What Is Sublimation Printing? How Does Sublimation Work?

So you’ve heard the word “sublimation” and want to know what is sublimation printing in the world of art and print. Let me clear your doubts in the short: Sublimation is a heat transfer process that is used to print beautiful fabrics, mugs, tumblers, metal, keychains, earrings, wood, and those blanks which are coated with polyester.

what is sublimation printing

What Is Sublimation Printing?

While sublimation printing is the almost same process as transferring tattoos onto the skin. But sublimation printing can be done by heat transferring the design onto the desired sublimation substrates. You can print polyester fabric, leather bags, tumblers, shoes, plates, ceramics, wood, metal, and many more.

How Does Sublimation Work

Firstly, the design is printed using a sublimation printer and sublimation ink on the sublimation paper. Secondly, that design is heated via a heat press machine at the temperature of 230°C to 300°C for 60 seconds to transfer the design onto the substrate or fabric.

Lastly, the sublimation ink becomes the permanent part of the substrate. Because when it is heated the solid ink printed onto the paper is converted into gaseous by quitting the liquid state thus the poly-coated surface absorbs the ink.

In that way, sublimation is not prone to fading and peeling off. Because sublimation doesn’t form a layer on the top of the substrate or fabric.

The sublimation process is similar to the tattoo process. When heat is applied, the fabric pores open up, and the sublimation ink bind with it thus becoming a permanent part of it eliminating the chances of peeling or cracking the image with daily fabric washing.

What Is Sublimation Printing Used For?

Sublimation printing is used for printing various substrates. You can create beautiful images and personalized products by using the sublimation printing process. Other than printing your own apparel, you can start a lucrative sublimation business to make a part-time profit.

Moreover, sublimation is also helpful to gift customized substrates to your friends and family on their special days. Also, a beginner can also get started to generate a part-time income with the best sublimation printers for beginners.

How Does Sublimation Printer Work?

The Sublimation printer is a special type of printer that print sublimation ink onto the sublimation paper. 

Usually, business owners use Epson inkjet sublimation printers because they are versatile and affordable. They have a piezo print head that contains a special type of crystals on which the electric current passed through the crystals, thus the crystals start to expand. The electric current forces the ink crystal to print onto the substrate. For more details, you can visit what kind of printer can be used for sublimation.

Each time, an electric current has applied a droplet is printed to form the full image. 

First, the refillable ink cartridges are used in the Epson sublimation printer and filled with sublimation ink, an image is designed via an online graphics tool, and that design is printed by the sublimation printer onto the sublimation paper, lastly, the sublimation paper is placed on the top of the substrate and heated to transfer the image.

What Is Needed To Print Sublimation?

What Is Needed To Print Sublimation

Whether you’re printing inkjet heat transfer or sublimation printing, you’ll always need some equipment to kick-start the process. Sublimation printing will require the below equipment

  1. A sublimation printer – to print designs
  2. Bundle of sublimation paperto print images onto them
  3. Refillable cartridges – to fill the sublimation ink
  4. Sublimation inks for dye creation
  5. A heat press machine – for transferring designs
  6. Desired sublimation blanksto transfer designs onto them. For example, polyester shirts, poly-coated mugs, and other substrates.
  7. Butcher paper – for placing on the top of the substrate while heat transfer

What Is Sublimation Printing On Shirts?

Sublimation on t-shirts is an exceptional process to print the shirts while transferring the designs that look vivid and long-lasting. It is the heat transfer process in which the image is printed to transfer onto the t-shirt. However, there are some limitations while sublimation on the fabrics you cannot sublimate dark color t-shirts without bleaching them.

In addition, sublimating the cotton material won’t be able to sublimate without spraying the poly-coated spray. But thanks to its durability, the image will last until the fabric is worn and torn.

Pros and Cons Of The Sublimation


  • Sublimation prints are durable.
  • They won’t peel off because this process doesn’t form a layer on the top of the substrate.
  • It is easy to print and produce.
  • The prints look pretty and attractive.
  • It allows printing on rigid surfaces like ceramics, tumblers, etc.


  • Sublimation cannot be printed in the dark color
  • You cannot print cotton but the fabric must have 60% polyester
  • The process is much more costly
  • Sublimation ink forms clog if it is not printed frequently


1. Which is better sublimation or heat transfer?

Those processes have other own upsides and downsides. If you want to print only white color fabric mainly focused on polyester material or want to start a mug printing business then sublimation printing is a perfect choice for you. On the other hand, want to print some colorful prints on all types of surfaces then heat transfer paper is the best option for you.

2. Do you need a Cricut for sublimation?

If you want to cut your design edge to edge perfectly then Cricut is the machine that will fulfill your dream of becoming a perfect artist. In addition, you can use Cricut’s own design software “Cricut design space” to create custom designs and wonderful fonts.

3. Where do I get sublimation designs?

You can grab the sublimation designs from creative fabrica, Etsy, etc or the second option is to customize your own designs via online sublimation printing software like photoshop, canva, gimp, etc.

4. How do I turn my printer into sublimation?

If you’re using an Epson sublimation printer then you can easily turn your printer into sublimation. Simply, you need to clean the print head and pipes, remove the cartridges and add the refillable cartridges, fill them with sublimation ink and you’re good to go. However, I suggest using a brand new Epson sublimation printer to prevent any kind of mishap. Additionally, you can check how to convert HP printer to a sublimation printer.

To Conclude

We hope all the sublimation queries are cleared for you now. Sublimation is a quite simple heat transfer process to print different types of substrates that are poly-coated. Just pick a substrate and start printing onto it using a sublimation printer and other above-mentioned equipment. There are hundreds of printing procedures but I found sublimation is the most durable process to utilize the fabrics.

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  • Jessica Warner

    A printing enthusiast is here to serve you the vision of art. I’m working as a printing artist since my childhood and running a successful business online and offline. I inspire you to create beautiful printings via my select products and How-To tutorials.

    https://printartisty.com/ office.leadsync@gmail.com Warner Jessica

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