Sublimation printing uses heat to essentially bring ink and product together as one.
First, a design is printed onto special paper. The inks that are used turn into gas when brought under heat, then combine with the product and permanently print onto the product. The effects are permanent and less prone to fading, as the ink is embedded in the product rather than simply laying on top like vinyl.
The process is almost like a tattoo, but instead of for your skin, it’s for your chosen product. The heat opens up the pores of the product, then with the applied pressure the ink cools and returns to a solid form.
The result is a permanent, full colour image that won’t crack, peel or wash away from the substrate. The process allows the ink to go from a solid to a gas without turning to liquid, a bit like dry ice. The conversion is initiated by heat and controlled by pressure.
This quick and effective digital print method is growing in popularity for smaller batch orders and those designs that rely on the details. Sublimation printing is also known as ‘all over printing’ as it allows you to choose a design that can literally go from seam to seam.
There are limitations for this method. First. You can only sublimate on Polyester material. Tumblers, earrings and other non clothing has a special Polyester coating that is baked on to allow sublimation to work.
Second. Sublimation works best on white or light colored products. Since white cannot be printed.
Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)
Heat transfer vinyl comes in single colors, in the specialty options listed above, in full-color pattern options, and in a printable version that must be used with solvent ink & a solvent printer. It is best used for simple designs with minimal colors since each individual color or pattern used in the design must be cut, weeded, and heat pressed. Certain heat transfer vinyl can be layered to form multi-colored designs. The more layers involved, the harder it is to match up each to achieve the end result. Heat transfer vinyl cannot be used for full-color pictures or anything with gradients. There are other applications for those options.
Heat transfer vinyl can be used to create special effects with its glitter, flocked, holographic, glow-in-the-dark, and 3D puff options. The layering of these types of vinyl is dependent on the type of vinyl used.