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 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

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 solid-state inside the fabric. The material is permanently dyed with the HD image and full color.


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 Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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