Sublimation and Heat transfer vinyl are two different printing methods. They both have core differences like the use of equipment, cost, profit, versatility, durability, usage of ink, transfer of design, pros, cons, and many more.
Starting with the profitable business of garment customization or generally, if you’re a beginner who wants to decide which printing method you should proceed with, then you must have a look at today’s thorough comparison between sublimation vs heat transfer vinyl (HTV).
Difference Sublimation Vs Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)
The main difference between sublimation printing and vinyl heat transfer is Sublimation printing adheres to the fabric and thus becomes a permanent part of it. In contrast, vinyl forms a layer over the top of the fabric and it doesn’t become a part of it. Sublimation printing involves a sublimation printer via which we first print the images using sublimation ink on the sublimation paper and then transferred the image via a heat press.
On the other hand, vinyl heat transfer is versatile that involves the cutting of vinyl rolls or sheets via vinyl cutters like Cricut or silhouette and the weeding process. After cutting, the excess vinyl is weeded away to make the design visible. It is then pressed via a heat press over the top of the fabric. In case, if you only want to transfer texts and patterns then you won’t need a printer to print on the HTV. But printable HTV allows you to print onto it and transfer it onto the t-shirts too.
Detailed Differences Between Vinyl and Sublimation (Sublimation Printing VS Heat Transfer Vinyl)
Both methods are discussed above with their fundamental differences. But wait! Each printing method has a lot more differences too. Startup cost, durability, versatility, equipment, and yeah limitations too. So let’s dive into the detailed differences.
Sublimation Printing Equipment
- A sublimation printer
- Sublimation papers
- Sublimation inks
- A heat press
- Butcher paper
- Blank t-shirts
- Heat-resistant gloves and tape
Sublimation printing requires a sublimation printer generally you can use Epson sublimation printers or Sawgrass, a bundle of sublimation papers to print onto them, a set of sublimation inks to use with a printer, a heat press to transfer the design, sublimation t-shirt blanks generally polyester and light color, butcher paper to cover the t-shirt while heat pressing, heat resistant gloves, and heat resistant tapes.
(Cricut cutter is optional for small substrates and dark color fabrics). Getting started with sublimation printers for t-shirts is also a good idea. However, if you’re starting the business then you can also opt for the best sublimation printers for beginners.
Vinyl Heat Transfer Equipment
- A vinyl cutter
- A regular inkjet printer (optional) You can Get the best printers for heat transfer vinyl
- Blank t-shirts
- A heat press
- HTV rolls or sheets
- A weeding tool
- Grip mat
On the other side, vinyl heat transfer involves a cutting machine to cut the vinyl that can be a silhouette cameo or Cricut cutter, vinyl rolls or sheets, a weeding tool to weed away the cut design, t-shirt blank generally all kinds of fabric material and color, and a heat press to press the vinyl.
There is a difference between the usage of equipment in both transfer methods. Vinyl heat transfer itself doesn’t require a printer, ink, and paper to proceed with the process if you only want to transfer a design that has solely text and patterns.
But let me be clear that you can also print on printable HTV with a regular printer to create wonderful designs and transfer them to the desired t-shirt blanks.
HTV is a simple yet versatile process that allows you to apply vinyl to a wide range of fabrics and materials. You can apply vinyl onto natural fibers like cotton, linen, and canvas including synthetic fibers like polyester and other polymers. Vinyl can be also utilized for wood, acrylic, and hard and soft surfaces too.
In contrast, sublimation is only suitable for synthetic polymers like polyester fabric, and ceramic printing including mugs, tiles, and drinkware items. Additionally, sublimation can be also applied on wood and aluminum including hard and soft surfaces with multiple color printing.
The biggest limitation in the sublimation is you cannot print dark-color garments like black and natural fibers like 100% cotton, canvas, and linen. Sublimation will be only applied to light colors. Secondly, you will require polyester or poly-blended fabric in order to get sublimated. For hard substrates, it will require poly-coating on each substrate. However, it is possible to sublimate the dark colors but it will require more effort relatively.
On the other hand, vinyl doesn’t apply any kind of design limitation including color and garment material. You can transfer vinyl onto black, light, and all garments color also garment material is not a problem for HTV.
Cost Of Sublimation vs Vinyl
To get started with fabric customization, you just need to have a look at your pocket first. The HTV process can be inexpensive for a beginner to get started. You will only require a vinyl plotter that costs around $300 to $500 if you want a single color with weeding only, silhouette and Cricut are the best options out there
A heat press machine costs around $250 to $500, a weeding tool costs around $10 to $20, and lastly, vinyl rolls can cost $20 to $40. Additionally, Fabric blanks depend upon your choice.
So the sum-up cost would be around $700 to $900 and you’ll be good to go with the HTV process without a printer. A regular inkjet printer will cost you from $200 to $300.
