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Dye sublimation is gaining in popularity among crafters but what is sublimation printing? Sublimation printing allows you to transfer images to a shirt or another surface with great quality that will not fade over time. Imagine your craft projects sustaining their quality throughout the years? That is exciting, right? Read on to learn more!
What is sublimation?
Sublimation is a chemical process where a solid turns into a gas without going through a liquid stage.
What is sublimation printing?
Dye sublimation printing is a method for transferring images onto suitable material where the ink goes directly from a solid into a gas and infuses into your project.
Sublimation Printing Process
Typically a printer is used to print on sublimation transfer paper with sublimation ink. This paper is then exposed to high heat in a heat press in order to transfer the design to your surface. This is when the sublimation ink turns from a solid into a gas. The heat also helps to open the pores in your substrate. The particles that are now in a gas state can actually infuse themselves into the fibers of your surface. Once the heat is removed, the pores in the substrate will close. The ink then turns back into a solid and is permanently trapped inside.
What surfaces can you sublimate on?
As a general rule, sublimation printing is best used on products like polyester apparel in white or light colors. You can also use it on hard surfaces but those must have a poly-coating. There are sublimation blanks available in things like coasters, mugs, mousepads, and so much more. The sublimation process itself needs the polyester for the reaction that takes place.
How is this different from t-shirt transfers or heat transfer vinyl?
For both t-shirt transfers that can be printed in a home printer and heat transfer vinyl, the material sits on top of the substrate. The sublimation reaction actually allows for the ink to be embedded into the surface. Overall, sublimation will be better quality and also a longer lasting product.
The reason that methods like t-shirt transfers and HTV are so popular is simply that sublimation is expensive. The printer, software, ink, heat press, and substrates can really add up. It is usually way more than a home crafter is willing to spend. However, you can actually find sublimation prints you can purchase from places like Etsy. Then all you need is your substrate and heat press to make your own projects. This is a popular option for those that don’t want to invest but want to make a high-quality project at home.
NOTE: You will want to look at the heat press specs for any sublimation print you purchase as they often require temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can actually watch me make some can koozies in the video below. I am using both heat transfer vinyl and sublimation techniques to make these. This gives you an idea of the process for actually transferring the ink to a surface.