How Does Sublimation Printing Work? The Complete Guide

Sublimation printing is a printing technique that involves applying the heat press to a sheet of transfer paper. The paper has to be printed with the special solidified inks. When the ink is heated, it is vaporized into a gas. The gas then permeates the polyester textile fibers or plastic materials. Therefore you have a perfect graphic. 

For you to truly understand sublimation printing, you need to think about the typical printer. There is an inker jet that sprays the ink directly on the paper. The liquid ink is dried on the paper using heat and air. It becomes solid and attaches to the paper in writing.  Sublimation involves the liquid ink being applied to the paper where it dries and solidifies. However, it is unique because the ink vaporizes and is transferred to the poly-material without going through the liquid state. 

sublimation printer

What Supplies Do You Need To Start With Sublimation Printing? 

To start with sublimation printing, you must prepare the essential materials and supplies. These include sublimation inks, sublimation paper, a heat press machine, and a printer. Also, it would be best to have a white colored substrate made from polyester fabric or coated with a polyester coating.   

On the other hand, if you’re a beginner, it’s highly advised to purchase a packaged system than buying components separately. This way, you can ensure that all the materials are compatible and save money in the long run.

What Can Materials Be Printed Using The Sublimation Process?

Plastics and plastic substrates are the only materials that sublimation printing can work on. The plastic substrates include rubber, polyester fabric, and other household plastics. It is not suitable for natural materials like cotton since the ink’s vaporization will allow it to pass through the fibers without bonding to them.

How Does Sublimation Printing Work?

If you are looking at your favorite jerseys and wondering how it was made, here is a step-by-step look into the process.

Design Drafting

The first step is making the design. Each part of the garment needs to be printed and designed separately. The jerseys are sewn together from separate pieces of fabric. The master layout for the different sections needs to be created, and it will be used to transfer to the paper.

Print Design On Transfer Paper With Sublimation Inks

The preferred designs are printed on the ream of paper using sublimation ink using a specialized digital printer. When in liquid form, the inks are easily formulated to solids during the printing process. 

Sublimation Process

As mentioned, sublimation printing involves using a heat press machine to transfer designs on different materials such as signs and banners, mugs, pins and buttons, and other promotional items. These machines’ primary role is applying the heat press to a sheet of transfer paper.

Then, the transfer paper is printed with the chosen design, and it is aligned with polyester fabric so that the printed side is on the fabric. Both the paper and the fabric are fed on the heated roller.

The process takes place within the roller. It is easy to have a sublimation ink that transfers on the paper through the combination of heat and pressure. The ink becomes so hot that it evaporates and diffuses before it melts. The heat is intense and therefore opens the polyester fabric’s pores, which allows the ink vapor to go deeper into the fabrics. 

Once the heat is removed, the fabric’s pores close up and therefore capture the ink vapors. The ink is reverted quickly into a solid state inside the fabric. The material is permanently dyed with an HD image and full color.

What Are The Advantages Of Sublimation Printing? 

Now that you know how sublimation printing, it’s time to familiarize yourself with its advantages. These include: 

  • It allows you to choose from several design colors without costing you more money.  
  • It’s ideal for customization since no plates are required for printing.  
  • It’s fast and easy to produce so you can get the finished products on the same day or as quickly as possible.  
  • It’s one of the effective methods of printing full-colored images on hard surfaces without compromising quality.  
  • It’s eco-friendly and cost-effective. Whether printing one item or 100 items, the cost remains the same. 

That said, there’s no question why sublimation printing has become a popular and profitable business venture in the digital printing industry.


To ensure that your prints look great and last long, you need to be keen on the material and ensure you are using high-quality sublimation ink. Additionally, it is a great idea to choose images that you will like and blend well within the clothing areas being printed.

About Carson Derrow

My name is Carson Derrow I'm an entrepreneur, professional blogger, and marketer from Arkansas. I've been writing for startups and small businesses since 2012. I share the latest business news, tools, resources, and marketing tips to help startups and small businesses to grow their business.

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