Besides that, if your pockets are not filled with dollars then the sublimation process may sound costly to you. The reason is the usage of multiple and more pieces of equipment than HTV. A good sublimation printer may cost you around $400 to $700, sublimation papers $20 to $30, sublimation inks of $15 to $30, a heat press of $250 to $500, other tools including butcher paper, heat resistant gloves, and tapes, cost around $50 to 100$.
For more info, you can start with the best cheap sublimation printers.
And polyester shirts are additional. Lastly, the Cricut plotter is optional if you’re getting started with small substrate businesses like mugs, tumblers, and key chains and dark colors getting bleached. So the whole cost of the sublimation business can be $1500 to $2000 and take the $500 for additional expenses. You can read a guide on how to start a sublimation printing business.
To be honest, this depends on how many units you sell per month. The more you sell the more profit you’ll gain but in recent years, sublimation has gained a lot of popularity so the chances are high that you can make a decent amount of money from sublimation. Also, people like the wide range of colors in the sublimation.
You might get fascinated with the start-up cost of HTV but In terms of durability and longevity, the sublimation process is the clear path winner. Sublimation ink completely infuses into the fabric and it becomes a part of the fabric until the fabric or substrate last. Whereas, HTV vinyl adds a plastic surface over the top of the fabric and it is prone to peeling off with some washes over time.
Secondly, you’ll feel a layer of plastic in the HTV while sublimation won’t let you feel a layer of ink over the fabric.
Which Is Better: Sublimation Vs HTV
Well, it is one of the frequent questions being asked and I always reply it depends: to be honest! If your business is specific about polyester fabric or light color garments then sublimation will work perfectly for you because it also prints vibrant colors. While HTV is a low-cost start-up that allows you to print on versatile garments and colors.
Is Sublimation Better Than Vinyl Heat Transfer
In my opinion, sublimation is better than HTV. Sublimation is time-saving it doesn’t require cutting and weeding. You can immediately transfer the designs after printing. Also, you can print multiple designs at the same time. While the HTV can be time-consuming for you when it comes to weeding the large designs. Check DTG vs Sublimation
Advantages of Sublimation
- Print vivid colors
- Time-saving process
- Ensures durability
- Versatile hard and soft surface printing
- Personalized apparels
- Potential business
Disadvantages of Sublimation
- Limited to fabric color and material
- High start-up cost
- Not suitable for cotton
Advantages of HTV
- Not limited to color and fabric material
- Press customized text
- Low start-up cost
- High demand from consumers
- No time is required for the setup
Disadvantages of HTV
- Time-consuming process
- Not durable as sublimation
- Forms a layer on the fabric
Sublimation vs Vinyl Mugs
The core difference between sublimation and vinyl mug is that the sublimation ink is infused in the poly-coated mug eliminating a layer on the top of the mug. The surface of the mug becomes smoother even if your finger won’t feel it.
Besides sublimation, HTV forms a layer of vinyl on the top of the surface. Even though your finger will be able to feel the layer and the layer can be peeled off if it is not applied properly. Check how to make sublimation brighter on mugs.
You can personalize sublimated mugs according to your needs. For example, you can gift a customized mug on your friend’s birthday with his own image or you can have a sip of coffee in your own personalized image mug. While HTV is the only one suitable for memorable texts and sentences. You can read the guide on sublimation mugs vs regular mugs.
Can you sublimate it onto heat transfer vinyl?
The answer is yes! You can sublimate onto vinyl when you want to sublimate on dark-color fabric or cotton. You will need to combine the sublimation and heat transfer vinyl. Print a design onto the Easy Glitter HTV and then heat transfer it onto the fabric. But remember! The layer of vinyl will be there but the design will be permanent.
What kind of HTV vinyl can you sublimate on?
We recommend white glitter HTV because the glitter contains polyester which is necessary for sublimation. When you sublimate the Glitter HTV, the polyester material helps sublimation ink to infuse into the heat transfer vinyl. And then you can transfer that design onto your desired fabric blank. Also, Siser Easysubli can be used to sublimate because it is specified vinyl for the sublimation heat transfer. You may check the best sublimation printer for heat transfer.
Can a sublimation printer print on vinyl?
Yes! A normal sublimation printer is able to print vinyl but you will need to use printable vinyl or white glitter HTV vinyl. Secondly, you’ll need to use permanent vinyl that won’t be able to peel away.
To conclude things, you must know now the basic differences between sublimation vs heat transfer vinyl HTV. Still confused! The simple thing is sublimation is wonderful for printing vivid personalized images that become a permanent part of the substrates.
While vinyl is limited to color and doesn’t become a part of the substrate permanently. Now you will be able to choose the personalized apparel business. Want to explore more? Here is the comparison of DTF vs sublimation.