Sublimation Printing vs. Screen Printing

Both sublimation printing and screen printing have their benefits but still have some differences. The screen printing method is analog technology, and it is often run manually. At the same time, sublimation printing needs a special printer with special sublimation ink. 

The bread and butter of screen printing is high volume order. Large screen printing orders are more cost-effective. On the contrary, sublimation printing is pretty impractical for voluminous orders. It is effective for small and instantaneous orders. In contrast, small orders can be equally inconvenient for screen printing. 

Screen printing provides detailed prints with sharp edges. But as sublimation printing is all digital, its detailing level is more intricate. 

Screen printing permits you to print on every garment and substrate. It is used for flat surfaces, mostly on clothing like shirts. On the other hand, sublimation allows you to print on any product like flags, banners, ceramics. But it is not a good option for shirts. 

If you are a fan of cotton products, then sublimation printing is not for you. 100% pure cotton can not be used in this process. You have to go for screen printing. 

However, both printing methods produce an excellent quality print with a soft hand feel. 

When should you choose sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing can be time-consuming and costly, but it is worth your money. Sublimation prints can be used for many years. 

If you want your materials printed in a hurry, then this heat transfer method is highly recommended. 

It is best for individual customization. On top of that, sublimation printing is the most environmentally friendly and sustainable method in the industry. It doesn’t create any wastage and uses no water. 

It is the most effective and cheapest way for polyester to create a full-colour print. 

Sublimation printing particularly works well on dramatic, quirky, and ridiculous artworks or designs. It gives full effects to the images. It can be used particularly for photographic prints. 


So now, if I ask you, ‘what is sublimation printing and how does it work?’ I hope you know the answer, right? Anyway, in terms of longevity and print quality, sublimation print is unbeatable. Starting from sportswear to the ceramic industry, the world of sublimation print service is way more versatile than others.

Just choose it according to your necessities. However, by reading our article, if you enter into the world of sublimation printing, do let us know.

Happy printing!


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