What is sublimation printing and how does it work? 2023

What is sublimation printing and how does it work?? The word “Sublimation” shows that the process is tricky and complicated but is very easy and simple to understand. It is defined as when a solid material converts into a gaseous form without turning into a liquid stage. This process is different from a standard inkjet or laser toner. The standard printer cartridge technologies do not have the ability to change into a gas state and are restricted to a solid or liquid form only.

It means that during the sublimation technique, the artwork is directly converted into gas on an object by using a high-temperature heat press. Uses specialized paper for its printing. Sublimation printing is different from the traditional one as it doesn’t pass through the liquid step. Sublimation printing is now becoming more popular. This technique is commonly used to decorate novelty items like coffee mugs, cell phone covers, plaques as well as apparel, banners, and signs.

What is sublimation printing?

In order to get started, you need the following items:

  1. A designated sublimation printer.
  2. A sublimation paper.
  3. Sawgrass sublimation ink.
  4. Sublimation blanks.
  5. A heat press appropriate for the sublimation blanks you are working for.

First, let’s talk about sublimation printers:

A sublimation printer is essentially a standard inkjet printer but rather than installing standard inkjet cartridges into the printer, sublimation ink cartridges are installed instead. Using the standard manufacturer’s driver software when installing the printer, you have to install the specially engineered sawgrass power driver. This will ensure proper color management, proper printer population density, and overall excellent prints.

One very important thing to remember is that once a printer used for sublimation, it cannot be used for regular inkjet printing.

What is a Heat Press Machine? [Quick Guide 2021]


First of all, it all starts with choosing a good design. Selecting an image is a crucial process as it will be reflected in your final print. The selected design is then printed on a sublimation paper (heat transfer paper). The sublimation paper is used for transferring the picture when exposed to the heat. Sublimation paper uses a CMYK color scheme. Hence it is necessary that the used printer must also accommodate the same color scheme. After image printing, the next step is that the material used for printing must support sublimation printing. In this process, Polyester and polyester coated materials are used as they provide permanent prints. Cotton and other materials can also be used but they don’t produce permanent prints.

The heat transfer method needs a heat source. There are various heat sources available which are heat transfer machines, cup sublimation machines, flat bend machines, etc. But it depends on which material you are using. Specific heat volume is given to print a quality image. For durability, the image must be allowed to cool off.

You should consider the following factors while using the Sublimation printer.

Maintenance Requirement:

We recommend sublimation printers to print at least once a week to keep the inks flowing within the printer ink path and to prevent drying of the print heads. If you face print head drying issues, then it can easily be fixed with a quick print head cleaning and flush cycle. We recommend the sawgrass virtuoso sublimation solution for a more reliable sublimation printing experience. The sawgrass virtuoso printers are often considered more maintenance-free.

The reason is that their gel-based ink system makes them less susceptible to drying out as opposed to water-based solutions of Epson-based sublimation printers. The sawgrass virtuoso printers also utilize high definition print heads to produce finer details and more vibrant images than previous generations and other sublimation printers on the market.

Print Volume:

Some models are able to accommodate ink cartridges only while others are able to accommodate cartridges as well as bulk ink systems. Sawgrasses bulk ink system comes with a Quick connect kit which is an external feed system that is hooked up adjacent to your printer. If you are running a high-volume sublimation business, you must use the bulk ink system with bulk ink bags for uninterrupted printing and lower per image cost. If you are looking for an easy or seasonal sublimation setup or running a low-volume business then the cartridge system might be a better option for you.


Sublimation printing has many advantages as compared to other printing options.

It provides durable prints when done on polyester materials or polyester. The quality of most printing options is damaged with washing and weather conditions. While in sublimation, the printed design becomes part of the material used. Only wear and tear affects the quality of the surface.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Sublimation Printing

In sublimation printing, the cost is not affected by using colors in an image. The price of multiple colors and a single color remains the same. As compared to other printing options, sublimation printing is much cheaper to print color images. Printing on one or two products is also cheaper. Therefore, you can use the sublimation printing technique commercially as well as for individual decor.


Sublimation printing also has some shortcomings.

If you are a starter, you will print on polyester or polyester coated material, which is a limited option in terms of using media.

Sublimation printing works amazingly well on white and light-colored materials while the dark colors reduce the quality of an image.

It requires some time to print because this process has two sections, sublimation paper, and heat transfer. Therefore, it takes more time than direct printing.

Difference Between Mounted and Canvas Print?

When starting your own business, you would be needing a high investment as you have to buy a sublimation printer and a heat transfer machine. 


Overall, the sublimation technique is a good printing option. Helps in saving money while ensuring durability and quality printings. You can use this technique for printing on various surfaces like T-shirts, medals, mugs, puzzles, etc. It is also used in graphic art proofing, medical imaging, photography, and many other fields. We have discussed all the necessary information about sublimation printing here. Hope so, you will find this article helpful if you want to know more about sublimation printing.

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