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Dye Sublimation Printing

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In the commercial printing industry, dye sublimation is a relative newcomer to the scene, but it’s been widely adopted because of the advantages it holds over other printing methods like silkscreen or inkjet.

Dye sublimation is ideal for printing shirts, banners, other fabrics and a wide array of panels and products because it creates a more durable product versus silkscreen or inkjet printing and you can create truly eye-popping designs with vibrant colors that your customers will love to wear.

If you're interested in adding dye sublimation to your print shop, here are the answers to some of the most-asked questions from those wanting to get into this industry.

dye sublimation heat transfer printing

What is the Sublimation Printing Process?

The first question many people have is, "What is dye sublimation, and how does it work?"

In a nutshell:
Dye sublimation is a printing process in which the printer sublimates dye into the fabric and other materials.

The printer achieves this by turning the ink from a solid into a gas. Specially treated paper designed to accept dyes serves as a go-between the printer and the material, which causes the dye to become part of the material rather than printing over it.

Once the image is printed on the paper, it's then applied to the fabric and heated to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat expands the fabric's cells, and the gaseous dye absorbs into the fibers.

When the garment cools, the cells close up again, which locks the ink into the surface material.

Is Sublimation Printing Permanent?

Another question many people have is, how durable is the image once printed?

One of the disadvantages of screen printing is that, while the image looks great when printed, after repeated wearing and washing, the ink cracks and fades and looks terrible in a short time.

With dye sublimation, since the ink is turned into a gas and ''injected'' into the fibers, it becomes part of the garment, creating a product that is noticeably more durable than many other traditional printing methods.

Because the dye becomes part of the fabric itself, it won't crack, flake, or become damaged through wear and tear, making the image permanent.

Also, if you're looking to add dye sublimation to your print shop, note that the images you can get offer greater visual appeal because of the printer's ability to output a continuous tone. Continuous tone means smoother blending from one color into another and brighter color variations.

In the right hands, garments printed via dye sublimation often look sleeker and more professional than images printed through other methods.

What Materials Can be Dye Sublimated?

Another question many potential dye-sublimation printers ask is what materials are best to print. Experts recommend at least a 60% polyester fabric for printing, but for the best image quality, use 100% polyester as it accepts the dye better than blends.

Fabrics such as nylon, wool, cotton, and nylon won't work well for dye sub printing.


Can You do Sublimation on Dark Shirts?

Now that you know more about how the printing process works, you're probably wondering whether it works on dark shirts.

The answer is, "You can do it, but you might not be happy with the results."

The reason it's challenging to perform sublimation printing on dark garments is that the dark color of the fabric dulls the colors it absorbs. For example, you might have an image that uses bright red, but when you print that onto a dark shirt such as black, it won't be as vibrant and may come out looking maroon.

For some people, this won't be a problem, but a picky customer will notice the dull colors, and you might end up eating the order.

For best image quality, and to get the most vibrant colors that pop, use light-colored fabrics.

What About Non-Fabric Materials?

With materials and coatings from Unisub and Chromaluxe you can achieve excellent results on many products without frustration. Simply print your image and apply the proper heat and pressure and get a perfect product every time. Because the dye ink is directly infused into the surface of the panel, worries of damage from scratches, scrapes, fingerprints, and fading are a thing of the past.

Read Article: Let Your Imagination Run Wild with ChromaLuxe

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Do You Need A Special Printer to Print Sublimation?

The short answer is, "Yes, you need a special dye-sublimation printer for dye-sub printing."

Visit: Epson Certified Solution Center at Imaging Spectrum

The good news is that because this is such a popular printing method, there is a wide variety of printers from which to choose. And, printers exist to fit almost any budget.

If you're new to the dye sublimation world and don't want to sink a lot of money into it, the good news is that you can get in with an excellent printer for under $5,000.

Dye sublimation printing is a great way to create vibrant, eye-grabbing images on garments, banners, bags, panels, promo products, and many other items. Dye sublimation graphics are long-lasting, and the sky's the limit when it comes to what you can print.

If you're looking to up your printing game, consider adding a dye-sub printer to your workflow.