The Basics of Sublimation

Sublimation printing is an art of decorating hard surfaces, fabrics like textiles and polyester materials with professional looking images or designs. These surfaces can vary from wood to marbles and everything in between.  Whether you’re looking to create innovative style mugs, business cards or self-portrait on a glass surface, you will always be amazed by its outcome. This sort of printing technique involves heating the sublimation ink to a point that it turns into gas and later can be absorbed into your coating of the desired surface.  However to get those images looking amazing for future customers, clients, friends or family you will need to know what to buy.

What do I need to start sublimating products for printing?
Look, we’ve done all the mistakes you can think of when we first started out over 20 years ago but with mistakes comes learning and the ability to pass on what we know. So if you are new to this and your thinking of starting a sublimation printing business then learning what tools you need and how the process works is really important so you can ensure your images look brilliant and radiant.  Here is a simple the A-Z guide that you might want to consider before starting.

Sublimation compatible printers
There are several out there these days because the market is growing.  We’ve found that Ricoh & Epson small format printer are perfectly compatible and great for sublimation printing. Along with this there are many large format printers that too go well with sublimation.

sublimation printersublimation printer USA Photo Mugs

Choosing a printer
When choosing you will need to think about what you plan to print and how much of it before you choose a printer size. We believe Epson and Ricoh are the most compatible printers. Epson printers were the first to launch sublimation printers, hence providing a wider price and quality range to choose. The print qualities of these printers are way better than others. On the other hand if you like easy to maintain devices then Ricoh printers is the perfect choice. The speed and automatic maintenance system of this printer makes it a good choice.


Sublimation ink
You can’t just use any ink. We’ve tried that too and so has some of our friends. We believe that if your going to start off right then start with either “Artainium” or “SubliJet”.  They are the two inks that are the most reliable and have been the main line ink for most printing of the sublimation printing industry. The most common difference between both is supported printers and color correction techniques. SubliJet inks are used with select Epson printers and Ricoh printers, whereas the Artainium inks are only available for select (older) Epson printers. Though the ink is almost completely the same you need to adjust colours when printing.



Choosing the ink needed for sublimation
The difference between both the inks is of color correction and printer support. SubliJet supports a greater number of printers and lets you adjust colors easily whereas with Artainium you need to use design programs for color correction.

Speaking of Color correction software
For Artainium you can use software’s like Photoshop or CorelDraw to set the color as per your choice. Whereas for SubliJet there is inbuilt software called the PowerDrive that helps you modify the color without any hassle.


Sublimation paper
Just like the ink the paper you choose needs to be able to handle the heat. Sublimation paper is designed to take the heat to transfer the printed image onto a hard surface. The process of printing the image is the same for sublimation paper as any paper. Sheets are attached to the printer for ta down the images and then printing them onto the final product.

Heat press or wraps
Did we say heat? You will need a high temperature to transfer the image on a surface. And that level of temperature can only be generated by metallic heat press that pressurizes and generates heat at the same time.


Choosing a heat press for sublimation?
The choice of heat press solely depends on the product you are looking to print onto. If your doing textiles, shirts, bags mugs or something else you need to think about what you will need. There are three types of heat press available, clam shell, swinger and draw. The difference between clam shell and swinger style heat press is that the first one has a top heating plate that is static whereas the second one has a plate that swings. With a swinging press you will need more room for the swing arm to operate. If you have thicker products like bags the clam shell press is the way to go.  The sizes of the heat press are also essential. If your just doing shirts at a small scale then you don’t need an industrial size press.


Sublimation blank
Items that are made specifically for the purpose of sublimation have a special coat on them. For example if you’re looking to print on a T-shirt then the shirt material needs to be sublimation ink friendly in order to be printed.


The entire start-to-finish process of creating a sublimated items is quite lenghty and we did not want to leave it out. In our next blog we will go into greater detail on this. For now please follow the bullets:

  • Choose or create a design you want to print
  • Print the design on the sublimation paper with the help of sublimation printer and ink.
  • Choose the product that you want your image to be printed on.
  • Stick the image on the surface of the product.
  • Use the heat press on the product which has the image stuck on it.
  • Hold it for a while and the image will transfer on the new surface.
  • Peel off the paper from the product and let it cool down a bit.


Sublimation printing is a growing market.  In fact it’s booming and expected to be north of 4 billion if not more by 2021.  So if you are considering stepping into this business we recommend that you follow these suggestions when buying the tools of the trade to ensure you will be able to create great products at a fraction of the cost.