Sublimation Printing vs Heat Transfer Printing
So, you want to enter the wonderful world of T-shirt making and personalized garments—that’s exciting!
You may be asking yourself which garment decoration method is better: Heat Transfer or Sublimation Printing?
The answer is that both are great! However, the method you go with, depends on your needs and what you’re looking to do.
Plus, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s dig into the details to help you decide which is the right fit for you and your business.
Sublimation- It is almost like "colour dye-ing" the material, Sublimation Ink Adheres to the polyester fibres
The sublimation process is quite similar to that of heat transfer paper.
The process involves printing a design onto a sheet of sublimation paper, and pressing it onto a garment with a heat press.
Sublimation ink, when heated, turns from a solid, to a gas, that embeds itself into the polyester fabric... Colour dye-ing the fabric
When it cools, it goes back to a solid and becomes a permanent part of the fabric. This means that your transferred design adds no additional layer on top, so there’s no difference in the "feel" of the printer material, and the rest of the fabric. This also means that the transfer is incredibly durable, and under normal conditions, the images you produce will last as long as the product itself.
Sublimation Printing: - What do you need ?
1.) A decent Inkjet Printer, preferably, with an Ink Tank, to reduce your cost of printing. The printer should have a high Print Resolution, decent print speed, and it must be compatible with a Premium Quality Sublimation Ink (actually it is a chemical, more on that later)
You must take into account that the use of any non Original ink, in any printer, will void the manufacturer warranty.
Furthermore Inkjet Printers needs the ink to be flowing on a regular basis. Leaving your Inkjet printer idle for days, will allow the water to evaporate, and the result will be blockage of the print head nozzles. Please enable the "sleep" setting as indicated in our setup guide.
2.) Premiun Quality Sublimation Ink.
3.) High quality Sublimation Paper
4.) An ICC Colour Profile that was written specifically for your Printer - Your Ink and your Paper, as these three components go together, when an ICC Colour Profile is created.
5.) Graphic Software, that has a Colour Management Component, as it is here, where the above mentioned ICC Colour profile is used, to ensure that the Colour Output, of your Sublimation Ink to the Sublimation Paper, is Colour Correct.
Sublimation Printing: - How do you Sublimate ?
1.) Ensure that your ICC Colour Profile is setup to be the default Colour Profile in your Graphic Software.
2.) Open an image in your graphic software, and enable the correct print settings.
3.) Print your image on a sheet of Sublimation paper. You will notice that the printed image, will not correlate exactly to the image on your screen, as the ink needs a Heat Cycle, to show it's true colours.
4.) Set the correct Temperature and timing on your Heat Press, and place the Sublimation print on your garment in your Heat Press, and Close the Heat Press.
5.) When the buzzer sounds, open the press, to see your 1st Sublimated Garment.
Sublimation Printing can be Trial and Error
Sublimation Inks appears very different to normal Dye or Pigment inks.
A sublimation printer can ONLY be used for Sublimation printing.
For example Black Sublimation ink has a "brownish" appearance, and the yellow seems "mustardy"
Therefore the correct .ICC Colour Profiles for your brand of Sublimation Ink, must be be installed on your PC, to ensure that the CMYK is correctly transferred from Screen to Print.
It is worth bearing in mind, that the avg. PC screen, displays in 16milj. Colours, and to correctly output that to a 4x Colour Printer, is not a simple task
ONLY once the printed sublimation page is heated, will you see the true colour of the Sublimation transfer.
The correct .icc profile, will ensure that your transfers will be close to colour correct, however, the type of media being used (Garments-Mugs-Mousepads) etc, will also have an impact on the final result.
Therefore a reasonlable knowledge of a graphics nature, will assist you in manipulating a problematic image, to print correctly.
It is recommended to use Graphic Software that supports Colour Management, Photo Shop - Corel, and our favourite - Affinity Designer
Sublimation Only works on White to medium Light polyester fabrics, the Ink will not be visible on dark fabrics
It also works on a wide variety of hard surfaces with a polymer-coating.
This opens up an entirely new world of items you can customize - coasters, jewelery, mugs, puzzles and much more.
There are various products that claim, when cotton is treated with a "special spray, or powder", that the ink will adhere to the cotton fabric.
Don't waste your money....that is snake oil...You do not put petrol in a diesel vehicle.
Look, the chemical composition of Sublimation Ink is such, that it adheres to Polyester Fibre, and any Polymer coated surface.
Polyster is an artificial fibre, Cotton is a natural fibre.
It is very important to bear in mind that with a 4x colour printer, True Photo Quality can not be rendered, for that pupose, Epson has a 12 Colour Photo Printer.
