What is Sublimation Printing?

What is sublimation printing?

It is a daily occurrence for people to ask me “What is sublimation printing.”

I’m sure many people could explain it in a more indepth, scientific way, but I prefer to explain it in a way that people can understand.

As clever as sublimation is, it doesn’t need to be explained in a way that only Isaac Newton could understand.

Equally, I do believe that it’s important that customers do understand to an extent what they are buying and how it is made.

They need an understanding of what they are paying for, to which standard it is made and also it helps them to decide if it is the right product for them.

Dye sublimation is a process where images, text and graphics can be transferred on to different products to create personalised gifts and items.

The products have to be specially coated before dye sublimation can take place.

It’s not as easy as going to your local high street shop and buying a mug, taking it home and creating a photo mug.

Once you have the right item for the job, you would have to print your images onto specialist paper.

Not your regular copier paper from Tesco.

You also need to use a specialist dye sublimation ink, this ink is not cheap.

It requires a certain printer and profile to be able to do the job right.

The reason that your regular printer ink will not cut it, is because when the sublimation ink heats up

i.e. printed, attached to an item and put in a heat press, it turns from a dye to a gas.

When that dye comes into contact with the right materials it will attach itself to those materials and permanently dye them.

At the present time all fabrics used for this process are 100% Polyester or a mix or Polyester and Cotton.

The more polyester content in the fabric the more of your image that stays upon washing your printed clothing.

You can by all means print on to cotton – it will look great, but then it will wash away.

It’s always good to remember that if you are buying a garment that is 65% polyester and 35% cotton (a majority of baby clothing/accessories).

35% of the image will wash away, leaving you with a vintage washed out look.

A lot of sublimation equipment can be bought online at the likes of eBay and Amazon etc, for example heat presses.

I once bought a heat press for £200, I got 8 different attachments with it and thought I was going to be a millionaire after a year or two!

Sadly the press didn’t agree and unbeknown to me, didn’t work properly from the day that I bought it.

I just didn’t research my product enough.

It had an inconsistent heating element, which cost me not only a lot of money to learn but a lot of late nights/early mornings crying.

Thinking that I just couldn’t do it – I printed substandard items and had patchy, blurry and all in all rubbish end results.

I wouldn’t give them away let alone sell.

I also printed plenty of products that were supposed to be red that came out orange, my blues looked green.

Leaving me frustrated and at a loss, it took me days to correct the problem and use the right inks and software on my computer.

It turns out cheap sublimation ink doesn’t look good or last at all

leaving me to pay £50 per ink cartridge, yep that’s right £50 each!

Why am I telling you this?

You’re probably wondering why I’m sitting here telling you all about my mistakes and fails.

Thinking “Why on earth am I going to want to buy from her and this company now.”

Well I will tell you why – Because there are just too many sublimation printers in this world and that’s ok, really it is!

What is not ok is Joe Bloggs buying £300 worth of kit,

using cheap inks, setting up a page on Facebook and selling you some of the mistakes that I made.

It happens, it happens a lot.

I’ve seen sellers advertising a half decent personalised keyring,

getting an order for 4, printing and posting them only for the customer to have the right hump.


Because they’d printed using an uneven heat plate, meaning that the keyrings weren’t identical.

Some looked faded, some made the family look like they’d spent a Month in The Bahamas and one was blurry too!

I’m not here to teach you how to print, I have absolutely no want to do that.

What I do want is for people reading this to know what is ok and what is not.

To know that when a picture is put on a personalised mug, that the edges should be crisp lines not blurred, patchy or discoloured.

That the personalised photo slate that you ordered with your beautiful wedding photo on it, comes to you as it should.

Anyone can chuck a slate under a heat press and press the flat face of it and call it sublimation printing.

But you, as the customer need to know that if the jagged edges of that slate are still white then it hasn’t been printed properly

That is not ok!

The printed t shirt that you bought from Joe Bloggs somewhere in the North East has one of your favourite photos on it.

It has tiny white dots in it and you think that you’re going mad – you’re not!

Poor old Joe printed on the wrong side of the paper and either didn’t realise or wanted to get away with it.

Again that is not ok!

I want you to know that if you are spending your money on a product, paying through the nose

to add your own photo to a keyring, a fridge magnet or whatever it may be, that you get what you pay for.

What you deserve.

To know that you buy from somebody that you trust, whether it be me or somebody else, you deserve to know the difference.

The difference between a well made product and a botched one.

Whoever it may be that prints your items has to be honest, honest that if your picture doesn’t fit on a product

it’s not the best quality or the right shape – they need to tell you that.

They need to give you the decision –

Do you still want to buy that product or if you want to change your photo or in fact your mind?

You need to know they won’t just send you a product gone slightly wrong in the hope that you won’t know the difference.

The difference between a slightly faulty item and a perfect one.

I’ve even seen Printers in Newcastle advertising their mugs etc in windows, they look stunning from a far.

Making you think my god I must have one of those, until you look up close and part of the mug hasn’t been printed properly!

That’s still good enough to put up in their window, so it’s still good enough to sell to you.

I’ve seen printers in Gateshead charging £20 more for something I could print, why?

Well of course because they have the overheads of a shop, rates and tax to pay.

That’s great for them but is that what you want to be paying for – their shop?

Like I said whether you buy from me or you don’t buy from me,

I’d like you to know the efforts and costs that go into being a professional printer.

I want you to always end up with what you pay for and IF by some chance you don’t

I want you to have bought from a decent seller that will put their hands up,

apologise and offer you either a refund or a replacement.

Why choose sublimation printing when buying printed products?

But, the main point to this is to let you know that IF done right sublimation is the best way to print.

It lasts longer than any other printing method out there.

If you have the choice between buying something sublimation printed or not, then I would always recommend this method.

Not because it is my profession,  but because that’s why it’s my profession.

Image result for blurry sublimation printing
Image result for blurry sublimation printing
Image result for problem sublimation printing
Images above used from www.dyesubforum.co.uk

Related image
Image above used from https://blog.jotoimagingsupplies.com/2011/09/13/common-mistakes-when-using-sublimation/

Image result for creased sublimation printing
Image above used from http://blog.doggiedrawings.net/post/122464564686