Dye Sublimation Printing


1. What is Dye Sublimation Printing?

Dye Sublimation Printing is carried out through sublimation using heat sensitive inks. Students love using this method to print class tees especially if they have colourful custom designs that span across the edges and rims of the t-shirts.


What is Sublimation?

As a refresher, substances exist and interchange between the solid, liquid and gaseous state in consecutive order. However, the liquid state is skipped in the process of sublimation. Hence, in the process of heating, solids transition directly into the gaseous state and likewise, in the process of  cooling, gas directly solidifies.

states of matter

2. Process of Dye Sublimation Printing

3 items are needed in dye sublimation printing: a sublimation printer, heat transfer paper and a heat press. Accordingly, the process is split into 2 rounds of sublimation. Firstly, from the dyes in the sublimation printer to the heat transfer paper and secondly, from the heat transfer paper to the garment using the heat press.


First Stage: From Sublimation Printer to the Heat Transfer Paper

Heat sensitive inks in the sublimation printer are used to print on a coated heat resistant transfer paper as a reverse image of the final design to be printed. Applying the knowledge of sublimation from above, the heat sensitive inks in the printer are heated into a gaseous state and solidifies as it cools on the heat transfer paper.


Second Stage: From the Heat Transfer Paper to the Garment

Another round of sublimation is conducted to transfer the design from the heat transfer paper onto the garment. Using a heat press, the heat sensitive inks on the heat transfer paper are subjected to a certain specific level of heat and pressure until they turn into a gas. The inks then infuse right into a 100% polyester medium and solidifies in the shirt upon removal from the heat press machine.


Sublimation is hence, key in making this printing method a permanent infusion process.

After dye sublimation printing is complete, ink does not simply sit on the surface of the t-shirt but is infused within the polyester material. This allows sublimation printed tees to be washed, ironed and even steamed without losing the clarity of the design printed. Below is a shirt printed using dye sublimation and you can notice the continuity of the design with the shirt.

3. Uses of Dye Sublimation Printing

Dye Sublimation Printing can be used on a wide range of items which include:

  1. Sportswear like Sports Singlets, Jerseys (Polyester Material)
  2. Dri Fit T-shirts
  3. Shorts (Polyester Material)
  4. Polyester Canvas Tote Bags
  5. Mugs (Printed on Dye Sublimation Transfer Paper before being transferred to Mugs)

4. Advantages and Disadvantages of Dye Sublimation Printing


  • The image is permanent and does not fade or peel off with time.
  • Dye sublimation is economical to some extent (for large quantities of the same design).
  • Dye sublimation allows for design customisation throughout the t-shirt, even on the edges and rims of the t-shirt.


  • Dye sublimation printing cannot be used on cotton. It is only used on polyester and synthetic fabrics.
  • It can only be used on white or light coloured dri fit t-shirts.
  • Dye sublimation is a slow process due to the slow printing speed.

A lot of printers in Singapore do not offer dye sublimation printing. This is because of the restrictions it imposes and high cost of machines. 

5. Different Types of Sublimation Printers

The first type of dye sublimation printer, small dye sublimation printer, is usually for home use and simple printing on white t-shirts and mugs.








The second type is the large format dye sublimation printerThese printers are often used to print larger items like banners or for instances when the printing is done before the stitching of the garment.

6. Differences between Sublimation Printing and Heat Transfer Printing


Dye Sublimation Printing Heat Transfer Printing
Print Effect and Durability The design is infused into the material so it is able to withstand repeated washes, ironing and steaming. The design is not infused but lays on top of the material, producing a plastic feel. Hence, it’s less durable because it can wear away with repeated washes.
Price Considerations It is cheaper at smaller quantities. It is cheaper at larger quantities.
Variability Only able to be printed on white or light coloured polyester/ synthetic bases. Able to be printed on other materials (polyester, cotton etc) of other colours.