What is Dye Sublimation printing?
The process starts with a wide-format inkjet printer. The graphic is printed onto transfer paper using special inks that are solid at room temperature but change to gas when heated (hence the term “sublimation”). From there, it's transferred from the sheet of paper and heat pressed into fabric by using a heat press. This allows for quick bonding between polymers which makes graphics become permanently embedded into your materials as they take on their new form as gas under pressure before cooling down again back to being solids.
Compared to inkjet printing on other materials like paper or vinyl, dye sublimation is a more involved process since it involves multiple steps. But don’t worry. With the right knowledge, dye sublimation can be an enjoyable and profitable business. Here’s what you need to know to get started:
1. You can print a huge variety of products
As we mentioned, polyester and polyester resin coated materials are the perfect substrates for dye sublimation printing. Since these printers are available in various styles and sizes, you can print on an assortment of products including:
- Window Treatments
- Sports apparel
- Jerseys and related sports gear
Fashion apparel and accessories
- Bathing Suits
- Hand bags
Trade show and retail graphics
- Backlit graphics
- Silicone Edge Graphics (SEG): With SEG, graphics are printed on special fabrics that are designed to support a silicone strip on the edges. This is so that the print can be inserted into a frame, replacing the need for hard panel graphics. SEG gives trade show displays photo-quality imagery with a clean, frameless, clean appearance.
- Cell phone cases
- Mouse pads
- Coffee mugs
- Luggage tags
- License plates
2. You will need to use specific type of ink.
If you want to transfer graphics from paper onto fabric, the ink needs to convert into a gas. This process is very specific for dye sublimation and requires using disperse dyes (or “dye-sub inks”). These dyes are able to go from a solid state directly to gaseous form at high temperatures easily bonding with polyester fabrics. The color gamut of dissipate dyes can be incredibly vibrant as well as some brands like HP have introduced fluorescent colors that push this even further!
3. You will need a special dye sublimation printer.
Dye-Sublimation printers are a specific type of wide format printer that use disperse dyes exclusively on transfer paper. This printing method is experiencing an enormous rate of growth and there exists great selection from the top brands in industry today.
Here are a few that the VIVID ADS team highly recommend:
Mimaki TS55: This 74” wide model is a leader in high-production sublimation printing.
Mimaki CJV300-160 Plus: Combining high-quality, dye-sub graphics with contour cutting, the CJV300 is perfect for high-volume production on small items, like coffee mugs.
Epson F6370H: Epson’s 64” roll-to-roll dye sublimation printer was designed for versatility.
Mutoh RJ-900: This 42” entry-level model is a four-color, roll-to-roll printer, perfect for apparel and flags.
- HP Stitch S 1000:
4. You will need additional equipment.
A heat press is just as important as your dye sublimation printer. There are several types of presses available, but the most common include flatbed, calender and combo-style presses. Flatbeds can print onto solid objects while calenders use oil or electrically heated drums for better results on apparel printing
Cutting & Sewing
Depending on your particular desired application, you may consider cutting and sewing options. Like the printer, these items range from simple and relatively inexpensive to large factory equipment. It’s best to talk with an expert to learn more about the equipment that will be your best fit.