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Learn More About Dye Sublimation!

Learn More About Dye Sublimation!


Very easy to get into, dye sublimation is one of the most common types of printing done!

How does it work? Sublimation is a science-y term that describes how something goes from a gas to a solid, without becoming a liquid! How does this happen? It uses special ink, designed to vaporize at 400F, as well as a specially-backed paper that makes sure the vaporized ink goes one direction.

Dye sublimation can do t-shirts, but it can also work an a lot more products, like mugs, mousepads, keychains and anything that has been specially treated.

Here we see mousepads (topped with polyester fabric) and a mug. Both use dye sublimation!

For all products, the material has to be specially treated and must start white (or at least lighter than the image you’re wanting to put on it), since the dye sublimation printers can’t print in white! If a machine can print white, then the chances are it’s a Heat Transfer or decal, which isn’t washable or (in the case of mugs) not often dishwasher-safe.

For t-shirts, in addition to being white, the material must be 100% polyester. Lower percentages of polyester means the ink won’t stick. In more technical terms, sublimation works by getting to polyester’s “sticking point” – the point at which the material gets sticky, but does not melt. This allows the vaporized ink to bind with the polyester itself, directly dying the fabric.

Pros:

  • Unlimited Colors! Dye sublimation printers are also inkjets (some of your standard inkjets can even be converted to sublimation printers).
  • High customization! An order or project can include different designs without needing special setup.
  • Doesn’t have minimums – a run can be a single item
  • Can print on a wide variety of material types – anything that is specially treated
  • Extremely long-lasting since the ink binds with the material. Machine-washable apparel, dishwasher-safe mugs, etc.
  • Generally more inexpensive

Cons:

  • Material must be specially treated or 100% polyester fabric
  • Cannot print in white – material must start out white (material with color will affect the colors of the ink)
  • If you want larger designs (full wraps like sports shirts, etc.) you need larger, specialty machines.  

Common Uses:

  • Sports jerseys
  • Mousepads
  • Mugs
  • Variety of promotional items
  • ID cards/gift cards

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