Durability and Feel
Sublimation uses a process where the ink becomes part of the fabric rather than adding a layer on top.
This results in a transfer that is unmatched in both durability and feel.
Heat transfer paper adds a layer on top of the garment. This additional layer can be physically felt and is less durable than sublimation and can become faded and cracked over time with numerous wash cycles.
It is important to note that heat transfer papers are not created equally, and you will find some that offer a softer feel and greater durability than other transfer papers.
Types of Garments You Can Decorate
With sublimation, you’re more limited in the types of fabrics you can decorate compared to heat transfer paper.
First, sublimation only works with polyester fabrics. Not cotton! This is because sublimation ink only binds to polyester material. You can get away with sublimating on some poly-cotton blends, but the transfer will not be as bright and vibrant as when you use 100% polyester.
Because sublimation adds no extra layer on top of the fabric, the material also needs to be white or very light-colored for your transfer to show.
On the other hand, with heat transfer paper, you can decorate on light and dark-colored cotton, polyester and cotton-poly blends.
The Basics of Heat Transfer Paper - A very Thin vinyl film is transferred to the garment
So, what is heat transfer paper exactly?
Heat transfer paper is a specialty paper that transfers printed designs to shirts and other garments when heat is applied.
The process involves printing a design onto a sheet of heat transfer paper using a Standard Inkjet Printer - Not a Sublimation Printer.
Then, you place the printed sheet on your T-shirt and press it using a heat press (in certain cases, a home iron will work, but heat presses provide the best results).
After you’ve pressed it, you peel away the backing paper, and a Micro Thin Film of Vinyl now adheres onto the fabric. Great – you now have a custom T-shirt! That was easy, right?
Garment decoration via heat transfer paper is super easy. Many decorators get their start using nothing more than the printer they already have at home!
A few other important notes about heat transfer paper is that most papers work on both cotton and polyester fabrics - whereas sublimation only works on polyesters.
In addition, heat transfer papers are designed to work for either dark or light-colored garments while sublimation is exclusively for white or light-coloured garments.
The standard "Dye Inks" supplied with Ink Tank Printers are good enough for Heat Transfer Printer, howver, if you want to go the extra step, consider a good quality Pigment Ink for your Ink Tank printer, as these will last longer on your Heat Transfers.
The downside of Heat transfer, is the high cost per page, and it can only be used on Material.
In order to achieve the best Sublimation Printing results, you have to use graphic software that does "Colour Management".
Software such as Photoshop, Corel Draw, and Affinity Designer, has a "Colour Management" component, that will use our supplied ICC Colour Profiles,
in order to output the correct colours.
If you intend to print from basic programs such as Word - Powerpoint, or Windows Paint, you will not achieve accurate Colour Output.
We highly recommend the use of Affinity Designer for your Sublimation Printing.
The Colour Management capabilities are excellent, easy to use, cost effective, with loads of free training videos.
* Please note that Printer Manufacturers void the Warranty on printers, when non OEM inks are used in their printers.
* Please ensure that you understand the Sublimation concept, as we have a ZERO Refund policy on Sublimation printers
*Your Sublimatioin Printer will ONLY be used for sublimation printing, any other printing will have incorrect colours, as Sublimation Ink needs a Heat Cycle.
A3 and A4 Sublimation Papers
A4 Standard Dye Sublimation Papers A4, 100 pack 100gsm = R165
A3 Standard Dye Sublimation Papers A3, 100 pack 100gsm = R199
A4 High Resolution 120gsm Dye Sublimation Paper, A4, 100 Pack = R199
Ideal for all Sawgrass & Epson Sublimation Printers
A3 High Resolution 120gsm Dye Sublimation Paper, A3, 100 Pack = R259
A3+ High Resolution 120gsm Dye Sublimation Paper, A3+, 100 Pack = R459
A3 and A4 Heat Transfer Papers
A4 Transfer Paper for Inkjet LIGHT Fabrics 10 pack = R159
A4 Transfer Paper for Inkjet DARK Fabrics 10 pack = R189
A3 Transfer Paper for Inkjet LIGHT Fabrics 10 pack = R249
A3 Transfer Paper for Inkjet DARK Fabrics 10 pack = R279
Black 100ml = R165
Cyan 100ml = R165
Magenta 100ml = R165
Yellow 100ml = R165
Aquamarine AQ10-DST-HC is a high density dye sublimation ink, developed for both coated and uncoated transfer paper and designed for the Epson® DX4, DX5, DX6, DX7, 5113, PrecisionCore TFP, XP600 & EPS3200 print heads