The question is not, “what can you sublimate on?” The question is, “What materials CAN’T you sublimate on?” Sublimation printing technology has been around since the late 1800s. It’s a process in which heat causes the dye to change states from solid to gas and then again to create an image onto a fabric or paper substrate.
Due to their composition, many different substrates cannot be used with the traditional subliming process. Read on to find out what you can sublimate.
What Is Sublimation?
Sublimation is a process used in the dyeing industry to transfer designs onto fabric. The technique was first developed by textile printers, who wanted to create large images on textiles without having expensive equipment or paying for larger embroidery stitches.
Sublimation printing has allowed designers and artists to easily print high-quality images directly onto fabric. There are many different methods to choose from when it comes to printing. More common types include letterpress printing, digital printing, and sublimation.
Often considered an option for high-end or luxury items since it can produce vibrant prints with unique effects, sublimation is a method that has some interesting pros and cons. Here’s how it works:
- The design is first created in a digital format.
- It is then printed onto a special paper that can be transferred to fabric using heat and pressure.
- Once the transfer is complete, the material is placed into a dye sublimation printer, where the image is converted into gas and absorbed by the fibers.
- The photo will remain on the material, but the paper is burned away.
- The final result is a vibrant print that has essentially fused with the fibers of your garment or product.
What Can You Sublimate On?
You can sublimate on a wide range of materials. Some of the most popular are cotton, polyester, and nylon. However, you can also sublimate on other materials such as metal, glass, and even wood (though not directly).
The possibilities are endless when it comes to what you can sublimate. You can create custom shirts, hats, bags, ornaments, and so much more. The only limit is your imagination!
Here are some of the best materials for sublimation:
This includes fabrics like Cotton, Polyester, and Nylon. Polyester has to be the best fabric for sublimation because it doesn’t wrinkle and has bright colors. Where you can, avoid natural fibers like cotton because the dyes might run.
This includes materials like aluminum and brass. They can be printed on directly with a particular printer designed for metal, or you can use adhesive vinyl to print your designs.
Glass is an excellent surface for sublimation because it doesn’t show any fingerprints or smudges. You can use either adhesive vinyl or a special transfer paper to print your designs on.
Wood is not the best surface for sublimation because it doesn’t hold the ink and other materials. However, if you want to create a unique furniture or décor, wood can be a great option. You can use a special transfer paper or adhesive vinyl to print your designs on.
This includes materials like acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). These are used for plastics, formed into molds and other shapes.
Things To Consider When Sublimation Printing
The following are a few things to consider when sublimation printing:
The type of ink
When you are looking into sublimation printing, one of the first things you will be asked is what type of ink. There are three types:
- Water-based inks (which dry quickly).
- Solvent-based inks (which can work with a broader variety of materials).
- Plastisol inks that require heat to set them.
The type of printer
When looking into sublimation printing, you will also be asked about the available types of printers. There are several on the market today, but not all offer the same quality or level of detail in their prints. You should look at your specific needs and find which option is best for them before purchasing.
The type of material
Not all materials are created equal when it comes to sublimation printing. You need to make sure that the fabric or material you are using is designed for this type of printing process. If not, the results may be less than desirable and could ruin your project entirely.
Always test your print
Before you begin any large printing project, it is always a good idea to test your print first. This will help you identify any potential problems and correct them before they become an issue. By testing your print, you can also get a better idea of how the final product will look – ensuring that you are happy with the results.
The number of colors
When you are sublimation printing, you will need to consider the number of colors your design has. While most printers allow for full-color prints, some only offer shades of gray or a limited color palette. If you have important details in your print that require specific shades, this may be an issue for the printer you choose.
The size of the print
Another thing to consider when sublimation printing is the size of your final print. Not all printers are capable of large prints, so you will need to make sure that the one you choose can handle the size that you need. This can be especially important if you want to create a sign or banner.
These are just a few things to consider when sublimation printing. Make sure you research and find out what is best for your specific needs before beginning a project like this one.
What Are The Benefits Of Sublimation Printing?
Sublimation printing has many benefits over traditional screen printing. Here are some of the most notable:
- Sublimation printing produces high-quality prints with great detail and color saturation. The inks are directly deposited onto the substrate rather than being forced through a screen.
- The process is very efficient, making it a good choice for small quantities or short runs.
- Since there is no need for a screen, setup time is minimal, and the process is quick.
- Sublimation printing is perfect for irregularly shaped items or those with a lot of detail, as it does not require a negative image as traditional screen printing does.
- The prints are also very durable and will not fade.
- Ink is applied directly to the fabric, so there are no limitations on colors or designs. The only considerations that must be made for this process include how it will react with certain fabrics and which inks should be used.
- The heat from the press causes the ink particles to melt into each other, mixing them permanently – creating a high-quality print.
- This process can be used on a wide range of materials, including fabrics, plastics, metals, and even ceramics.
There are many reasons to choose sublimation printing for your next project. With superior image quality, quick turnaround time, and limitless design possibilities, it’s no wonder that more and more businesses are discovering the benefits of this cost-effective process.
Can you sublimate on metal?
Yes, sublimation can be done on metal. It’s a popular choice for metal products like mugs and keychains. The main downside to sublimating on metal is that the ink doesn’t always bond as well as it does with other materials, so results may not be quite as durable.
Can you sublimate on fabric?
Yes, you can sublimate on fabric. The great thing about using a material like cotton or polyester is that the ink will stick well, and results can be pretty durable. However, it’s still important to make sure you’re working with 100% natural fiber materials (no blends) to ensure optimal design adhesion before printing.
What kind of substrates can I use for sublimation?
You can use various substrates for sublimation, including polyester, cotton, and blends thereof; metal; glass; and different other materials. It’s important to note that not all materials are compatible with all inks, so make sure you’re using the right kind of ink to avoid damaging your design or making any necessary adjustments.
Can I print a low-ink image with sublimation?
Sublimation is not designed to print very dark images with little ink coverage (low-ink). In this case, it’s usually best to use a different printing method. Trying to print low-ink images with sublimation can often lead to poor results and/or damage to your printer or design.
Can I use sublimation for large prints?
Sublimation can be used for both small and large prints, but the size of the print will ultimately depend on the capabilities of your printer. Some printers can handle much larger prints than others, so it’s best to consult with the manufacturer and/or read reviews of other customers who have used that same model to find out what size prints they can produce.
Can I print on both sides of a sublimation product?
It is possible to print on both sides of a sublimation product, but it’s not always easy. You’ll need to make sure your design is set up in a way that allows for the second side to be printed correctly, and you may need to do some additional post-printing work to get the best results.
What do you have in your home that can you sublimate? Nearly any fabric, metal, or glass object. Sublimation is a perfect way to customize and personalize anything from clothing to office supplies.
You can get creative with what you sublimate. For example, if you own a clothing store, why not create your company’s logo on the front of your T-shirts? There are endless ways to use this technology creatively to increase brand awareness and drive sales simultaneously.