What Is Sublimation Printing?

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Updated November 19, 2022

If you are new to the world of printers, you may wonder what sublimation printing is. For starters, it’s more than printing an image onto a surface. And, it actually works a little similarly to screen printing. On the other hand, it’s not quite like heat transfer printing. 

Typically, sublimation printing is usually done with extremely large printers. But, consumers can now sublimate materials at home using a dye sublimation printer. 

Many of the best printers feature drastically different designs and features, and some even excel with sublimation printing. So what exactly is sublimation printing, do you need to do it, and what benefits does it bring to the table for average consumers? Keep reading to find out.


  • Sublimation printing, otherwise called sublimation ink printing, is a method of printing that uses high heat and special paper to create long-lasting designs on polyester fabric and related polyester materials.
  • The sublimation process excels at creating unique works of art, such as t-shirts and colorful pieces of PVC plastic.
  • Designs created with the sublimation printing process tend to last long and resist cracks and peels.

What is a Sublimation Printer?

A sublimation printer specializes in sublimation printing, similar to when learning the definition of a thermal inkjet printer. Just like thermal printers, like the impact printer, sublimation designs use extremely high temperatures to make dye transfers from a dedicated piece of sublimation paper to a physical material like fabric. These printers are often used for screenprinting and making t-shirts and the like, which is not said when learning the definition of a plotter printer.

Insider Tip

These printers can be expensive, as can the sublimation paper, so be sure to shop for deals.

How Does Dye Sublimination Printing Work?

These printers use pressure and heat to transfer a design from sublimation paper to fabric or related material. They heat up to around 400 degrees, thus changing the solid particles of the ink to a gaseous state which makes for easier transfers. This type of printer is considered an easy and cost-effective way to add a bit of flair to both commercial products and residential print jobs.

Benefits of Using a Sublimation Printer

Going with a sublimation printer brings a number of benefits to the table, particularly for those looking to create unique prints on diverse materials.

Dye Printing

This is your best bet if you want to print from colored dyes onto fabric and other materials other than paper. You can use this type of printing to create label tags, t-shirt designs, flags, and even identification cards. These printers work best with fabric, but they also excel with certain harder materials, such as PVC and polyester-coated aluminum. Experiment with different materials to create unique products and designs.

STAT: The high-quality end product of sublimation printing has increased in popularity over the past few years. (source)

Design Longevity

Sublimation dye printing is efficient, with gorgeous results, and creates particularly hearty designs once adequately dried. These prints won’t dry, crack, or peel unless the item in question goes through something truly severe. This is one of the reasons this type of printing is so popular for creating t-shirts and other items that are made to last a good long while. T-shirts, for instance, can last decades before needing to be replaced.

Sublimation FAQs

What are the best dye sublimation printers?

If you are looking for a sublimation printer for screen printing or garment printing, look at the features on offer and choose appropriately.

How do I prevent washed-out designs?

When screen printing, prevent washed-out designs by following the instructions inherent to the material you are printing on and by making sure the design dries correctly.

Are sublimation and heat transfer the same thing?

They are close but not an exact match. With sublimation, only the ink transfers onto the material. With heat transfer, an entire layer goes onto the material. Both are useful methods for screen printing, depending on if you have heat transfer paper or sublimation dye.
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