The low down on dye sublimation

Dye sublimation is a term that gets bandied around by printers, and to the uninitiated it can sound like double Dutch. So we thought we’d give you the low down on what it is and why it’s great… There’s nothing like being able to make an informed decision when you’re needing some printed clothing or banners.

Dye Sublimation Coasters
Dye Sublimation Coasters

What is dye sublimation printing?

To sublimate something is basically a term used in chemistry (stay with us…) whereby you’re changing a substance directly into a vapour by heating it; it doesn’t turn into a liquid first. The use we have for it in printing is that we then allow it to form a solid deposit again when it cools. Thus, for our purposes, we’re heating something not so that it melts but so that it ‘floats’ amongst the fabric fibres and then sticks to them as it cools down.

In practical terms that means we: take your image; print it onto transfer paper with ink dyes (not normal toner); marry it up to the synthetic fabric of a T-Shirt, for example; put it in our heat press machine; and then allow the heat to convert the transfer dyes into gas so they seep into the fabric, very specifically, and cool in place.

Still with us? Great!

Dye Sublimation T-Shirt
Dye Sublimation T-Shirt

Why is dye sublimation such a good approach to use?

One of the key benefits of using dye sublimation is that it removes the ‘dotted’ appearance that a digital printer can create, and instead creates a smooth and continuous image. Shadows and changes in tone transition nicely, and the quality of the image remains true to your original.

But if that sounds good, there’s more… Because the image isn’t being stuck on, it’s not going to flake off. What you see once it’s done… is there permanently; it’s effectively become part of the material. The result of this is that it makes the image on your garment really durable and thus won’t fade when you wash it.

Now, those two good benefits are very tangible and clear, however there is something else that’s worth considering… Because the image mixes into the fibres and doesn’t just sit on top of the fabric, it doesn’t reflect light in a glary way. That perhaps sounds a bit unimportant on the face of it, but actually it means it’s an ideal process for backdrops and banners etc. If your banner is standing in a brightly lit setting, or you’re taking photos of it, people can still see it because it’s not turning into a mirror.

It’s also cost-effective with less waste!

Of course, that is all very interesting, but you may be wondering how it’s going to hit your pocket and the environment. The great news is that there’s less waste, simply because the print run can be to order; there’s no run on. And as with digital printing as a whole, it’s very cost-effective for smaller print runs because there’s no set-up cost involved.
So just think… what creative personalised gifts could you be designing for Christmas, eh? We’re looking forward to seeing your ideas!

Printed Mug
Dye Sublimation Mug