What is Sublimation | All You Need to Know

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So, either you are wondering what sublimation is or you want to start your sublimation business and look for the information. Don’t worry, in today’s detailed guide we will talk about all of your concerns that would help you to get a kick start in your exciting sublimation printing journey. 

Simply, when you plan to produce good prints at home, you require a sublimation machine that can produce dyes. Later on, you can transfer these dyes with the help of heat to different materials like plastic, card, fabric, and paper. Using a desktop sublimation machine, you can easily print full-color designs and transfer them to any surface. The output of Sublimation is amazing, and you will love it. 

What is Sublimation?

what is sublimation

Do you know what Sublimation is? No worries, here we have a detailed answer. 

Sublimation is a process that works by using pressure and heat that is transferred to the dye and then onto any polyester-coated surface. This dye is first printed on a transfer paper using a sublimation printer as a medium. 

Then, this transfer paper is placed on the surface where we want to transfer the dye. In the end, both dye and surface are pressed together with heat. You need to apply high temperature and pressure to the dye so it vaporizes and then converts into a solid form to sublimate on the fabric. 

Which Machine is best for Sublimation?

There are too many options available in the market, and it can be challenging to choose one. We have figured out 4 popular and best sublimation printers to make it easier for you to decide. So no more guessing and fewer risk factors involved.

  1. Sawgrass SG-500, a purpose-built sublimation printer, they have been making printers for more than 20 years and are a tycoon in this field. 
  1. Epson SureColor F170, another purpose-built sublimation printer, usually makes commercial-grade dye sublimation printers for higher capacity. They have recently launched this product for desktops, especially for users like us at home.
  1. Inkjet printers can easily convert to sublimation printers, commonly the Epson ecotank with its larger reservoir, which allows it to use sublimation ink instead of inkjet ink. 
  1. Epson Workforce printers have cartridges filled with ink, but you can still buy an empty one and fill it up with sublimation ink.

Which sublimation printer is the best?

It depends greatly on your need and requirement, on a budget too. But we usually recommend Epson EcoTank and Sawgrass. The reason is Sawgrass is easy to use and maintain while the Epson EcoTank is budget-friendly. Now, you have our picks as well to make your decision easier.

Working of Sublimation Machines

These are the machines that contain special dye sublimation ink in them. You can use purpose-built sublimation printers like snowgrass or Epson f170 or a desktop printer converted to use as a sublimation ink. Such as Epson ecotank and workforce. 

Sublimation ink is kept in reservoirs/cartridges of the desktop printers in color (black, magenta, yellow, and cyan) and fed through the tubes into specialized nozzles that consist of hundreds of thousands of tiny holes, known as print heads. 

These tiny holes are responsible for sublimation ink droplets being limited to four nanometers, which ultimately creates high-quality and resolution images in full color with your small sublimation desktop machine.

Before moving forward, let us clarify that not all inkjet printers can become sublimation machines. So, do proper research before trying it on any specific printer.

Maintenance of Sublimation Printers

Maintenance increases the life of anything, but when it comes to printers, they play an important role. As we all know, sublimation ink dries out much faster than ink we use in inkjet printers. 

That results in clogging the head of print; later on, you must clean the print head. If you live in a region where the temperature is warmer or a dry climate zone, then the ink of your sublimation printer will dry faster. 

The best and simplest way to keep your sublimation printer in premium condition is by printing a page regularly, once a week, or after a couple of days. It will let the smooth flow of ink through the nozzle head and reduce the chances of drying and clogging. 

Other Sublimation Machines You Need

In addition to sublimation printers, you also need a heat source that reaches temperatures from 350° to 400° F, such as a heat press. 

Sublimation machines include heat presses like circuit autopress or other traditional swing-away heat presses. A few other specialized heat presses are circuit mug presses and tumbler presses. These are very much famous.

Difference between Sublimation and Heat Pressing


It is a technique that uses heat to transfer the dye onto the polyester fabrics and on other polyester-coated surfaces for better results. The best thing about dye sublimation is it produces a high-quality image that never fades over time.

The biggest con of Sublimation is that you can only do it on certain types of materials. Another issue with sublime is that you need specialized equipment to do it easily — named a sublimation machine followed by a high heat source, a heat press, or a convection oven.

Heat Pressing

Heat Pressing is a term for transferring heat transfer vinyl (HTV), also known as IOV or IV (Iron-on vinyl). It can be done on a wide range of materials like polyester, cotton, and spandex or sometimes — even on wood. 

One of the best choices for crafters is heat pressing, as it is simple to use and doesn’t require any other special equipment. The major con of head pressing is that it is less durable than Sublimation itself. This illustrates that your design will likely fade over time or peel if not properly cared for. 

Sublimation vs Screen Printing

Sublimation transfers dye into the fabric, whereas screen printing lies as a thin layer of ink on the top of the fabric. 

If we talk about durability, then Sublimation wins the race. A plus for screen printing is that you can print on cotton shirts, which won’t happen using Sublimation. 

Initial Transfer of Sublimation Ink

To transfer sublimation ink, you need to have sublimation blanks. Usually, it is a 100% polyester fabric like a t-shirt or a piece of ceramic, glass, wood, or slate which must be coated with polyester. 

The main thing to focus on here is that the surface should be able to absorb the ink. When using a non-polyester surface, it should have a super thin polyester coating.


Why should we use sublimation printers?

Sublimation printers are good when you want to create images that can be transferred permanently with high heat to polyester-coated surfaces, creating amazing, colorful items that don’t fade. Peel or crack.

What is the main difference between Sublimation and a normal printer?

Sublimation printers create high-quality images made with super sublimation ink that can transfer to polyester with the help of high heat and pressure. At the same time, regular printers create decent-quality images with ink that cannot be transferred by applying high heat and pressure. 
The print we take out from a sublimation printer is faded when it is first printed on transfer paper, and later on, it becomes more vibrant with heat and pressure. The print from a regular printer appears vibrant on the paper but can not be transferred. The dye sublimation printing process usually requires sublimation ink and a decent polyester surface for a vibrant print.

Is a circuit a sublimation printer or not?

A circuit cutting Machine can cut things like iron-on vinyl, paper, and infusible ink transfer sheets. We often use a circuit to cut HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl), which you can easily heat press onto fabric and wood.
Luckily, you can use a circuit to do a type of Sublimation known as circuit infusible ink, a pre-printed sheet of sublimation-dyed transfer paper that you can cut with a circuit. You can also add infusible ink pens and markers into the circuit and let it draw on a laser copy paper; later, you can transfer it to an appropriate surface.
So, a circuit is not a sublimation printer, you can utilize it as a sublimation machine if you cut an infusible ink transfer sheet with it.

Is Sublimation a good investment?

Sublimation printers are perfect for fine lines and details and are one of the best ways for all-over printing. It involves a low setup cost, is useful for small runs, and the printing is closer to permanent.

Can we use a regular printer for Sublimation?

Yes, you can use your regular printer as a sublimation printer, but not all printers support Sublimation. If you have a printer, which gives you an opportunity, then you can buy a blank cartridge and add sublimation ink to it. But for the safer side, it is suggested to use sublimation printers only for this purpose.
We have covered everything up to this mark, and we are pretty much sure you have your answer on what Sublimation is and how it works. There are too many options available in the market, but we recommend you explore the product before buying it.
We hope that you like our effort and find this article as helpful for you.

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