All About Sublimation

Subli-what? If you've been wondering about sublimation transfers, keep reading! 

No. Sublimation isn't some fancy underwater ship. It's a high tech printing process that delivers excellent results! Like a tattoo, sublimation ink actually bonds to the fibers of the shirt. 


What exactly is sublimationIn short, it's a method of printing that transfers a design into material using special ink and heat. 

It all starts with my printer. I use a Sawgrass SG-800. Sawgrass was the first to make a dedicated sublimation printer. They're the OG of sub printers, you might say. Next comes the special paper. I only use Tex-R Print paper which is specially made for Sawgrass printers. Lastly, is the ink. I only use top quality ink that is made for my printer. Sublimation ink turns into a gas when heated to high temps. This gas bonds with the closest thing to it, your fabric! Thus creating a permanent, full color image that won't fade, crack or peel. 


The Pros

By now you probably already figured out some of the pros of sublimation. First, it's a full color printer which means you won't be limited by the number of colors you can use. There's no layering (YAY!!), you'll get one copy-paper looking sheet of paper with your full design on it.

Another plus is the longevity of the design. Since the ink bonds with the shirt fibers (vs laying on top of the shirt), there is no chance of it cracking or peeling and as long as you choose the correct shirt, there's no fading. Sublimation quality is truly unmatched.

Sublimation transfers can easily be resized to fit whatever garment you choose. My printer prints a max width of 13" so just as long as it's under that, I can get it done!

Sublimation isn't just limited to clothing (although that's what I'll talk about most in this article). There are a ton of products that sublimation can be used on. Things like mugs, flags, blankets, dog accessories, basically anything that is light colored and is coated for sublimation. 

Lastly, sublimation transfers use high heat and light pressure. A heat press is recommended but not necessary. If you already own a press that is easy from a certain well known company, you can use it!

The Cons

The cons in sublimation lie mostly in the fabrics that you can use. Sublimation ink only bonds with polyester fabric. A 100% polyester shirt will yield you the best results but you can use fabric that is as low as a 65% polyester. Since sub ink only bonds with the polyester fibers, a 100% polyester shirt will show a bright design with vibrant colors; You get 100% of the the ink transferred. A 65% polyester shirt will only transfer about 65% of the ink (the ink will only bond with the percentage of polyester) so you'll get a faded, vintage look.

Another con in regards to fabric choice and sublimation is that you can only use white or light colored fabrics. This is because sub printers do not print white ink. If you had a black, 100% polyester shirt and tried to press a sub transfer, nothing would show up. It would be like coloring on a black sheet of construction paper with markers. The marker is there, but you can't really see it. Hence why white or very light pastel colors are needed. 

The final con is that it can sometimes be difficult to find comfortable, non shiny, 100% polyester shirts that are light colored. 


So all this back story brings us to the good stuff: how to actually use sublimation prints. 

  • Prep: Always pre-press garment and link roll
  • Use parchment or blow out paper as needed
  • Adhere design to fabric with heat tape or heat safe adhesive spray
  • Press at 400* F/204* C
  • Press for 60 seconds
  • Use light pressure
  • Peel HOT


After you press your design, 


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