Dye Sublimation Printing
1. What is Dye Sublimation Printing?
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.
2. Process of Dye Sublimation Printing
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
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 second type is the large format dye sublimation printer. These 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.|